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3D Printing in Australia

June 21, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:20

Last month, the Australian government announced the funding of a new program that could give 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM) a boost in the country. On May 26, the Honorable Ian Macfarlane, Australia’s Minister for Industry and Science, announced the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Center (IMCRC). Much of the program is expected to center on AM and related methods and technologies. The focus on AM may have been partly inspired by America Makes, coupled with the investments and alliances associated with the U.S. initiative.

The IMCRC is a collaboration of 14 manufacturing companies, 16 universities, and CSIRO, which is Australia’s top federal agency for scientific research. Four industry bodies will help recruit more than 300 additional small and medium-sized enterprises to serve as “portal partners.” As part of the program launch, the Commonwealth is providing A$40 million (US$31 million). An additional A$210 million (US$163 million) is expected in cash and in-kind contributions from industry, research institutes, and state governments, bringing the total investment to A$250 million (US$194 million).

The announcement lingered for about nine months, so many people welcomed the long-awaited news. Senior consultant Tim Caffrey and I were in Australia when the announcement was made, with the IMCRC being the center of attention. We believe that it will indeed provide a much-needed lift to advanced manufacturing in the country, but as the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” It will be interesting to observe how Australia sorts through the maze of challenges associated with coordinating so many people, organizations, and agendas. As with America Makes and other national efforts, the challenge and opportunity is to make a difference, and that’s easier said than done.

The day before the announcement, CSIRO officially launched its new and impressive Lab 22. Tim and I were present to participate in the festivities and meet many of the talented researchers and scientists at CSIRO. Lab 22 was established as center of excellence for organizations wanting to explore metal AM, so it welcomes participation by organizations of all types.

voxeljet
Lab 22’s Voxeljet VX1000 installation

Equipment in the new lab includes an Arcam A1 electron beam melting machine, a Concept Laser M2 laser-based machine, and a Voxeljet VX1000 machine for producing sand casting molds and cores. The lab was established as a center of excellence for organizations wanting to explore metal AM, so it welcomes participation by organizations of all types. CSIRO also has an Optomec LENS MR-7 directed energy deposition machine and a cold spray plasma additive process.

Australia is establishing a strong foundation in AM. The adoption of the technology in the private sector may not be as great as it is in some advanced countries, but the pieces are coming together for it to close the gap. The Melbourne area, alone, may well have the highest mix of metal AM systems in the world (in an area of this size), with nine direct metal AM systems. Among them are machines from Arcam, Concept Laser, EOS, Optomec, SLM Solutions, and Trumpf. The Concept Laser Xline 1000R at Monash University, and two Trumpf TruLaser 7040 machines, one each at Monash and RMIT University’s Advance Manufacturing Precinct, are very large, both in size and investment.

Jobs from 3D Printing

June 6, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 14:47

Government officials have been asking how 3D printing will create jobs in their part of the world. The subject came up again last week in Melbourne, Australia when meeting with people at the state government of Victoria. We explained that some companies and businesses would not exist if it wasn’t for 3D printing. An example is Align Technology, makers of the Invisalign plastic aligners that replace metal brackets and wire to straighten teeth.

invisalign
Invisalign manufacturing, courtesy of Align Technology

Align takes advantage of additive manufacturing to produce parts used to thermoform sets of custom plastic aligners. The company involves many additional processes, including CT scanning, special software, 5-axis CNC milling, robotics, polishing, and other methods of manufacturing and packaging. Seeing it in action is impressive. Much of it involves a great deal of sophisticated automation, which has dramatically reduced manual labor, but has also created many jobs. The company employs 3,580 people. Consider also all of the people needed to design, produce, sell, and service the machinery and systems that make everything tick at the company. And, consider the many dental professionals that are impacted by the Invisalign product.

As 3D printing penetrates production applications more deeply, it will involve many upstream and downstream processes. Among them: new methods of design and redesign, data management and IT, and cloud computing and web services. Also, it will involve thermal processes and machining operations, materials and material handling equipment, surface treatment and methods of coating, and inspection and process improvement. Consider all of people and jobs behind these machines and processes.

3D printing is what made it possible for Align Technology to create personalized plastic aligners. It is the enabling technology that will help launch many other new companies and businesses. Organizations of all types and sizes will put 3D printing to work to manufacture custom, limited edition, and even relatively high volumes of products, especially in the future. When viewing it from this perspective, it will create many jobs. A manager at GE put it best when he said, “Additive manufacturing won’t create thousands of new businesses; it will create tens of thousands.” And, behind them will be countless jobs.

Major Brands Adopt 3D Printing

February 2, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 14:07

Commercial 3D printing has been around since 1988, but change over the past two years is unlike anything we’ve seen in the industry’s first 25 years. Major corporations are making commitments to 3D printing. The earliest adopters of the technology were the likes of Chrysler, GM, Pratt & Whitney, and Texas Instruments, but the recent wave of big companies and brands fall into another category.

Among the new companies are Autodesk, Adobe, and Microsoft. Led by CEO Carl Bass, Autodesk is planning to play a role in easing the flow of 3D model data, from concept to 3D printing. Pre-processing steps can include the cleanup and “healing” of 3D models, the creation of support structures, slicing, and optimizing the orientation of parts. Autodesk aims to simplify these steps. Adobe has added features to Photoshop CC that it hopes will help users streamline the preparation of data for 3D printing. Microsoft is promoting its new 3MF file format as an alternative to the STL and AMF formats.

brands

Wohlers discussed these brands in an “analyst outlook” presentation
at CES in January 2015 in Las Vegas

Other major brands that have entered the 3D printing industry are Amazon, eBay, and Dell. Amazon has created a new 3D printing store that competes, to some degree, with Shapeways. About 1.5 years ago, eBay launched a new app for creating custom print-on-demand products, and Dell is selling 3D printers and materials. Meanwhile, Office Depot, Staples, Home Depot, Toys “R” Us, and UPS have gotten into 3D printing market at various levels. The two office supply stores and Home Depot are attempting to sell 3D printers. Toys “R” Us is installing kiosks for creating and printing toys in two of it stores. UPS is offering 3D printing services at 100 of its stores across the U.S.

What does all of this mean? A vote of confidence from major software companies, large e-commerce sites, and retail outlets has propelled 3D printing to a new height. It’s uncertain whether these companies will succeed with their initiatives, but the technology is finally getting the attention and respect it deserves.

HP Multi Jet Fusion

December 7, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 19:21

On two separate occasions in October 2014, I saw HP Multi Jet Fusion machines running and building parts. The new technology uses HP thermal inkjet arrays to print fusing and detailing agents onto thin layers of thermoplastic powder. An energy source is used to fuse the areas where the agents were deposited. What I saw was extraordinary. The build speed is 10 times faster than other 3D printers and additive manufacturing systems, according to HP, and what I witnessed supports this claim.

The quality of the parts I saw and held also got my attention, especially since the technology that produced the parts will not become a product until 2016. The edges of the parts were crisp, the features were well defined, and areas that are supposed to flat were indeed flat. Also, a number of them were multi-colored. Bringing together this speed, part quality, and multi-color using thermoplastic materials is a first.

hp
Left: HP senior vice president Stephen Nigro and USA Today reporter on October 29, 2014 in New York City. Middle: Vase and flower printed in color. Right: 3D-printed mechanism for use on the Multi Jet Fusion machine. According to HP, it out-performed a similar mechanism that was machined in metal.

Strength properties of parts made on the machine, I was told, are good. However, until we see independent test data, it’s too early to say how they compare to laser-sintered parts. A car weighing 4,536 kg (10,000 lbs) was lifted using a 113-gram (0.25 lb) chain link printed on the HP machine.

We will better understand the impact that Multi Jet Fusion will have on the market after we hear from customers using the machine. Until then, it’s difficult to know what it will be. However, I believe it could compete with conventional plastics processing, such as injection molding, for certain types of parts and quantities. This would disrupt both the 3D printing and plastics processing industries.

HP has not yet discussed pricing, but the company has referred to “breakthrough economics” on multiple occasions when describing its possible impact. If the machine is priced aggressively and the consumables are competitive for manufacturing quantities, I truly believe it could not only be a game-changer, but it could rewrite the rules of 3D printing.

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.”

rv

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.

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