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Game Day Series

September 19, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 15:35

America Makes’ Virtual Game Day Series with Wohlers Associates concluded last week. The four events spanned four months and covered a range of key topics related to additive manufacturing and 3D printing. In all, 728 people worldwide attended the events.

Last week’s focus on the future of AM was an excellent conclusion to the series. Top managers and executives from five major industrial sectors shared their views of the future. The immense knowledge and experience among the panelists, coupled with great chemistry among them, resulted in a wealth of inspiring comments. YouTube videos of the four 90-minute panel discussions are now available.

GAME DAY 1
America Makes COVID-19 Response

GAME DAY 2
How AM Addresses Supply Chain Gaps and Distributed Manufacturing

GAME DAY 3
The Economics, Opportunities, and Challenges of Designing for AM

GAME DAY 4
The Future of Additive Manufacturing

Thanks to everyone who attended and supported the four events, including Link3D for hosting them on the Remo conferencing platform. I hope everyone learned as much as I did.

Legend Scott Crump

September 11, 2020

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

Scott is the inventor of the most popular method of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing in the world. It is called fused deposition modeling (FDM), and about nine out of 10 AM systems are based on it according to our research for Wohlers Report 2020. I first met Scott in 1990 in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. The purpose of the meeting was to learn about FDM, a process that few knew about at the time.

After 34 years, Scott spent his first day—last Friday—not working full-time for the company, transitioning from chief innovation officer to technology advisor to the board. Scott and his wife, Lisa, co-founded Stratasys in 1989. He served as CEO of the company for 25 years.

Having known Scott for 30+ years, I can say without reservation that he is one of the most approachable executives I know. His sense of humor and willingness to put himself out there is unusual in the world of business. He will do and say things that you may never see or hear from most executives, but that is what I like about Scott. I believe it is a big reason why he has been so successful and why so many people like and appreciate him.

Scott is not leaving the AM industry. He said we can expect to see him around, probably online and at in-person events when they resume. He will no doubt continue to make himself available for interviews by the media and press. To me, he is a model C-level executive that I hope others would follow. It is refreshing to hear about technology and strategy without a “sugar coating” and scripted text written by marketing groups or PR firms.

Scott has been an inspiration to many and instrumental in shaping the AM industry. Without his involvement, it would not be as vibrant in recent years. Thank you, Scott, and congratulations for what you have done.

Impact of a University Instructor

August 23, 2020

Filed under: education,life — Terry Wohlers @ 17:10

When attending the University of Nebraska at Kearney, I learned that first-year students were required to take a 100-level English composition course focused mostly on writing. If you did not receive a B or better in the course, you were required to take it again. The instructor (I do not recall her rank) and I did not get along well, which may have contributed to the C+ I received in the course. Alternatively, the score may have been due to my poor writing skills.

I had to repeat a course in a subject that I did not like, and I was not happy about it. Fortunately, I had a different instructor (also a relatively young woman whose rank I do not recall) the second time around and it turned out better than I could have possibly imagined. It was many years later when I began to appreciate what she did for me and probably many other students. I wish I could remember her name. She inspired me to work hard on the fundamentals of writing, so I practiced, listened to her suggestions, and improved.

To this day, I credit her for helping me to create an interest in writing and for understanding that it can take years of practice. It is somewhat like skiing or mountain-bike riding. The more you do it, the better you get at it and the more you appreciate the result. Like new product development, writing is an iterative process. The product improves with each iteration. My experience in the course created a strong foundation for what was ahead. At the time, I did not know that writing would become such an important part of my work and daily life. One cannot ask for more from a college instructor.

The Stars Aligned

August 9, 2020

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE,education,event,life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:26

Good timing and luck can do wonders. In November 1986, Wohlers Associates was launched. Joel Orr, PhD, an extremely influential and successful engineering consultant, author, and speaker, provided the inspiration. When attending his fascinating presentations and meeting in person, I told myself repeatedly, “I want to do what he does.”

Prior to the founding of our company, I was completing my fifth year as an instructor and research associate in the Department of Industrial Sciences at Colorado State University. A year earlier, I was lucky enough to author a CAD textbook for McGraw-Hill. The publisher asked if I would create a second edition of the book in 1986, so it was time to say good-bye to the university, with book royalties serving as a safety net.

Consulting was slow at first. I learned from Joel and others how important it is to travel, meet people, and begin to carve out a niche. I began to write and publish articles and speak at industry events. I met many good people and one thing led to another. The first two major clients were especially helpful in establishing the company and I learned so much. This work served as a foundation for what was ahead.

My wife, Diane, has been an anchor of support over the company’s 33 years. Without it, I could not have survived. Autodesk played a role in the early years because I relied on AutoCAD for the hands-on training that I conducted, content for articles and speaking, and hands-on instruction at CSU. It may not be viewed today as the most advanced design software for 3D modeling and simulation, but at the time, it was the de facto standard CAD software worldwide.

I credit many for contributing to the decision to start the company and for supporting it in its first several years. Many thanks to my wife, Joel Orr, McGraw-Hill, Autodesk, and CSU. Without these “stars” aligning in 1986, Wohlers Associates would not have emerged.

How to Become Good at Something

July 25, 2020

Filed under: entertainment,life — Terry Wohlers @ 09:52

Perhaps it goes without saying, but repeated practice and hard work can lead to high levels of achievement. I used to play tennis, but I never became good at it because I did not play enough. The same is true with golf. With any sport, musical instrument, or another interest, you need to have a passion to get to the next level. Natural ability plays into it, including what you might inherit from your parents, but determination and a willingness to work hard may play a bigger role.

I have been mountain biking for about 20 years, but until this year, I would ride trails only 2-3 times annually. The bike I rode was at the low end of the quality and cost spectrum. In May, I purchased a much better bike (Signal Peak from Fezzari) and made the decision to ride more than in the past. I have not counted, but I have probably ridden mountain trails, some technical and challenging, 12+ times so far this spring and summer. I feel like I am improving but have a long way to go. I have snow skied since I was 19, but I had never made it out more than 2-3 times a season. I was an intermediate skier and rarely made it onto an advanced run. Ten years ago, I began to average more than 25 days per season, upgraded my equipment, and started to feel better about my ability. I also began to have a lot more fun.

In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell is convincing when he discusses what it takes to become extraordinary at something. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the Beatles became incredibly successful, but not until they accumulated 10,000+ hours of experience at their craft. Becoming extraordinary takes more than hours of hard work, but without it, the odds of greatness are next to impossible, according to Gladwell. If other elements work in your favor, such as what you have between the ears, you have a chance. For most of us, it is about enjoying what you do and contributing, but it usually comes only after reaching a certain level of achievement.

Travel and the Pandemic

July 11, 2020

Filed under: future,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 11:13

In any other year, I would have taken many plane trips by now, both domestically and internationally. I like to travel, and I miss it, to a degree. A bigger part of me shudders at the thought of boarding a plane. The possible consequences of being in airports, planes, and hotels are not appealing at this time. In-person meetings—a primary reason for traveling—are at odds with what health officials are recommending.

A few weeks ago, someone said that it has never been safer to be on a plane due to the extensive cleaning by the airlines. Just yesterday, a friend made a similar comment. I respectively disagree. It is not the inside of the aircraft before boarding that is the big risk. Instead, it is what passengers bring with them onboard, mainly what they expel when breathing, talking, coughing, and sneezing. When stuck inside an aluminum tube for hours, it is impossible to entirely escape the particulates in the air.

I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee in February, and it may be my only plane trip of the year. The path we are currently on as a nation suggests that safe plane travel could be in the distant future, with 2021 being in question. I feel sorry for companies and people in the travel business. Many are working hard to make it as safe as possible. Travelers are the big and unpredictable variable. Many of them are taking every precaution, thankfully, but others are not.

AM Terminology

June 29, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 09:44

Standard terminology for additive manufacturing and 3D printing is critical when communicating. It puts everyone on the “same page” and more accurately conveys thoughts and ideas when conversing, presenting, and publishing. Ignoring terminology standards and using whichever terms you prefer can cause confusion or worse.

The first version of the ASTM F2792 Standard Terminology for Additive Manufacturing Technologies defined 26 terms and was published in 2009. At the time, I served as the chairman of the ASTM F42.91 Terminology Subcommittee, so the subject is near and dear to my heart. This work led to today’s ISO/ASTM 52900 Standard Terminology for Additive Manufacturing, which is recognized worldwide. It includes nearly five pages of terms, along with additional pages of diagrams and information.

I cringe when I hear non-standard terms when formal industry standard versions are available and were established after a tremendous amount of work by many organizations and bright people worldwide. An example is “selective laser metal (SLM),” a term that some will use instead of metal powder bed fusion (PBF), the correct phrase according to the ISO/ASTM 52900 standard. One problem with using SLM is that it is a part of a company name (SLM Solutions), which offers metal PBF systems. The incorrect use of SLM could lead to a serious blunder when negotiating a legal agreement, for example.

The following are seven key terms and definitions from the ISO/ASTM 52900 standard. They represent the major processes that most AM systems fall within.

  • Material extrusion—an additive manufacturing process in which material is selectively dispensed through a nozzle or orifice
  • Material jetting—an additive manufacturing process in which droplets of build material are selectively deposited
  • Binder jetting—an additive manufacturing process in which a liquid bonding agent is selectively deposited to join powder materials
  • Sheet lamination—an additive manufacturing process in which sheets of material are bonded to form a part
  • Vat photopolymerization—an additive manufacturing process in which liquid photopolymer in a vat is selectively cured by light-activated polymerization
  • Powder bed fusion—an additive manufacturing process in which thermal energy selectively fuses regions of a powder bed
  • Directed energy deposition—an additive manufacturing process in which focused thermal energy is used to fuse materials by melting as they are being deposited

If you are not using these and other industry standard terms, I strongly urge you to do so. It will help with your communication, demonstrate your recognition of international standards, and reduce the possibility of errors and other problems.

3D-Printed Bike Saddle

June 14, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 07:20

On June 3, 2020, Specialized announced the commercial availability of the first 3D-printed cycling saddle, the S-Works Power Saddle with Mirror Technology. A major part of the saddle is made with technology from Silicon Valley-based Carbon. The lattice-structure design is said to improve rider comfort and performance by absorbing impact and improving stability.

I received the saddle on Friday and the new design exceeded my expectations. I had read about it and saw pictures previously, but holding and studying it provided a far better appreciation for what went into the product. After shooting images of the new saddle, I mounted it to one of my new bikes from Fezzari, a relatively small but excellent consumer-direct manufacturer in Utah. Bikes from Fezzari have received many favorable reviews from the likes of Bike Magazine, Bikerumor, and Mountain Bike Action. I absolutely love my Signal Peak mountain bike and Catania road bike, both from Fezzari. I highly recommend both.

My first ride using the new saddle was short, but I found it exceptionally comfortable. I was told the saddle is designed for road bikes, but since my Catania it currently about two hours away, I tried it with the Signal Peak. It may handle the rigors of rocky trails, but I do not know, so I am checking with both Specialized and Carbon. Meanwhile, I plan to use it on one or more long road bike rides later this week in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I will try to share more after then.

With the new 198-gram (7-oz) saddle, Carbon and Specialized reduced the overall development process from a typical 18-24 to 10 months, while creating and testing more than 70 designs. Carbon’s 3D-printing technology reduced the design process from six to two months. Design iterations occurred in as little as one day. These are among the benefits of using 3D printing to develop a new product.

The new saddle is Carbon’s third production application in sporting goods, after running shoes from adidas and custom football helmets from Riddell. The S-Works Power Saddle sells for $450 and the company is currently sold out of them. In recent months, I have found that bikes and bike accessories have been difficult to get. Biking is an activity that people believe is safe, healthy, and fun, especially during a pandemic. If you’re looking for a comfortable bike saddle that is believed to improve performance, take a close look at the S-Works Power Saddle. Based on what I have read, seen, and experienced, it is a special product.

Distributed Manufacturing

May 31, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 08:08

Most mass manufacturing is done at centralized locations. Many produce millions of products annually. Envision a future where this capacity occurs in many more locations much closer to the customer. Deliveries occur faster and less expensively. Relatively small quantities of products are tailored to the needs of the geographic area. Inventories are smaller, with true just-in-time delivery closer to reality for a greater number of companies and products. Functionality, quality, and value improve.

This development is slowly and quietly underway. It is being made possible from the flexibility and responsiveness of companies running additive manufacturing systems and ancillary processes. The diffusion of this approach is still small compared to the opportunity. Even so, it is real and exciting to watch develop. Most large manufacturing sites are not breaking up into smaller ones. Instead, entirely new products and businesses, such as custom eyewear, footwear, jewelry, spare parts, and after-market products are developing. Production runs are a small fraction of what a large factory produces.

How AM Addresses Supply Chain Gaps and Distributed Manufacturing is the subject of the second in our Virtual Game Day Series brought to you by America Makes and Wohlers Associates. This 90-minute panel session is on June 18 and is free of charge. Four experts will answer questions and address important issues associated with supply chain challenges and how distributed manufacturing and other factors can help address them. I have the pleasure of moderating the session. Virtual networking opportunities will occur before and after the 12:00 Noon ET panel.

Plan to be a part of shaping the future of our supply chains and distribution manufacturing by attending this event. Your questions and participation are welcomed. I hope to see you there.

Response to Pandemic

May 16, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:27

On Monday of this week, an important event occurred. It was the first in the recently announced Virtual Game Day Series with Wohlers Associates. Monday’s virtual event, titled America Makes COVID-19 Response, attracted about 250 people. The panelists included:

  • Matthew Di Prima, PhD, Materials Scientist, FDA
  • Meghan McCarthy, PhD, Program Lead, 3D Printing Biovisualization, NIH/NIAID/OD/OSMO/OCICB
  • Beth Ripley, MD, PhD, Chair, VHA 3D Printing Advisory Committee, Veterans Affairs Health Administration, Innovation Ecosystem
  • John Wilczynski, Executive Director, America Makes
  • Moderator: Terry Wohlers, Principal Consultant and President, Wohlers Associates, Inc.

Additive manufacturing (AM) is playing an important role in the pandemic, especially where supply chains are disrupted. Thousands of AM systems are operating across the U.S., so local responses to the need for personal protection equipment (PPE) are occurring where traditional manufacturing is more involved. “We’ve seen it play a significant role in face shields and it’s filling a gap in the conventional supply chain for them,” Wilczynski said. Not all of it is for healthcare providers. Some has gone to the broader community, such as those working at grocery stores, restaurants, municipalities, and in shipping. Riply said that tapping into this manufacturing capacity is big, especially at a time when traditional manufacturers are pressed to deliver products. Distributed manufacturing models could become increasingly interesting in the future as local and regional disasters occur, Di Prima explained.

As of Monday, more than 523 PPE designs were submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) 3D Print Exchange, a repository of designs hosted by NIH. Eighteen designs have been reviewed for clinical use and 14 have been optimized for community use, McCarthy said. She went on to say the site has seen more than 200,000 page views and a lot of interaction among users. This capability is central to the response and has had an impact.

America Makes brought together the FDA, NIH, and VA and launched the initiative just eight weeks ago. It has come a long way in a short time. The group, made up of the four panelists, have talked every day since the beginning.

The initiative is helping manufacturers understand where they can help. The group is providing clarification around complex questions on how to make products that can be used safely. A lot is based on a risk-benefit analysis, especially where few alternatives are available, Riply explained. The biggest thing to come out of this response is a trusted resource, explained Wilczynski. Di Prima has found that hospitals are showing increased interest in 3D printing parts because of the pandemic.

Will this response to COVID-19 create a change in the adoption of AM in the medical industry? For years, the industry has adopted AM in a substantial way for surgical planning models, drill and cutting guides, orthopedic implants, hearing aids, and dental parts. The medical industry has already been a large adopter of AM, Di Prima clarified. Even so, the work and learning surrounding the response to the coronavirus will help both the AM and medical industries better and more quickly respond to supply chain gaps when widespread emergencies occur in the future, McCarthy stated.

Will we look at this time as a turning point in the AM industry? Wilczynski said, “Yes.” It will open the eyes to the capabilities of the technology, he said. This experience is teaching us how to mobilize quickly in response to emergencies, with people ready to do the work, McCarthy explained. This initiative could not have happened without these four organization coming together. One of the groups on its own could not have done it, she said.

Following the panel was an interesting opportunity for virtual networking, which worked exceptionally well. Up to six people could “sit down” to a theme-based table or join a virtual lounge to discuss specific topics related to the pandemic and AM. Among the labeled tables were face shields, face masks, swabs, ventilators, designers, manufacturers, health care community, medical devices, maker community, and member mobilization. The networking on these and other topics was about as close as you can get to actual in-person meetings. Link3D supported the event by sharing its experience with Remo, an online platform for conferencing, meetings, and other activities.

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