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Important Events in AM

April 22, 2018

Last week, I attended the 20th Annual FIRPA Conference in Espoo, Finland, which is about 20 km (12 miles) from Helsinki. The event included some excellent presentations, including one from Jonas Eriksson of Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery AB. Eriksson discussed the production of parts by additive manufacturing for land-based gas turbine engines. To date, the company has redesigned many parts for metal AM and used the technology to produce more than 1,000 burner tips. The use of AM has resulted in a time reduction from 26 weeks to just three. As many as 60 people are now focused on AM at the company, with a goal of making metal AM as simple as 2D printing on paper.

Another very interesting presentation was given by Jyrki Saarinen of the University of Eastern Finland. His group worked closely with Dutch company Luxexcel to produce an AM machine with 1,000 inkjet nozzles for the printing of optical lenses in PMMA. The surface finish of the printed lenses is <2 nm RMS (less than 2 billionths of a meter), so no post-processing is required. The machine is capable of producing 40 lenses per hour, each measuring 10 mm in diameter x 2.5 mm in height, so the process is relatively fast.

I also had the privilege of visiting two world-class companies in Finland. The first was KONE, an $11 billion manufacturer of elevators, escalators, exterior revolving doors, and security entrances for commercial buildings. The company and its products are impressive. I also visited UPM, a $12.3 billion company with a strong position in paper, pulp, plywood, composites, and bio products. The company recently entered the AM industry by introducing a material extrusion filament product consisting of cellulose fiber and PLA.

Last week’s trip to Finland could not have gone better, thanks to the fine people that organized the meetings and very successful 20th annual conference. This week, the focus is on RAPID + TCT 2018, which begins tomorrow and goes through Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. This event marks the 26th annual conference and exposition, and I’m proud to say that I have not missed a single one of them. Attendance has grown by ~2.3 times over the past four years and exhibit space has grown by ~4.5 times over the same period. If you are interested in attending one of the very best events in all things additive manufacturing, 3D printing, and 3D scanning, go to Fort Worth this week. You will not regret it.

AM at NATO?

April 8, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 16:26

Note: Bob Appleton, president of RW Appleton & Company, Inc., authored the following.

Obstacles to adopting additive manufacturing (AM) in any large organization are well known. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) faces additional challenges due to the diversity of its 29-nation membership. Each has its own policies and procedures and is at a different stage of adoption.

In 2016, the NATO Allied Command Transformation unit formed an AM Community of Interest (COI) consisting of leading voices and technical experts across the alliance. Its purpose is to coordinate AM efforts among member nations and share progress. The COI is exploring potential AM use cases and examining relevant standards. It is also reviewing necessary data security measures and interoperability within NATO’s environment.

The COI has swiftly addressed NATO’s issues. First, COI members participated in the U.S. Department of Defense-sponsored AM Business Process Wargame, which explored complex business practices necessary for AM use in the military. The COI also published a report detailing current standards applicable to AM.

The COI and its members maintain high-tempo participation in AM events. Drawing on experience from the Norwegian Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the U.S. Marine Corps, the COI is exploring expeditionary logistics applications. The Marine Corps demonstrated its “ExFab,” a self-contained transportable 3D printing facility, to NATO at its meeting in October 2017. This year, the Norwegian MOD will demonstrate a similar capability.

COI members will participate in NATO meetings in Germany, Italy, and the U.S., as well as NATO exercises in Norway and Poland. A study will include member nation AM activities and a roadmap proposing the way forward for AM at NATO. The COI will study blockchain as a potential security enhancement, as well as lessons from the experiences of Estonia, the most connected nation in the world. This month, the COI will be represented at RAPID + TCT 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Wohlers Report 2018

March 27, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 05:49

Wohlers Associates, Inc. announced today the release of Wohlers Report 2018, the industry-leading global report on the state of the additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing industry, terms used interchangeably. Wohlers Associates has published its series of annual reports on AM for 23 consecutive years.

According to the new report, an estimated 1,768 metal AM systems were sold in 2017, compared to 983 systems in 2016, an increase of nearly 80%. This dramatic rise in metal AM system installations accompanies improved process monitoring and quality assurance measures in metal AM, although more work is ahead. Increasingly, global manufacturers are becoming aware of the benefits of producing metal parts by additive manufacturing.

Seventy-six co-authors and contributors from 32 countries shared data and expertise to form the basis of analysis provided in Wohlers Report 2018. This wealth of resources further strengthened the team at Wohlers Associates with insights into the AM industry unmatched by any other organization.

The 344-page Wohlers Report 2018 includes 36 charts and graphs, 110 tables, and 192 photographs and illustrations. It also includes more than 160 pages of supplemental online information that is available to buyers of the report. See details on the new annual state of the industry report.

AM Material Sales Growth

March 11, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:36

Note: Much of the following was excerpted from Wohlers Report 2017.

The following graph shows the 16-year material sales growth trend in additive manufacturing. In 2016, an estimated $903 million was spent on all materials for AM systems worldwide, including industrial machines and desktop 3D printers. The numbers include sales of liquid photopolymers, powders, pellets, filaments, wires, sheet materials, and all other material types used for AM.

Did sales of AM materials exceed $1 billion in 2017? Wohlers Report 2018, due to be published within weeks, will answer this question and provide details on AM materials and material sales. The number of producers of polymers, composites, metals, ceramics, and other types of materials for AM continues to expand. The names of these companies, along with other detailed information, will be disclosed in the new report.

Most Popular AM Application

February 24, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,machining — Terry Wohlers @ 11:30

Note: Much of the following was excerpted from Wohlers Report 2017.

The following chart shows how organizations are using industrial additive manufacturing systems for a range of applications. The information presented in the chart came from the survey question “How do your customers use the parts built on your AM systems?” The respondents consisted of 61 manufacturers of industrial AM systems (those that sell for $5,000 or more) and 100 service providers worldwide.

The survey results show that companies use AM technology to produce functional parts more than anything else. This represents the degree of interest in AM machines and materials that produce strong and accurate parts. In the future, we expect the demand for these types of parts to increase much further, especially as companies adopt AM for production applications.

Growth in AM Patent Applications

February 11, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 09:16

Note: The following was co-authored by Ray Huff and Terry Wohlers, both of Wohlers Associates. John Hornick of Finnegan collected and assembled the data for the chart.

A key indicator of innovation in any industry is patent applications. From 1996 to 2013, the additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing industry experienced a moderate but steady increase in published patent applications. From 2013 to 2016, the number of applications grew by a surprising 7.7 times, as shown in the following chart (taken from Wohlers Report 2017). The green line shows published patent applications, while the blue line shows issued patents.

In recent years, several AM foundation patents have expired. As these AM technologies mature, and new players enter the market, companies are pressured to differentiate their offerings. Filing a patent can be time-consuming and costly, and it can take years for a patent to be granted. This makes the number of patent applications a good way to take the “pulse” of a particular industry. The AM industry has a strong one.

AM System Manufacturer Growth

January 27, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 09:39

The additive manufacturing (AM) industry continues to experience dramatic growth in the number of companies that produce industrial (above $5,000) AM systems. In 2016, the total number grew to 97 across four continents. This is up from 62 the year before, and it nearly tripled in three years. This is good news for customers because it gives them a much wider range of products to consider. Also, it offers more competition that leads to better quality and lower pricing.

The total number of AM systems manufacturers in 2017 will be published in Wohlers Report 2018 in Q2 of this year. We have reason to believe that the number of manufacturers will grow once again by a high percentage. Already, our company has identified more than 20 additional companies from around the world that are offering industrial AM systems, so stay tuned.

Venture Funding for 3D Printing

January 14, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,money — Terry Wohlers @ 10:40

As a company, we pay attention to venture capital funding for 3D printing and additive manufacturing companies. We do not measure and compare the value of venture funding from one period to the next, although we have sensed an upswing in recent months. For example, Carbon announced a $200 million round of funding in December, and this is on top of the $220 million the company had previously secured.

In July, Desktop Metal said that it had raised an additional $115 million in venture funding. Since its founding in 2015, the company has attracted a total of $212 million. In November, Markforged stated that it had raised $30 million. A month earlier, it was published that Dutch 3D-printed optics company Luxexcel received EUR 4 million in venture capital, which came after an investment of EUR 8.5 million in Q2 2017.

Other types of investments are also underway. In September, it was announced that S$60 million (US$44.5 million) is going into an aerospace facility in Singapore for the development of new technologies, including AM. In December, GE Additive said it had invested $15 million into the company’s first European Customer Experience Center in Munich, Germany. In Q3 2017, Merck of Germany opened a EUR 20 million incubator in Israel that focuses on disruptive materials and innovative technologies that include AM.

Voestalpine is investing EUR 20 million to expand its AM metal powder production facilities in Austria and Sweden. This brings the Austrian company’s total investment in AM to EUR 50 million. Meanwhile, HeyGears, a Chinese manufacturer of wearable technology products, such as custom earphones, will invest $149 million in a 3D printing facility in Guangdong, China.

The 3D printing industry is being propelled to the next level, largely by the investment community. A strong flow of venture capital and other types of investment are finding their way into start-up companies, new products and services, and centers of excellence. With the stock market booming, coupled with corporate wealth generation, I do not see it slowing down any time soon.

Best Products of 2017

December 30, 2017

Filed under: entertainment,review — Terry Wohlers @ 09:13

The following are some of the best products and services I encountered over the past 12 months.

Samsung Galaxy S8 – I upgraded to this phone in July after owning two HTC Android phones. Both were very good, but the S8 is even better. I especially like Wi-Fi calling, recently branded as Calling Plus on the S8. With a wireless signal, it permits you to seamlessly make and receive calls anywhere in the world at no cost. One click turns it on and then you’re good to go. I like the phone’s performance, curved screen, water-resistance, and hot-spot feature.

HP DeskJet 3755 – For just $60, you can purchase the world’s smallest all-in-one document printer. It works especially well in small areas or if you have a second place, such as a cabin on a lake or condo in the mountains. I have not used it a lot, but when I have, it has worked flawlessly for scanning, copying, and printing.

Cambridge SoundWorks OontZ – For just $28, you can get this Bluetooth speaker. You are not going to get big sound in a large area, but it’s perfect for a relatively small space. Its design and battery life are very good.

Spotify – I’ve been using it for a few years, but decided to finally recognize it for how good it really is. Previously, I used it on an iPod that I’ve finally retired, and I’m now running it on my Samsung S8. It is free on a computer, but you’ll spend $10 monthly for using it on your phone.

Audible – It’s difficult to read a conventional book when you’re exercising, driving, or resting your eyes. With Audible, you can easily get through a good book while doing something else. The monthly subscription is $15 or you can pay as you go in the range of $15-25 per book.

Two Nights at a Kibbutz

December 17, 2017

Filed under: life,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 18:45

I returned from my eighth trip to Israel last week. The country is intensely interesting and thriving with many new infrastructure investments. Nearly everything about the country is fascinating, and I wish I had added another day or two with each visit. The Israeli people are highly educated, speak flawless English, and are up-to-date on world events and American politics. The amount of history in every corner of the country is staggering.

When visiting Israel the first time in March 1993, long-time friend Dave Tait, then with Laserform, and I were introduced to the concept of the kibbutz. A kibbutz is a type of community that originated in 1909 and initially focused on agriculture. The communal lifestyle has changed over the years and sources of income have expanded into the production of many types of products. I had always wanted to visit a kibbutz to see, up close, what life on one was like. More than 24 years later, the opportunity emerged.

Thanks to associate consultant Joseph Kowen, who lives in Zichron Ya’akov, Israel, for booking a room for me at Kibbutz Dalia, located about 37 km (23 miles) southwest of Nazareth. Upon our arrival, Joseph and I immediately caught the aroma of herds of sheep and cattle, which were located adjacent to the 800 or so residents. Dalia was formed in 1939 and has since expanded into the manufacture of water metering products, as well as wine-making. It offers visitor lodging as an additional stream of revenue.

I found my time at the kibbutz interesting. The lodging is not high-end, but my room was clean and comfortable and the wireless Internet and breakfast were excellent. Also, the employees were very friendly and helpful. Coincidentally, the father of one of them is working in Estes Park, Colorado, which is about an hour from Fort Collins. I went for walks both mornings to get a good view of the lifestyle on a kibbutz. It looked and felt somewhat similar to a quiet neighborhood in a rural village in the U.S., but without a main street, shops, restaurants, and signs with advertisements.

The Israeli kibbutz is among a lengthy list of reasons why I find the country so interesting. The country’s beaches, orchards, valleys, and deserts are striking, and its history is extraordinary. High-tech start-up companies and the economy are thriving, and many major infrastructure developments, including a light rail system, have been completed recently or are under construction. Tel Aviv is lively with trendy restaurants and nightclubs, posh hotels, and a beautiful Promenade that runs along the Mediterranean Sea. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

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