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3D Printing Startups

October 25, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 09:00

What does EmberSurge, 3d Evolution Printer, 3Dom, and 3Dponics have in common? And, Avatarium, bondswell, Chemcubed, and Chimak3D? They are startup companies in the fast-growing 3D printing industry. Others are Cubibot, Dongguan Pioneertr, Fathom, 3D Filkemp, Growshapes, and HoneyPoint3D. The list goes on and on. Have you heard of them? I had not, until recently. These small companies exhibited at last week’s Inside 3D Printing event in Santa Clara, California.

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The surge in startups is part of a seemingly endless sequence of unprecedented events in the 3D printing industry. It’s an indication that 3D printing has been, and continues to be, ripe for innovation. The excitement surrounding the technology and circulating information—coupled with a lot of hype—is leading to the introduction of many new ideas, companies, businesses, business models, and products.

Will most of them survive and thrive? History strongly suggests that they will not. A September 2014 article in Fortune states that nine out of 10 startups fail. Also, it’s important to note that many 3D printing companies have come and gone in the past. Even so, it’s encouraging to see so many enter the business. It shows that scores of entrepreneurs and investors are betting on it, even when the odds are stacked against them. This is yet another sign that 3D printing will be an important part of our future.

Last Week’s Euromold 2015

September 27, 2015

The 22nd annual Euromold event was held last week in Düsseldorf, Germany. Other than a few companies missing from the exhibition floor, it could not have gone better. More than 450 exhibitors from 33 countries showed their latest products and services. More than one-third of them were from the additive manufacturing and 3D printing space, giving visitors a lot to see and learn. A fashion show on Friday featured models with stunning 3D-printed accessories.

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Large crowd in awe by the work shown at the Euromold fashion show

This year’s Euromold conference program was expanded to three days, with the support of USA-based SME. Jeff Kowalski, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Autodesk energized a packed room at the opening keynote. His comments were inspiring, and people were discussing them days after his presentation. Kowalski said that quality and reliability are holding back 3D printing. He also explained how we are entering the “imagination age,” but it will require completely new software capabilities to help propel the industry forward. His fresh and forward-thinking ideas gave hope to those who feel that CAD software currently hinders their ability to unlock the full potential of 3D printing.

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Left: Jeff Kowalski of Autodesk. Right: Lively panel session on 3D printing software tools and data with Wilfried Vancraen of Materialise, Scott White of HP, Chris Romes of Autodesk, Emmett Lalish of Microsoft, and session chair Tim Caffrey of Wohlers Associates

Dr. Jules Poukens, a cranio-maxillofacial surgeon, was keynote speaker the second day of the conference. He shared video footage of his team implanting a cranial plate, as well as the world’s first complete mandible (jaw) replacement. Both were custom-designed and 3D-printed in titanium. The full room of people were amazed by this work.

On the final day, Stephen Nigro of HP took center stage as keynote speaker. Nigro is senior vice president at HP and responsible for company’s printing business, which is valued at more than $20 billion per year and involves tens of thousands of employees. On November 1, 2015, he becomes president of HP’s new 3D printing business. Similar to the previous two days, the room was completely packed, with people lining the walls and queued in the doorways. Nigro said the 2D printing business is $230 billion annually, but 3D printing has the potential to exceed it in size. I was flattered when he used Wohlers Associates’ data to illustrate his point. If 3D printing penetrates just 5% of the global manufacturing economy, it will surpass 2D printing by nearly three times.

The three-day conference concluded with an outstanding keynote by Jason Dunn of Made In Space. The company successfully designed, produced, and placed the first 3D printer on the International Space Station. The excellence of Dunn’s information, along with that of the other speakers and panelists, coupled with the number and quality of people in attendance, were, by far, the best in 17 years of running the conference. Thanks to everyone in attendance, and to the teams at DEMAT and SME, for their involvement. We look forward to Euromold 2016, again in Düsseldorf, which is a great place to spend a few days. Please add December 6–9, 2016 to your calendar. I look forward to seeing you there!

3D Printing in Australia

June 21, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:20

Last month, the Australian government announced the funding of a new program that could give 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM) a boost in the country. On May 26, the Honorable Ian Macfarlane, Australia’s Minister for Industry and Science, announced the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Center (IMCRC). Much of the program is expected to center on AM and related methods and technologies. The focus on AM may have been partly inspired by America Makes, coupled with the investments and alliances associated with the U.S. initiative.

The IMCRC is a collaboration of 14 manufacturing companies, 16 universities, and CSIRO, which is Australia’s top federal agency for scientific research. Four industry bodies will help recruit more than 300 additional small and medium-sized enterprises to serve as “portal partners.” As part of the program launch, the Commonwealth is providing A$40 million (US$31 million). An additional A$210 million (US$163 million) is expected in cash and in-kind contributions from industry, research institutes, and state governments, bringing the total investment to A$250 million (US$194 million).

The announcement lingered for about nine months, so many people welcomed the long-awaited news. Senior consultant Tim Caffrey and I were in Australia when the announcement was made, with the IMCRC being the center of attention. We believe that it will indeed provide a much-needed lift to advanced manufacturing in the country, but as the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” It will be interesting to observe how Australia sorts through the maze of challenges associated with coordinating so many people, organizations, and agendas. As with America Makes and other national efforts, the challenge and opportunity is to make a difference, and that’s easier said than done.

The day before the announcement, CSIRO officially launched its new and impressive Lab 22. Tim and I were present to participate in the festivities and meet many of the talented researchers and scientists at CSIRO. Lab 22 was established as center of excellence for organizations wanting to explore metal AM, so it welcomes participation by organizations of all types.

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Lab 22’s Voxeljet VX1000 installation

Equipment in the new lab includes an Arcam A1 electron beam melting machine, a Concept Laser M2 laser-based machine, and a Voxeljet VX1000 machine for producing sand casting molds and cores. The lab was established as a center of excellence for organizations wanting to explore metal AM, so it welcomes participation by organizations of all types. CSIRO also has an Optomec LENS MR-7 directed energy deposition machine and a cold spray plasma additive process.

Australia is establishing a strong foundation in AM. The adoption of the technology in the private sector may not be as great as it is in some advanced countries, but the pieces are coming together for it to close the gap. The Melbourne area, alone, may well have the highest mix of metal AM systems in the world (in an area of this size), with nine direct metal AM systems. Among them are machines from Arcam, Concept Laser, EOS, Optomec, SLM Solutions, and Trumpf. The Concept Laser Xline 1000R at Monash University, and two Trumpf TruLaser 7040 machines, one each at Monash and RMIT University’s Advance Manufacturing Precinct, are very large, both in size and investment.

Materialise

April 27, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 05:18

The Materialise World Conference was held last week in Brussels, with more than 1,000 people in attendance. A high caliber group of customers, partners, and others attended the two-day event. The conference coincided with the opening of a museum exhibition at the Bozar Center for Fine Arts. The exhibition is open until June 7 and consists of four rooms filled with an impressive array of 3D-printed parts and products—all from Materialise and Materialise partners. I spent about 90 minutes at the exhibition, and could have spent much more time there.

Materialise is celebrating its 25th year in business, and now employs 1,250 people in 16 offices worldwide. The company has 8,000 software installations to its credit and has produced 146,000 medical devices. It currently prints 2,000+ parts every day for customers worldwide.

Last week, Hoet Eyewear and Materialise announced the commercialization of new 3D-printed eyeglass frames. The products currently available for sale are standard designs, but custom-fit frames are coming soon. In fact, Materialise CEO Wilfried Vancraen was wearing custom frames at the conference. The Cabrio collection of frames from Hoet are beautifully designed by Bieke Hoet and manufactured and finished to perfection by Materialise. The retail price of the frames is EUR 190-250.

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RS Print and Materialise announced the commercialization of custom insoles based on biomechanics. I went through the ordering process by walking across a special scanning plate to capture the details of my feet and how I walk. Special software is used to perform detailed analysis based on extensive R&D in collaboration with Materialise. The insoles are then 3D-printed and delivered to the customer.

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Materialise has taken additive manufacturing to a new level. It very carefully targets a market and then goes after it with care and great attention to detail. It is manufacturing many types of products that you may not hear about or see unless you visit the company. With its AS9100 quality certification, Materialise is now targeting the aerospace industry.

I was surprised by the progress the company has made since my last visit in June 2013. Materialise is, without question, among the most advanced and impressive AM companies anywhere. My sincere congratulations for 25 years of meaningful innovation, a successful World Conference, and remarkable progress over the past two years.

CES

January 19, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,review — Terry Wohlers @ 08:20

The year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was January 6-9 in Las Vegas, Nevada. It involved 3,600 exhibitors and 204,387 sq meters (2.2 million sq feet) of exhibit space. More than 170,000 people attended the event, including 45,000 from outside the U.S. I was present for 1.5 days, and one full day was dedicated to a 3D printing conference presented by TCT + Personalize magazine. The conference was well organized and attended, and it included a wide and interesting mix of people. Those that I met were serious professionals.

I was surprised by the number of new 3D printing products on display, coupled with the scale of some of the exhibits. New material extrusion machines (i.e., FDM clones) were everywhere. MarkForged showed its interesting Mark One machine. To strengthen parts, the $5,500 product uses Kevlar, carbon fiber, or fiberglass, and nylon as the base material. I was impressed by the quality of the parts. Coincidentally, I was present when USA Today shot this video.

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3D-printed parts that include Kevlar, courtesy of MarkForged

Voxel8 introduced its multi-material 3D printer for producing integrated electronics. The $9,000 product deposits PLA and conductive ink. Harvard professor Jennifer Lewis is the head of the startup company. Autodesk is partnering with Voxel8 on the development of design software called Project Wire. It is being produced from the ground up to support the design of 3D-printed electronics.

Autodesk had a large and impressive 3D printing exhibit that featured Ember, Spark, and Project Wire. Ember is Autodesk’s new photopolymer-based 3D printer that uses DLP technology for high resolution imaging. Autodesk is also developing Spark, which is an open and free platform that promises to connect digital data to 3D printers in a new way.

CES was overly crowded with people and traffic, and Vegas is not one of my favorite places to visit. Also, I was disappointed to learn that Uber’s app-based, car transportation network was temporarily banned in Nevada’s highly regulated taxi industry. Even so, CES had a lot to offer, and the 3D printing exhibits were larger and more elaborate than I had expected. Overall, it was interesting and worthwhile.

More Inside 3D Printing

December 22, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event — Terry Wohlers @ 08:30

I was fortunate to participate in nine Inside 3D Printing events in 2013-2014. The first one was in New York City in April 2013. The most recent one was in Shanghai, China in November 2014. It drew 4,000+ people, and the one in Seoul, Korea in June 2014 attracted about 5,000. Attendance, such as this, for a first-time 3D printing event, is unprecedented.

In the 25+ history of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing—terms that are used interchangeably—we have not seen such an impressive level of commitment and investment in a worldwide series of events. Inside 3D Printing is the brainchild of Alan Meckler, PhD, head of MecklerMedia (previously of Mediabistro). I first wrote about Meckler and Inside 3D Printing in a blog commentary in April 2013.

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Inside 3D Printing in New York City in April 2014

Running large conferences and exhibitions is big business, but it’s also an opportunity to introduce important subjects to many people, as well as update those who have been in an industry for some time. It’s impossible to estimate the educational and economic value that this series of events is having on our industry, but I believe it is significant. For many, Inside 3D Printing is the first event on AM that they’ve attended. The information they collect and contacts they make are invaluable.

A high percentage of the people attending are mature, practicing professionals from major corporations. It’s my belief that the series is leading to many new collaborations and partnerships, start-up companies and new businesses, equipment purchases, and other types of investment in AM. The number of meetings and interactions that I have witnessed is exciting.

For 2015, Inside 3D Printing conferences and exhibitions are scheduled for Singapore, Berlin, São Paulo, London, New York, Melbourne, Seoul, and Santa Clara. Meanwhile, other locations are being considered. I recommend that you attend one or more of them, and if you do, I look forward to meeting you there in person.

Best wishes to you for a safe and relaxing holiday season!

AIRTEC 2014

November 9, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 04:03

Note: The following was authored by Tim Caffrey, senior consultant at Wohlers Associates.

DEMAT produces the highly-regarded EuroMold exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany year after year. The company also organizes AIRTEC, the international aerospace supply fair. Like EuroMold, AIRTEC is held in Frankfurt’s sprawling Messe Exhibition Centre. AIRTEC 2014 took place October 28–30.

airtec

This year’s AIRTEC was the ninth, and the largest and most successful ever. The number of exhibitors was up 40% over last year, and participation from international companies increased 20%. A unique part of AIRTEC is the organization of many short business-to-business meetings. In a structure that simulates speed-dating, aerospace suppliers meet for 30 minutes with aerospace OEMs and contractors to introduce their capabilities and services. An amazing 10,000 of these B2B meetings occurred at AIRTEC, with more than 450 companies participating in them, the exhibition, and the conference sessions.

The international congress included seven sessions consisting of 240 presentations spread over three days. For the second consecutive year, Wohlers Associates chaired a session titled “Additive Manufacturing in Aerospace.” The session included presentations from Peter Sander of Airbus, Slade Gardner of Lockheed Martin, Raymond “Corky” Clinton of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and Ralph Resnick of America Makes. Each of these organizations is contributing to the growing applications for AM parts in airplanes, rockets, and satellites. Interesting developments are unfolding for AM in the aerospace industry, and we are grateful for the opportunity to participate in AIRTEC and the ongoing adoption of AM by aerospace organizations.

25 Years of SFF

September 1, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 13:53

I had the pleasure of attending the 25th Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium last month. It was organized by and held at the University of Texas at Austin—the birthplace of selective laser sintering (SLS). The conference is the longest-running event worldwide on additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing.

The beginning of the program was dedicated to the first five years of AM. The first speaker, Harris Marcus, previously of UT and now at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, discussed the founding of the SFF Symposium. After 15 minutes of interesting history, it was my turn to provide a perspective of the early years. We did not have data projectors and computer-based presentations back then, so it was decided to go back in more than one way to the 1980s. Fortunately, my hundreds of 35 mm slides were in a state that made it possible to organize a 30-minute presentation that I hoped would capture many of the most important developments.

It was a little tricky for SFF organizer Dave Bourell of UT to secure a 35 mm projector, but he did. I discovered that morning how dull the projected images were in the old days, compared to today’s high-end data projectors. I asked for an audience show of hands and found that it was the first time for many in the room to experience the projection of 35 mm slides. I was relieved when all 78 slides dropped down from the 80-capacity carrousel without a hitch. More than 17 years had passed since I had given a 35 mm slide presentation.

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From left to right: Terry Wohlers, Chuck Hull, Carl Deckard, Lisa Crump, and Dave Bourell

Chuck Hull, founder of 3D Systems, followed my presentation. He said the original idea of stereolithography came to him in 1982, and he built the first part in March 1983. He gave the part to his wife, who has as it to this day. I remember seeing 3D Systems’ SLA-1 beta system at SME’s Autofact in November 1987 in Detroit, Michigan. The company introduced the first commercially available product, the SLA-250, the following year.

Chuck, 75, looks great and hasn’t changed much in recent years. I enjoyed having lunch with him at the symposium and discussing his work. He told me that he has an R&D team of 15-20 people, including interns, and is hoping to one day transition from managing R&D projects to serving in more of a strategic capacity. We discussed travel and Hawaii, finding and keeping good employees, and the challenges of keeping foreign students in the U.S. after they have graduated from American universities.

Lisa Crump, co-founder of Stratasys, also gave an excellent presentation. She revealed details of how difficult it was in the early days to secure investment dollars and to keep from running out of money as they developed and commercialized the first fused deposition modeling (FDM) machine. Mike Cima of MIT gave an interesting view of the early days of binder jetting technology that is used today at many companies. Ely Sachs, then of MIT, and Cima were co-developers of what was then referred to as 3DP (short for 3D printing) technology. Carl Deckard of Structured Polymers and the inventor of SLS, and Joe Beaman of UT, gave intriguing presentations focused on the invention and what followed. Deckard was a student at UT when he conceived SLS with the help of Beaman, an advisor and supporter.

It was a lot of fun to reflect on the past and observe how far we’ve come in 25 years. Congratulations to the inventors of AM and the founders of the companies that played such an important role in shaping what followed. And, congrats to Dave Bourell and the UT team for keeping the SFF symposium alive for so many years.

Stelarc

July 20, 2014

Stelarc is a performance artist and designer that has lived much of his life in a Melbourne, Australia suburb. He was born in Cyprus as Stelios Arcadiou and changed his name in 1972. His work focuses mostly on the belief that the human body is obsolete, but its capacity can be enhanced through technology.

I first met Stelarc in 2005 at the VRAP 3D printing event in Leiria, Portugal. Travel prevented me from attending his presentation, although he was kind enough to provide me with an eye-opening set of printed images and a DVD. Many of his technical developments and works of art are unusual—some of which you’d have to see to believe. Entering “Stelarc” into Google and clicking Images will give you an interesting sampling.

I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Stelarc again nine days ago in Brisbane, Australia. He gave an intriguing presentation at a one-day 3D printing event organized by Griffith University. People in the audience of 170 were visibly stunned by his work. An example was the 2007 video footage showing a team of surgeons constructing an ear on his left forearm.

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The skin was suctioned over a scaffold, which was made of porous biomaterial. Tissue in-growth and vascularization then followed over a period of six months. This resulted in a relief of an ear. The helix needs to be surgically lifted to create an ear flap and a soft ear lobe will be grown using his stem-cells. A small microphone will then be inserted and the ear electronically augmented for Internet connectivity. Thus, the third ear will result in a mobile listening device for people in other places.

I was especially impressed by Stelarc’s knowledge and understanding of biomedicine, robotics, prosthetics, and 3D printing. The content that he presented and discussed and the questions he answered showed that he is not only an artist, but a designer and maker of complex machines and systems. In recent years, he has used 3D printing extensively to support much of his work.

Stelarc is a Distinguished Research Fellow and the Director of the Alternate Anatomies Lab, School of Design and Art, at Curtin University, which is located in Perth, Australia. He has many awards and honors to his credit, including an honorary doctorate from Monash University in Melbourne.

 

Nelson Mandela

December 9, 2013

Filed under: event,life — Terry Wohlers @ 09:08

Nelson Mandela is viewed as one of the most respected individuals in modern time. After leading a campaign against the South African apartheid government and spending 27 years in prison, he chose to unite rather than seek revenge. He is credited with guiding the country to democracy and was elected as South Africa’s first black president in 1994.

In my years of visiting South Africa, my understanding and appreciation for what Mandela had done for the country has grown considerably. He meant so very much to so very many because of what he stood for and had given to the country. President Obama said last week after his passing, “We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make.”

In 2002, Mandela gave a keynote speech when accepting an honorary doctorate from Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein, South Africa. I’m sure it was an extraordinary occasion, and one that I wish I could have attended. Two years later, I received an invitation to accept an honorary doctorate from the same institution, much to my surprise. It came with the request to give the keynote at the graduation ceremony—an experience I will forever treasure, especially given Mandela’s previous involvement.

The 2004 graduation ceremony coincided with the 10th anniversary of democracy in South Africa. This made the event even more special. I will forever view Nelson Mandela and South Africa in a very special way. As an extraordinary person and example, his legacy will continue to serve as inspiration to South Africans and others around the world for decades to come.

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