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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.

Ray Huff

March 6, 2020

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 18:05

Ray Huff is an extraordinary person and employee. He began work at Wohlers Associates in August 2017 as an intern while completing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Colorado State University. This came after a bachelor’s degree in applied linguistics at the University of California, Los Angles. Interestingly, Ray and I met in Africa at an annual conference conducted by the Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa. We later met in Fort Collins, home to both CSU and our company.

One big reason Ray initially made a favorable impression was his hands-on experience. He grew up designing and making products in his father’s machine shop. He started a business at age 13. Collectively, this set him apart from many others. He also came to the company with CAD skills, software and coding experience, and a strong interest in additive manufacturing. While at CSU, he managed the Idea2Product lab, a facility with 3D printing and scanning capabilities for students and faculty.

Ray has exceeded my expectations in almost every way. He completes tasks and projects with incredible speed and accuracy. If I show him how to do something, he will later show me how it can be done better. He knows how to tackle multiple projects at once and initiates new systems and business processes that improve our company. I wish I could use a copy machine to make more people and employees like him.

Ray turned a year older today, so best wishes to him for a very happy birthday!

World’s Largest Firework

February 9, 2020

Filed under: event,life — Terry Wohlers @ 07:49

Last night in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Tim Borden and three others broke the world’s record for the largest ever firework. A Guinness World Records official attended the event and said the 157-cm (62-inch) diameter shell was indeed the largest. The shell of nearly 1,270 kg (2,800 lbs) launched out of the mountain at 483 kph (300 mph). Mortar weighing seven tons and buried nearly 8 meters (26 feet) in the ground at Howelsen Hill near downtown Steamboat served as the propellent that hurled the shell out of the ground.

Seeing it live was spectacular! It lit the sky in a bright orange that I had never seen before. The event was part of Steamboat Springs 107th Winter Carnival. The firework came after a failed attempt in 2019 when it exploded prematurely in the ground. It resulted in a fountain of fireworks at the surface of the mountain that was seen for miles.

Attending the carnival was my first. The record-setting firework was the grand finale, but everything leading up to it was also impressive. People from age 5 to adults, lit up in colorful lights, performed skiing maneuvers and stunts on the mountain. It was really extraordinary to see.

Recycling with AM

January 26, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 18:50

Note: Ray Huff, associate engineer at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

No one is surprised to hear that people produce copious amounts of waste every day. A 2017 study found that over 300 million tons of waste plastic is generated annually. The question of how to reuse this material, rather than leaving it to degrade over millions of years, may be tiresome. Fortunately, AM is bringing new options much closer to home in a variety of ways.

Companies are looking at methods of using some of this waste material for AM. GreenGate3D produces and sells plastic filament from 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG). I recently bought a spool and I am making useful home goods with it. Filamentive, NefilaTek, Refil, RePLAy 3D, and others have produced fully or partially recycled filaments. Research shows that recycled filament is slightly weaker than virgin plastic, but this is predictable, which means that it can be accounted for in design. As proof of this, the U.S. military has used recycled plastics to build bridges that supported Abrams tanks in at least two cases.

In a recent article, 30,000 water bottles were recycled to 3D print a public structure in Dubai. The pavilion, called Deciduous, showcases how AM can be applied to creative structures using materials that would otherwise be waste. An advantage to using AM is the option of repurposing locally produced materials. With cleaning, grinding, and extruding technologies, such as those advocated by Netherland-based Precious Plastic, nearly anyone can recycle plastics in their hometown.

Recycling initiatives are not restricted to polymers. Newly renamed 6K (formerly Amastan Technologies) of North Andover, Massachusetts has developed a method of grinding and melting recycled metals into spherical powder particles for AM. The company is expected to commercially launch its materials soon. Similar techniques can be applied to produce wires and sheet materials for metal AM. The AM supply chain has not developed sufficiently for recycled materials to economically replace virgin materials. Growing interest, investment, and global conscience is sure to tip the scale, hopefully within a few years.

The Edge of the Ledge

December 14, 2019

Filed under: entertainment,event,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 11:36

In February 1989, Diane and I were driving in the countryside near Queenstown, New Zealand when we saw some interesting activity on a bridge. It extended over a deep gorge down to a raging river. We pulled into a small dirt parking lot overlooking the scenic area and walked onto the bridge. A person was being geared up with straps and ropes for something we knew nothing about at the time. Those in charge said the person was about to jump off the bridge with an elastic rope connected to his legs. In astonishment, we saw him take the plunge.

Weeks after returning to the U.S., we read about bungy jumping on the South Island of New Zealand. This news was the introduction of commercial bungy jumping as we know it today. It originated at this place, named Kawarau Bridge, located 43 meters (141 feet) above the water. In recent years, I developed the urge to return. A big part of me wanted to make the jump, although another part was unsure about the idea.

Last Saturday, December 7, Diane and I drove to Kawarau Bridge, which now has a large parking lot, nicely constructed overlook to watch jumpers, and a substantial visitor’s center. Early that morning, the forecast showed possible sun at 2:00 pm, so I booked the time slot for the jump. It had been raining daily for more than a week—unusual for early summer in New Zealand—resulting in a rise of the river by nearly 10 meters (33 feet), according to the guy rigging me up. It turned out to be windy, raining, and cold, but the weather was the least of my worries. I made small talk with the staff and then realized I was not paying close attention to how things were being connected. I asked myself whether he fastened everything correctly, but I had no way of checking because the connections were covered by fabric and Velcro. This made me feel uneasy, but I could not turn back at that point.

Stepping up to the edge of the platform and taking a peek over it was terrifying. I tried not to look down when the attendant counted “5, 4, 3, 2, ….” and that’s when I made the last small step to the edge and pushed off. I bounced upward a good distance after the bungy fully extended, and I bobbed around for what was probably 30 seconds. The connections were sound. By then, my nerves were mostly calm, knowing the equipment was secure, and I would probably survive. About an hour later, the clouds had cleared and the sun was bright. Diane and I walked across the bridge to shoot pictures, soak up the rays, and relax after experiencing some adventure we discovered 30 years earlier.

Professional videography captured it all.

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.

Snow in the Rockies

March 9, 2019

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:28

The snow has been very good this winter in the high country. Copper Mountain, our favorite ski resort, has received nearly 7 meters (23 feet) of snow this season. In the past three days, alone, it has received 0.9 meters (35 inches). The snowfall in many parts of the Colorado Rockies is well above average.

With so much snow, the threat of avalanches is high. Several occurred last weekend, and this one between Frisco, Colorado and Copper Mountain was caught on video. It looked terrifying. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Today, we were first to ski one of the back bowls at Copper. It had been closed for three days due to all the snow, so it was fun to create first tracks in nearly a meter of snow. I never thought I’d complain about too much snow, but it was work to ski in such deep powder.

If you’re in the high country, have fun and be careful.

New Website

February 9, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,Internet,life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:05

I am happy to announce the launch of our updated website. It has been some time since we introduced the last one, so we are excited to roll it out. We hope you like the organization and presentation of the content, as well as the overall user experience.

As you browse the site, either on your desktop or mobile device, let us know what you think. If you see something that is not quite right, I’d like to hear about it. If you like it, let us know. Any feedback from you is good.

Successful Company Founders

January 27, 2019

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 07:48

I thoroughly enjoy listening to NPR’s “How I Built This” series of podcasts. I wrote about them here nearly 15 months ago. Each one consists of an interview with a successful founder of a company. After listening to more than 50 of them, I have drawn a few conclusions about what it takes to successfully launch and grow a company.

A good idea: It often starts with a “half-baked” concept. I learned that it does not necessarily need to be a brilliant idea. In fact, the original ideas behind most of the companies were questionable at the time. An example is Perry Chen, principal founder of Kickstarter. It took him eight years to refine the concept of crowdfunding.

Another example is Jake Burton of Burton Snowboards. He founded the company in 1977, but it took him and others years to develop the snowboard and make it commercially viable. Without the following attributes, a good or great idea will go nowhere.

Passion: This is something that Chen, Burton, Richard Branson, and countless other successful entrepreneurs have. Most have a great deal of it. Without passion, a company founder has little chance of commercializing an idea.

Risk-taking: This means courage and grit. Some might view it as an adventure, which can really get their blood flowing. Those who succeed in starting a company are willing to take calculated risks.

Hard work: Perhaps this goes without saying, but do not underestimate the number of hours, including evenings and weekends, that company founders spend. It’s often at a time when they are raising a family, making it even more challenging.

Determination: Founders of companies face a seemingly endless number of obstacles and problems, including flat-out rejection. Yet, they get up in the morning and work tirelessly to overcome them. They are absolutely determined to move forward, no matter what gets in their way.

Luck: Some would argue that you create your own luck. While this may be true, a little luck, such as accidentally meeting a person that becomes your co-founder or partner, helps a great deal. Putting yourself in a position to create luck is helpful.

Having an idea or two, along with passion, a willingness to take risks, a great work ethic, and determination does not guarantee success. Without these attributes, along with a bit of luck, a person has little chance of launching and growing a winning company.

Note also that much of this applies to entrepreneurs working within another organization. Launching a new product or business in these companies is not entirely different from starting a company.

Favorite Products of 2018

December 29, 2018

Filed under: life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 19:09

Nearly every year at this time, I look back at the products I purchased and like the most. The following is a summary.

Data projector ($350): Buying a data projector is not as easy as one would expect. The first one we purchased was said to have 2,500 lumens, but it was anything but bright. We returned it in favor of a ViewSonic projector with 3,600 lumens. It’s a great product, especially for the relatively low price.

Projector screen ($97): This 16:9, 254-cm (100-inch) screen is exceptional. It’s easy to transport, stand up, and take down. It comes with a carrying case that makes it even better.

Travel brief ($379): This is my second ballistic nylon laptop brief from Tumi. My first one is still like new and our son is now using it.

Stackable wine rack ($32): We liked the first one so much, we bought two more. Each bamboo rack stores 18 bottles.

Snow skis ($748): The Soul 7 HD skis from Rossignol are superb. They are not inexpensive, but they’re worth every penny.

Ear protection ($20): If you attend concerts or other events where sound can be excessive, consider this ear protection filter product from Westone. My wife and I each got a pair for the recent Eagles, Zac Brown, and Doobie Brothers concert.

Small USB fan ($14): Whether you’re working or relaxing in an area that’s a bit warm, consider this little gem from Opolar. The five-inch, USB-powered fan is well designed, offers two speeds, and is quiet.

 

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