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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.

sff
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.

stelarc

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.

15th AM Event

November 10, 2013

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 07:21

This year marks our 15th annual conference at EuroMold—an event dedicated to the future of additive manufacturing. The November 5th, 2013 conference is titled Business and Investment Opportunities in Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing. It features carefully selected speakers from Belgium, China, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, and the USA. I can say without reservation that each speaker brings unique insight and perspective to the event.

Dr. Olaf Diegel, CEO of ODD Guitars in New Zealand, is our keynote speaker. Diegel offers a unique blend of product development and business experience. Over the past 10 years, he has developed more than 60 commercial products for theater lighting, security, marine, and home health monitoring. Most recently, he has designed a family of extraordinary guitars that are made by additive manufacturing and other processes.

Many would agree that EuroMold is the largest and most important exposition that includes AM and 3D printing. And, our conference has grown to become an important part of it. Please review the conference program and plan to attend. I’m sure you will be glad you did.

I hope to see you in Frankfurt, Germany in early December.

America Makes

October 12, 2013

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 19:24

The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, also referred to as NAMII, has been rebranded as America Makes. The decision was announced earlier this week during three days of meetings and related events in Youngstown, Ohio—the headquarters of the institute. The new name was a surprise to most of the institute members and affiliates. It came with some mixed reactions, although many of those that associate consultant Tim Caffrey and I spoke with warmed up to the new name.

“America Makes is a vehicle for the institute to raise its profile, reach a wider audience to include the hobbyist and the entrepreneur, and provide a richer member experience,” stated Ralph Resnick, founding director of the institute. “This is how we will become competitive. This is how we grow our nation’s economy and get ahead. This is how we lead. When America Makes, America Works,” Resnick said. The final comment resonated with the crowd.

Institute director Ed Morris and his team did an outstanding job with the three days. Most government employees were unable to attend due to the partial government shutdown, but many of them participated virtually. The headquarters facility continues to improve impressively from its humble beginnings and has developed into a beautiful showcase for the nation. My congratulations to Morris for his extraordinary accomplishments in the institute’s first year and for creating the organizational infrastructure needed to take the institute to the next level.

America Makes is made up of 65 supporting members, 26 full members, and five lead members—the top membership level. Wohlers Associates became the fourth lead member last month, followed by Boeing this week.

America Makes is the nation’s leading collaboration in additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology research, discovery, creation, and innovation. The institute is structured as a public-private partnership with member organizations from industry, academia, government, non-government agencies, and workforce and economic development resources.

The Future of Additive Manufacturing

September 28, 2013

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 08:36

GE Global Research sponsored a web broadcast yesterday titled The Future of Additive Manufacturing. The company used Google+ Hangout to provide audio and video of the four panelists and moderator to about 2,000 attendees. It was GE’s first “hangout,” and mine too. The event took some advance preparation and setup, but GE pulled it off beautifully. Click here to see the program in its entirety.

The broadcast covered many interesting topics including the opportunities and challenges associated with additive manufacturing, also referred to as 3D printing. Panelists included Rob Gorham of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, Ryan Wicker of the University of Texas at El Paso, Avi Reichental of 3D Systems, and me. Chrstine Furstoss of GE Global Research served as moderator and did an excellent job.

Overall, I thought that Google+ Hangout worked very well for this one-hour program. It won’t replace face-to-face meetings, but it’s a good alternative for these types of events. Nice work, GE.

3D Printed in China

June 8, 2013

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 16:39

Recent trips to China have taught me a lot about the country’s plans for 3D printing. The central government, as well as provinces and cities, are planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into 3D printing over the next several years. One 500-employee Chinese company, with assistance from a city and provincial government, is expected to invest about $120 million over the next three years.

Another company, Haier, is going to enter the 3D printing area, according to a May 31, 2013 article published by China Daily Europe. With 80,000 employees, Haier is the world’s largest supplier of white goods. The company also manufactures computers, televisions, air conditioners, and many other household products. Xinqi Zhang, mayor of Qingdao (Haier’s headquarters location), said that the 3D printing industry needs the support of government due to the cost of implementing the technology. Zhang did not disclose the amount that Haier is planning to invest.

The Asian Manufacturing Association (AMA), a Beijing organization, launched the World 3D Printing Technology Alliance last week. Its primary purpose is to promote industrial cooperation within the 3D printing industry. Jun Luo, AMA’s CEO, believes revenues from 3D printing products and services in China will reach $1.6 billion in three years, making it the world’s largest market for 3D printing. According to Wohlers Report 2013, the worldwide 3D printing market in 2012 was $2.2 billion, so it would be difficult for China to grow so large in such a short time. AMA plans to establish 10 innovation institutes on 3D printing in China, with initial funding of $3.3 million per institute.

AMA was the organizer of last week’s 2013 World 3D Printing Technology Industry Conference in Beijing. More than 600 very enthusiastic people attended the two-day event, including 100 members of the media. China Daily and CCTV, China’s predominant state television broadcaster, were present. Associate consultant Tim Caffrey and I attended, and we have rarely seen the level of interest in 3D printing that we saw last week. Major organizations were in attendance and television cameras and reporters were nearly everywhere. China as a country wants to see 3D printing progress to a new level and it is determined to be very central to it all.

Inside 3D Printing

April 27, 2013

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event,review — Terry Wohlers @ 11:22

This is the name of an event that was launched this week at the Javits Convention Center in New York. I attended and was very impressed on a number of levels. First, I was surprised to learn that about 3,000 attended the two-day conference and exposition. I cannot remember attending a first-time event that has attracted more a few hundred people. Some events have been around for 10, even 20 years, and still draw fewer than 2,000 people.

Second, I was pleased at how well it was organized. Mediabistro, a company led by Alan Meckler, PhD, is the group behind it. The company clearly knows what it takes to organize and run events. Every detail, down to the refreshments, was handled expertly. Some might consider Meckler a trade show genius. In 1990, he created a newsletter called Internet World, the first of its kind. It led to the launch of the Internet World trade shows, which were the fastest growing in trade show history. His company, Mecklermedia Corp., was subsequently acquired by Penton Media in 1998 for $274 million in cash.

Seeing an audience of 1,000+ is a speaker’s dream come true. That’s what I saw when walking onto the stage early Tuesday morning. The attendees were a mix of NY investors, analysts, startup companies, and corporations of all types. Most were more interested in business opportunities in 3D printing than in the technology itself. What struck me most about the audience was their amazing appetite for information on the subject. They behaved like people that hadn’t eaten in days.

Mediabistro has scheduled Inside 3D Printing events for July 10-11 in Chicago, Illinois, September 17-18 in San Jose, California, October 1-2 in Singapore, and February 2014 in Munich or Berlin, Germany. The event returns to the Javits Convention Center in New York April 3-4, 2014. It’s clear that Meckler sees a window of opportunity, similar to the Internet shows of the early 1990s. If these additional events follow the formula used for this first event, they stand a good chance of success.

Fun

February 17, 2013

Filed under: event,life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 10:33

If you watched the 55th Grammy Awards one week ago, you saw the alternative rock band named Fun (stylized as fun.) perform live. I have become a fan of this band, a group that less than one year ago was playing in front of small audiences. In April 2012, Fun was at the Fort Collins Aggie Theater, a music venue that holds 650 people. The cost to see them: $15. A week ago, they performed in front of 28 million. The band took home two Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist, from six nominations.

I was lucky to see Fun live on December 13, 2012 in Broomfield, Colorado, near Denver. The arena holds 6,500 people, making it the largest audience for Fun, at the time. Our daughter and her friend allowed me to join them at the concert, something that would have been difficult for me to do when I was her age. The music and performance were excellent! It was band’s final performance of 2012.

If you have not seen or heard Fun, it’s not hard to find video clips of them at YouTube. One that stands out is a special acoustic version of We Are Young, a composition that won the Grammy for Song of the Year. Janelle Monáe joins lead singer Nate Ruess in some of the best vocals and music I’ve heard in years by any group or musician.

Yesterday, I tried to buy tickets for an August 2013 Fun concert at Red Rocks, a spectacular outdoor amphitheater on the west edge of Denver. My only time at Red Rocks was a short day visit in 1976. I have always wanted to attend a concert there, but it may not happen in August. I was unable to secure tickets, even though I tried the minute they went on sale. This is an indication of how far the band has come in such a short time.

SolidWorks World 2013

February 1, 2013

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,event — Terry Wohlers @ 09:07

I attended SolidWorks World 2013 last week in Orlando, Florida, and it was another excellent event. About 4,500 people were in attendance. For me, two of the highlights were presentations by Vijay Kumar, an engineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Elias Knubben, head of Corporate Bionic Projects at Festo.

Kumar shared the impressive work by him and his students. They have designed flying robots that are equipped with sensors and other devices that give them some intelligence. The aircraft, which can fit in the palm of a hand, can fly into buildings and tight places and gather information using small cameras. A likely application is search and rescue after a natural disaster. Another is going into areas where enemies and other threats may exist. Swarms of robots can fly in formation and avoid collision with one another—something I found particularly interesting.

Knubben of Festo showed some extraordinary parts and products, such as robot grippers made by laser sintering, a popular method of additive manufacturing. The gripper itself does not look all that interesting, until it is used. When instructed, the gripper flexes and wraps itself around an object, such as a piece of fruit, before picking it up. Knubben was kind enough to give the gripper to me and I found the design surprisingly simple, but effective.

Knubben’s team at Festo also designed a large bionic bird, called SmartBird, and it flies by flapping its wings. Knubben had the bird with him on stage. When it started to flap its wings, he gently flung it into the air and it began to fly. SmartBird circled the ballroom a couple times before landing in Knubben’s hands. I had never seen anything like it. Similar to Kumar’s small aircraft, many parts of the bird were designed with SolidWorks and produced by laser sintering.

Attending SolidWorks World was again worthwhile. If you want to get an update on the latest in SolidWorks software, applications, and company, it is the event to attend. The morning speakers are usually very good, although no celebrities made appearances this year. The exhibits are also worth some time. SolidWorks World 2014 is January 26-29 in San Diego, California.

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