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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!

HP’s Stephen Nigro

September 12, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 11:38

Stephen Nigro is senior vice president of PPS Imaging and Printing at HP. He has worldwide responsibility for the company’s printing business, which includes HP InkJet, HP LaserJet, and HP Graphics. This business is roughly $20 billion per year and involves tens of thousands of employees. One can easily conclude that Nigro is very important to HP.

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Stephen Nigro

It was announced last week that Nigro will focus entirely on 3D printing on November 1, 2015. This news was first reported in an article by Fortune. In my opinion, this is very big news for the company and 3D printing industry. The announcement speaks volumes about the importance of HP Multi Jet Fusion technology and how the company believes it will develop in the future.

Dion Weisler, CEO of HP Inc. (beginning November 1), has stated more than once that the 3D printing industry has not solved the major problems of speed, quality, and cost. HP hopes to address these problems with Nigro’s help. He will continue to report to Weisler as the company expands into 3D printing. “Over the next 5-10 years, I think [3D printing] will be a really big core part of our business,” Weisler stated recently. Nigro will be a key to making it happen.

Update: After the above was originally published, Nigro was named president of HP 3D Printing.

Kill Decision

August 15, 2015

Filed under: entertainment,future,review — Terry Wohlers @ 10:15

A good friend recommended Kill Decision and I’m glad he did. Author Daniel Suarez knows how to get and keep your attention. Many compare him to Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy. The techno-thriller grabs you early in the book and has you on the edge of your seat most of the way through it. As odd as it may sound to some, I do not read novels for the pure sake of enjoyment. However, if the book provides interesting perspective into future, I’ll make an exception.

I chose the audio version of Kill Decision so that I could exercise while taking in something good. Also, narrator Jeff Gurner tells a story spectacularly. I’ve heard him before and he’s excellent. He nails foreign accents and characters (for example, a hard-nosed army general) better than anyone I’ve heard and his emphasis on certain points and phrases is flawless.

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The book is focused mostly on drones and how they may develop to control the world around us. The tension-filled plot brings together many technical ideas in ways that are not only fascinating, but believable. At times, I could not put it down. The story builds and the plot thickens as swarming autonomous drones communicate and organize attacks. The drones and their “behavior” are modeled after swarms of weaver ants, which are very organized, even deadly, as a colony.

If you are looking for a good book to round out the summer, assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere, consider Kill Decision. You won’t regret it. And, if you like to walk, run, or go to the gym, take the audio version with you. Listening to narrator Jeff Gurner, alone, is worth the price.

AM in Aerospace

July 18, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 14:39

The world of additive manufacturing is experiencing an interesting time in the aerospace industry. The technology holds tremendous promise for the production of both polymer and metal parts. Many aerospace companies are currently qualifying AM processes and materials and certifying designs at an unprecedented pace. What’s more, we expect it to accelerate in the coming months and years. This rapid growth could result in a demand for AM products and services that outpaces the supply, especially for metal parts.

Airbus has said that it plans to 3D print 30 tons of metal parts monthly by 2018, which is less than 30 months away. Already, the company has flown 3D-printed metal on commercial aircraft, and has built many impressive and complex parts that reduce material and weight by 40-50%, and sometimes more. Meanwhile, GE Aviation is working toward the production of tens of thousands of metal parts annually for jet engines with the construction of a $50 million manufacturing facility in Auburn, Alabama.

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3D-printed sheet metal parts, which flew on the A350

The demand for AM becomes especially interesting when considering all of the other aerospace companies. Among them are BAE Systems, Bell Helicopter, Boeing, Bombardier, Embraer, General Dynamics, GKN Aerospace, and Honeywell Aerospace. Other companies include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance. Most of them have built infrastructures within their corporations to evaluate and implement AM.

The aerospace industry is a natural for the series production of parts by AM. The volumes are relatively low and the part complexity and value are high. With new designs that consolidate many parts into one, coupled with methods of reducing material and weight, AM becomes very compelling. Consequently, we can expect an exciting and thriving future for AM in the aerospace industry.

Apple iPrint

May 22, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 21:03

Apple has pioneered many industries. Among them: desktop computing, desktop publishing, music, smart phones, tablet computing, and smart watches. Could the high tech giant also get into 3D printing? It’s possible, given that other IT and technology companies have entered the space. Autodesk and HP have made big commitments, and Adobe, Amazon, Dell, eBay, Intel, Lenovo, and Microsoft are dabbling in it.

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In a presentation I gave yesterday at RAPID 2015 in Long Beach, California, I mentioned the idea of Apple’s potential interest, with “iPrint” being a good name for a 3D printer. Lucas Mearian of Computerworld was in the audience and picked up on it. See the story titled Is Apple Planning a 3D Printer?

I honestly don’t know whether Apple has an interest and is working on anything at this time. However, it could be a fit, given the company’s success in producing winning products across a range of industries. However, Apple is best at producing products for consumers and not for industrial customers and manufacturers. For now and the foreseeable future, that’s who will be purchasing and using most 3D printers and systems for the additive manufacturing of parts and products. Consequently, Apple will probably not launch a product any time soon, unless it develops the unimaginable, which it has done in the past.

HP Multi Jet Fusion

December 7, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 19:21

On two separate occasions in October 2014, I saw HP Multi Jet Fusion machines running and building parts. The new technology uses HP thermal inkjet arrays to print fusing and detailing agents onto thin layers of thermoplastic powder. An energy source is used to fuse the areas where the agents were deposited. What I saw was extraordinary. The build speed is 10 times faster than other 3D printers and additive manufacturing systems, according to HP, and what I witnessed supports this claim.

The quality of the parts I saw and held also got my attention, especially since the technology that produced the parts will not become a product until 2016. The edges of the parts were crisp, the features were well defined, and areas that are supposed to flat were indeed flat. Also, a number of them were multi-colored. Bringing together this speed, part quality, and multi-color using thermoplastic materials is a first.

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Left: HP senior vice president Stephen Nigro and USA Today reporter on October 29, 2014 in New York City. Middle: Vase and flower printed in color. Right: 3D-printed mechanism for use on the Multi Jet Fusion machine. According to HP, it out-performed a similar mechanism that was machined in metal.

Strength properties of parts made on the machine, I was told, are good. However, until we see independent test data, it’s too early to say how they compare to laser-sintered parts. A car weighing 4,536 kg (10,000 lbs) was lifted using a 113-gram (0.25 lb) chain link printed on the HP machine.

We will better understand the impact that Multi Jet Fusion will have on the market after we hear from customers using the machine. Until then, it’s difficult to know what it will be. However, I believe it could compete with conventional plastics processing, such as injection molding, for certain types of parts and quantities. This would disrupt both the 3D printing and plastics processing industries.

HP has not yet discussed pricing, but the company has referred to “breakthrough economics” on multiple occasions when describing its possible impact. If the machine is priced aggressively and the consumables are competitive for manufacturing quantities, I truly believe it could not only be a game-changer, but it could rewrite the rules of 3D printing.

16th EuroMold Conference

November 22, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:30

Our 16th annual international conference on additive manufacturing and 3D printing coincides with next week’s EuroMold 2014 event in Frankfurt, Germany. It is on Thursday, November 27, which is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. For those of you outside the U.S., Thanksgiving is among the most important American holidays.

The title of this year’s conference is The Truth Behind the Additive Manufacturing Supply Chain. We are excited to have an outstanding lineup of speakers from Australia, Belgium, China, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain. They represent some of the most knowledgeable and experienced individuals on the subject, and we are happy that they are willing to share their insight.

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Wohlers conference at EuroMold 2013

The additive manufacturing supply chain is underdeveloped, and in some cases, almost non-existent. We believe that this could present significant opportunities, but also very big challenges for companies wanting to adopt AM for production applications. As companies begin to use the technology for manufacturing, we could see the demand for quality materials, machines, and certified suppliers exceed the supply.

EuroMold 2014 is the perfect place to discuss and debate issues surrounding the AM supply chain. For 15+ years, EuroMold has served as the most important exposition and meeting place for AM producers and users worldwide. Significant business is conducted among exhibitors, their customers, and others, and we look forward to seeing you there. To learn more about the conference and to register, click here.

America Makes Two Years Later

September 15, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 10:28

America Makes is the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute that was launched in August 2012. It is the first in a series of institutes in the U.S. and is a part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) that the White House and many government agencies are supporting. Each institute seeks to expand specific areas of underdeveloped manufacturing technology from private-public partnerships on a national scale.

The underlying goal of the innovation institutes is to transition promising developments in manufacturing from a technology readiness level (TRL) 4 to TRL 7. The TRL measure is a way of gauging the current state of a particular technology. TRL 1 is usually a concept at the basic research level, whereas TRL 9 is a fully-qualified production process suitable for commercialization. Historically, much of what is developed in the U.S. progresses to about a TRL 3, and does not bridge the “valley of death” to TRL 7. The NNMI was largely created to solve this problem.

To achieve success, a national innovation institute must have stakeholders. America Makes recently completed its second year in operation and can claim nearly 110 member organizations. America Makes director Ed Morris, founding director Ralph Resnick, and their team have done an outstanding job in attracting some of the most important organizations to America Makes. We are optimistic that many more will join in the coming months and look forward to much more growth. Wohlers Associates is proud to be one of eight Platinum Members, which is the top-tier membership level.

americamakes

Much of the work in the first two years has been in creating a solid foundation with staffing, systems, and strategies for the years to follow. America Makes has been successful in awarding projects to many organizations. In January 2014, it awarded a second round of 15 projects to 75 individual partner organizations. Combined with the first round of projects, America Makes has invested nearly $30 million in public and private funds toward advancing additive manufacturing and 3D printing in the U.S.

Is America Makes meeting its objectives? In some ways, it is exceeding them, given that only two years have passed. No one knew how this first (pilot) institute would take shape and whether corporations, universities, and others would embrace it. Sponsorship of more than 100 organizations, as well as the support and involvement of many government entities (Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and others), is impressive. The bigger question that we cannot yet answer is whether the NNMI institutes will make a difference in the long term. We are optimistic that they will, but it’s much too early to know for sure.

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.

 

AM Demand Will Exceed Supply

July 3, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 09:43

Note: The following was authored by Tim Caffrey, senior consultant at Wohlers Associates. It was originally published July 3, 2014, and updated and republished July 9, 2014.

Over the past decade, several major trends have emerged in the additive manufacturing (AM) industry. Two of them are 1) the rapid growth of metals, and 2) a marked increase in production applications. Yet, outside of dental copings and acetabular (hip cup) implants, these two key developments have not converged in a significant way. That changed in May 2013 when GE Aviation announced its plan to manufacture all fuel nozzles for its LEAP engine using metal AM. With 19 fuel nozzles per engine, production is scheduled to reach 40,000–45,000 units annually in six or seven years.

The announcement was one of the most significant milestones in the history of the AM industry. A major corporation publically declared its confidence in AM for a demanding production application in a hostile and critical operating environment. At the same time, this development created a new concern: Will supply keep up with demand? According to Greg Morris of GE Aviation, the fuel nozzle production would require about 60 systems working around the clock using today’s AM metal technology.

A July 1 story on the German news website Wirtschafts Woche reported that GE Aviation intends to order 100 metal systems from EOS. An official announcement is expected during the Farnborough International Airshow later this month. We have since learned that this story is inaccurate. According to GE Aviation, no order has been placed. A vendor has not been selected and the number of systems to be ordered has not been determined. While unit sales of metal AM systems increased 75.8% last year, according to our research for Wohlers Report 2014, production capacity at AM system manufacturers is still relatively low. An order of this magnitude would certainly jolt EOS’s production capability and tax its resources. It will also produce a ripple effect for other metal AM system manufacturers.

One can assume that the GE fuel nozzle is the first of many metal production parts launched, and more from the aerospace, medical, dental, jewelry, and (eventually) automotive sectors will follow. Can the AM industry meet this demand? We believe that the metal AM supply chain—consisting of system manufacturers, material suppliers, and certified service providers—will not be able to keep pace with demand.

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