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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.

ralph

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.

frisco
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.

CES

January 19, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,review — Terry Wohlers @ 08:20

The year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was January 6-9 in Las Vegas, Nevada. It involved 3,600 exhibitors and 204,387 sq meters (2.2 million sq feet) of exhibit space. More than 170,000 people attended the event, including 45,000 from outside the U.S. I was present for 1.5 days, and one full day was dedicated to a 3D printing conference presented by TCT + Personalize magazine. The conference was well organized and attended, and it included a wide and interesting mix of people. Those that I met were serious professionals.

I was surprised by the number of new 3D printing products on display, coupled with the scale of some of the exhibits. New material extrusion machines (i.e., FDM clones) were everywhere. MarkForged showed its interesting Mark One machine. To strengthen parts, the $5,500 product uses Kevlar, carbon fiber, or fiberglass, and nylon as the base material. I was impressed by the quality of the parts. Coincidentally, I was present when USA Today shot this video.

markforged
3D-printed parts that include Kevlar, courtesy of MarkForged

Voxel8 introduced its multi-material 3D printer for producing integrated electronics. The $9,000 product deposits PLA and conductive ink. Harvard professor Jennifer Lewis is the head of the startup company. Autodesk is partnering with Voxel8 on the development of design software called Project Wire. It is being produced from the ground up to support the design of 3D-printed electronics.

Autodesk had a large and impressive 3D printing exhibit that featured Ember, Spark, and Project Wire. Ember is Autodesk’s new photopolymer-based 3D printer that uses DLP technology for high resolution imaging. Autodesk is also developing Spark, which is an open and free platform that promises to connect digital data to 3D printers in a new way.

CES was overly crowded with people and traffic, and Vegas is not one of my favorite places to visit. Also, I was disappointed to learn that Uber’s app-based, car transportation network was temporarily banned in Nevada’s highly regulated taxi industry. Even so, CES had a lot to offer, and the 3D printing exhibits were larger and more elaborate than I had expected. Overall, it was interesting and worthwhile.

Best Products of 2014

January 3, 2015

Filed under: review — Terry Wohlers @ 15:24

The last time I published a “best products” blog commentary was in December 2010, so it’s time to do it again. The following are some of the products from the recent past that stand out.

HP Officejet Pro 8600 – We purchased this all-in-one printer/copier/scanner in June 2014 for $128. (I do not recall how we got this price because it’s now available at Amazon for $249.) The wireless device prints and copies beautifully. The sheet feeder works flawlessly and the scanner is fast. Excellent product.

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon Touch laptop – I purchased it in May 2014 for $1,720. The touch screen is helpful when wanting to quickly zoom in and out on emails and other screens. I especially like how thin it is, yet the screen is relatively large. Another good product.

Hive Bass – I received this beautiful product in August 2013, but did not spend a lot of time with it until 2014. It looks and sounds great, thanks to the design talent of Olaf Diegel.

hivebass
Hive Bass designed and manufactured by Olaf Diegel

Tumi Alpha Laptop Brief – This bag became my “portable office” in July 2014, and it has since traveled more than 100,000 miles (161,000 km) with me. Tumi makes excellent products, although they are not inexpensive.

Samsung 55-inch (140-cm) LED Smart TV – Other than two internal hard drives, this is only our second Samsung product, and it is living up to the company’s reputation. We purchased it for $830, and the quality is excellent.

Vizio 32-inch (81-cm) LED Smart TV – This is our first Vizio product and we like it better than the Panasonic that it replaced. For $290, it was a good buy. Vizio is an American company based in Irvine, California.

Best wishes to you for a great 2015!

Playing the Bass

March 2, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 06:51

I received the Hive bass guitar from Olaf Diegel, PhD of ODD Guitars in August 2013. The Hive is a striking design and is beautifully manufactured. And, in June 2012, I received the impressive Spider guitar from Olaf, which is one of his first creations. I was surprised to learn that he used SolidWorks for all of this guitar designs. To see all of them, including Olaf’s latest designs, Google “3D printed guitars” and click Images or go to odd.org.nz. 3D printing was used to produce the main body of these master pieces—one reason they are so special.

I began to take bass lessons a few months ago, with the goal of being able to play the instrument with other musicians. My crazy work and travel schedule have prevented me from keeping up with the lessons, coupled with weeks of little practice. I have not given up, however, and I continue to play and practice whenever I can. I look forward to getting my hands on the Hive bass and learning to play. It may take a year or longer, but I’m determined to master it.

A big thanks to Olaf for what could become a life-changing experience. Already, I’ve had a ton of fun with it, even if I never make it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I do want to win a small bet I made with our son and our daughter’s boyfriend. The bet is to play with a band in front of an audience. It’s a darn good thing we didn’t tie a timeframe to the bet because I could be old and gray by the time it happens, although I’d like to prevent that from happening.

Editor’s note: Olaf Diegel is also an associate consultant at Wohlers Associates.

Hands-on Experience with 3D Printing

February 13, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 18:25

Note: The following was authored by Tyler Hudson, an intern at Wohlers Associates. His comments are related to the UP! 3D printer from Micro Delta Factory Corp.

Before starting at Wohlers Associates, I had no experience with 3D printers. I had heard about them and knew the general idea behind their operation, but I had an idealized vision of how they worked. I thought that you simply gave the printer your CAD model and it would print out perfect parts every time. I’m guessing that many others have a similar view of 3D printing.

In reality, a lot goes on behind the scenes when making a part. I discovered that the prep work before printing is the most important. Prior to building the first part on the machine, I ensured that the build platform was perfectly level. This is done by adjusting leveling screws located under the build platform.

To build a good part, I soon discovered that setting the extrusion nozzle height is not only important, it is critical. I found that if I did not do it correctly, it would lead to a failed part. If the nozzle is too high, the first layer of plastic will not fully stick to the platform and this and subsequent layers would curl upward. It is necessary to adjust the nozzle height before each build because the height of the platform can change from one build to the next.

Another key to successful prints is to properly orient the part. This affects how the support structures are attached, which in turn affects how easy or difficult it is to remove the supports after the build is complete. A part may have bulky support material when oriented one direction, but less support material when rotated 90 degrees.

The quality of the print can also vary depending on the type of object that is being printed. Parts with fine or complex geometric features are difficult to print on low-cost 3D printers. Therefore, I’ve learned to build simpler parts, which increase the chances of a successful build.

When I follow these basic “rules,” the experience has been favorable. I’m sure that as I continue to print parts, I will find more useful tricks that increase the percentage of quality builds.

Favorite Products of 2013

February 1, 2014

Filed under: review — Terry Wohlers @ 16:39

A number of products stand out from others. The following are my favorites from the past year.

HTC One: This outstanding smartphone offers a large screen, yet is light, thin, and sleek. The camera takes images that are as good as those taken with my Canon camera. I usually get one or two days of use out of a single battery charge, and the second SIM card slot lets me use GSM networks when traveling to Europe and elsewhere.

Epson Scanner: We purchased the WorkForce DS-30 document scanner for $99 at Office Depot in December. It is fast and simple and the image quality is very good. The USB cable supplies the power, so there’s no need for a power cord. The unit is very small and light, making it easy to carry with you.

Evernote: This software product helps you organize your personal and professional life. Whether it’s creating check lists for travel or for logging conversations tied to vehicle maintenance, it works well and it is simple. It syncs to the cloud so all of your notes go with you when you leave the office. Best of all, it’s free.

Rossignol Boots: The Alias Sensor 120 ski boots are sharp, comfortable, and warm. What’s more, they are responsive when initiating turns, so they help make a mediocre skier a little better.

PdaNet: I chose this app as a favorite in 2007 and I’m choosing it again. A one-time price of $15 turns your Android smartphone into a broadband modem for your laptop or desktop computer. It has saved me hundreds of dollars over the years. And, it has allowed me to connect to the Internet wherever there’s a cellular phone signal, even when traveling down the highway. If you’re tired of paying for Internet access at airports and hotels, get PdaNet from June Fabrics.

If you have a favorite product or service, please pass it along. I would like to hear about it.

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