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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.

Best Products of 2020

December 28, 2020

Filed under: life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 06:55

Each year, I name my favorite new products. This year, the first three revolve around biking, a safe and invigorating outdoor activity.

Signal Peak bike from Fezzari ($3,250): Fezzari, a direct-to-consumer company, does a fine job with its bikes. I bought two from the company in May, including this rugged mountain bike. I rode it an estimated 45-50 times, the majority involving good mountain trails, with some being quite challenging.

S-Works Power Saddle from Specialized ($300): A major part of this saddle is 3D-printed using technology from Silicon Valley-based Carbon. It is an excellent product, although not inexpensive. It is out of stock, which was the case the last time a checked months ago.

KAC Overdrive Sports bike carrier ($400): This is a good product, especially if you do not want to spend twice as much for a carrier. I was prepared to do it, but better-known brands were out of stock for months. I paid $280, but the higher price is still worth it, in my view. (KAC stands for Kick Ass Carrier.)

                                        

Fire HD 10 Tablet ($150): My favorite products of the year are not all about biking. The Fire tablet version I bought has a 257-mm (10.1-inch), 1080p HD display and 32GB of storage. I use it mostly for reading newspapers and checking weather and snow reports. I like it a lot better than my older iPad.

IPSXP ice/snow crampons ($17): This is my first pair of crampons, so I am unable to compare them to other products. Even so, it is hard to go wrong with this product at such a low price.

LED garage lights ($32): I am not sure how I got by without these lights for so long. You will see and find things in your garage you did not know you had.

AmazonSmile: It is identical to Amazon, except that the company donates a small percentage of your purchase to a charity of your choice at no cost to you. The company is supporting hundreds of thousands of charities, including many relatively small ones. If you use Amazon, use AmazonSmile instead and share a percentage with your favorite charity.

Best wishes to you for a safe and virus-free 2021. I hope it is also filled with new, interesting, and useful products.

Thanks for Giving

November 27, 2020

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 14:26

The term “Thanksgiving” dates back to the 1530s. According to Macmillan Dictionary, it was formed by combining the noun “thanks,” taken from the Old English “þanc,” which means “grateful thought,” and the verb “give.” I see it simply as “thanks for giving” and to be thankful for what you have.

This year has been a challenging one, to put it mildly. It is easy to point to many problems and difficulties. At this time, I urge you to be thankful for all of those who have given so much and the blessings that many of us enjoy. I am especially thankful for:

  • healthcare providers who are risking their lives as they help so many
  • members of the military for protecting our democracy
  • those who contribute to food banks, homeless shelters, and countless other charitable organizations
  • companies who are doing their best to keep their employees and customers safe by respecting the rules of a pandemic
  • clients, partners, employees, contractors, Wohlers Report contributors, press/media, and others who have supported Wohlers Associates for 33 years

                                       

On a more personal note, I am thankful for:

  • my wife for all that she does and for tolerating me when she is used to having time for herself when I am traveling ~20 times a year
  • our kids and their spouses and children for the many family get-togethers and the fun and laughter we share
  • friends for meeting to mountain bike, ski, and socialize outdoors
  • a roof over our heads, nourishing food, and overall good health

Please take a moment to create a list of what you are thankful for, literally or in your mind. It helps to put things into perspective and focus on the positives things in life.

Impact of a University Instructor

August 23, 2020

Filed under: education,life — Terry Wohlers @ 17:10

When attending the University of Nebraska at Kearney, I learned that first-year students were required to take a 100-level English composition course focused mostly on writing. If you did not receive a B or better in the course, you were required to take it again. The instructor (I do not recall her rank) and I did not get along well, which may have contributed to the C+ I received in the course. Alternatively, the score may have been due to my poor writing skills.

I had to repeat a course in a subject that I did not like, and I was not happy about it. Fortunately, I had a different instructor (also a relatively young woman whose rank I do not recall) the second time around and it turned out better than I could have possibly imagined. It was many years later when I began to appreciate what she did for me and probably many other students. I wish I could remember her name. She inspired me to work hard on the fundamentals of writing, so I practiced, listened to her suggestions, and improved.

          

To this day, I credit her for helping me to create an interest in writing and for understanding that it can take years of practice. It is somewhat like skiing or mountain-bike riding. The more you do it, the better you get at it and the more you appreciate the result. Like new product development, writing is an iterative process. The product improves with each iteration. My experience in the course created a strong foundation for what was ahead. At the time, I did not know that writing would become such an important part of my work and daily life. One cannot ask for more from a college instructor.

The Stars Aligned

August 9, 2020

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE,education,event,life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:26

Good timing and luck can do wonders. In November 1986, Wohlers Associates was launched. Joel Orr, PhD, an extremely influential and successful engineering consultant, author, and speaker, provided the inspiration. When attending his fascinating presentations and meeting in person, I told myself repeatedly, “I want to do what he does.”

Prior to the founding of our company, I was completing my fifth year as an instructor and research associate in the Department of Industrial Sciences at Colorado State University. A year earlier, I was lucky enough to author a CAD textbook for McGraw-Hill. The publisher asked if I would create a second edition of the book in 1986, so it was time to say good-bye to the university, with book royalties serving as a safety net.

               

Consulting was slow at first. I learned from Joel and others how important it is to travel, meet people, and begin to carve out a niche. I began to write and publish articles and speak at industry events. I met many good people and one thing led to another. The first two major clients were especially helpful in establishing the company and I learned so much. This work served as a foundation for what was ahead.

My wife, Diane, has been an anchor of support over the company’s 33 years. Without it, I could not have survived. Autodesk played a role in the early years because I relied on AutoCAD for the hands-on training that I conducted, content for articles and speaking, and hands-on instruction at CSU. It may not be viewed today as the most advanced design software for 3D modeling and simulation, but at the time, it was the de facto standard CAD software worldwide.

I credit many for contributing to the decision to start the company and for supporting it in its first several years. Many thanks to my wife, Joel Orr, McGraw-Hill, Autodesk, and CSU. Without these “stars” aligning in 1986, Wohlers Associates would not have emerged.

How to Become Good at Something

July 25, 2020

Filed under: entertainment,life — Terry Wohlers @ 09:52

Perhaps it goes without saying, but repeated practice and hard work can lead to high levels of achievement. I used to play tennis, but I never became good at it because I did not play enough. The same is true with golf. With any sport, musical instrument, or another interest, you need to have a passion to get to the next level. Natural ability plays into it, including what you might inherit from your parents, but determination and a willingness to work hard may play a bigger role.

I have been mountain biking for about 20 years, but until this year, I would ride trails only 2-3 times annually. The bike I rode was at the low end of the quality and cost spectrum. In May, I purchased a much better bike (Signal Peak from Fezzari) and made the decision to ride more than in the past. I have not counted, but I have probably ridden mountain trails, some technical and challenging, 12+ times so far this spring and summer. I feel like I am improving but have a long way to go. I have snow skied since I was 19, but I had never made it out more than 2-3 times a season. I was an intermediate skier and rarely made it onto an advanced run. Ten years ago, I began to average more than 25 days per season, upgraded my equipment, and started to feel better about my ability. I also began to have a lot more fun.

In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell is convincing when he discusses what it takes to become extraordinary at something. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the Beatles became incredibly successful, but not until they accumulated 10,000+ hours of experience at their craft. Becoming extraordinary takes more than hours of hard work, but without it, the odds of greatness are next to impossible, according to Gladwell. If other elements work in your favor, such as what you have between the ears, you have a chance. For most of us, it is about enjoying what you do and contributing, but it usually comes only after reaching a certain level of achievement.

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.

3D-Printed Bike Saddle

June 14, 2020

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

On June 3, 2020, Specialized announced the commercial availability of the first 3D-printed cycling saddle, the S-Works Power Saddle with Mirror Technology. A major part of the saddle is made with technology from Silicon Valley-based Carbon. The lattice-structure design is said to improve rider comfort and performance by absorbing impact and improving stability.

I received the saddle on Friday and the new design exceeded my expectations. I had read about it and saw pictures previously, but holding and studying it provided a far better appreciation for what went into the product. After shooting images of the new saddle, I mounted it to one of my new bikes from Fezzari, a relatively small but excellent consumer-direct manufacturer in Utah. Bikes from Fezzari have received many favorable reviews from the likes of Bike Magazine, Bikerumor, and Mountain Bike Action. I absolutely love my Signal Peak mountain bike and Catania road bike, both from Fezzari. I highly recommend both.

My first ride using the new saddle was short, but I found it exceptionally comfortable. I was told the saddle is designed for road bikes, but since my Catania it currently about two hours away, I tried it with the Signal Peak. It may handle the rigors of rocky trails, but I do not know, so I am checking with both Specialized and Carbon. Meanwhile, I plan to use it on one or more long road bike rides later this week in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I will try to share more after then.

With the new 198-gram (7-oz) saddle, Carbon and Specialized reduced the overall development process from a typical 18-24 to 10 months, while creating and testing more than 70 designs. Carbon’s 3D-printing technology reduced the design process from six to two months. Design iterations occurred in as little as one day. These are among the benefits of using 3D printing to develop a new product.

The new saddle is Carbon’s third production application in sporting goods, after running shoes from adidas and custom football helmets from Riddell. The S-Works Power Saddle sells for $450 and the company is currently sold out of them. In recent months, I have found that bikes and bike accessories have been difficult to get. Biking is an activity that people believe is safe, healthy, and fun, especially during a pandemic. If you’re looking for a comfortable bike saddle that is believed to improve performance, take a close look at the S-Works Power Saddle. Based on what I have read, seen, and experienced, it is a special product.

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.

Groundhog Day

May 3, 2020

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 06:22

This a rough time for many. A big part is keeping our heads up and staying positive. With so much uncertainty, it is easier said than done. I am not an expert in psychology or pandemics, but I will do my best to offer some ideas.

As best you can, mix things up each day. If you do not, it will feel like the movie Groundhog Day where weatherman Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, repeatedly relives the same day. He needed to adjust to maintain his sanity and so do we.

My wife and I go for one or more long walks every day. While this sounds repetitious, we try to take different routes. The fresh air, sky, trees, and birds are calming and invigorating. We also go for long bike rides, although less often. We do our best to maintain our distance from others and wear a mask, as necessary.

When working from a home office, it may be helpful to take frequent breaks and mix in some personal “business” as time allows. I may take out the trash, do some lawn care, or work on a small household task. I never let these things prevent me from completing important office work, but these diversions help to add variety to the day. I especially look forward to regular Zoom meetings with family and friends.

Do what you can to mix things up while staying productive in your home office. Take short, frequent breaks and do not feel guilty for working on a personal task or two as time allows. You will make up for it. Get outside if you can but practice social distancing. We will get through it, but it may require some imagination and safe adventure to maintain a healthy level of sanity.

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