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Game Day Series

September 19, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 15:35

America Makes’ Virtual Game Day Series with Wohlers Associates concluded last week. The four events spanned four months and covered a range of key topics related to additive manufacturing and 3D printing. In all, 728 people worldwide attended the events.

Last week’s focus on the future of AM was an excellent conclusion to the series. Top managers and executives from five major industrial sectors shared their views of the future. The immense knowledge and experience among the panelists, coupled with great chemistry among them, resulted in a wealth of inspiring comments. YouTube videos of the four 90-minute panel discussions are now available.

GAME DAY 1
America Makes COVID-19 Response

GAME DAY 2
How AM Addresses Supply Chain Gaps and Distributed Manufacturing

GAME DAY 3
The Economics, Opportunities, and Challenges of Designing for AM

GAME DAY 4
The Future of Additive Manufacturing

Thanks to everyone who attended and supported the four events, including Link3D for hosting them on the Remo conferencing platform. I hope everyone learned as much as I did.

Distributed Manufacturing

May 31, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 08:08

Most mass manufacturing is done at centralized locations. Many produce millions of products annually. Envision a future where this capacity occurs in many more locations much closer to the customer. Deliveries occur faster and less expensively. Relatively small quantities of products are tailored to the needs of the geographic area. Inventories are smaller, with true just-in-time delivery closer to reality for a greater number of companies and products. Functionality, quality, and value improve.

This development is slowly and quietly underway. It is being made possible from the flexibility and responsiveness of companies running additive manufacturing systems and ancillary processes. The diffusion of this approach is still small compared to the opportunity. Even so, it is real and exciting to watch develop. Most large manufacturing sites are not breaking up into smaller ones. Instead, entirely new products and businesses, such as custom eyewear, footwear, jewelry, spare parts, and after-market products are developing. Production runs are a small fraction of what a large factory produces.

How AM Addresses Supply Chain Gaps and Distributed Manufacturing is the subject of the second in our Virtual Game Day Series brought to you by America Makes and Wohlers Associates. This 90-minute panel session is on June 18 and is free of charge. Four experts will answer questions and address important issues associated with supply chain challenges and how distributed manufacturing and other factors can help address them. I have the pleasure of moderating the session. Virtual networking opportunities will occur before and after the 12:00 Noon ET panel.

Plan to be a part of shaping the future of our supply chains and distribution manufacturing by attending this event. Your questions and participation are welcomed. I hope to see you there.

BrewSpoon

November 17, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,manufacturing,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 13:52

When traveling, I like to wake up to a cup of rich coffee. Most hotel rooms in the U.S. include a coffee maker with decent coffee. When traveling outside the U.S., coffee makers in hotel rooms are not common, although many include a hot water kettle.

For years, I have traveled abroad with a Bodum travel press, which produces a good cup of coffee. The first one I had was made of plastic and eventually cracked when pouring boiling water into it. The Bodum travel press that I have now is stainless steel, which also does a good job.

About 1.5 weeks ago, I stumbled across a very clever product that rivals my relatively heavy and bulky steel press. The product, called BrewSpoon, was developed at the Product Development Technology Station (PDTS), which is a part of Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein, South Africa. It is a clever design that the group is now in the process of commercializing.

The previous images show the basic steps in using BrewSpoon, along with my first cup of coffee from the product. I’ve only had two cups from it so far, but I believe the brewed coffee is as good or better than from my steel press. For my next trip abroad, it’s going with me instead of the press. My thanks to those at PDTS, especially Allan Kinnear, for producing such as useful product and giving one to me to try.

Revving the Engine with AM

November 2, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:46

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

The automotive industry has been a major player in the use of AM over the past 30 years, beginning with rapid product development and prototyping. In the past few years, we have begun to glimpse the possibilities of AM as a tool for end-use production parts in automotive. Among the parts we have seen are custom trim pieces, HVAC components, parking brake brackets, and lightweight convertible top mounts. We’ve also seen power window guide rails, high-performance brake calipers, and even fully printed car bodies.

Many of these parts are made in low- or medium-production quantities. BMW touted its polymer guide rail production speeds of 100 parts per day using HP Jet Fusion technology. The guide rail, shown above, is installed in the i8 Roadster sports car, a limited-production vehicle. The same can be said for Bugatti’s Chiron brake caliper and the Olli self-driving shuttle, which are both low-volume products. Perfecting these production methods could certainly translate to higher-volume models in the future, and the proving of the technology with these use cases builds a strong argument for doing so.

At a recent National Manufacturing Day round-table discussion, Ford chief technology officer Ken Washington clearly stated his hope for AM-driven innovation in the automotive sector. “We’re going to see an adoption of the mindset of designing for additive, which is going to unlock all kinds of new innovations, new ways to bring products to life, and new experiences for customers. You couldn’t do this before because you didn’t have the tools.”

As companies such as Ford, Volkswagon, and others continue to adopt AM for production, we expect to see a new range of parts. Lightweight and topology-optimized frame members, handles, and wheels are on the horizon. As metals and high-temperature polymers are perfected and tested for long-term use, we will see engine blocks, pistons, valves, pumps, pulleys, and other parts made by AM. These parts have been seen in testing, with promising performance gains and weight savings. Only time will tell where the intersection of production cost and speed by AM will meet market demand.

Inside 3D Printing – Seoul

July 2, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,event,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 17:00

I attended last week’s fourth annual Inside 3D Printing event near Seoul, South Korea. It has been interesting to watch the even grow over the past four years. A total of 10,532 people from 28 countries attended. The event, organized by Rising Media and KINTEX, included three days of exhibition with 80+ companies and a two-day conference with 42 speakers and panelists. Many of the presentations were excellent.

Alex Lalumiere, a director at HP in Singapore, gave one of six keynote presentations. He focused mainly on how HP, as a manufacturing company, is using Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) to produce parts that save time and money. The presentation, focused on the following drill extraction shoe, was one of most interesting and compelling that I’ve heard from HP. It is used to aid in the manufacture of an HP inkjet printhead.

The image at the far left shows aluminum parts that are conventionally manufactured and assembled to produce what you see in the middle. The optimized design, shown at the right, consolidates eight parts into one and was 3D printed by MJF in PA12. This improved design reduced weight from 575 grams (1.27 lbs) to 52 grams (0.11 lb), a savings of 91%. The cost to produce the drill extraction shoe was reduced from $450 to $18, a savings of 96%, according to HP.

The previous example is what’s possible with methods of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). Wohlers Associates is conducting a three-day, hands-on DfAM course in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Learn more about the August 8-10, 2018 course and register here so that you can Design at Elevation with us and others. Contact Ray Huff at rh@wohlerassociates.com with questions.

The Impact of DfAM

June 16, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 11:22

Note: Associate consultant and DfAM expert Olaf Diegel authored the following.

Over the past three decades, the bulk of research in additive manufacturing has largely focused on AM processes and materials. In the last three years, organizations have begun to appreciate the importance of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). Funding agencies are increasingly supporting DfAM, and companies are asking for courses on the subject. Over the past 12 months, I have given more than 20 DfAM courses for companies wanting to deepen their knowledge and understanding.

When a part is designed for conventional manufacturing, it is usually more expensive to produce by AM in typical production quantities. This is largely because AM processes are relatively slow compared to conventional methods of manufacturing. However, when a part is redesigned for AM, costs can be competitive or even lower, depending on quantities. Research for Wohlers Report 2018 revealed that 46% of the cost of a metal part is tied to pre- and post-processing. A large part of this cost often involves the production and removal of the support structures, also referred to as anchors. A well-designed part can greatly reduce the need for this support material, which dramatically reduces cost.

Good methods of DfAM can add value to products by making them substantially lighter in weight and enhancing performance using topology optimization, generative design, and lattice structures. Conventionally manufactured products made up of many simple parts can be redesigned to consolidate the assembly into a single part. This reduces part numbers, inventory, and assembly costs. Using methods of mass-customization, products can conform to the individual needs of customers without substantially increasing cost. Knowing how and when to use these techniques require designers and engineers to learn how to design for AM.

One of the biggest barriers to the widespread adoption of AM is the lack of knowledge and skills among the design and engineering workforce. Only through DfAM education, training, and best practices will we see significant progress toward the use of AM for production applications. Some organizations are beginning to understand its importance, but a vast amount of work is ahead.

Editor’s note: Wohlers Associates is conducting a three-day course on DfAM in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, with Olaf Diegel as lead instructor. Click here to learn more.

Small Batch Production at Avid

May 8, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 10:35

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

Two weeks ago, I visited Avid Product Development, a design, prototyping, and small batch manufacturing firm in Loveland, Colorado. In recent years, Avid has strategically invested in additive manufacturing equipment to scale part production for its customers. Among these technologies are material extrusion machines from Stratasys, photopolymer-based printers from Formlabs, and Multi Jet Fusion machines from HP.

The number of end-use parts being manufactured by Avid makes the company stand out. Doug Collins, co-owner of Avid, commented that the addition of the HP equipment has greatly increased the company’s capacity for building production parts. Recently, Avid received an order for 100 parts that were designed for injection molding. CNC machining the parts was an option, but it would have taken too much time, been very expensive, and wasted a lot of material. Instead, they were 3D printed overnight, dyed black, and shipped the next day. Nesting software from Materialise was used to reduce print time, and fast cooling on the HP post-processing station helped to speed things along. With some added sweat and hustle, the team had the parts out the door as promised.

Doug was eager to show us parts made for Vestas, a leading manufacturer of large wind turbines for power generation. Vestas ordered a batch of polymer brackets that are permanently attached to the wind turbine blades to aid in the alignment and assembly of the parts. Wanting to test the designs before production, Vestas sent multiple iterations for Avid to build. Once the designs were finalized, orders were placed for hundreds of parts to bridge the gap of time while injection-mold tooling was being produced.

Weeks before the visit, a friend had sent me a threaded leveling foot for her new kitchen stove. The feet were designed for low countertops, and were 50 mm (2 inches) too short for the stove to be level with her countertop. I redesigned the foot, sent the model to Avid, picked up the four parts when I visited, and mailed them to my friend in California. The parts fit perfectly. The project showed me that in a matter of days, parts can be designed for a new application, produced, and tested across multiple cities and teams. In future cases like this one, we could further iterate based on feedback, if necessary, and then produce a small production batch of the part. We could even market the product and manufacture it on demand, without a need to keep a single physical part in stock.

Avid and other companies are making workflows like this possible for single product designers and companies of all sizes. Many organizations have been doing this for 20+ years, but easier access to good tools and machines, combined with a decline in cost, is what makes it different today. 3D printing is opening the door to countless new business opportunities and startup companies that were previously unthinkable.

Important Events in AM

April 22, 2018

Last week, I attended the 20th Annual FIRPA Conference in Espoo, Finland, which is about 20 km (12 miles) from Helsinki. The event included some excellent presentations, including one from Jonas Eriksson of Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery AB. Eriksson discussed the production of parts by additive manufacturing for land-based gas turbine engines. To date, the company has redesigned many parts for metal AM and used the technology to produce more than 1,000 burner tips. The use of AM has resulted in a time reduction from 26 weeks to just three. As many as 60 people are now focused on AM at the company, with a goal of making metal AM as simple as 2D printing on paper.

Another very interesting presentation was given by Jyrki Saarinen of the University of Eastern Finland. His group worked closely with Dutch company Luxexcel to produce an AM machine with 1,000 inkjet nozzles for the printing of optical lenses in PMMA. The surface finish of the printed lenses is <2 nm RMS (less than 2 billionths of a meter), so no post-processing is required. The machine is capable of producing 40 lenses per hour, each measuring 10 mm in diameter x 2.5 mm in height, so the process is relatively fast.

I also had the privilege of visiting two world-class companies in Finland. The first was KONE, an $11 billion manufacturer of elevators, escalators, exterior revolving doors, and security entrances for commercial buildings. The company and its products are impressive. I also visited UPM, a $12.3 billion company with a strong position in paper, pulp, plywood, composites, and bio products. The company recently entered the AM industry by introducing a material extrusion filament product consisting of cellulose fiber and PLA.

Last week’s trip to Finland could not have gone better, thanks to the fine people that organized the meetings and very successful 20th annual conference. This week, the focus is on RAPID + TCT 2018, which begins tomorrow and goes through Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. This event marks the 26th annual conference and exposition, and I’m proud to say that I have not missed a single one of them. Attendance has grown by ~2.3 times over the past four years and exhibit space has grown by ~4.5 times over the same period. If you are interested in attending one of the very best events in all things additive manufacturing, 3D printing, and 3D scanning, go to Fort Worth this week. You will not regret it.

formnext 2017

November 18, 2017

In only its third year, formnext has quickly become the additive manufacturing event in Europe to see and to be seen. I attended last year’s formnext and shared here the impression it made. In my view, it was the most impactful additive manufacturing industry event in Europe that I had attended in my 30+ years of going to them. This week’s four-day event, held again in Frankfurt, Germany, has topped it. Three of us from Wohlers Associates were there.

With few exceptions, the most important AM companies worldwide exhibited their products and services at the Messe Frankfurt Convention Center. The exhibition filled most of two large halls. Conspicuous by its absence, one fast-growing AM system manufacturer did not exhibit, and I’m reasonably certain that it is regretting the decision.

Similar to last year, all things metal was in force at formnext. Desktop Metal, EOS, GE Additive, Renishaw, SLM Solutions, and many others showed their latest machines and parts in large, elaborate exhibits. Even HP showed parts from a metal 3D printing technology it is planning to introduce next year.

The scale of some of the new machines is striking, along with the large and complex parts coming from them. The quality of exhibits, people, and announcements at formnext signaled how far the AM industry has developed and matured in the recent past. It was great to meet so many engineers, top managers, and visitors from around the world.

Congrats to Mesago for the impressive formnext exhibition and to the TCT Group for the expertly-organized four-day conference. The formnext event grew from nothing to something very special in three short years. Other events have taken a decade or longer to reach this point and many never have. Next year’s formnext is November 13-16, again in Frankfurt, so add it to your calendar now and begin to make plans. It has become THE place in Europe to conduct business in the AM industry.

Vestas Wind Turbines

October 20, 2017

Filed under: manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 07:49

Have you ever wondered how wind turbine blades are made? I have. Luckily, I was a part of a special tour initiated by SME Chapter 354 that gave a good view into the manufacturing process. I was one of 27 that toured the Vestas blade factory in Windsor, Colorado earlier this week. The blades produced at the impressive facility are 54 meters (178 feet) in length, weigh seven tons, and amazingly complex. When a blade is at work, the speed at its tip is an astounding 251 kph (156 mph).

Denmark-based Vestas began to make wind turbines in 1979 and leads in the production and worldwide sales, with more than 16% of the market. GE, Siemens, and many relatively small companies are also in the business. Vestas has factories in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, India, and Colorado. The Windsor and Brighton, Colorado factories produce a significant number of all blades from the company. Windsor, alone, produces about 2,000 annually.

The visit began with an excellent presentation by Hans Jespersen, vice president and general manager of the Vestas blade factory in Windsor. Six other employees were on hand to answer questions and serve as our tour guides. Molds used to produce the blades are the largest—and definitely the longest—I have seen in 30+ years of visiting manufacturing facilities worldwide. The molds are made of a composite material, and the blades, themselves, are made predominantly of fiberglass and epoxy. On the surface, it may sound relatively straightforward, but sophisticated methods, intellectual property, and decades of experience go into the production of the blades.

Thanks to SME Chapter 354 for setting up the tour, and special thanks to the people at Vestas for sharing their time and expertise. Our tour guide, Phil McCarthy, senior production manager at the company, did an outstanding job in showing and explaining the many manufacturing steps and processes at the company. The tour was among the best I have taken in recent years. Vestas rolled out the “red carpet,” spent a lot of time with us, and answered many questions. I now have an even greater appreciation for wind turbines and their contribution to clean energy.

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