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Another Supply Chain Collapse

April 3, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 13:56

By Noah Mostow and Terry Wohlers

The five-day block of the Suez Canal underscores the instability of our global supply chains. Nearly everything around us requires global connections. The canal is a critical route for products from Asia to Europe and the east coast of the U.S. With it closed, millions of consumer goods were blocked. The alternative is to transport them around the southern tip of Africa, which is a dramatically further. Fortunately, as you may know, the ship was freed and the passage cleared, but it could have been delayed much longer.

Like the pandemic, the blocked canal exposed a problem with our supply chains. Additive manufacturing (AM) is not a perfect solution for all types of parts, but it provides a quick and agile manufacturing process. Both have been discussed in length, so we want to share an idea of what the future might look like.

                                              

The next time a disaster disrupts a supply chain, we can be prepared, and physical stockpiles of replacement parts may not be the answer. Instead of parts sitting on shelves and racks, the inventory is digital, coupled with machine capacity and feedstock. The designs are fully tested for 3D printing, a proactive step for any manufacturing process. The next disaster may be worse, so the future should not rely solely on smooth supply chains. We can start to prepare for this reality today.

If passed by U.S. Congress, proposed bipartisan legislation would invest $1 billion to manage a partnership involving the federal government, private industry, and state and local governments focused on the manufacture of critical products. The bill would establish an Office of Supply Chain Preparedness within the Department of Commerce. It has the support of America Makes, the nation’s leading and collaborative partner in additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology research, discovery, creation, and innovation.

How Wohlers Report 2021 was Produced

March 21, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 16:38

By Noah Mostow

Helping to develop Wohlers Report 2021 was an unbelievable experience. The report was published last week. I learned that it takes an army of bright and dedicated individuals. This year, 88 co-authors and contributors from 34 countries were a part of it. My primary role was to research and write new sections on a wide range of subjects related to additive manufacturing and 3D printing. Also, I edited content provided by the contributors, and collected and processed data from more than 130 companies.

                                             

Organizations from around the world generously responded to our requests for information. They supplied us with the some of the most detailed information available in the AM industry. Much of what was supplied is sensitive, making the job even more challenging. As a part of the team, I saw data as it arrived. This work eventually led to our conclusion that the AM industry grew by 7.5% in 2020. From the stories told by those who contributed to Wohlers Report 2021, the past 13 months have been challenging. Even so, many companies see a big potential for 2021 and 2022.

I hope you enjoy the new applications and other developments from across the industry in the new report. My personal favorite is 3D-printed food. Perhaps, I will write blog post on it at another time. The secret to this report, in my view, is the dedication, excitement, and attention to detail from Terry Wohlers. Over the past few months, he would arrive at work early—often by 4:00 am—to help produce this industry-leading report. Many refer to it as the “bible” of 3D printing. For more information about Wohlers Report 2021, click here.

Using AM for Design and Production

February 8, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:04

By Noah Mostow

The additive manufacturing industry has progressed well beyond prototyping only. Companies using it for both product development and series production are finding interesting benefits. The same process and material can be used for concept modeling, prototyping, testing, and final production. This is not the case when using AM for product development and a conventional manufacturing process for series production.

When designing a product that will go into production using the same AM process and material, one can “prototype” not only the design, but also the production process. This uncovers possible challenges that develop before production begins. Design iterations, coupled with new prototypes, can help improve the best methods of post-processing and to better understand the start-to-finish workflow.

                                      

Using the same process and material, from concept to manufacturing, can dramatically shorten the time it takes to get a new product to market. Also, it can create opportunities for entirely new types of products that result in new revenue streams. A growing number of manufacturers are exploring what is possible as they witness what others are doing.

Where is My 3D-Printed Gear?

December 13, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:47

Note: Noah J. Mostow, research associate at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

With snow falling outside, I am often looking at my snowboarding equipment. It is all traditionally manufactured, along with all my outdoor gear. Where are the 3D-printed products?

It is easy to find 3D printers close to the engineers working at manufacturing companies that produce outdoor gear. For decades, many have used additive manufacturing to support modeling, prototyping, design validation, and testing. However, it is difficult to find more than a handful of products from these companies being manufactured by 3D printing.

Most outdoor gear is produced by conventional manufacturing due to the economies of scale. When I worked at Burton, 3D-printed bindings, goggles, and helmets were tested and validated in real-world settings. However, once a design was finished, tooling was made and the parts were manufactured with traditional methods such as injection molding.

The following image shows a concept snowboard binding that was designed with the help of AI and 3D printed on an HP Jet Fusion machine. It provides an opportunity to apply methods of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) to create intricate designs with less material. However, it may be some time before this binding is at your local ski shop due to the higher costs associated with 3D printing.

                                           

To make 3D-printed parts commercially viable, companies will need to make some fundamental changes. Methods of DfAM are key to improving designs that take advantage of 3D printing’s strengths. Topology optimization was likely used in the pictured binding, which is good. However, I believe few parts were consolidated digitally and printed as one. This can dramatically reduce cost.

The outdoor industry could gain from personalizing products to fit and perform better for a user. Customers will pay a premium for this. Most challenges related to using AM for final part production can and will be solved in time. However, not all parts and products are a good fit for AM. Even so, to survive and thrive, countless manufacturers worldwide will develop the expertise and capacity needed to produce new types of products that are commercially appealing and perform better due to the benefits of AM.

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.

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