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RØDE Microphones

August 15, 2016

Two of our consultants and I have had the privilege of visiting RØDE Microphones of Sydney, Australia. RØDE is a manufacturer of world-class microphone products for studio recording, performances, video broadcasts, and live interviews. It also manufactures microphones for presenters (lavalier and button mics) and smart phones. Over the past nearly two years, we have worked with RØDE and learned a great deal about the company and its products. Peter Freedman, managing director and chief executive, has given permission to disclose and discuss our relationship publicly.

RØDE hires some of the best people in Australia and other parts of the world. The company has offices in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and Hong Kong. Most of the Australian employees we’ve met are young, bright, and energetic. Freedman is the driver of new products, is constantly pushing the limits, and is the heart and soul of the company. RØDE is running $30 million in precision equipment, including a considerable number of new machines that were installed since we’ve started working together. Freedman seeks to be among the best of the best in the design and manufacturing of microphones. And, it shows by the company’s strong growth in recent years.

rode

I feel lucky to be able to work with great companies such as RØDE and people like Freedman and his team. He always has a can-do attitude and is constantly looking for new and better ways for product development and manufacturing. Over our 29 years in business, I have worked with a few people and organizations that find reasons why you cannot do something and serve as obstacles to progress. Fortunately, most of the people that we’ve encountered have the right spirit and outlook. Engineering consultant, futurist, and friend Joel Orr once said, “Success breeds success.” I could not agree more, and RØDE is a company that is producing a lot of it.

GE’s New AM Center

August 1, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 09:45

In April 2016, GE opened its new Center for Additive Technology Advancement (CATA), located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The 11,613-sq meter (125,000-sq ft) facility was designed to drive innovation and adoption of additive manufacturing across the company’s major businesses. They include Aviation, Energy Connections, Healthcare, Oil & Gas, Power, Renewable Energy, Transportation, and Current, powered by GE. CATA houses multiple AM machines from EOS, SLM Solutions, Stratasys, and ExOne. They are complimented by many CNC machining centers, EDM, heat treatment chambers, and other equipment. Space is available that would essentially double the number of machines and processes at the facility.

I toured CATA last Thursday and found it to be jaw-dropping impressive. It will almost guarantee an acceleration of knowledge and understanding of AM for production applications within the company. Having spent time with GE employees from several businesses over the years, I can say without reservation that many have solid AM experience. Even so, company management would be first to admit that the opportunity to grow and expand expertise across the 305,000-employee corporation is vast. CATA will help the company get there more quickly. Work at the facility is focused on mid technology readiness levels (i.e., TRL 4-7).

cata

GE advanced its position in AM when it acquired Morris Technologies, and its sister company, Rapid Quality Manufacturing, in November 2012. Greg Morris, then CEO and owner of the company, is the leader of Additive Technologies at GE Aviation. In 2013, GE Aviation announced that it had developed a 3D-printed fuel nozzle for its new LEAP engine. The attention received by the nozzle, which is now in production, has been an inspiration to countless organizations worldwide. Airbus was the first to receive LEAP engines, each with 19 nozzles, in April 2016 for the A320neo aircraft.

GE is making a big investment in additive manufacturing. However, it has shown few new designs since the public announcement of the fuel nozzle program. In my view, it is time for the company to show another advanced and exciting design for AM to serve as further inspiration inside and outside the company. It would make a bold statement and show the company’s leadership in the adoption and advancement of AM technology.

CATA is located about an hour from America Makes, which is the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown, Ohio. Other key organizations close to CATA are Alcoa, ATI, Carpenter Technology, ExOne, Lincoln Electric, and the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining. Universities include Carnegie Mellon, Case Western Reserve, Pennsylvania State, University of Pittsburgh, and Youngstown State. These organizations were a factor in choosing the location for CATA, a $40-million facility that signals how important AM has become at GE. The world-class facility will likely serve as a model for other large corporations globally.

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.

Lundeen Sculpture

June 5, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 15:20

I had the pleasure of visiting Lundeen Sculpture in Loveland, Colorado, last week. The company produces world-class sculptures of about everything imaginable. The “sweet spot” at the company is the recreation of people and animals with spectacular precision and realism. The sculpting is done mostly by the Lundeen family, including Bets, George, Mark, their cousin Ann LaRose, and Joey Bainer, an unrelated sculptor. I first met Nelse Lundeen a few years ago. He handles accounting and other business issues at the company.

George Lundeen founded the company in the mid 1970s and was our host, along with Nelse. (My wife and two friends joined me on the tour.) George showed us many beautifully-crafted bronze versions of famous people, such as astronaut Jack Swigert, which is on display at Denver International Airport, and Dan Marino, a former Miami Dolphins quarterback that was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005. The Marino sculpture is on display at the Dolphins stadium in Miami.

George told an amusing story of his daughter, a big Marino fan. George asked her to visit the company after school, but did not tell her that Marino was present. When she arrived, Marino walked around the corner to her astonishment and addressed her by name. I can’t imagine how big of a surprise it was to her.

lundeen

The company is working on a two-year project involving the creation of the Stations of the Cross, which depicts Jesus Christ and others on the day of his crucifixion. Each station involves incredibly detailed clay sculptures that end up being larger-than-life bronze works of art. The effort is being sponsored by billionaire Joe Ricketts, founder and former chairman and CEO of TD Ameritrade, a large discount brokerage located in Omaha, Nebraska. He is building a Christian retreat center named The Cloisters on the Platte on 930 acres near Omaha. (The Platte is a major river running through the state.) The retreat will include the bronze Stations of the Cross.

George showed us the many clay sculptures that are underway for the Stations of the Cross project. Each are being 3D scanned, scaled up, and 3D-printed using a machine from Voxeljet. He explained that the process of scanning and printing is saving a dramatic amount of time. The 3D-printed patterns are shipped to the Lundeen team for inspection and light work and then delivered to a Loveland foundry for investment casting. The bronze castings are then  assembled, welded, and finished into their final form. George allowed me to take many pictures, but asked that I not put them on the Internet. A good video, co-produced by Analise Lundeen, shows much of the work and is found here.

SME’s RAPID 2016

May 21, 2016

I attended this week’s RAPID 2016 in Orlando, Florida. As usual, the conference and exposition were excellent. An estimated 5,190 attended the event, compared to 4,512 last year. Exhibit space increased to 4,153 sq meters (44,700 sq ft), up from 2,903 sq meters (31,250 sq ft) last year. The following are a few highlights of the event:

● HP introduced and showed its Jet Fusion 3200 and 4200 3D printers for the first time publicly. The machines are capable of addressing 340 million voxels per second in thermoplastic materials, such as PA12. They are 10 times faster and operate at half the cost of competitive systems, according to HP. The systems are mostly open, which means they support third-party materials at competitive prices.

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● Renishaw showed its new RenAM 500M machine that produces metal parts. The engineering is impressive. Meanwhile, 3D Systems displayed its new ProX DMP 320 machine for producing metal parts. It is based on technology developed by Belgium-based LayerWise, which was acquired by 3D Systems in 2014.

● Xjet of Israel introduced its NanoParticle Jetting technology. It uses inkjet printing to produce parts in stainless steel and silver. The parts are small, but the feature detail is good.

● Event organizer SME hosted a fashion show that featured entirely new 3D-printed designs. Many were impressive. I have now attended five fashion shows that highlight 3D-printed products and it’s remarkable how far the designs have advanced in a few years.

fashion-show

Congrats to SME for another great event, which continues to improve year after year. With increasing applications of additive manufacturing and 3D printing for final part production, the event has the opportunity to grow much larger in the future.

RAPID 2017 will be held May 8-11 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Add it to your calendar and plan to attend.

NextEngine 3D Scanner

February 13, 2016

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE,review — Terry Wohlers @ 07:59

When NextEngine introduced its first 3D scanner at SolidWorks World 2006, it got my attention. The product is based on the company’s patented MultiStripe Laser Triangulation (MLT) technology. At the time, it was the lowest priced scanner of its kind. If my memory serves me correctly, the price of the new Ultra HD version is the same as it was back then (base price of $2,995), yet the scan quality is now far better.

The small Ultra HD unit is capable of 268,000 points per 6.5 sq cm (1 sq inch), which is very good for such a low-cost product. NextEngine publishes an accuracy of +/- 0.125 mm (0.005 inch), although it is capable of +/- 0.025 mm (0.001 inch) accuracy under optimal conditions, according to Dan Gustafson, director of marketing at the Santa Monica, California company. When running the scanner in “Optional Extended Range Mode,” which covers a scan envelope of 55.9 x 41.9 x 27.9 cm (22 x 16.5 x 11 inches), accuracy is +/- 1.14 mm (0.045 inch).

An interesting tool for comparing low-cost 3D scanning options is located here. Click each of the models near the bottom of the window and play around with them. When selecting one, it splits the window into quadrants, as shown in the following example, with each representing a different scanning solution. Click and drag the circle at the center to increase or decrease the size of the quadrants. Click the small circles near the bottom to create different views of the 3D model.

nextengine

The functionality built into the NextEngine website is one of the best and most effective I’ve seen for comparing products. My only suggestion would be to include at least one product that is priced similarly or higher than the Ultra HD scanner. Other than that, the people at NextEngine have nailed it. Congratulations to NextEngine for 10 years of commercializing low-cost 3D scanning products based on MLT technology.

Best Products of 2015

December 31, 2015

Filed under: review — Terry Wohlers @ 11:18

The following are among the best products that I purchased this year.

ExpressVPN – If you’re looking for a good VPN, consider this one. A VPN encrypts all of your Internet traffic, which is especially important when using public wireless services at hotels, airports, and coffee shops. If someone tries to tap into your communications while you’re using a VPN, they will not be able to detect your IP address or location. You could be sitting in Shanghai, but it’d show that you’re in another city and country. (More than 100 cities in 78 countries are available to choose from.) Use of the product is $8.32 per month with an annual subscription.

HTC One M9 Smartphone – I liked my previous HTC One smartphone, so I upgraded to the M9 version. The phone has a good battery life, a fast processor, and is the perfect size for me. One of the nicest features is Wi-Fi calling. If you have a wireless connection, you can make a call to or from anywhere in the world at no cost.

Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III – This $269 device is perfect for portable use, although we use it in one location. The product plays for up to 14 hours on one battery charge. It sounds great and works well.

bose

Salomon Q-98 Snow Skis – I bought these skis in January 2015 and I’m glad I did. They are 98 mm under foot and work well in deep powder, as well as on groomed surfaces. They turn very well on hard-packed snow—even better than my K2 Rictor skis, which are narrower and considered excellent for hard-surface turning. The Salomon STH 10 bindings that I bought for them are also good.

Honeywell Humidifier – If you live in a dry climate, humidity is important. I purchased Honeywell’s Model HEV312 for our property in Frisco, Colorado. It is located at 2,766 meters (9,075 feet) in the Rocky Mountains where the air is especially dry in the winter. The product has a small footprint, is quiet, and offers many settings. Most importantly, it really kicks out the moisture.

2015 was a great year and I expect 2016 to be even better. Best wishes to you for a safe and prosperous New Year!

AIRTEC 2015

December 4, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,review — Terry Wohlers @ 12:31

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

The annual AIRTEC event was held in Munich, Germany during the first week of November. The international aerospace supply fair offers short business-to-business meetings that give suppliers the opportunity to meet face-to-face with purchasing agents from the largest aerospace manufacturers in the world. This year, 536 companies participated in an amazing 12,823 B2B meetings.

AIRTEC also featured 400 exhibitors from 27 countries and an international congress that consisted of three days of presentations in seven topical areas, ranging from UAVs and helicopters to avionics, aeronautics, and space. For the third consecutive year, Wohlers Associates organized and chaired a session titled “Additive Manufacturing in Aerospace.” This year’s full-day session included 11 presentations with speakers from Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Sweden, and the U.S., and concluded with a lively panel discussion on the developing AM supply chain in the aerospace industry.

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Paolo Gennaro of Avio Aero shared information on the two-year qualification process of titanium aluminide for producing low pressure turbine blades for aircraft engines. Avio operates 20 Arcam EBM systems and has significant powder production capacity on-site. Peter Pinklbauer of Airbus cited many examples from the more than 120 AM projects the Airbus team has completed. He also reiterated his company’s plan to manufacture 30 tons of 3D-printed parts per month by December 2018, which will reduce raw material use by 270 tons per month.

An important takeaway from the day’s program: Avio Aero, Airbus, and Airbus’ Tier 1 supplier Premium Aerotec are currently using AM for serial production of aerospace parts. Production of aerospace parts using AM is no longer a prediction or a future eventuality. It is a reality today, and it is likely to increase significantly in the foreseeable future.

Kill Decision

August 15, 2015

Filed under: entertainment,future,review — Terry Wohlers @ 10:15

A good friend recommended Kill Decision and I’m glad he did. Author Daniel Suarez knows how to get and keep your attention. Many compare him to Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy. The techno-thriller grabs you early in the book and has you on the edge of your seat most of the way through it. As odd as it may sound to some, I do not read novels for the pure sake of enjoyment. However, if the book provides interesting perspective into future, I’ll make an exception.

I chose the audio version of Kill Decision so that I could exercise while taking in something good. Also, narrator Jeff Gurner tells a story spectacularly. I’ve heard him before and he’s excellent. He nails foreign accents and characters (for example, a hard-nosed army general) better than anyone I’ve heard and his emphasis on certain points and phrases is flawless.

kill-decision

The book is focused mostly on drones and how they may develop to control the world around us. The tension-filled plot brings together many technical ideas in ways that are not only fascinating, but believable. At times, I could not put it down. The story builds and the plot thickens as swarming autonomous drones communicate and organize attacks. The drones and their “behavior” are modeled after swarms of weaver ants, which are very organized, even deadly, as a colony.

If you are looking for a good book to round out the summer, assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere, consider Kill Decision. You won’t regret it. And, if you like to walk, run, or go to the gym, take the audio version with you. Listening to narrator Jeff Gurner, alone, is worth the price.

Frisco, Colorado

August 2, 2015

Filed under: life,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 17:16

Frisco is a mountain town of about 2,700 people, located 114 km (71 miles) west of Denver. It is situated at an elevation of 2,766 meters (9,075 feet) and surrounded by mountains. Ten Mile Creek runs through the town and empties into Lake Dillon, which touches the northeast border of Frisco.

Repeatedly, Frisco has been named the top ski destination without a ski resort. Four major ski mountains are within 26 km (16 miles), with Copper Mountain—our favorite—being just 11 km (6.7 miles) away. A fifth is Vail Mountain Resort, which is 42 km (26 miles) away and the largest ski area in the USA.

Frisco is not known to as many as one would expect, especially given its proximity and charm. Many bypass it on their way to somewhere else without knowing much about it. Consequently, it is not as busy and crowded as neighboring Breckenridge—a short 16 km (10 miles) away.

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Frisco’s Main Street

Dentist and friend Ted Mioduski once said, “Summer time in Frisco is a best kept secret.” I could not agree more. Temperatures are in the low 20s C (70s F) during the day and much cooler at night. This makes it perfect for hiking, biking, climbing, fishing, taking a stroll down quaint Main Street, or having a bite or drink at one of the many local restaurants, pubs, or coffee shops.

Frisco and nearby Copper Mountain host many musicians, festivals, and exhibits in the summer. Just last night, we stumbled across an excellent acoustic guitarist and singer while waiting for the Saturday night fireworks at Copper. Returning to Frisco was a quick ride on the complimentary Summit Stage Shuttle.

On Friday, my wife, Diane, and I biked to Vail Pass, located at 3,250 meters (10,662 feet), and then back to Frisco—a 42-km (26-mile) round trip. (Diane turned around a few miles short.) Yesterday, friend Paul Carlton and I climbed Peak One, which is 3,901 meters (12,800 feet) in height. I felt like I might not survive after the seven-hour round trip. Although tired, I’m feeling better today.

peakone
At the top of Peak One, with Copper Mountain in the background

Frisco is small and quiet, yet it offers plenty of activity to keep things interesting. Some joke that the town has more pets, mostly dogs, than people. I doubt it’s true, but it certainly is dog-friendly. The people are open and friendly too. Frisco grows on you the more you spend time there. I can say without reservation it’s one of my favorite places to escape. Just don’t tell anyone.

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