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30 Years Later

December 4, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,event,life — Terry Wohlers @ 11:02

It does not seem possible, but it’s true: Wohlers Associates has been in business for three decades. I started the company in November 1986 after working at Colorado State University for five years. I was young at the time—not even 30—but it “felt” like the right thing to do. I was inspired by Dr. Joel Orr, a brilliant individual and extremely successful consultant, author, and speaker. I told myself that if I could do even a small fraction of what he does, it would be incredibly interesting and challenging. I don’t know that I’ve even “scratched the surface,” compared to what Joel has achieved, but it has been enormously gratifying, and I’ve been lucky to work with great people and organizations over the years.

The original focus of Wohlers Associates was on CAD tools and their application. I was presented with the opportunity of being the instructor of the first semester credit course on CAD at CSU in 1983. CAD experience and know-how were hard to find back then, so I was approached by three publishers to write a textbook. I accepted the offer from McGraw-Hill in 1985. The work experience and textbook provided a foundation for offering CAD instruction and consulting to local companies, such as HP, Kodak, Waterpik, and Woodward. I also accepted writing assignments from technical journals, which did not pay a lot, but they helped to introduce our startup company to the world. I learned from Joel that if you want to meet people with similar interests, speak at industry events, so I began to participate in technical conference programs.

30-years

Less than a year after starting the company, I came across a short but interesting article in a newsletter published by Joel. It was about a start-up company named 3D Systems, and it discussed a new process called stereolithography. I was fascinated by the concept and envisioned how powerful it could become in combination with CAD solid modeling tools, which were rolling out at around that time. Aries Concept Station was the first to support stereolithography. Dave Albert, a person that Joel and I know, was commissioned to create the CAD interface and file format for 3D Systems. It was called “STL” and it’s still being used extensively today. I don’t know whether Joel knows it, but I credit him for introducing me to additive manufacturing and 3D printing, a class of technology in which our company has spent most of its energy. I’m excited to go to work every day because of the almost endless opportunities that this technology presents.

I have many stories from the journey that began 30 years ago, but I will save most of them for another time. I do want to say that without my wife, Diane, the company would not exist. She has provided mountains of loving support and encouragement over the years. Also, she has graciously tolerated my crazy travel and work schedule. Without her, our accounting system would be a mess. I also give my sincerest gratitude to Joel Orr. Without his inspiration and encouragement, it’s safe to say that Wohlers Associates would not have been launched. Thanks also to countless others around the world for contributing and supporting our company over the past 30 years.

American Football

September 23, 2016

Filed under: entertainment,life — Terry Wohlers @ 14:06

In my view, it’s the greatest sport on the planet. The action, hits, and wide mix of plays makes the game so exciting to watch. Sure wish they could fix the head injury problems. I’m hopeful that with creative 3D printing methods using lattice and cellular structures, someone will design a helmet that cushions hard blows far better than with conventional methods of manufacturing and materials.

Colorado State Rams: We’ve been season ticket holders for many years, so we attend most of the home games in Fort Collins. This is the last season for Hughes Stadium, so we can expect an entirely new experience next season. More importantly, I hope the Rams improve. The first two games were not pretty, but last Saturday’s game was encouraging. The Rams have finally found a quarterback in true freshman Collin Hill. He threw four touchdown passes and ran 51 yards for a fifth, all in the first half. And, he’s only 18 years old. Tomorrow’s game at Minnesota will be a big test for him and the team.

collin-hill

Nebraska Cornhuskers: Last Saturday, the team pulled through in a nail biter against a ranked Oregon team. My wife and I both grew up in Nebraska, with family and friends still there, and we’ve cheered for the team since we can remember. In recent years, the Huskers have not shown the national prominence of the past, but they’re off to a 3-0 start this season. There’s nothing like a Huskers game in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Denver Broncos: These Super Bowl champs are fun to watch. Defenses win games and Denver’s D could be even better than last season. Prior to the start of this season, the quarterback position was a big question mark with the retirement of Peyton Manning and departure of backup Brock Osweiler. So far, second year rookie Trevor Siemian has been solid and better than most expected. He looked sharp again in last Sunday’s defeat of the Indianapolis Colts, but it was Denver’s Von Miller and its defense that won the game.

With some luck, these three teams will have a good season. Injuries and other factors usually determine the outcome. Regardless, we’re looking forward to watching some great football in the coming weeks and months.

3D Veterans Bootcamp

September 12, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,life — Terry Wohlers @ 08:43

An interesting program for U.S. veterans concluded on Friday of last week in San Antonio, Texas. A start-up organization, named 3D Veterans, was formed to train veterans in CAD and 3D printing for high-tech American jobs. The first six-week “bootcamp” involved 13 enthusiastic veterans out of 70 applicants. I was lucky enough to witness them in action on Wednesday as they were wrapping up several intriguing final class projects—the culmination of expert instruction and hands-on learning. The projects were aimed at designing and 3D printing devices that would help less fortunate fellow veterans. I was moved by this giving of time, creativity, and energy to other veterans.

The 3D Veterans organization was founded by Michael Moncada and David Schnepp, with subsequent involvement from Andy Miller, Wayne Dudding, and others. I first met Moncada, a veteran himself, at Inside 3D Printing in New York City in April, and what he told me about the program got my attention. Among the current partners and sponsors are America Makes, Autodesk, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Google.org, Google’s chartable arm, is the primary sponsor. The veterans completed the program with new skills in using Autodesk’s Fusion 360 CAD software, which was used for most of the design work.

3dveterans

I was with the staff and student veterans for about 2.5 hours. I especially wanted to meet the veterans and see their work, and I was lucky enough to get fairly in-depth explanations from six of them. Len, 59, designed a knee brace that he hopes will be more effective and fit more comfortably under a pair of slacks. The available 3D printers and materials did not allow him to complete and test his design, but I like the path he has taken, coupled with his passion. One of his comments to me said it all. “This is the most exciting time of my life,” referring to the class, the knowledge and skills he has gained, and where all of it could take him in the future. Wow!

Another student veteran, Deborah, designed a brace for those with carpal tunnel syndrome. She said the ones on the market work with mixed results. She went on to say, “The course has been challenging and exciting and something I needed.” Other projects involved 1) the use of a transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation device to treat pain, 2) an exoskeleton device for therapy of finger and hand movement, 3) a device to hold a straw in place in a drinking cup or glass, and 4) a versatile cup holder that can be mounted just about anywhere, including onto wheel chairs.

I like this program a lot. Credit goes to Moncada, his colleagues, and the program’s supporters. Gratitude also goes to the participating veterans for enrolling in the program and giving back to fellow veterans. It was a privilege to see, up close, the veterans at work. Plans are underway to expand it into other locations across the U.S. in coming months. If you are interested in supporting this outstanding program or hiring one of the 13 veterans, contact Michael Moncada at michael@3dveterans.com.

Dear Leader

July 17, 2016

Filed under: life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 16:06

Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-sung takes you on an incredible journey. In this international bestselling book, Jang detailed what he and a friend encountered to reach China from North Korea. Eventually, he made it to South Korea where he lives today. Along the way, he discussed the horrible conditions in North Korea and the nauseating behavior of three generations of the Kim dynasty, spanning from 1948 to current leader Kim Jong-un.

dear-leader

Author Jang Jin-sung served as a North Korean State Poet Laureate, an elite position that permitted face-to-face interaction with Kim Jong-il (Kim Jong-un’s father and previous leader). Kim’s extravagant and repulsive lifestyle, told by Jang Jin-sung, is intriguing and sad. The escape involved remarkable encounters with North Korean and Chinese authorities, hunger, and bitter cold conditions, sometimes with little shelter.

The book is excellent and I recommend it highly. Not only does it grasp your attention, it provides astonishing insight into the North Korean government and everyday life in the country. Jang Jin-sung provides a sliver of hope for the country’s future as a small but growing number of North Koreans learn about life in other parts of the world.

North Korea

July 2, 2016

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 16:07

I visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) last week. It is a strip of land that was created at the end of the Korean War in 1953 to buffer North Korea from South Korea. The 4 km (2.5 mile) wide area is the most heavily militarized border in the world. Visiting the DMZ is the closest that most people will ever get to North Korea. Scheduling a visit requires a special guide and a minimum of a few days to set up. My passport was checked by DMZ officials a minimum of four times.

As part of the conflict with South Korea, the North Koreans created four deep tunnels in an effort to secretly move its military from the north to the south. We were able to enter and go as far as possible through the third tunnel (pictured below, left), which the South Koreans discovered in 1978. The tunnel is 1.6 km (1 mile) long and 73 meters (240 feet) deep. Its intended purpose was to enable a surprise attack on Seoul. It could handle the transfer of an astonishing 30,000 soldiers per hour. North Korea is not happy with the fact that they built the tunnels and South Korea is cashing in on them from fees that people are paying to enter them.

dmz

As much as I wanted to see some of North Korea, I saw little. The skies were overcast and hazy the day we visited, so we could not see far. Even so, we were able to use stationary binoculars to see a bit of the countryside (pictured above, right) and some buildings. At this special vantage point, we were allowed to take pictures, but only if we stood behind a line that was about 10 m (33 feet) from the wall shown in the above picture.

A fake village, complete with nicely painted houses, a school, and even a hospital, was built by the North Koreans to give visitors of the DMZ the illusion that the country is healthy and thriving—contrary to everything I had heard and read about North Korea. The buildings are nothing but facades with no glass in the windows, lights that operate with timers, and maintenance workers that sweep the streets to show activity, although I did not see any.

I’m currently about two-thirds of the way through Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-sung, a North Korean that fled the country and lived to write about it. Most do not. The book is a fascinating account of what it’s like to live in a country where people are unable to communicate freely and are banned from basic privileges, such as travel, that we enjoy and often take for granted. During this Independence Day weekend, I sincerely thank all of those associated with our U.S. military and defense program for protecting our freedom.

I recently purchased North Korea Undercover: Inside the World’s Most Secret State by John Sweeney. Like Dear Leader, it received good reviews, so I’m sure it will reveal more of the repression, cruelty, and unfortunate state of North Korea.

Small Town USA

June 19, 2016

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:26

I grew up in a rural Nebraska town of about 2,000 residents. I like to tell others that it’s a good place to be from. Would I want to live there now? Probably not, but only because we have become accustomed to what larger places have to offer. Also, small towns in central Nebraska can be hours away from a major airport, which is problematic when traveling often.

Small towns definitely have charm that you cannot find in larger communities. Almost everyone knows everyone else, so it’s easy to strike up a conversation. When driving the streets and surrounding country roads, people waive, even if they do not know you. People not familiar with this small-town hospitality may find it perplexing.

In some ways, returning to my home town of St. Paul feels like stepping back in time. The pace of life is slower and more relaxing, which is good, especially when I’m there and away from work. Life is simpler and choices are more limited. Going to a fine restaurant, for example, is 70 km (45 miles) round-trip, so it does not happen often. Theaters and other forms of entertainment are equally as far away, with the exception of local sports and other small-town events, such as festivals and county fairs.

Four generations of Wohlers lived in the St. Paul area and I was the first to move away. It was in 1981 when my bride and I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, for a graduate program at Colorado State University. The plan was to stay until completion, but then return to Nebraska. We never did.

Many decades earlier, my great grandfather, Fred Wohlers, Jr., chose to stay to serve as local a carpenter. He built one of the nicer homes in St. Paul, which is pictured in the following (left).

st-paul

My mother’s first cousin, Dorothy Lynch, was also a local resident. She created the popular Dorothy Lynch French-style salad dressing more than 50 years ago. As a small child, I recall seeing her fill bottles of the salad dressing in a small, one-room building (above, right) located across the street from our home. The location maintains her name to this day, but serves as a hair salon. The Dorothy Lynch product was purchased many years ago and is produced and distributed from another small Nebraska town.

My wife and I like to return to our Nebraska hometowns to see family and friends. She is from Lexington where we attended her high school class reunion last night. When returning to our hometowns, we often discuss the past and catch up on what everyone is doing. Sadly, a growing number are “missing in action” and a percentage of them are deceased. I would not trade my past for anything, but we always look forward to returning to Colorado—our home for the past 35+ years—even with the more hectic lifestyle.

New Associate

April 23, 2016

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 08:32

Hailey Wohlers is the newest member of Wohlers Associates. She was was born in October 2015, and recently turned six months of age. Hailey is also our first grandchild and we could not be happier. To be totally honest, I had mixed feelings about becoming a granddad, only because I viewed my grandfathers as being old. This feeling immediately vanished the moment I set eyes on her. A good friend from college (Wally) said that grandchildren will change you and he is right: she has, and will continue to do so, I’m certain.

hailey

I will stop the mushy stuff and get to the heart of the matter. What can a six-month-old bring to Wohlers Associates? More than you can imagine. If you’re having a mediocre day or worse, Hailey improves it quickly. She puts a smile on your face, guaranteed. The day’s problems and challenges quickly fade when spending time with her, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time.

Hailey brings youth to our 29-year-old company. She dramatically brings down the average age of our employees and team of consultants. She has replaced our previously youngest (former student intern Tyler Hudson), who graduated from Colorado State University and is now employed elsewhere full time. It will take some time before Hailey can fill his shoes, but we will enormously enjoy the time with her until then.

Passwords

March 26, 2016

Filed under: Internet,life — Terry Wohlers @ 06:29

We have become bombarded with usernames and passwords. What does one do with all of them? More importantly, what is the best strategy for creating new passwords? I’ve learned the hard way, so I am passing along what might help you to prevent a problem or worse.

Make passwords long and complex. An example is k7*S+4c2$8R. Strength checkers, such as passwordmeter.com, will score a password on a scale of 1 to 100. I would not enter a real password, but you can try something similar by substituting like characters. Short and simple passwords, such as “sunnyday” are easy to crack.

passwords

In 2011, according to Wikipedia, commercially available products could test up to 2.8 billion passwords a second on a standard desktop computer. This means it’s possible to crack an all upper or lower case password of 10 characters in one day. Today’s computing is much faster.

Using the same password for multiple accounts is ill-advised. Make each one different, long, and complex. Managing all them is another issue. Password managers are available, although I have not used any of them, partly because our IT guy is not a fan of ’em. Those that are highly ranked by PC Magazine are Dashline 4 and LastPass 4.0 Premium.

Bottom line: do not take passwords lightly. Make them complex by mixing upper and lower case letters, numbers, and odd characters such as @#$^()=?><!~%*+&. And, make them long. For each character you add, the strength of the password improves exponentially. (It’s not linear.) Having an account hacked due to a short and simple password can make your life miserable, and it can be expensive too.

Spear Phishing

March 13, 2016

Filed under: Internet,legal,life — Terry Wohlers @ 08:11

Phishing is the use of email to capture usernames, passwords, credit card or bank details, and other information, for malicious reasons. The email gives the appearance that it’s from a person or organization you know, hoping that you will click a link in the email or open an attachment. You have probably received one or more of these emails, so I hope you have not fallen victim to any of them.

cyber

Spear phishing is similar, but takes the concept to another level. The email may open up by saying, “Terry, I’m sorry I missed you at last week’s event in Los Angeles. I wanted to show you the following,” with a link waiting for you to click. Alternatively, it might ask you to open an attached file. The email may include other personal details, leading you to believe it is person in your field or a friend. Due to this personalization, a percentage of people will fall for the trick and click on the link or open the file. The consequences can be dire.

My advice is to question all emails. If you receive an unexpected email like the one above, reply with a question that a stranger could not answer. For example, say, “I want to validate the authenticity of your email, so can you say what I was wearing that day?” Whatever you choose to ask, make it impossible to answer, unless the person is genuine. The bottom line: be careful because phishing and spear phishing can cause significant damage.

LASIK Nine Years Later

August 30, 2015

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 18:36

One of the most important medical-related decisions of my life was made more than nine years ago. In July 2006, I had LASIK surgery on both eyes. I documented the experience a few days after the procedure. A year later, I reported on how my eyes were doing.

1

My eyesight has regressed some, but little. I’m still seeing better than 20/20 when using both eyes. My right eye is considerably weaker than my left, which was the case hours after surgery. However, it has enabled me to see small print without the need for reading glasses. In fact, I still don’t own a pair.

If you require corrective lenses and would rather not bother with them, consider LASIK surgery. Carefully research your options and go with the very best ophthalmologist in your region, if you choose to move ahead. It’s not something you want to rush, and do not shop for the best price because your eyesight is priceless.

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