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Portugal

November 13, 2011

Filed under: review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 10:27

My wife, Diane, and I visited this beautiful country in late September and early October. I had visited four times before, but had seen little of the country until this trip. We spent four nights in Leiria, a historic city located about 150 km (93 miles) north of Lisbon. Leiria is home to Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, the organizer of the very successful VRAP 2011 conference on additive manufacturing that I attended. Leiria features the well-preserved Leiria Castle at the highest point of the city and welcoming pedestrian areas near the city center. Fátima, an important religious site, is a short distance away. Leiria is near the heart of Portugal’s vibrant mold-making industry.

Upon our departure from Leiria, we picked up a rental car and headed to Obidos, a small medieval town surrounded by an impressive fortified wall. I had ridden past Obidos several times when going from Lisbon to Leiria. Locals and others said that we should definitely visit and I’m glad we did. We pulled into Obidos at around dinner time and walked the cobblestone streets and walkways through this intriguing place. The following day’s blue skies made it perfect for walking the wall and seeing the buildings, many of which were constructed in the 12th century. The small streets were lined with shops and small restaurants, but the merchants have done well to keep the feel of commercialism to a minimum. With more cork harvested in Portugal than anywhere else, many products made from cork were available for sale. Obidos was a wonderful place to visit and we now know why people have raved about it. We wish we could have stayed longer.

Our next stop was Nazaré, a coastal town of 15,000 people north of Obidos. The main attraction for us was the cliff overlooking the town, beach, and sea. The sights from Sitio, which means an old town on top of a cliff, were spectacular. All of the white buildings with orange tiles roofs were something special to see. Sitio had many shops with hand-crafted products, such as wood boats and automobiles. I purchased two skillfully-made cars and one truck, each about 28 cm (11 inches) in length, for about 12 euros each, as gifts to bring home. We were in Nazaré for only a few hours, barely enough time to see and do what we wanted.

The next and final destination was Porto, also known as Oporto, which is known for its port wine. Porto is one of Europe’s oldest cities, dating back to the 4th century, and for Diane and me, one of the most interesting. The large Douro River runs through the city center, with beautiful architecture and buildings lining the banks and hillsides. We found that views from the Luís I Iron Bridge, located near the city center, were exceptional. One of the highlights was a boat trip down the Douro River. We took a train upstream into the wine region where we boarded a boat that offered fine dining and excellent views of the vineyards. We experienced two major river locks, one said to the tallest in Europe at 35 m (114 ft), at the Carrapatelo dam. The all-day trip was relaxing and definitely worthwhile.

The trip to Portugal could not have gone much better. Our Portuguese friends are wonderful people and gave us good advice on interesting sites to visit. The history, architecture, landscape, wine country (and wine), beaches, and the people make Portugal a great place to visit. We recommend it highly. Click here to see 11 images from the trip.

Melbourne, Australia

June 13, 2011

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 04:23

The purpose of my recent six-day visit to Melbourne was business, but I had some free time to explore the city. I was there a year ago, but the stay was too short, making it impossible to see as much as I had hoped. Sydney has long ranked as my favorite Australian city, but Melbourne is now a strong contender for the top spot. The place offers a wide spectrum of restaurants, shops, night life, entertainment, history, and architecture that had me wanting more.

What struck me the most about the city was its energy and vibrance. By mid afternoon on most days, the city would come alive with people of all ages. Street entertainers, some that are very good, made my walks from place to place amusing. Last Saturday, for example, I watched a young guy (maybe 12) and his little sister draw a crowd of hundreds. He played a keyboard and sang impressively with the support of a sound system not typical of entertainers in pedestrian areas.

I found Asian and Greek restaurants to be plentiful and some superb. My favorite was Stalactites (the souvlaki is excellent) where a queue outside developed early. I also visited the Victorian Market more than once. I found it to be excellent for buying gifts to bring home to family and friends. The weak US$ makes prices in Australia very high for Americans, but the Victorian Market offered some good bargains.

I also visited RMIT University, which is spread across parts of the city. The university launched its impressive Advanced Manufacturing Precinct (AMP) last Tuesday, which I had the privilege of attending. This $15 million facility is equipped with some of the finest CAD/CAE, additive manufacturing, and CNC equipment that money can buy. More than 3,000 square meters (32,292 square feet) of space is spread across four floors in this beautifully renovated building.

During my stay, I had the privilege of participating in the first Pacific Additive Manufacturing Forum (PAMF) in Melbourne, which coincided with the opening of AMP. PAMF was organized by Dr. Milan Brandt of RMIT University with support from many organizations including CSIRO, the Defense Materials Technology Centre (DMTC), Enterprise Connect, and Formero. PAMF events were also organized for Adelaide, Sydney, and Brisbane.

If you visit this fine country, Melbourne should be on your list. There’s so much to see and do and the place becomes electric as the day progresses. If design and manufacturing technology is your thing, a stop to RMIT’s new AMP building is a must. You will not be disappointed.

Japan

April 15, 2011

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 11:42

I’ve never had a bad experience in Japan. I credit the people and Japanese “system” for this. The people there are very friendly and helpful. Relatively few Japanese speak English well, but they will do all they can to provide assistance. With a very low rate of crime, I always feel safe when visiting the country.

Almost everything in Japan works exceedingly well, from the train system to the doors and faucets in the hotel rooms. My experience has been that Japan has taken perfection to another level. You can precisely set your watch based on the arrival and departure of trains—a major mode of transportation in Tokyo and other part of the country.

I recall a visit to Japan when our group of four forgot to bring some papers to an important meeting. We discovered this on our way there, so we phoned the office from which we departed. A person put the papers in the overhead storage on a particular train. As the train stopped at the station closest to us, one of us jumped onto the train, grabbed the envelope, and jumped off before the train departed. The train system served as a courier service that bailed us out. A paid courier could not have done as well, under the circumstances.

Twenty years ago, many in the West feared Japan as a superpower, especially in manufacturing. Indeed, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Honda, Subaru, and others are some of the most respected brands. It turns out, however, that Japan was not the country to fear.

My heart goes out to the people of Japan. The country is encountering a very difficult time, especially the region north of Tokyo that was overwhelmed by the recent earthquake and tsunami. Please do what you can to help because they really are among the best people in the world. They are our friends and allies.

Heimlich Maneuver in Sydney

March 20, 2011

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 10:56

The wide body aircraft that I boarded an hour earlier at Sydney Airport returned to the gate after the captain reported a mechanical problem. He had not canceled the flight, but based on his comments and past experience, I was expecting him to make the announcement any minute.

Suddenly, I heard some yelling and commotion directly behind me. It was so abrupt and loud that I immediately jumped out of my isle seat. A rather small woman was trying to do the Heimlich maneuver on a large man. I later found out that it was her husband. She was frantically pleading for help. I had only seen the Heimlich maneuver on television, but I immediately took over. After a half dozen or so lunges, she shouted, “Stop, he’s okay!” Maybe she thought I was doing more harm than good.

While I was doing what I thought resembled the procedure, I was thinking, “What if the guy doesn’t make it? Will they come after me for performing a procedure for which I’m not qualified?” My instincts told me to act and act quickly and not consider such ramifications, although it definitely came to mind. Fortunately, he recovered and sat back down in his seat directly behind mine.

Flight attendants and medical staff rushed to our area of the plane, but it was all over by then. Minutes later, the captain canceled the flight and everyone exited the aircraft. The choking guy, nor his wife, said a single word to me.

Four Years in Hotels

March 6, 2011

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 15:01

In my previous blog commentary, I answered the most asked question: How did I get started in additive manufacturing more than two decades ago? The second most asked question is: How many days of the year am I away from home?

I take about 18-20 business trips by air per year. In 25 years, that’s approaching 500 trips. In recent years, about one-third of them have been outside the U.S. The domestic trips average two nights, while the international trips average about one week in length. This means I’m away about 60 nights per year. Put another way, I have spent about four years in hotel rooms over the past 25 years.

Some people don’t like to travel. I hear them complaining at airports and on planes, so I’m not sure why they do it. Maybe they have no choice. For me, I enjoy getting out and meeting people and seeing new things. Do I like airports, planes, and hotels? I take a lot of work with me and enjoy catching up on my reading. Often, when traveling, I get into a “zone” where I’m almost oblivious to what’s going on around me.

One of the few negative parts of travel is not getting sufficient rest at night. The day goes so much better when you get a good night’s sleep, although it’s surprising how well the body and mind can function on little or no sleep. Packing is not a favorite part of the trip, nor is catching up after being away. With these exceptions, I look forward to trips, especially when traveling to new and interesting places.

11 Days in Where?

October 3, 2010

Filed under: event,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 15:31

My wife and I arrived with little sleep to meet friends from South Africa and England. We traveled together the next 48 hours to some of the most beautiful sites we had ever seen. The Julian Alps of western Slovenia are as spectacular as mountains can get. When I visited parts of this small, but scenic country two years earlier, I was impressed by the splendor, but there was more. Rivers, stone bridges, quaint villages, lakes, and waterfalls lined the routes we traveled by car and foot.

The natural beauty made an impression. It was the people, however, that made our recent visit complete. This trip confirmed what I learned some time ago: meetings and conferences are about personal interaction. Igor Drstvenšek of the University of Maribor (Maribor, Slovenia) led the organization of iCAT 2010, which set the stage for new business relationships and friendships. The three-day conference, held in Nova Gorica, Slovenia, was about as good as it gets. People from Africa, Asia, the former Eastern and Western Europe, and North America attended.

After five nights in Slovenia, we headed to Pag Island in Croatia along the Adriatic Sea. We stayed with some of the finest people you could meet, with home cooking that would rival the best restaurants anywhere. Better yet, we shared stories and laughs that could only occur with good friends and relatives. It was truly a special time with memories that will last a lifetime. We are grateful to those who made it possible.

We are also thankful to the individual that provided the motivation to visit Novigrad, Croatia. There are two places in Croatia named Novigrad and the one we visited is located about 30 km (19 miles) east of Zadar. This small, sleepy village, nestled along an inlet of the Adriatic Sea, is striking. It’s not a place you would stumble upon and that’s partly what makes it so interesting.

If you have not visited Slovenia or Croatia, add them to your “Bucket List.” They may be considered out of the way to some and it may take extra effort to organize and travel there, but it is absolutely worth it. And, have plenty of storage space on your camera because you’ll be taking scores of pictures. Click here to see 10 of the more than 300 that I shot.

Internet at Hotels

September 17, 2010

Filed under: Internet,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 13:33

For many years, nearly all hotels in the U.S. charged for Internet access. Today, most U.S. hotels provide it at no cost, although some of the most expensive still charge for it. It took time, but I believe most hotel owners finally understood that by offering complimentary Internet access, they could be more competitive—that this perk would help sell their hotel. I also suspect that the revenue generated from charging for Internet access was an insignificant amount of the total revenue generated by the hotel. They likely discovered that once the broadband network was in place, the cost to maintain it was negligible.

What is it going to take for hotels outside the U.S. to figure this out? In Europe, it is not unusual to pay €10 to $20 euros ($13 to $26) per day at a hotel for Internet access. In Australia, expect to pay as much or more. The same is true in Israel. Paying for it is not only expensive, it’s a hassle. You often have to get instructions from the front desk and sometimes the instructions are incorrect, which translates to wasted time. Weary travelers do not want to mess with codes, passwords, and unclear instructions.

I hope that hotels around the world begin to understand what business they are in and that offering free Internet could give them an edge over the competition. Whenever possible, I reserve a hotel room where Internet access is complimentary. Also, I recommend this hotel to others. So, hotel owners and managers: wake up and take note. Giving away Internet access could help make more money for your hotel, not less.

Tel Aviv

July 24, 2010

Filed under: travel — Terry Wohlers @ 13:22

It had been some time since I last visited Israel. A recent visit reminded me of how nice Tel Aviv had become. The beach front is especially appealing, with bustling restaurants and activities for beach goers. The walkway along the coast spans as far as one can see to the north and south. I shot this picture from the Renaissance Hotel where I stayed. The ancient city of Jaffa is shown in the distance in the upper left area of the image. Jaffa was inhabited 7,500 years ago and is believed to be one of the oldest ports in the world. A friend and I followed the richly paved walkway from the hotel to Jaffa.

I arrived mid-afternoon on Wednesday of last week. I quickly checked into the hotel, dropped my bags in the room, and headed to the beach. After a short walk across the fine, white sand, I found myself submerged and relaxing in the warm and clear Mediterranean. I could not think of a better way to spend some time after being on planes and in airports for nearly 20 hours.

Israel offers some of the most interesting history anywhere and it is among the most advanced nations in the world. The Israeli people are highly educated and speak English flawlessly, even the taxi cab drivers. What’s more, Israel has more high tech startup companies than any country in the world, except for the U.S. Also, it has the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies outside of North America, according to Wikipedia.

I was told that Israel recently set a record for the greatest number of tourists visiting the country. I’m not surprised, given what this small but fascinating country has to offer. I did not visit Jerusalem on this trip, but I have a few times in the past and recommend it highly. Plan to spend a minimum of one day there and hire a guide. They are excellent and well worth the investment. If you’re staying near the beach in Tel Aviv, you can be standing in the Old City of Jerusalem in about an hour. And, it’s like stepping back in time thousands of years. Add Israel to your “Bucket List” if you have not done so already.

10 Talks in 6 Days

June 26, 2010

Filed under: additive manufacturing,event,manufacturing,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 17:58

When asked if I’d come to Australia in June 2010, I said Yes. The plan was to conduct a series of conferences, workshops, and company presentations in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, and Brisbane. The tenth is on Monday here in Brisbane. By the end of that day, I will have had the privilege of presenting the “Factory of the Future” to nearly 600 engineering and manufacturing professionals from across the country.

I underestimated how demanding it would be. The “road show” began last Monday—the day after I arrived. Rest is essential when traveling to any part of the world and, thankfully, I’m getting some this weekend.

The effort began with Simon Marriott, founder and managing director of Formero (formerly ARRK Australia), who asked if I would partner with him to offer the series. The company’s headquarters are in Melbourne, with operations in the other three cities. Formero has a long history of using additive manufacturing (AM) technology for modeling and prototyping applications. Simon understands the potential of applying it to end-use part production and fully expects to help develop its use for this application throughout this distant but advanced and fascinating country.

Yesterday was one of the most interesting days of all. It began with an early morning car ride from the hotel to Sky News television studios in Sydney. I was supposed to be interviewed the previous day, but it was canceled due to nearly non-stop coverage of Australia’s first woman prime minister, Julia Gillard. With such big news, Simon and I knew the odds of a major television network covering the future of manufacturing in Australia had declined dramatically. It turned out that you can only repeat the same news so much and an appetite developed for something else. We were it.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we arrived nearly 25 minutes late. After quickly signing in, I was escorted to the “nerve center” of the studios where two live broadcasts were underway. Within a couple minutes, I was sitting in between two news reporters. No time for makeup or a dry run. We hardly had time for introductions. News reporter Carson Scott said, “It’s a shame you don’t have photographs or something to show what we’re talking about.” I told him I had a few example parts. We had about 60 seconds to retrieve them from my case. Many questions later, the interview was over. It was live and broadcast nationwide on Sky News, which I did not know 10 minutes prior to my arrival. So much for having the option of editting out the bad stuff.

I trust the television broadcast, coupled with the series of presentations, will help introduce a few new ideas on how additive manufacturing can help advance product development and innovation in Australia. The interest and feedback thus far have been tremendous. Thanks to Simon Marriott and Formero for this exciting initiative. I hope the individuals and organizations across the country will benefit and take AM technology to the next level.

Favorite Products/Services of 2009

January 23, 2010

Filed under: Internet,life,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 10:47

Asiana Airlines. I now know why this company was recognized as Airline of the Year by Air Transport World. The airline provides extraordinary service. The flight attendants are cheerful and vibrant, and never stop working to make the passenger comfortable and happy. Twice, I was about to enter the lavatory when a flight attendant was exiting. She had big smile and said, “Sorry, sir, for the delay but I was cleaning it for you.” Never before had I experienced this. Asiana is a member of the Star Alliance.

WestHost. This is a web hosting company that our company has used for many years. It occurred to me recently that I never have to think about the service because nothing ever goes wrong. When I’ve had a question in the past, it has been easy to get a competent individual on the phone (in Utah) that takes good care of me. Hosting fees for 25 GB of disk space and 500 GB of bandwidth start at $8.95 per month.

Audi A4. My wife and I have owned many automobiles in our lifetimes and this may be the best car we’ve owned. It’s rock solid, quiet, smooth, comfortable, and it handles extremely well, even on snow and ice. The ride is smooth, but firm and sporty, and there’s not a minor rattle or squeak anyone. For a relatively small car, the trunk space is large. Our only complaint is the fuel economy around town, which could be a little better. Other than that, it’s a fantastic automobile.

The Last Frontier Boutique Resort. This is a lodge located near the Kinabatangan River in the Saba region of Malaysian Borneo. Getting to the lodge requires a climb of 540 stair steps, but it’s well worth the effort. The gourmet food that our host, Jason, prepared was nothing short of spectacular. Also, he guided our river boat safaris where we saw several species of monkeys, exotic birds, large monitor lizards, and tree snakes. The rivers are infested with large crocodiles, but we did not see any. Jason went out of his way to help us get to this remote region of Borneo.

Thanks to these companies and individuals for going the extra mile to offer an outstanding product or service.

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