Blog Menu

In-Person Meetings

January 23, 2021

Filed under: event,future,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 05:53

I miss in-person meetings and events and you probably do too. Thankfully, Zoom and other video conferencing tools have helped fill the void, but they are not the same. I look forward to informal conversations when bumping into friends and business acquaintances in exhibition hallways and hotel lobbies. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings contribute greatly to forming and strengthening relationships, often leading to new business.

                               

When can we safely meet in person? Honestly, I do not know. The people who know more than me about the vaccine distribution do not know. I am hopeful it will occur in the second half of this year. As of today, I have tentative plans to travel to Africa, Asia, Europe, and within the U.S. A family vacation would be great too. I am sure the airlines, hotels, and ride-sharing services are also hoping that travel turns around in the coming months.

If you have a story to share about your hopes and plans for 2021, please send it to me. I may use it in a future blog commentary, with your permission, of course. Best wishes to you and your colleagues for a healthy and travel-filled second half to 2021.

TIPE 3D Printing 2021

January 11, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 19:03

The TIPE 3D Printing event is less than 2.5 weeks away. (TIPE stands for technology, industry, people, and economics.) The organizer of the January 27-28 virtual conference is Women in 3D Printing. It features an all-female line-up of more than 120 speakers and panelists globally, which I find interesting and is a first. Women in 3D Printing has developed into an organization of more than 75 chapters in 28 countries, representing one of the largest additive manufacturing communities anywhere.

                              

Sara Safari is keynote speaker of the event. She is an author, professor, engineer, and advocate for women empowerment. Sara is clearly a high achiever in more than one way. She has climbed the seven highest peaks on every continent, including Mount   Everest, which I find remarkable. Sara grew up in Iran with few personal freedoms or rights under the law, so I am sure her perspective on an array of subjects will grip one’s attention.

Women in 3D Printing and TIPE serve as inspiration for females of all ages, but especially for those who are young. Seeing what this organization is accomplishing, coupled with the TIPE event, will surely motivate people to learn more about 3D printing and the career opportunities this vibrant industry offers.

Register now for the event. I look forward to seeing you there!

Where is My 3D-Printed Gear?

December 13, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:47

Note: Noah J. Mostow, research associate at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

With snow falling outside, I am often looking at my snowboarding equipment. It is all traditionally manufactured, along with all my outdoor gear. Where are the 3D-printed products?

It is easy to find 3D printers close to the engineers working at manufacturing companies that produce outdoor gear. For decades, many have used additive manufacturing to support modeling, prototyping, design validation, and testing. However, it is difficult to find more than a handful of products from these companies being manufactured by 3D printing.

Most outdoor gear is produced by conventional manufacturing due to the economies of scale. When I worked at Burton, 3D-printed bindings, goggles, and helmets were tested and validated in real-world settings. However, once a design was finished, tooling was made and the parts were manufactured with traditional methods such as injection molding.

The following image shows a concept snowboard binding that was designed with the help of AI and 3D printed on an HP Jet Fusion machine. It provides an opportunity to apply methods of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) to create intricate designs with less material. However, it may be some time before this binding is at your local ski shop due to the higher costs associated with 3D printing.

                                           

To make 3D-printed parts commercially viable, companies will need to make some fundamental changes. Methods of DfAM are key to improving designs that take advantage of 3D printing’s strengths. Topology optimization was likely used in the pictured binding, which is good. However, I believe few parts were consolidated digitally and printed as one. This can dramatically reduce cost.

The outdoor industry could gain from personalizing products to fit and perform better for a user. Customers will pay a premium for this. Most challenges related to using AM for final part production can and will be solved in time. However, not all parts and products are a good fit for AM. Even so, to survive and thrive, countless manufacturers worldwide will develop the expertise and capacity needed to produce new types of products that are commercially appealing and perform better due to the benefits of AM.

Game Day Series

September 19, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 15:35

America Makes’ Virtual Game Day Series with Wohlers Associates concluded last week. The four events spanned four months and covered a range of key topics related to additive manufacturing and 3D printing. In all, 728 people worldwide attended the events.

Last week’s focus on the future of AM was an excellent conclusion to the series. Top managers and executives from five major industrial sectors shared their views of the future. The immense knowledge and experience among the panelists, coupled with great chemistry among them, resulted in a wealth of inspiring comments. YouTube videos of the four 90-minute panel discussions are now available.

GAME DAY 1
America Makes COVID-19 Response

GAME DAY 2
How AM Addresses Supply Chain Gaps and Distributed Manufacturing

GAME DAY 3
The Economics, Opportunities, and Challenges of Designing for AM

GAME DAY 4
The Future of Additive Manufacturing

                     

Thanks to everyone who attended and supported the four events, including Link3D for hosting them on the Remo conferencing platform. I hope everyone learned as much as I did.

Travel and the Pandemic

July 11, 2020

Filed under: future,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 11:13

In any other year, I would have taken many plane trips by now, both domestically and internationally. I like to travel, and I miss it, to a degree. A bigger part of me shudders at the thought of boarding a plane. The possible consequences of being in airports, planes, and hotels are not appealing at this time. In-person meetings—a primary reason for traveling—are at odds with what health officials are recommending.

A few weeks ago, someone said that it has never been safer to be on a plane due to the extensive cleaning by the airlines. Just yesterday, a friend made a similar comment. I respectively disagree. It is not the inside of the aircraft before boarding that is the big risk. Instead, it is what passengers bring with them onboard, mainly what they expel when breathing, talking, coughing, and sneezing. When stuck inside an aluminum tube for hours, it is impossible to entirely escape the particulates in the air.

I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee in February, and it may be my only plane trip of the year. The path we are currently on as a nation suggests that safe plane travel could be in the distant future, with 2021 being in question. I feel sorry for companies and people in the travel business. Many are working hard to make it as safe as possible. Travelers are the big and unpredictable variable. Many of them are taking every precaution, thankfully, but others are not.

Distributed Manufacturing

May 31, 2020

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

Most mass manufacturing is done at centralized locations. Many produce millions of products annually. Envision a future where this capacity occurs in many more locations much closer to the customer. Deliveries occur faster and less expensively. Relatively small quantities of products are tailored to the needs of the geographic area. Inventories are smaller, with true just-in-time delivery closer to reality for a greater number of companies and products. Functionality, quality, and value improve.

This development is slowly and quietly underway. It is being made possible from the flexibility and responsiveness of companies running additive manufacturing systems and ancillary processes. The diffusion of this approach is still small compared to the opportunity. Even so, it is real and exciting to watch develop. Most large manufacturing sites are not breaking up into smaller ones. Instead, entirely new products and businesses, such as custom eyewear, footwear, jewelry, spare parts, and after-market products are developing. Production runs are a small fraction of what a large factory produces.

How AM Addresses Supply Chain Gaps and Distributed Manufacturing is the subject of the second in our Virtual Game Day Series brought to you by America Makes and Wohlers Associates. This 90-minute panel session is on June 18 and is free of charge. Four experts will answer questions and address important issues associated with supply chain challenges and how distributed manufacturing and other factors can help address them. I have the pleasure of moderating the session. Virtual networking opportunities will occur before and after the 12:00 Noon ET panel.

Plan to be a part of shaping the future of our supply chains and distribution manufacturing by attending this event. Your questions and participation are welcomed. I hope to see you there.

Response to Pandemic

May 16, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:27

On Monday of this week, an important event occurred. It was the first in the recently announced Virtual Game Day Series with Wohlers Associates. Monday’s virtual event, titled America Makes COVID-19 Response, attracted about 250 people. The panelists included:

  • Matthew Di Prima, PhD, Materials Scientist, FDA
  • Meghan McCarthy, PhD, Program Lead, 3D Printing Biovisualization, NIH/NIAID/OD/OSMO/OCICB
  • Beth Ripley, MD, PhD, Chair, VHA 3D Printing Advisory Committee, Veterans Affairs Health Administration, Innovation Ecosystem
  • John Wilczynski, Executive Director, America Makes
  • Moderator: Terry Wohlers, Principal Consultant and President, Wohlers Associates, Inc.

Additive manufacturing (AM) is playing an important role in the pandemic, especially where supply chains are disrupted. Thousands of AM systems are operating across the U.S., so local responses to the need for personal protection equipment (PPE) are occurring where traditional manufacturing is more involved. “We’ve seen it play a significant role in face shields and it’s filling a gap in the conventional supply chain for them,” Wilczynski said. Not all of it is for healthcare providers. Some has gone to the broader community, such as those working at grocery stores, restaurants, municipalities, and in shipping. Riply said that tapping into this manufacturing capacity is big, especially at a time when traditional manufacturers are pressed to deliver products. Distributed manufacturing models could become increasingly interesting in the future as local and regional disasters occur, Di Prima explained.

As of Monday, more than 523 PPE designs were submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) 3D Print Exchange, a repository of designs hosted by NIH. Eighteen designs have been reviewed for clinical use and 14 have been optimized for community use, McCarthy said. She went on to say the site has seen more than 200,000 page views and a lot of interaction among users. This capability is central to the response and has had an impact.

America Makes brought together the FDA, NIH, and VA and launched the initiative just eight weeks ago. It has come a long way in a short time. The group, made up of the four panelists, have talked every day since the beginning.

The initiative is helping manufacturers understand where they can help. The group is providing clarification around complex questions on how to make products that can be used safely. A lot is based on a risk-benefit analysis, especially where few alternatives are available, Riply explained. The biggest thing to come out of this response is a trusted resource, explained Wilczynski. Di Prima has found that hospitals are showing increased interest in 3D printing parts because of the pandemic.

Will this response to COVID-19 create a change in the adoption of AM in the medical industry? For years, the industry has adopted AM in a substantial way for surgical planning models, drill and cutting guides, orthopedic implants, hearing aids, and dental parts. The medical industry has already been a large adopter of AM, Di Prima clarified. Even so, the work and learning surrounding the response to the coronavirus will help both the AM and medical industries better and more quickly respond to supply chain gaps when widespread emergencies occur in the future, McCarthy stated.

Will we look at this time as a turning point in the AM industry? Wilczynski said, “Yes.” It will open the eyes to the capabilities of the technology, he said. This experience is teaching us how to mobilize quickly in response to emergencies, with people ready to do the work, McCarthy explained. This initiative could not have happened without these four organization coming together. One of the groups on its own could not have done it, she said.

Following the panel was an interesting opportunity for virtual networking, which worked exceptionally well. Up to six people could “sit down” to a theme-based table or join a virtual lounge to discuss specific topics related to the pandemic and AM. Among the labeled tables were face shields, face masks, swabs, ventilators, designers, manufacturers, health care community, medical devices, maker community, and member mobilization. The networking on these and other topics was about as close as you can get to actual in-person meetings. Link3D supported the event by sharing its experience with Remo, an online platform for conferencing, meetings, and other activities.

Remarkable Struggles

April 5, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 06:58

Our nation’s healthcare providers are doing extraordinary work. They are risking their lives to help many of us. We cannot provide too much support to them. I’m hopeful they receive the personal protection equipment (PPE) they deserve. To date, many have not, and that’s unbelievably sad, especially given the sacrifices they are making.

Several organizations have stepped up to try to fill this void. One of hundreds of efforts underway stands out. America Makes, also referred to as the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, is a public-private partnership launched in 2012 by the White House. The organization, based in Youngstown, Ohio, is focused on the nation’s development and adoption of additive manufacturing (AM), more popularly known as 3D printing. The organization is largely supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, other government agencies, and 180 members. In the interest of full disclosure, Wohlers Associates has been involved with it from the very beginning, so I will admit some bias.

On or around March 19, John Wilczynski, executive director and others at America Makes made the decision to launch a nation-wide initiative to help healthcare providers with desperately needed PPE and other equipment, such as ventilators. The effort, fully described here, is fighting COVID-19 with 3D printing. It is bringing together designers, manufacturers, and healthcare providers in close collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and, and National Institutes of Health. An online repository is connecting the needs of healthcare providers with the capabilities of some of our nation’s best designers and manufacturers.

Many individuals and small companies are also doing great work. One example is Avid Product Development of Loveland, Colorado. The 18-person service provider has designed and manufactured 1,500–2,000 parts for face shields in its effort to fight the deadly virus. The company expects to produce tens of thousands. Separately, Olaf Diegel, an associate consultant at our company, has designed a face shield that can be laser cut and assembled in less than three minutes. His latest development is a ventilator, which uses MIT’s E-Vent design as the starting point. Olaf believes it could be manufactured for about $150, including the 3D-printed parts, a motor, electronics, and ventilator bladder.

Many of the hundreds of initiatives are nothing short of remarkable. They are are bringing out some of the very best in people and organizations. I urge you to do what you can to help support them so that our precious front-line healthcare professionals are protected and receive the support they deserve.

Extraordinary Times

March 21, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 13:21

Countless organizations have shut down indefinitely. The economy is tanking while the stock market declines to unthinkable levels. United Airlines cut 95% of its international flights and most business travel has halted. Meeting with others, even close friends and relatives, is discouraged. Except for getting out to pick up food and medicine, we are mostly trapped in our homes. Most of the world is in various levels of chaos, with no end in sight.

I cannot remember a time when life was so uncertain. So much has changed in a few short days. As a nation, we were slow to recognize the threat, so we may pay a very high price. My wife and I consider ourselves lucky because we have a warm home and enough supplies. I cannot imagine the fear among those who are less fortunate. All of us need to see some light—and hope—at the other end.

The crisis did not slow us down in the last few days of developing Wohlers Report 2020, a project that began to ramp up in December 2019. We published it on Wednesday—a week earlier than the past two years. I owe tremendous gratitude to our core team of nine consultants and authors, and our 79 co-authors and contributors in 33 countries. So many great people pulled together to make it happen.

Now, we need to pull together for other reasons. In today’s edition of The New York Times, I read about a group of volunteers who are working day and night to develop an open-source ventilator to help save lives. A crisis will sometimes bring out the best and worst in people, and this is an example of the best. Others in the U.S. and abroad are 3D printing masks and other devices to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

If you have ideas on how we can work together to combat the virus and support our healthcare providers, please contact me. We stand ready to help.

Investment

February 23, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event,future,money — Terry Wohlers @ 10:03

In the recent past, we have tracked investments totaling nearly $1.5 billion in additive manufacturing (AM) products and services worldwide. These dollars are critical to the future of AM and its developing ecosystem. Without it, countess companies offering machines, materials, software, and services would not survive. Investment dollars do not ensure success, but it gives companies, especially startups, a fighting chance.

We believe it is important, even critical, for AM-related companies to have a strong understanding of the latest developments and trends in this industry. Likewise, it is vital for investors to have accurate information on AM at their fingertips. Without it, they cannot make the best possible decisions. That’s why we are conducting the Wohlers Associates Investor’s Dinner Sponsored by RAPID + TCT.

The April 20 event coincides with RAPID + TCT 2020, the largest and most successful gathering on AM in North America. The evening program is designed for institutional, private equity, venture capital, angel, and individual investors. If you or your company is investing in AM, consider this special opportunity. It promises to set you in the right direction. Space is limited, so register now.

Next Page »