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Wohlers Audio Series

June 29, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,future — Terry Wohlers @ 12:58

By Noah Mostow

The additive manufacturing industry is evolving rapidly. To continue to bring insight throughout the year, Wohlers Associates has launched the Wohlers Audio Series. As part of it, we are talking to experts from across the AM industry to discuss the history of the industry, creative ways of applying the technology, and perspectives on where it is headed. We have an exciting lineup of guests who will provide an exclusive look into the 3D printing industry.

The first episode is a conversation between Terry Wohlers and me. We touch on the origin of the Wohlers Report and views on what the future may look like. We are fortunate to talk with people from around the world on new developments and trends in AM. Terry is part of a unique group of experts who have been following this industry since its inception.

                        

Terry and I frequently talk and exchange emails about new and exciting applications. Many of them get posted on this blog or LinkedIn. I am excited to share this conversation because I think it is critical to understand the past and look to the future of our industry. You can find the first episode at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and here. Please share your feedback and let us know if you have ideas for a future episode.

Newest ODD Guitar

May 29, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 08:01

By Noah Mostow and Terry Wohlers

Olaf Diegel, an associate consultant at Wohlers Associates, is a world-renowned designer of one-of-a-kind products, including musical instruments. His Beatlemania guitar was covered in a previous blog post. Other instruments he has created can be found at the ODD website. Olaf has used additive manufacturing (AM) to produce these impressive products, but it has been difficult to create full-color parts by AM in the past. Fortunately, relatively new machine technology has become available that overcomes this limitation.

Recently, Olaf worked with Mimaki to create the 3D-printed body of his Scarab ST guitar. Mimaki is the manufacturer of a system that prints photopolymer parts in up to 10 million colors using a material jetting process. In a previous version, the body of the guitar was manufactured using a powder bed fusion (PBF) system in white polyamide. Color was added after the guitar body was printed, but it required hours of sanding, masking, and detailed artistry using air or paint brushes. The newest version of the guitar, shown in the following image, was 3D-printed in full color, without the need to manually add color. The neck, frets, pickup, bridge, and other parts are standard and were not 3D printed.

                                

The time to 3D print the guitar’s body was 31 hours. Water-soluble support material was removed in a “bath” in about 12 hours. The Mimaki process produced a wood-like appearance, along with transparent wings for the bugs inside the body. Creating these complex patterns and structures by hand, or with conventional manufacturing, would have been time-consuming at best. To learn more about the process of creating this guitar and some history from Olaf, watch Lucas Crossley’s interview with Olaf and Josh Hope. Lusas and Josh are with Mimaki.

3D-Printed Meat

May 2, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 09:02

By Noah Mostow and Terry Wohlers

Nearly every week, we see a new headline on 3D-printed meat. More than a handful of companies are working on it, but none look like the real thing. If we step back from the visual appearance of these first prototypes, it could be an excellent application of additive manufacturing. Full disclosure: Only occasionally do I eat meat. I prefer alternative forms of protein for many of reasons, including taste and ease of cooking.

It is uncertain whether plant-based meats will develop to become exactly like beef, pork, lamb, or chicken, but it is likely to get close. 3D-printed meat alternatives, such as Beyond Meat and Redefine Meat, are not meat as we know it. If you have tried an Impossible burger and concluded it does not taste like meat, you are right because it is not. Most meat substitutes include a combination of water, legume proteins, oil, and seasoning.

                                            

Meat alternatives is a new category of “meat” that are safer to cook and will someday be less expensive. To many of us, they also taste great. 3D printing will take it from burgers and sausages to something that looks and cooks like a prime cut of beef and maybe one day, more complex structures, such as chicken wings. With 3D printing, it may be possible to someday produce a steak that offers a better experience, compared to an actual steak.

If you have never tried a meat alternative, I urge you to give it a try, while considering how the ingredients are put together. 3D printing will eventually revolutionize meat production by optimizing the most ideal marble and the perfect fall-off-the-bone ribs.

Beyond these reasons to get excited about 3D-printed meat, it will have a major impact on reducing carbon emissions from animal-based proteins and feedlots. These alternative products could go a significant distance in feeding the world’s population.

Custom Rings

April 16, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 15:47

I recently discovered The Future of Jewelry (TFOJ), a company that produces custom jewelry. It was founded by sisters Casey and Janine Melvin. Both left law school to start the company in 2017 and serve as co-CEOs. TFOJ’s initial focus has been on custom rings. I had the opportunity to test-drive the company’s customization platform recently and designed a ring with our company logo on it. The experience was good, and the design turned out nicely, as shown in the following images.

                           

The steps involve choosing the style of ring and selecting and designing parts of it. I chose the Oxford style from six options. I then picked silver for the material and entered my ring size of 19.5 mm. After uploading our company logo, I experienced some difficulty in getting it to produce correctly on the face of the ring. It was because our logo has a 3D effect and shading, so the problem was not with the TFOJ platform. I adjusted the logo to omit these effects and it created perfectly. The platform supports the importing of JPG, PNG, and BMP, as well as STL, OBJ, and GLTF, which was a nice surprise.

The TFOJ workflow involves a high-resolution 3D printer to produce patterns for the investment casting process. The company outsources precious metal casting work to a network of companies in the U.S. I have not yet received the custom ring because I ordered it just days ago. My experience with the platform was so good that I decided to create and order a second one with a different logo. I am looking forward to receiving both. Thanks to Casey and Janine for developing such an interesting and easy-to-use platform for producing custom jewelry.

Another Supply Chain Collapse

April 3, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 13:56

By Noah Mostow and Terry Wohlers

The five-day block of the Suez Canal underscores the instability of our global supply chains. Nearly everything around us requires global connections. The canal is a critical route for products from Asia to Europe and the east coast of the U.S. With it closed, millions of consumer goods were blocked. The alternative is to transport them around the southern tip of Africa, which is a dramatically further. Fortunately, as you may know, the ship was freed and the passage cleared, but it could have been delayed much longer.

Like the pandemic, the blocked canal exposed a problem with our supply chains. Additive manufacturing (AM) is not a perfect solution for all types of parts, but it provides a quick and agile manufacturing process. Both have been discussed in length, so we want to share an idea of what the future might look like.

                                              

The next time a disaster disrupts a supply chain, we can be prepared, and physical stockpiles of replacement parts may not be the answer. Instead of parts sitting on shelves and racks, the inventory is digital, coupled with machine capacity and feedstock. The designs are fully tested for 3D printing, a proactive step for any manufacturing process. The next disaster may be worse, so the future should not rely solely on smooth supply chains. We can start to prepare for this reality today.

If passed by U.S. Congress, proposed bipartisan legislation would invest $1 billion to manage a partnership involving the federal government, private industry, and state and local governments focused on the manufacture of critical products. The bill would establish an Office of Supply Chain Preparedness within the Department of Commerce. It has the support of America Makes, the nation’s leading and collaborative partner in additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology research, discovery, creation, and innovation.

How Wohlers Report 2021 was Produced

March 21, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 16:38

By Noah Mostow

Helping to develop Wohlers Report 2021 was an unbelievable experience. The report was published last week. I learned that it takes an army of bright and dedicated individuals. This year, 88 co-authors and contributors from 34 countries were a part of it. My primary role was to research and write new sections on a wide range of subjects related to additive manufacturing and 3D printing. Also, I edited content provided by the contributors, and collected and processed data from more than 130 companies.

                                             

Organizations from around the world generously responded to our requests for information. They supplied us with the some of the most detailed information available in the AM industry. Much of what was supplied is sensitive, making the job even more challenging. As a part of the team, I saw data as it arrived. This work eventually led to our conclusion that the AM industry grew by 7.5% in 2020. From the stories told by those who contributed to Wohlers Report 2021, the past 13 months have been challenging. Even so, many companies see a big potential for 2021 and 2022.

I hope you enjoy the new applications and other developments from across the industry in the new report. My personal favorite is 3D-printed food. Perhaps, I will write blog post on it at another time. The secret to this report, in my view, is the dedication, excitement, and attention to detail from Terry Wohlers. Over the past few months, he would arrive at work early—often by 4:00 am—to help produce this industry-leading report. Many refer to it as the “bible” of 3D printing. For more information about Wohlers Report 2021, click here.

3D-Printed Housing

February 27, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 12:03

The idea of using 3D printing for construction applications has merit in special circumstances. If the value it adds exceeds the costs of using the technology, it may make sense. An example is the design and manufacturing of complex architectural features that are attached to a building produced using conventional methods of construction. If these features cost more to construct using “old-school” methods, 3D printing becomes a candidate.

Producing complex shapes and features is what sets 3D printing apart, whether it is a small mechanical part or one that is meters in size. Using the technology to produce basic, orthogonal shapes does not make much sense because they can be produced faster and less expensively with conventional methods of construction. These methods may be decades old and often require manual labor, but they are affordable and accepted by city and state regulatory groups and agencies.

                                             

This article, titled “Builder says houses made with 3-D printing will cut construction costs,” was published recently. An agent with Zillow said, “The cost of construction is 50% cheaper than the cost of comparable newly-constructed homes in Riverhead, New York, and 10 times faster.” With all due respect, I strongly disagree and would like to see the real numbers behind this project. The large concrete printer was used to produce the walls only.

Andrew Riddle, owner of Hanover Custom Builders in northern Colorado, said unfinished interior and exterior walls are in the range of 4.7% of the total cost of an average house. Even if you saved 50% on them, it would not “move the needle” much on the total project. Consider also how much more difficult it would be to run electrical, plumbing, and heating/cooling ducts and vents through these 3D-printed concrete walls. Installing doors, windows, trim, and wall hangings would also be more difficult. In the end, the total cost of the house may be more expensive, and modifications and remodels could cost far more.

Using AM for Design and Production

February 8, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:04

By Noah Mostow

The additive manufacturing industry has progressed well beyond prototyping only. Companies using it for both product development and series production are finding interesting benefits. The same process and material can be used for concept modeling, prototyping, testing, and final production. This is not the case when using AM for product development and a conventional manufacturing process for series production.

When designing a product that will go into production using the same AM process and material, one can “prototype” not only the design, but also the production process. This uncovers possible challenges that develop before production begins. Design iterations, coupled with new prototypes, can help improve the best methods of post-processing and to better understand the start-to-finish workflow.

                                      

Using the same process and material, from concept to manufacturing, can dramatically shorten the time it takes to get a new product to market. Also, it can create opportunities for entirely new types of products that result in new revenue streams. A growing number of manufacturers are exploring what is possible as they witness what others are doing.

TIPE 3D Printing 2021

January 11, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 19:03

The TIPE 3D Printing event is less than 2.5 weeks away. (TIPE stands for technology, industry, people, and economics.) The organizer of the January 27-28 virtual conference is Women in 3D Printing. It features an all-female line-up of more than 120 speakers and panelists globally, which I find interesting and is a first. Women in 3D Printing has developed into an organization of more than 75 chapters in 28 countries, representing one of the largest additive manufacturing communities anywhere.

                              

Sara Safari is keynote speaker of the event. She is an author, professor, engineer, and advocate for women empowerment. Sara is clearly a high achiever in more than one way. She has climbed the seven highest peaks on every continent, including Mount   Everest, which I find remarkable. Sara grew up in Iran with few personal freedoms or rights under the law, so I am sure her perspective on an array of subjects will grip one’s attention.

Women in 3D Printing and TIPE serve as inspiration for females of all ages, but especially for those who are young. Seeing what this organization is accomplishing, coupled with the TIPE event, will surely motivate people to learn more about 3D printing and the career opportunities this vibrant industry offers.

Register now for the event. I look forward to seeing you there!

Where is My 3D-Printed Gear?

December 13, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:47

Note: Noah J. Mostow, research associate at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

With snow falling outside, I am often looking at my snowboarding equipment. It is all traditionally manufactured, along with all my outdoor gear. Where are the 3D-printed products?

It is easy to find 3D printers close to the engineers working at manufacturing companies that produce outdoor gear. For decades, many have used additive manufacturing to support modeling, prototyping, design validation, and testing. However, it is difficult to find more than a handful of products from these companies being manufactured by 3D printing.

Most outdoor gear is produced by conventional manufacturing due to the economies of scale. When I worked at Burton, 3D-printed bindings, goggles, and helmets were tested and validated in real-world settings. However, once a design was finished, tooling was made and the parts were manufactured with traditional methods such as injection molding.

The following image shows a concept snowboard binding that was designed with the help of AI and 3D printed on an HP Jet Fusion machine. It provides an opportunity to apply methods of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) to create intricate designs with less material. However, it may be some time before this binding is at your local ski shop due to the higher costs associated with 3D printing.

                                           

To make 3D-printed parts commercially viable, companies will need to make some fundamental changes. Methods of DfAM are key to improving designs that take advantage of 3D printing’s strengths. Topology optimization was likely used in the pictured binding, which is good. However, I believe few parts were consolidated digitally and printed as one. This can dramatically reduce cost.

The outdoor industry could gain from personalizing products to fit and perform better for a user. Customers will pay a premium for this. Most challenges related to using AM for final part production can and will be solved in time. However, not all parts and products are a good fit for AM. Even so, to survive and thrive, countless manufacturers worldwide will develop the expertise and capacity needed to produce new types of products that are commercially appealing and perform better due to the benefits of AM.

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