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AM in the U.S. Military

October 9, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 05:37

I had the great privilege of spending most of last Thursday at the Pentagon, and what I learned was encouraging. The U.S. Department of Defense has advanced its use of additive manufacturing beyond what I had anticipated. I gained a better understanding of what the military is doing and where it hopes to take AM in the future. More than anything, it made me proud to be an American because these people are incredibly bright and passionate about AM.

I met with 25 people from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and, Navy, as well as various groups within them. They fully understand the consequences of not being prepared and responsive to our adversaries. Suppose one of them took out our supply of spare parts for equipment, vehicles, and weapons. The nation would be crippled and entirely vulnerable to the worst possible scenario. Envision instead a manufacturing capacity so diverse and distributed that it would be impossible to find the thousands of organizations, some very small, that are a part of it. As odd as it may seem, an obscure bait shop that produces custom fishing gear could operate 3D printers and produce parts for DoD.

Those at the Pentagon understand the challenges, most of which revolve around tradition, culture, and people. Humans are creatures of habit and change does not come easily. The procurement process, alone, can be daunting, especially for the smallest defense contractors. Joe’s Bait Shop can process credit cards, but it may not have the personnel or tolerance to process the paperwork required by most DoD-related contracts. The people at the Pentagon are working to address this problem.

Even with the issues that the military face in more fully adopting AM technology, I am optimistic. Individuals, such as Captain Matthew Friedell of the Marine Corps (pictured with me in the following image at the Pentagon), are sharp and among our nation’s best. After hours at the Pentagon, I can say without reservation that we are in very good hands. They do not have all of the answers, but they’ve identified most of the problems. Thank God we have men and women like them, and I sincerely thank them for what they do to keep our nation safe and secure.

Footwear from Wiivv

September 9, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 08:38

The idea of 3D-printed footwear is appealing. The technology makes it possible to affordably print custom parts that make up the product. Recent history shows that customers are willing to pay a premium for products that have been designed specifically for them. I have many personalized, 3D-printed products, and they are of more value to me than other products. What’s more, I will never get rid of any of them, which is something I cannot say about most other products.

Recently, I received personalized insoles and sandals from Wiivv, a young company that has already shipped more than 50,000 pairs of custom products. The insoles, shown in the following (left), includes a custom, gray part made in nylon by powder bed fusion. I have dedicated them to my dress shoes that I wear at formal events. In fact, I wore them Friday night at a wedding and walked and stood on them for hours without sitting and my feet felt good the entire evening.

For about three weeks, I have been wearing sandals from Wiivv in the office. I have a sit-stand workstation and stand about 70-80% of each day. The sandals took 2–3 days to break in, especially in the area of the arch. In the middle and right images, notice the gray, custom 3D-printed part, along with the arch pocket into which the part is inserted. Both arches felt overly firm in the beginning, but are now comfortable. The straps lock into the sole and can be adjusted for fit and comfort.

When ordering insoles or sandals from Wiivv, a special phone app is used that steps you through the process. It was easy and took no longer than about 15 minutes total. The app prompts you to stand against a wall on a white, 8.5 x 11-inch sheet of paper, and asks you to shoot images from various angles. The company could not have made the measuring and ordering process much easier.

The look and feel of the materials and workmanship of the Wiivv products are of high quality. It’s too soon to know how long they will last, but I have no reason to believe they will not hold up for years. The price of custom, full-length insoles is $99, while custom sandals are $129, both of which are reasonable, in my view. I recommend them highly.

3D-Printed Food

August 26, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,life — Terry Wohlers @ 10:58

The idea of 3D-printed food came in or around 2011 when Hod Lipson and his team at Cornell University produced some crude but intriguing examples. The team showed that it was possible to use a syringe-based material extrusion-based 3D printer to deposit cheese, peanut butter, chocolate, and other types of foods. The objects clearly demonstrated the concept.

In 2014, 3D Systems introduced its ChefJet 3D printer for making candy and other food items. Some time later, the machine was quietly removed from the market after the company found that few people wanted it.

On Friday, I attended the First International Symposium on Precision Nutrition and Food 3D Printing Science and Technology in Beijing, China. The event was the first of its type. Prof. Jack Zhou of Drexel University co-organized it with Hong Zhang of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, which is China’s version of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I wanted to attend the event to better understand where the technology and its application might go in the future. Few in attendance had combined expertise in nutrition, food, and 3D printing technology. The disciplines are currently pretty far apart, but they are slowly coming together, as illustrated in the following.

Potential market opportunities are specialty food products such as custom chocolates and candies for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and special corporate events. At the conference, the following edible items were each printed in a few minutes each. The Wohlers Associates logo (left) was printed using a mixture of white beans, starch, sugar, and water. The decorative pancake at the right tasted surprisingly good.

The 3D printing of food may be a solution looking for a problem. Applying nutrition to the concept may have merit. Making soft foods for babies and the elderly is a potential area of development, although I am not convinced that 3D printing offers an advantage. Maybe. At the conference, it was decided to form an international association on the subject. After dinner on Friday, many of the organizers and attendees met to initiate the new organization. We will see if it can help take the 3D printing of food to a new level.

3D-Printed Guns

August 11, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,legal — Terry Wohlers @ 05:29

With the “green light” looming for the 3D printing of guns on July 31, I was contacted by CNN, ABC7 News (San Francisco), and others. In two days, I conducted the following interviews, as well as two others:

I’m hopeful the interviews will help to educate our nation’s policy makers and the less-informed public on the realities of 3D-printed guns. Making it legal is not a good idea on a number of levels. First and foremost, it’s just plain dangerous. In 2013, soon after the idea of plastic 3D-printed guns was introduced, the Australian police 3D-printed two of them. When fired, both exploded. Watch the video.

Second, the 3D printing of guns sidesteps background checks and a registration process, making it impossible to track the firearms and their owners. And third, it is possible to 3D print the parts of a gun and then assemble them on the other side of security, whether it’s at a government office, sports arena, airport, or somewhere else. The individual plastic pieces would not resemble the parts of gun and may not be detected when being scanned.

In the afternoon of July 31, a Seattle judge granted a temporary restraining order to block the release of the files of guns on the Internet. A day earlier, eight states and the District of Columbia sued to block the publication of the files. The bottom line: the 3D printing of guns is a bad idea.

Growth of AM Service Providers

July 29, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 17:54

Note: The following was excerpted from Wohlers Report 2018.

Independent service providers worldwide generated an estimated $2.955 billion from the sale of parts produced by additive manufacturing systems in 2017. This is up 36% from the $2.173 billion reported for 2016.

The previous graph shows service provider revenue estimates (in millions of dollars) for the past 24 years. The bars represent only primary revenues, which are from parts produced on AM equipment. They do not include revenues from secondary processes, such as tooling, parts made from this tooling, castings, or CNC-machined parts. Also, they exclude design, engineering, CAD/CAM/CAE, and all other services.

Details on Wohlers Report 2018 are available here.

Recent AM Material Sales Growth

July 15, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 08:59

Note: The following was excerpted from Wohlers Report 2018.

In 2017, an estimated $1.13 billion was spent on materials for all additive manufacturing (AM) systems worldwide, including both industrial systems and desktop 3D printers. This represents an increase of 25.5% over the $903.0 million spent in 2016. The market segment grew 17.5% in 2016 and 20.0% in 2015. These estimates include sales of liquid photopolymers, powders, pellets, filaments, wires, sheet materials, and all other material types used for AM.

The previous graph provides a 17-year history of material sales for AM systems worldwide. The numbers are in millions of dollars.

Details on Wohlers Report 2018 are available here.

Inside 3D Printing – Seoul

July 2, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,event,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 17:00

I attended last week’s fourth annual Inside 3D Printing event near Seoul, South Korea. It has been interesting to watch the even grow over the past four years. A total of 10,532 people from 28 countries attended. The event, organized by Rising Media and KINTEX, included three days of exhibition with 80+ companies and a two-day conference with 42 speakers and panelists. Many of the presentations were excellent.

Alex Lalumiere, a director at HP in Singapore, gave one of six keynote presentations. He focused mainly on how HP, as a manufacturing company, is using Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) to produce parts that save time and money. The presentation, focused on the following drill extraction shoe, was one of most interesting and compelling that I’ve heard from HP. It is used to aid in the manufacture of an HP inkjet printhead.

The image at the far left shows aluminum parts that are conventionally manufactured and assembled to produce what you see in the middle. The optimized design, shown at the right, consolidates eight parts into one and was 3D printed by MJF in PA12. This improved design reduced weight from 575 grams (1.27 lbs) to 52 grams (0.11 lb), a savings of 91%. The cost to produce the drill extraction shoe was reduced from $450 to $18, a savings of 96%, according to HP.

The previous example is what’s possible with methods of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). Wohlers Associates is conducting a three-day, hands-on DfAM course in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Learn more about the August 8-10, 2018 course and register here so that you can Design at Elevation with us and others. Contact Ray Huff at rh@wohlerassociates.com with questions.

The Impact of DfAM

June 16, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 11:22

Note: Associate consultant and DfAM expert Olaf Diegel authored the following.

Over the past three decades, the bulk of research in additive manufacturing has largely focused on AM processes and materials. In the last three years, organizations have begun to appreciate the importance of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). Funding agencies are increasingly supporting DfAM, and companies are asking for courses on the subject. Over the past 12 months, I have given more than 20 DfAM courses for companies wanting to deepen their knowledge and understanding.

When a part is designed for conventional manufacturing, it is usually more expensive to produce by AM in typical production quantities. This is largely because AM processes are relatively slow compared to conventional methods of manufacturing. However, when a part is redesigned for AM, costs can be competitive or even lower, depending on quantities. Research for Wohlers Report 2018 revealed that 46% of the cost of a metal part is tied to pre- and post-processing. A large part of this cost often involves the production and removal of the support structures, also referred to as anchors. A well-designed part can greatly reduce the need for this support material, which dramatically reduces cost.

Good methods of DfAM can add value to products by making them substantially lighter in weight and enhancing performance using topology optimization, generative design, and lattice structures. Conventionally manufactured products made up of many simple parts can be redesigned to consolidate the assembly into a single part. This reduces part numbers, inventory, and assembly costs. Using methods of mass-customization, products can conform to the individual needs of customers without substantially increasing cost. Knowing how and when to use these techniques require designers and engineers to learn how to design for AM.

One of the biggest barriers to the widespread adoption of AM is the lack of knowledge and skills among the design and engineering workforce. Only through DfAM education, training, and best practices will we see significant progress toward the use of AM for production applications. Some organizations are beginning to understand its importance, but a vast amount of work is ahead.

Editor’s note: Wohlers Associates is conducting a three-day course on DfAM in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, with Olaf Diegel as lead instructor. Click here to learn more.

Design for AM in Montreal

May 20, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education — Terry Wohlers @ 13:28

Design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) is a key to unlocking the power of AM. Neglecting to understand its importance may present a problem for companies hoping to tap into the technology’s potential. It is quite possibly the most challenging piece of the AM puzzle and requires far more than what meets the eye.

To justify the use of AM for production applications, a well-advised company will perform an analysis on the cost to manufacture the design, both conventionally and by AM. Doing so can determine the “breakeven” point of AM versus a conventional method of manufacturing. The effort seeks to determine the volume at which it costs the same to make the part using either method. If you are producing parts up to the breakeven point, AM may be a candidate for production. The higher the breakeven point, the more attractive AM usually becomes.

If a design is not modified for AM, the breakeven point may be too low, meaning that AM is probably not suitable. If a part or assembly is redesigned to take advantage of AM, the breakeven point may be higher, and in some cases, dramatically higher. Consider, for example, the possible economic impact of consolidating many individual parts into one, as shown in the following relatively simple example.

DfAM is the subject of a hands-on course being offered June 12-14, 2018 in Montreal, Canada. Up to 20 practicing professionals will gather to learn the latest tools and methods of part consolidation, topology optimization, lattice structures, and biomimicry. The course will uncover important design rules and guidelines (e.g., thinnest walls and smallest holes possible, depending on the process and material), part orientation, and support material. These elements of design can impact build time, cost, and trial ‘n error. They can result in a reduction in the number of suppliers, manufacturing processes, tooling, inventory, assembly, labor, maintenance, and certification paperwork. Good DfAM tools and methods result in parts that use less material and are lighter in weight, with scrap reduced to a minimum.

Wohlers Associates and the Québec Industrial Research Centre (CRIQ) have partnered to offer this important DfAM course. If you want to benefit from what AM has to offer for production applications, contact Martin Lavoie at dfammtl2018@gmail.com to register for the course.

Small Batch Production at Avid

May 8, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 10:35

Note: Ray Huff, intern at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

Two weeks ago, I visited Avid Product Development, a design, prototyping, and small batch manufacturing firm in Loveland, Colorado. In recent years, Avid has strategically invested in additive manufacturing equipment to scale part production for its customers. Among these technologies are material extrusion machines from Stratasys, photopolymer-based printers from Formlabs, and Multi Jet Fusion machines from HP.

The number of end-use parts being manufactured by Avid makes the company stand out. Doug Collins, co-owner of Avid, commented that the addition of the HP equipment has greatly increased the company’s capacity for building production parts. Recently, Avid received an order for 100 parts that were designed for injection molding. CNC machining the parts was an option, but it would have taken too much time, been very expensive, and wasted a lot of material. Instead, they were 3D printed overnight, dyed black, and shipped the next day. Nesting software from Materialise was used to reduce print time, and fast cooling on the HP post-processing station helped to speed things along. With some added sweat and hustle, the team had the parts out the door as promised.

Doug was eager to show us parts made for Vestas, a leading manufacturer of large wind turbines for power generation. Vestas ordered a batch of polymer brackets that are permanently attached to the wind turbine blades to aid in the alignment and assembly of the parts. Wanting to test the designs before production, Vestas sent multiple iterations for Avid to build. Once the designs were finalized, orders were placed for hundreds of parts to bridge the gap of time while injection-mold tooling was being produced.

Weeks before the visit, a friend had sent me a threaded leveling foot for her new kitchen stove. The feet were designed for low countertops, and were 50 mm (2 inches) too short for the stove to be level with her countertop. I redesigned the foot, sent the model to Avid, picked up the four parts when I visited, and mailed them to my friend in California. The parts fit perfectly. The project showed me that in a matter of days, parts can be designed for a new application, produced, and tested across multiple cities and teams. In future cases like this one, we could further iterate based on feedback, if necessary, and then produce a small production batch of the part. We could even market the product and manufacture it on demand, without a need to keep a single physical part in stock.

Avid and other companies are making workflows like this possible for single product designers and companies of all sizes. Many organizations have been doing this for 20+ years, but easier access to good tools and machines, combined with a decline in cost, is what makes it different today. 3D printing is opening the door to countless new business opportunities and startup companies that were previously unthinkable.

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