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3D-Printed Figurines

May 4, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 14:20

3D scanning and printing tools make it possible to produce color figurines of action figures, pets, our kids, and a lot more. Prior to our daughter’s wedding last July, we decided to produce a custom cake topper of her and her fiancé. Our company has worked with 3D scanning in the past, but we had not dealt with this level of detail in some time.

The following images show the 3D prints from the scan data. Those in the processing tray at the right were produced in photopolymer on a Mimaki 3DUJ-553 color 3D printing system. The others were produced in a gypsum-based material on a color binder-jetting system owned and operated by LGM.

Many contributed to the effort. An amusing summary of the work was presented in an excellent article published in the May 2019 issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine from ASME. My sincere thanks to the following people and companies for their help with this project:

Thanks also to our daughter, Heather, and son-in-law, Bayne, for going along with the idea and dressing up twice for both sets of 3D scans.

Factors Contributing to AM Growth

April 20, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 08:32

The additive manufacturing (AM) industry came within about $200 million from producing $10 billion in products and services last year. This is based on research for Wohlers Report 2019. What’s more, it grew by nearly 62% over the past two years. What’s driving this impressive growth?

Many factors, working in harmony with one another, are contributing to strong AM growth worldwide. Among them are a renewed focus on:

  • Design for additive manufacturing (DfAM)
  • Education and training
  • Post-processing and post-process automation
  • Materials diversification
  • Custom products and low-volume manufacturing
  • Partnerships and collaborations
  • Startup companies
  • Viable supply chains
  • Data, security, and interconnectivity
  • Investment in applications
  • Corporate centers of excellence

These and other factors are discussed in detail in Part 8 of Wohlers Report 2019.

U.S. Comeback in AM

April 7, 2019

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

Is the U.S. making a comeback in additive manufacturing? Some might question whether the U.S. had fallen back in its position. In the 2000s, the U.S. definitely lost ground in a number of areas to the likes of China and Germany. One area is in the production of industrial AM systems, which are those that sell for more than $5,000. Consider that 52 manufacturers—32 Chinese and 20 German—produced and sold industrial AM systems in 2018, according to our research for Wohlers Report 2019, which was published less than two weeks ago.

The number of companies producing industrial AM systems may be an interesting metric, but it is only one of several used to measure a country’s position in AM. Others, such as the adoption and use of AM, are arguably more important, but difficult to measure. Due to widespread and hard-to-trace growth in many regions of the world, data is not as forthcoming as it was 10+ years ago. Even so, the U.S. is believed to be home to more than one-third of all industrial AM systems. This compares to 10.6% in China and 8.3% in Germany, as shown in the following chart. It represents cumulative installations from 1988 through 2018.

The number of manufacturers of industrial AM systems grew by 50% to 33 last year in the U.S., which was a surprise to some. Also, we believe the U.S. is at or near the top in R&D related to AM hardware, software, applications, and services, compared to other countries. Whether one considers the number of system manufacturers, the adoption of systems, or R&D spending, the U.S. is in a solid position with competitive nations worldwide.

Publication of Wohlers Report 2019

March 26, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 17:16

Note: Ray Huff of Wohlers Associates co-authored the following.

The first months of the year are always an exciting time of discovery at our company. Gathering so much detailed information and data from around the world is laborious but rewarding. We have the deepest appreciation and respect for our core team of analysts, consultants, and writers spanning five continents. Members of the team have worked through blizzards, intercontinental moves, family emergencies, and even daily power loss due to load shedding policies in South Africa.

Readers can now reap the fruits of our labor. Wohlers Report 2019 was released today to those wanting to gain a special view of additive manufacturing and 3D printing worldwide. We feel this report has been more carefully and thoroughly researched and written than any other. Commentary from experts in every corner of the planet shared the cream of their findings from the past 12 months so that others can put their fingers on the pulse of the AM industry.

Snow in the Rockies

March 9, 2019

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:28

The snow has been very good this winter in the high country. Copper Mountain, our favorite ski resort, has received nearly 7 meters (23 feet) of snow this season. In the past three days, alone, it has received 0.9 meters (35 inches). The snowfall in many parts of the Colorado Rockies is well above average.

With so much snow, the threat of avalanches is high. Several occurred last weekend, and this one between Frisco, Colorado and Copper Mountain was caught on video. It looked terrifying. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Today, we were first to ski one of the back bowls at Copper. It had been closed for three days due to all the snow, so it was fun to create first tracks in nearly a meter of snow. I never thought I’d complain about too much snow, but it was work to ski in such deep powder.

If you’re in the high country, have fun and be careful.

AM Adoption in Aerospace

February 23, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 17:18

At an impressive pace, companies in the aerospace industry are building in-house capacity and expanding the number of certified suppliers in additive manufacturing. The Federal Aviation Administration and others have indicated to me that a half dozen or more metal AM parts have been certified for flight. In the 2014 to 2016 time frame, I saw more than 30 new designs for metal AM at Airbus and its subsidiary Premium AEROTEC. It is believed that hundreds of different polymer AM parts (i.e., part numbers) are flying on aircraft around the world. Boeing, alone, had more than 60,000 parts flying on a minimum of 16 different military and commercial aircraft in June 2018.

The following bracket design, created by MBFZ Toolcraft GmbH for Airbus, was produced in titanium. The 14 parts in the original design were consolidated into two and weight was reduced by about half. Go to this page for a much larger version of the bracket. Scroll down to near the bottom to see it.

One aerospace company that asked not to be named claimed it would be flying 25 different AM designs by the end of 2018. It expected to have an astounding 300 new designs certified for AM by the end of this year. It is believed that most are for metal AM. When considering that thousands of aerospace companies are in operation around the world, the potential for AM parts in this industrial segment is significant. As Michael Gorelik of the FAA stated at the America Makes MMX in Youngstown, Ohio in October 2018, “The transition to safety-critical AM parts will occur sooner than initially expected.”

New Website

February 9, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,Internet,life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:05

I am happy to announce the launch of our updated website. It has been some time since we introduced the last one, so we are excited to roll it out. We hope you like the organization and presentation of the content, as well as the overall user experience.

As you browse the site, either on your desktop or mobile device, let us know what you think. If you see something that is not quite right, I’d like to hear about it. If you like it, let us know. Any feedback from you is good.

Successful Company Founders

January 27, 2019

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 07:48

I thoroughly enjoy listening to NPR’s “How I Built This” series of podcasts. I wrote about them here nearly 15 months ago. Each one consists of an interview with a successful founder of a company. After listening to more than 50 of them, I have drawn a few conclusions about what it takes to successfully launch and grow a company.

A good idea: It often starts with a “half-baked” concept. I learned that it does not necessarily need to be a brilliant idea. In fact, the original ideas behind most of the companies were questionable at the time. An example is Perry Chen, principal founder of Kickstarter. It took him eight years to refine the concept of crowdfunding.

Another example is Jake Burton of Burton Snowboards. He founded the company in 1977, but it took him and others years to develop the snowboard and make it commercially viable. Without the following attributes, a good or great idea will go nowhere.

Passion: This is something that Chen, Burton, Richard Branson, and countless other successful entrepreneurs have. Most have a great deal of it. Without passion, a company founder has little chance of commercializing an idea.

Risk-taking: This means courage and grit. Some might view it as an adventure, which can really get their blood flowing. Those who succeed in starting a company are willing to take calculated risks.

Hard work: Perhaps this goes without saying, but do not underestimate the number of hours, including evenings and weekends, that company founders spend. It’s often at a time when they are raising a family, making it even more challenging.

Determination: Founders of companies face a seemingly endless number of obstacles and problems, including flat-out rejection. Yet, they get up in the morning and work tirelessly to overcome them. They are absolutely determined to move forward, no matter what gets in their way.

Luck: Some would argue that you create your own luck. While this may be true, a little luck, such as accidentally meeting a person that becomes your co-founder or partner, helps a great deal. Putting yourself in a position to create luck is helpful.

Having an idea or two, along with passion, a willingness to take risks, a great work ethic, and determination does not guarantee success. Without these attributes, along with a bit of luck, a person has little chance of launching and growing a winning company.

Note also that much of this applies to entrepreneurs working within another organization. Launching a new product or business in these companies is not entirely different from starting a company.

Additive Manufacturing in 2019

January 13, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 14:23

In recent months and years, the additive manufacturing and 3D printing industry has been anything but dull, with stirring news nearly every week. Last week, for example, footwear product company Dr. Scholl’s announced a partnership with Wiivv to produce custom insoles by AM. I own a pair of the Wiivv-branded custom insoles (see the left image in the following) and wrote about them here.

The next 12 months will offer a wide range of interesting, even exciting, developments in AM. We will see companies of all types bridge the chasm from stand-alone AM systems to developing end-to-end solutions for final part production. A few companies have made a lot of progress, but most others are in the early phase. One challenge is to organize many systems at multiple sites. This means managing capacity, sending the right jobs to the correct facilities, and tracking progress. It’s one thing to do it for prototypes, but it is dramatically more difficult to conform to manufacturing quality standards and procedures.

Methods of post-processing will further develop this year. Post-processing involves support material removal, clearing access material from holes and cavities, surface finishing, coloring, coating, texturing, and inspection. Metal parts may also require stress relief, hot isostatic pressing, CNC machining, additional heat treatment, and polishing. Automating some or most of these steps will contribute greatly toward justifying the cost of using AM for production volumes. Post-processing is an area in which each company is developing what it believes to be distinct know-how and IP—and keeping it to themselves—yet much of the work is similar from one company to the next.

Materialise founder and CEO Fried Vancraen said recently that 2019 will be a year of incremental steps and a continuation of a slow revolution. He also stated that applications, not technology, will drive the AM industry in the form of investment. I could not agree more with his views. The year may not bring anything that is completely game-changing. Yet, the collective effort of thousands of organizations worldwide will help to bring AM closer to maturity for production applications, such as the custom insoles from Dr. Scholl’s and Wiivv.

Favorite Products of 2018

December 29, 2018

Filed under: life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 19:09

Nearly every year at this time, I look back at the products I purchased and like the most. The following is a summary.

Data projector ($350): Buying a data projector is not as easy as one would expect. The first one we purchased was said to have 2,500 lumens, but it was anything but bright. We returned it in favor of a ViewSonic projector with 3,600 lumens. It’s a great product, especially for the relatively low price.

Projector screen ($97): This 16:9, 254-cm (100-inch) screen is exceptional. It’s easy to transport, stand up, and take down. It comes with a carrying case that makes it even better.

Travel brief ($379): This is my second ballistic nylon laptop brief from Tumi. My first one is still like new and our son is now using it.

Stackable wine rack ($32): We liked the first one so much, we bought two more. Each bamboo rack stores 18 bottles.

Snow skis ($748): The Soul 7 HD skis from Rossignol are superb. They are not inexpensive, but they’re worth every penny.

Ear protection ($20): If you attend concerts or other events where sound can be excessive, consider this ear protection filter product from Westone. My wife and I each got a pair for the recent Eagles, Zac Brown, and Doobie Brothers concert.

Small USB fan ($14): Whether you’re working or relaxing in an area that’s a bit warm, consider this little gem from Opolar. The five-inch, USB-powered fan is well designed, offers two speeds, and is quiet.

 

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