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World Economic Forum

June 18, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 10:49

I attended a first-ever 3D printing and additive manufacturing event organized and hosted by the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco. The June 3, 2019 workshop, titled 3D Printing and Trade Logistics: Impact on Global Value Chains, involved 18 invited company executives, government officials, and others from many countries.

The World Economic Forum is an independent and non-profit international organization that engages political, business, and other leaders to shape global, regional, and industrial agendas. It serves as a platform to bring together public and private sector stakeholders to tackle global issues. In this context, the workshop was organized in two phases. The first explored significant issues that may be raised by the proliferation of 3D printing, followed by ways in which they might be addressed with many working together.

Venkataraman “Sundar” Sundareswaran of Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp. did a fine job at organizing the workshop. He is currently serving as a fellow at the World Economic Forum to bring 3D printing to the forefront. The group of 18 participants split into three workgroups on three separate occasions to identify and prioritize major issues, followed by the generation of ideas for addressing them.

“Workforce displacement and skill gaps” was identified as the top issue. University and industry training, coupled with retraining programs and government incentives, were named as likely solutions. “Governance of IP, legal issues, cyber, trade, and customs” was ranked as the second biggest issue. Among the possible solutions: national strategies, new laws, technology, and self-regulation. “Supply chain disruption” was determined as the third most important issue. The group cited new taxation models from government and standards development, principally by industry, as ways to address it.

The next challenge and opportunity for the World Economic Forum is to tackle these issues. A good foundation has been set. I’m looking forward to staying engaged and helping however we can to advance the development and adoption of 3D printing technology worldwide.

Lee Kuan Yew

June 4, 2019

Filed under: future,life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 16:15

I recently finished a book titled Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World. Lee Kuan Yew, commonly referred to as LKY, was the first Prime Minister of Singapore and served in this capacity for three decades. I am unaware of another person with such clarity of understanding in so many parts of the world. His knowledge and insight are extraordinary.

In easy to understand language, LKY drilled down deeply into the past, present, and future of China, India, the U.S., and other parts of the world. His wide-ranging discussions included geopolitical, social, economic, healthcare, education, and religion. He even discussed how a dominant language in a given country, such as China, will impact its future.

The book is written in question/answer format, which is a little unusual. The content, however, made up for it. Amazon customer reviews—103 total—gave it 4.9 out of 5 stars. I recommend it highly.

DfAM in Germany

May 18, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,future — Terry Wohlers @ 05:33

Design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) is not easy. That’s why we have been offering DfAM courses since 2015. Our first two were for NASA Marshal Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. We have since conducted courses in other parts of the U.S., as well as in Australia, Belgium, Canada, and South Africa. Our most recent course was held with Protolabs 2.5 weeks ago near Raleigh, North Carolina. It could not have gone much better.

Our first DfAM course in Germany will occur next month in cooperation with Airbus and ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research. ZAL is hosting the event in Hamburg and we are very excited about it. Already, people from many countries in Europe and North America have registered to attend.

Other DfAM courses are being planned. Our second annual Design at Elevation DfAM course is September 2019 in Frisco, Colorado. Elevation: 2,774 meters (9,097 feet). Attend the course in Hamburg, but if you cannot, visit the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado in September—the most colorful month of the year.

AM Adoption in Aerospace

February 23, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 17:18

At an impressive pace, companies in the aerospace industry are building in-house capacity and expanding the number of certified suppliers in additive manufacturing. The Federal Aviation Administration and others have indicated to me that a half dozen or more metal AM parts have been certified for flight. In the 2014 to 2016 time frame, I saw more than 30 new designs for metal AM at Airbus and its subsidiary Premium AEROTEC. It is believed that hundreds of different polymer AM parts (i.e., part numbers) are flying on aircraft around the world. Boeing, alone, had more than 60,000 parts flying on a minimum of 16 different military and commercial aircraft in June 2018.

The following bracket design, created by MBFZ Toolcraft GmbH for Airbus, was produced in titanium. The 14 parts in the original design were consolidated into two and weight was reduced by about half. Go to this page for a much larger version of the bracket. Scroll down to near the bottom to see it.

One aerospace company that asked not to be named claimed it would be flying 25 different AM designs by the end of 2018. It expected to have an astounding 300 new designs certified for AM by the end of this year. It is believed that most are for metal AM. When considering that thousands of aerospace companies are in operation around the world, the potential for AM parts in this industrial segment is significant. As Michael Gorelik of the FAA stated at the America Makes MMX in Youngstown, Ohio in October 2018, “The transition to safety-critical AM parts will occur sooner than initially expected.”

Additive Manufacturing in 2019

January 13, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 14:23

In recent months and years, the additive manufacturing and 3D printing industry has been anything but dull, with stirring news nearly every week. Last week, for example, footwear product company Dr. Scholl’s announced a partnership with Wiivv to produce custom insoles by AM. I own a pair of the Wiivv-branded custom insoles (see the left image in the following) and wrote about them here.

The next 12 months will offer a wide range of interesting, even exciting, developments in AM. We will see companies of all types bridge the chasm from stand-alone AM systems to developing end-to-end solutions for final part production. A few companies have made a lot of progress, but most others are in the early phase. One challenge is to organize many systems at multiple sites. This means managing capacity, sending the right jobs to the correct facilities, and tracking progress. It’s one thing to do it for prototypes, but it is dramatically more difficult to conform to manufacturing quality standards and procedures.

Methods of post-processing will further develop this year. Post-processing involves support material removal, clearing access material from holes and cavities, surface finishing, coloring, coating, texturing, and inspection. Metal parts may also require stress relief, hot isostatic pressing, CNC machining, additional heat treatment, and polishing. Automating some or most of these steps will contribute greatly toward justifying the cost of using AM for production volumes. Post-processing is an area in which each company is developing what it believes to be distinct know-how and IP—and keeping it to themselves—yet much of the work is similar from one company to the next.

Materialise founder and CEO Fried Vancraen said recently that 2019 will be a year of incremental steps and a continuation of a slow revolution. He also stated that applications, not technology, will drive the AM industry in the form of investment. I could not agree more with his views. The year may not bring anything that is completely game-changing. Yet, the collective effort of thousands of organizations worldwide will help to bring AM closer to maturity for production applications, such as the custom insoles from Dr. Scholl’s and Wiivv.

AM in the U.S. Military

October 9, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 05:37

I had the great privilege of spending most of last Thursday at the Pentagon, and what I learned was encouraging. The U.S. Department of Defense has advanced its use of additive manufacturing beyond what I had anticipated. I gained a better understanding of what the military is doing and where it hopes to take AM in the future. More than anything, it made me proud to be an American because these people are incredibly bright and passionate about AM.

I met with 25 people from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and, Navy, as well as various groups within them. They fully understand the consequences of not being prepared and responsive to our adversaries. Suppose one of them took out our supply of spare parts for equipment, vehicles, and weapons. The nation would be crippled and entirely vulnerable to the worst possible scenario. Envision instead a manufacturing capacity so diverse and distributed that it would be impossible to find the thousands of organizations, some very small, that are a part of it. As odd as it may seem, an obscure bait shop that produces custom fishing gear could operate 3D printers and produce parts for DoD.

Those at the Pentagon understand the challenges, most of which revolve around tradition, culture, and people. Humans are creatures of habit and change does not come easily. The procurement process, alone, can be daunting, especially for the smallest defense contractors. Joe’s Bait Shop can process credit cards, but it may not have the personnel or tolerance to process the paperwork required by most DoD-related contracts. The people at the Pentagon are working to address this problem.

Even with the issues that the military face in more fully adopting AM technology, I am optimistic. Individuals, such as Captain Matthew Friedell of the Marine Corps (pictured with me in the following image at the Pentagon), are sharp and among our nation’s best. After hours at the Pentagon, I can say without reservation that we are in very good hands. They do not have all of the answers, but they’ve identified most of the problems. Thank God we have men and women like them, and I sincerely thank them for what they do to keep our nation safe and secure.

Most Popular AM Application

February 24, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,machining — Terry Wohlers @ 11:30

Note: Much of the following was excerpted from Wohlers Report 2017.

The following chart shows how organizations are using industrial additive manufacturing systems for a range of applications. The information presented in the chart came from the survey question “How do your customers use the parts built on your AM systems?” The respondents consisted of 61 manufacturers of industrial AM systems (those that sell for $5,000 or more) and 100 service providers worldwide.

The survey results show that companies use AM technology to produce functional parts more than anything else. This represents the degree of interest in AM machines and materials that produce strong and accurate parts. In the future, we expect the demand for these types of parts to increase much further, especially as companies adopt AM for production applications.

The Future of 3D Printing

December 2, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 09:39

Like many, I’m intrigued by the prospects of the future. For 30 years, I have put thought into the developments and applications of additive manufacturing and 3D printing—terms that are used interchangeably. For most of this time, Wohlers Associates has focused its consulting, speaking, and publications on 3D printing technology. We are proud to have worked with 260 client organizations in 26 countries, with more in the queue.

In recent years, we have been asked to give even greater thought and consideration into what the future might hold. We believe that 3D printing will lead to far more product variety, coupled with entirely new types of products, many that are unthinkable today. Generative design and other software tools will contribute. Product inventories will shrink as companies transition toward cost-saving, digital inventories and on-demand manufacturing.

Biomimicry is a fascinating field that will inspire many to produce 3D-printed products that are lighter and stronger with enhanced performance characteristics. Our industry has barely scratched the surface of the almost endless list of possibilities. The opportunity is to learn from nature and then apply it to design for additive manufacturing. If I were to begin an advanced degree program today, it would focus in this area.

For the 13th time this year in a public setting, I will present thoughts and ideas surrounding the future of 3D printing. If you would like to be a part of the discussion, attend Inside 3D Printing at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. I speak at 9:00 am on Monday, November 4. I hope to see you there.

3D Printing’s Place in History

February 12, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 06:39

Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in or around 1440. Since then, humans have experienced many life-changing technical advances such as electricity, medicine, radio, and the telephone. Henry Ford was credited with popularizing the automobile in the early 1900s. Later came air travel and the semiconductor, which led to computers, robotics, and the Internet.

A subject that I have pondered for some time is whether 3D printing will be viewed as a major technical advancement, similar to these other developments. We may not know for decades into the future, but many agree that it’s certainly headed in that direction.

Forecasting the Future

January 28, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 16:14

Looking ahead is tricky business. Many try, but most can’t do it well. Predicting what might occur in a year from now is one thing, but looking further out, such as years or longer, is difficult. Megatrends author John Naisbitt said, “The most reliable way to forecast the future is to understand the present.” That’s where we put the majority of our energy. We feel that if a company truly understands where things are today, they have a chance at creating a view of the future.

graph

With history and data points, one can extend trend lines to gain a sense for where something is headed. We have collected and analyzed hard data for more than 20 years for the Wohlers Report, and place a lot of weight on extending trend lines. This, alone, is not enough. We also need to do our best at understanding the present state of 3D printing and additive manufacturing. We adjust our views of the future based on a number of factors, including new developments such as GE’s recent investment of about $1.4 billion in additive manufacturing.

The bottom line: do not make business decisions based entirely on forecasts. Factor in views and opinions from people with a lot of experience and history in the subject of interest. It is easy for someone to make a forecast, even the inexperienced, but it’s incredibly difficult to do it accurately. Most people that read these forecasts do not look back to see if they were accurate, which is a mistake.

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