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16th EuroMold Conference

November 22, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:30

Our 16th annual international conference on additive manufacturing and 3D printing coincides with next week’s EuroMold 2014 event in Frankfurt, Germany. It is on Thursday, November 27, which is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. For those of you outside the U.S., Thanksgiving is among the most important American holidays.

The title of this year’s conference is The Truth Behind the Additive Manufacturing Supply Chain. We are excited to have an outstanding lineup of speakers from Australia, Belgium, China, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain. They represent some of the most knowledgeable and experienced individuals on the subject, and we are happy that they are willing to share their insight.

euromold2013
Wohlers conference at EuroMold 2013

The additive manufacturing supply chain is underdeveloped, and in some cases, almost non-existent. We believe that this could present significant opportunities, but also very big challenges for companies wanting to adopt AM for production applications. As companies begin to use the technology for manufacturing, we could see the demand for quality materials, machines, and certified suppliers exceed the supply.

EuroMold 2014 is the perfect place to discuss and debate issues surrounding the AM supply chain. For 15+ years, EuroMold has served as the most important exposition and meeting place for AM producers and users worldwide. Significant business is conducted among exhibitors, their customers, and others, and we look forward to seeing you there. To learn more about the conference and to register, click here.

America Makes Two Years Later

September 15, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 10:28

America Makes is the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute that was launched in August 2012. It is the first in a series of institutes in the U.S. and is a part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) that the White House and many government agencies are supporting. Each institute seeks to expand specific areas of underdeveloped manufacturing technology from private-public partnerships on a national scale.

The underlying goal of the innovation institutes is to transition promising developments in manufacturing from a technology readiness level (TRL) 4 to TRL 7. The TRL measure is a way of gauging the current state of a particular technology. TRL 1 is usually a concept at the basic research level, whereas TRL 9 is a fully-qualified production process suitable for commercialization. Historically, much of what is developed in the U.S. progresses to about a TRL 3, and does not bridge the “valley of death” to TRL 7. The NNMI was largely created to solve this problem.

To achieve success, a national innovation institute must have stakeholders. America Makes recently completed its second year in operation and can claim nearly 110 member organizations. America Makes director Ed Morris, founding director Ralph Resnick, and their team have done an outstanding job in attracting some of the most important organizations to America Makes. We are optimistic that many more will join in the coming months and look forward to much more growth. Wohlers Associates is proud to be one of eight Platinum Members, which is the top-tier membership level.

americamakes

Much of the work in the first two years has been in creating a solid foundation with staffing, systems, and strategies for the years to follow. America Makes has been successful in awarding projects to many organizations. In January 2014, it awarded a second round of 15 projects to 75 individual partner organizations. Combined with the first round of projects, America Makes has invested nearly $30 million in public and private funds toward advancing additive manufacturing and 3D printing in the U.S.

Is America Makes meeting its objectives? In some ways, it is exceeding them, given that only two years have passed. No one knew how this first (pilot) institute would take shape and whether corporations, universities, and others would embrace it. Sponsorship of more than 100 organizations, as well as the support and involvement of many government entities (Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and others), is impressive. The bigger question that we cannot yet answer is whether the NNMI institutes will make a difference in the long term. We are optimistic that they will, but it’s much too early to know for sure.

3DRV

August 3, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,manufacturing,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 14:33

Imagine an eight-month RV road trip across the U.S. with more than 100 scheduled stops. The purpose: to collect stories and information from customers of design and manufacturing tools, such as CAD software and 3D printing. Accomplished writer and 3D enthusiast TJ McCue is leading the tour. I’ve gotten to know TJ over the past 2.5 years, and I can say without reservation that Autodesk, the tour’s sponsor, could not have picked a better person to head this effort.

TJ has written extensively for Forbes, Small Business Trends, Yahoo! SMB, and Harvard Business Review. His writing is informative, thought-provoking, and engaging. TJ’s company, Refine Digital, explores design, 3D scanning, and 3D printing, so the tour compliments perfectly with what he’s about. TJ helps companies with go-to-market strategies, content marketing, and business development, so I’m sure he will be in an even stronger position to provide advice after the tour.

tj

TJ wrote, “The 3DRV tour is exploring the cities, towns, and off-the-path byways to uncover a fundamental change in the way things are designed and made, and how this is bringing radical change to business and to society at large.” He continued, “At each waypoint, we are celebrating the creative process, while illuminating the impact of design through firsthand customer stories, consumer creativity, and student innovations.”

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The images and descriptions that TJ has assembled are impressive. He has made 38 site visits thus far—all documented at the tour website. He is also shooting video footage, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of it. I’m sure he will have countless stories and examples of design and manufacturing to share with the world. Congrats to TJ for taking on this important activity as an interesting way of promoting and celebrating the world of product development.

Stelarc

July 20, 2014

Stelarc is a performance artist and designer that has lived much of his life in a Melbourne, Australia suburb. He was born in Cyprus as Stelios Arcadiou and changed his name in 1972. His work focuses mostly on the belief that the human body is obsolete, but its capacity can be enhanced through technology.

I first met Stelarc in 2005 at the VRAP 3D printing event in Leiria, Portugal. Travel prevented me from attending his presentation, although he was kind enough to provide me with an eye-opening set of printed images and a DVD. Many of his technical developments and works of art are unusual—some of which you’d have to see to believe. Entering “Stelarc” into Google and clicking Images will give you an interesting sampling.

I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Stelarc again nine days ago in Brisbane, Australia. He gave an intriguing presentation at a one-day 3D printing event organized by Griffith University. People in the audience of 170 were visibly stunned by his work. An example was the 2007 video footage showing a team of surgeons constructing an ear on his left forearm.

stelarc

The skin was suctioned over a scaffold, which was made of porous biomaterial. Tissue in-growth and vascularization then followed over a period of six months. This resulted in a relief of an ear. The helix needs to be surgically lifted to create an ear flap and a soft ear lobe will be grown using his stem-cells. A small microphone will then be inserted and the ear electronically augmented for Internet connectivity. Thus, the third ear will result in a mobile listening device for people in other places.

I was especially impressed by Stelarc’s knowledge and understanding of biomedicine, robotics, prosthetics, and 3D printing. The content that he presented and discussed and the questions he answered showed that he is not only an artist, but a designer and maker of complex machines and systems. In recent years, he has used 3D printing extensively to support much of his work.

Stelarc is a Distinguished Research Fellow and the Director of the Alternate Anatomies Lab, School of Design and Art, at Curtin University, which is located in Perth, Australia. He has many awards and honors to his credit, including an honorary doctorate from Monash University in Melbourne.

 

Rebranding Manufacturing in America

March 29, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 14:59

Note: The following was authored by Tim Caffrey, senior consultant at Wohlers Associates.

For many, the word manufacturing conjures images of antiquated factories belching black smoke into our air and chemical-tainted liquids into our waterways. Buildings are cavernous and dangerous, filled with old, energy-guzzling machines. In these images, the workers are unmotivated and unhappy, performing repetitive, menial tasks for countless hours—for entire dead-end careers.

These images are inaccurate and out of date. Modern manufacturing is more likely to be energy efficient and environmentally responsible. Manufacturing companies are continuously improving and innovating to remain competitive and compliant with industrial regulations. And, manufacturing employees are typically well-educated, highly skilled individuals who take pride in their professions and perceive their work as important and virtuous.

Now consider the phrases German engineering and Swiss-made watches. Both elicit very different images than that of the antiquated American factory. We imagine rich traditions, meticulous and exacting craftsmanship, and superior products. We must examine why these perceptions contrast so much. Is this contrast accurate, or is it based on out-of-date beliefs?

Many beliefs are rooted in emotion, rather than reason or logic. Successful brands and marketing campaigns trigger an almost subconscious emotional response in the target audience by confirming—or even changing—what that group believes is good, appealing, valuable, and necessary.

The successful revival of the manufacturing industry in the U.S. must include a similar “rebranding” in the eyes of the public, politicians, and policy makers. Manufacturing is no longer a dirty word. Manufacturing is high-tech, it’s innovative, it’s a great career choice, and it’s the backbone of a thriving economy. And, highly advanced digitally driven processes, such as additive manufacturing and 3D printing, are helping to change the public’s view. Let’s work together to spread the word.

Wohlers Report 2013

May 25, 2013

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 09:59

This new market study was published earlier this week, marking the 18th consecutive year of its publication. The report focuses on new 3D printing and additive manufacturing (terms we use interchangeably) applications, developments, and trends worldwide. The report was produced with help from 70 co-authors in 21 countries, as well as 74 service providers and 31 system manufacturers from around the world. Principal co-author and associate consultant Tim Caffrey and I are grateful for the kind support from so many experts and organizations that supported this large effort.

Wohlers Report 2013 provides an in-depth look at market forces, competitive products and services, and industry growth. According to our research for the report, the market for products and services in 2012 grew 28.6% (CAGR) to $2.204 billion. This is up from $1.714 billion in 2011, when it grew 29.4%. The average annual growth (CAGR) of the industry over the past 25 years is an impressive 25.4%. The CAGR is 27.4% over the past three years (2010–2012).

Growth of the low-cost (under $5,000) “personal” 3D printer market segment averaged 346% each year from 2008 through 2011. In 2012, the increase cooled significantly to an estimated 46.3%, according to our research for Wohlers Report 2013. Most of these machines are being sold to hobbyists, do-it-yourselfers, engineering students, and secondary and postsecondary educational institutions.

The industry is expected to continue strong double-digit growth over the next several years. By 2017, we believe that the sale of 3D-printing products and services will approach $6 billion worldwide. By 2021, we forecast growth to reach $10.8 billion. It took the 3D printing industry 20 years to grow to $1 billion in size. In five additional years, the industry generated its second $1 billion. It is expected to double again, to $4 billion, in 2015.

Canadian Aerospace Finds AM

March 16, 2013

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 16:03

I had the privilege of attending a special series of meetings involving companies from Canada’s aerospace industry. Bell Helicopter, Bombardier, and Pratt & Whitney Canada are collaborating with the support of the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Québec (CRIAQ) to evaluate opportunities in additive manufacturing. CRIAQ is a government-supported organization with a mission to increase the competitiveness of the Canadian aerospace industry. In its 10 years of operation, it has managed a portfolio of 142 research projects valued at $124 million.

Last Thursday, CRIAQ convened more than 120 people, mostly from the Canadian aerospace industry in Montreal, to learn more about the current state and future potential of additive manufacturing. The day involved small group meetings, one-on-one discussions, and a keynote presentation that dove into the prospects and challenges offered by AM. I was impressed by the level of interest and enthusiasm by the group. By consensus, the companies chose AM as an area of focus because of its potential for manufacturing aircraft parts.

Credit goes to Dr. Clément Fortin, president and CEO of CRIAQ, for bringing together key managers and executives from these companies. I have not seen this kind of collaboration and excitement in some time. They are currently evaluating options for research and development and are determined to forge a path that will benefit their companies and the Canadian aerospace industry. It is the kind of interest and determination I saw in the early years of additive manufacturing among major corporations in the U.S.

Will the effort succeed? I expect it will. At the very least, they will learn a great deal from the work. It looks like it is bringing together many of the right people and they are asking many of the right questions. They can benefit from the more than two decades of development in AM. Most of that time has been spent on prototyping applications, so these companies and several universities in the Montreal area are hoping to help take AM to the next level. Given what I learned this week, there’s a good chance they will be instrumental in advancing the development and application of AM technology, whether it is in new materials, processes, design innovation, or something else.

Tom Kurfess

January 20, 2013

Filed under: additive manufacturing,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 15:54

How many people do you know with four degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology? I know only one: Thomas Kurfess. Tom received a Bachelor of Science degree, two Master of Science degrees, and a PhD from MIT. One of his primary areas of research has been the design and development of advanced automotive systems, and he is a top expert in precision manufacturing and metrology systems.

Over the past nearly 12 months, Tom has served as the Assistant Director of Advanced Manufacturing at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. It is one of the few positions at the White House focused on manufacturing, so Tom has had his hands very full over the past year. His routine has involved being up at 4:00 am and working late into the night. Yet, I’ve heard him say more than once, “I’m living the dream.” And, he’s right. How many people get to do what he’s doing?

One of Tom’s responsibilities is to coordinate additive manufacturing in Washington. This means he is tasked with orchestrating AM across the many government agencies and projects that are underway, including the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Tom chaired an important additive manufacturing symposium that was held on August 20, 2012 at the White House Conference Center. He did an outstanding job with his opening presentation, as well as his many comments before and after the speakers.

Tom’s work at the White House is expected to end in one month. My hope is that he will stay, if the option presents itself. My second choice is that his position is filled with another capable individual. More now than ever, we need someone like Tom to focus on national policy issues associated with additive and advanced manufacturing.

I’ve known Tom for many years, but got to know him much better over the past four years when he and I worked together on a project. Over that time, I’ve gained a great deal of respect for him as a person, professional, and national spokesperson and advocate for advanced manufacturing. I know that success will come with whatever he chooses to do in the future. We need more people like Tom in Washington to help shape policy in manufacturing for our great nation.

John Deere

December 22, 2012

Filed under: manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 20:40

I visited John Deere’s world headquarters in Moline, Illinois on Thursday. What an impressive place! The day started with a tour of the North American Parts Distribution Center. It is the second largest parts distribution center in the U.S. and absolutely massive. Only Ford Motor has a larger one. To give you a feel for its scale, 25 mm (1 inch) of rain on its roof produces 5.7 million liters (1.5 million gallons) of water, which drains into two ponds. The facility represents more than 500,000 different part numbers, consisting of millions of parts. If a customer wants a part from a 1942 John Deere tractor, for example, the company either has it or will find it somewhere.

The morning continued with an extensive tour of John Deere Harvester Works—the most advanced combine facility in the world. No one in the Western Hemisphere has more lasers at work in one facility than this one. John Deere’s largest combine can harvest 18 rows of corn in one pass and sells for $700,000. Every combine in the plant had been sold, and we saw many of them. The painting capabilities are like none other that I’ve seen anywhere. Major assemblies hang from an automated gantry system and are dipped in more than a dozen separate liquid solutions, each the size of a swimming pool. Together, they clean, prepare, and coat the metal parts that must withstand extreme weather conditions for decades.

John Deere is a world class company, with the customer being its highest priority. Employees do what it takes to make them happy. Generations of employees have worked for John Deere and you can tell that they have a great deal of pride and respect for the company. Medical facilities are on site at both places, an indication of how the company values its employees. John Deere has created a brand, reputation, and global market share that few other large American companies have been able to achieve.

Idea 2 Product Labs

September 2, 2012

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,future,life,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 09:30

The Idea 2 Product (I2P) series of labs is an initiative that was launched in South Africa last year. The labs consist of CAD workstations and 3D printers for hands-on learning, experimentation, invention, and new product development. The primary goal of the labs is to offer opportunities for professional and economic development, especially in underdeveloped regions of South Africa and other parts of Africa.

The I2P initiative is the brainchild of professor Deon de Beer of Vaal University of Technology (Vanderbijlpark, South Africa). I have known Deon for 17 years and he has a track record of success with about everything he touches. If there’s a single individual responsible for helping to launch and grow additive manufacturing and 3D printing in South Africa, it is Deon. He has gained the respect of countless people from industry, academia, and government in South African and around the world.

Deon launched the first I2P lab at VUT in mid 2011 with the installation of 20 personal 3D printers—a historic first worldwide. (A personal 3D printer is one that sells for less than $5,000, but more typically $1,000 to $2,000.) He also created a smaller I2P lab with two 3D printers in a rural area of South Africa. He has ordered 70 additional 3D printers (20 have been received thus far) for four new I2P labs at educational institutions that are similar to community colleges here in the U.S. In parallel, he is creating I2P labs at three VUT satellite campuses and two more at science centers.

Deon has big future plans for I2P labs. Based on his past and current support from the South African government, I have no doubt that he will succeed. Deon envisions I2P labs across the African continent and already has tentative plans for labs in Zambia, Mozambique, and Botswana. In the meantime, he sees the potential for labs at up to 22 universities, 50 community colleges, 25 private institutions, 20 science centers, and many secondary and primary schools in South Africa. He is also gaining support for the first I2P 2Go mobile unit that would take 3D printers on the road to remote areas.

The impact that the I2P labs could have is almost beyond calculation. Each lab could introduce hundreds of people of all ages to CAD, design, product development, and manufacturing. This could lead to a dramatic increase in new ideas, new products, and new mini economies that would lead to improving economic conditions in underdeveloped regions. Rural areas living in poverty conditions could develop products that they could sell on “main street” within their community, as well as to neighboring communities. I applaud Deon’s efforts and fully expect that he and his I2P labs will make a dramatic and unprecedented difference.

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