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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.

Belgium

June 23, 2013

Filed under: review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 23:07

My wife and I have spent the past several days in Belgium and the trip has been outstanding. After some work in Brussels, we made our way to Brugge by train. We had never been to Brugge before and we’re impressed. The architecture, canals, and overall “feel” of the place is like no other we’ve experienced. It is absolutely charming and picturesque almost everywhere you look.

Waffles: Restaurants in the U.S. often refer to breakfast waffles as “Belgian waffles,” but they’re only vaguely similar. Real Belgian waffles are sold in many areas as snacks and they’re outstanding. They can be loaded with chocolate, fruit, whipped cream, and other toppings, but I like them plain. It’s a good thing they don’t offer these treats in the U.S. because I’d weigh a lot more.

Chocolate: Belgium is also known for its fine chocolate and it does not get much better. We sampled some last night and again today and the stuff is mouth-watering delicious. You can easily get it in the U.S., but it’s at nearly every street corner in Brussels and Brugge where tourists are found. If we stayed much longer, I’d gain even more weight because Belgian chocolate is that good.

Beer: At a tour of a brewery yesterday afternoon, we were told that 2,500 different beers are available in Belgium. That’s a lot of variety for a relatively small country. Wikipedia says the country has about 178 breweries, so maybe our tour guide exaggerated a bit. Regardless, it’s not difficult to find a good Belgian beer here. We found that Belgians have a beer or two at lunch, in the afternoon, and in the evening. Some will even drink beer in the morning—probably because it tastes so good.

If you haven’t spent time in Belgium, you should. We could have easily taken time to visit nearby France, Germany or the Netherlands, but we chose to relax and get to know the lifestyle of our Belgium friends. The waffles, chocolate, and beer made it all the better. Soon, we will be returning home and we’ll miss the many pleasures that this beautiful country and its people have to offer.

Inside 3D Printing

April 27, 2013

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event,review — Terry Wohlers @ 11:22

This is the name of an event that was launched this week at the Javits Convention Center in New York. I attended and was very impressed on a number of levels. First, I was surprised to learn that about 3,000 attended the two-day conference and exposition. I cannot remember attending a first-time event that has attracted more a few hundred people. Some events have been around for 10, even 20 years, and still draw fewer than 2,000 people.

Second, I was pleased at how well it was organized. Mediabistro, a company led by Alan Meckler, PhD, is the group behind it. The company clearly knows what it takes to organize and run events. Every detail, down to the refreshments, was handled expertly. Some might consider Meckler a trade show genius. In 1990, he created a newsletter called Internet World, the first of its kind. It led to the launch of the Internet World trade shows, which were the fastest growing in trade show history. His company, Mecklermedia Corp., was subsequently acquired by Penton Media in 1998 for $274 million in cash.

Seeing an audience of 1,000+ is a speaker’s dream come true. That’s what I saw when walking onto the stage early Tuesday morning. The attendees were a mix of NY investors, analysts, startup companies, and corporations of all types. Most were more interested in business opportunities in 3D printing than in the technology itself. What struck me most about the audience was their amazing appetite for information on the subject. They behaved like people that hadn’t eaten in days.

Mediabistro has scheduled Inside 3D Printing events for July 10-11 in Chicago, Illinois, September 17-18 in San Jose, California, October 1-2 in Singapore, and February 2014 in Munich or Berlin, Germany. The event returns to the Javits Convention Center in New York April 3-4, 2014. It’s clear that Meckler sees a window of opportunity, similar to the Internet shows of the early 1990s. If these additional events follow the formula used for this first event, they stand a good chance of success.

One Second After

March 3, 2013

Filed under: life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 17:48

One Second After is about electromagnetic pulse (EMP), a weapon that could make all others pale in comparison. According to author William Forstchen and others, EMP could devastate a large geographic region, even the entire USA.

EMP is created from a burst of electromagnetic radiation, usually from a high-energy explosion, such as a nuclear bomb. When the explosion occurs over a region, EMP causes all computers, computer-controlled machines and devices, and other products that include solid state electronics to fail. This means cars stop on roads and highways, planes fall out of the sky, and all electricity and communications come to an immediate halt.

One Second After is fictional, but it is based on what could potentially occur if a nation does not take the necessary precautions. Forstchen believes the USA is vulnerable to an EMP attack, and he laid out in vivid detail the possible consequences. The story is set in a small town in North Carolina where a man fights to save his family. The detail is gripping.

EMP has been discussed by Congress and the Pentagon. Politician Newt Gingrich discussed the threat in the book’s Foreword. The Wall Street Journal cautioned that it could shatter the USA. I know little about EMP, except for what I learned in this book, but it sounds very serious. I am hopeful that our national leaders and experts are taking the necessary steps to prevent an EMP disaster.

One Second After is incredibly interesting and engaging, and I highly recommend it.

Fun

February 17, 2013

Filed under: event,life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 10:33

If you watched the 55th Grammy Awards one week ago, you saw the alternative rock band named Fun (stylized as fun.) perform live. I have become a fan of this band, a group that less than one year ago was playing in front of small audiences. In April 2012, Fun was at the Fort Collins Aggie Theater, a music venue that holds 650 people. The cost to see them: $15. A week ago, they performed in front of 28 million. The band took home two Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist, from six nominations.

I was lucky to see Fun live on December 13, 2012 in Broomfield, Colorado, near Denver. The arena holds 6,500 people, making it the largest audience for Fun, at the time. Our daughter and her friend allowed me to join them at the concert, something that would have been difficult for me to do when I was her age. The music and performance were excellent! It was band’s final performance of 2012.

If you have not seen or heard Fun, it’s not hard to find video clips of them at YouTube. One that stands out is a special acoustic version of We Are Young, a composition that won the Grammy for Song of the Year. Janelle Monáe joins lead singer Nate Ruess in some of the best vocals and music I’ve heard in years by any group or musician.

Yesterday, I tried to buy tickets for an August 2013 Fun concert at Red Rocks, a spectacular outdoor amphitheater on the west edge of Denver. My only time at Red Rocks was a short day visit in 1976. I have always wanted to attend a concert there, but it may not happen in August. I was unable to secure tickets, even though I tried the minute they went on sale. This is an indication of how far the band has come in such a short time.

Bend, Not Break

January 6, 2013

Filed under: life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 09:33

I finished reading Ping Fu’s new book Bend, Not Break, a few days ago. What an incredible story! The book is about the two lives that Ping lived: one in China and the other in the U.S. She grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution, a time when families were split up and forced to live in dire conditions. At age 8, Ping was sent away and lived in horrible surroundings with little food. She was also faced with caring for her 4-year old sister by herself.

Ping overcame unbelievable adversity. At age 10, she was gang raped. Many years later, her university thesis described atrocities associated with China’s one-child policy, which led to her imprisonment, solitary confinement, and being forced to leave China. She arrived into the U.S. with $80 and knowing only three words of English.

Ping’s remarkable story is written with such honesty and clarity. Parts of the book are extremely sad, while others are uplifting and inspiring. I found it difficult to put down.

I’ve had the special privilege of knowing Ping for many years and consider her a friend. She has served as a keynote speaker at many events, twice at the annual international Wohlers conference at EuroMold in Frankfurt, Germany. At the recent EuroMold 2012, she arranged for more than 100 copies of her new book for those attending the conference and she appeared to say a few words and autograph the book—an extremely kind gesture.

Ping is a strong leader, entrepreneur, and friend to many. I consider her among the top thinkers in product development and manufacturing. While at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, her team developed NCSA Mosaic, the web browser that popularized the Worldwide Wide Web. The Mosaic work led to the development of Netscape Navigator in the early 1990s. In 2005, Ping was Inc. magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year, an honor given to one person each year. She currently serves on President Obama’s National Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and she sat in the first lady’s box at the 2010 State of the Union address.

No one should encounter what Ping went through, yet it helped shape who she is today. My sincere congratulations to her for writing what I’m sure will become a bestseller.

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