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Autodesk

October 3, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 05:47

In 1983, I called Autodesk and the vice president of marketing and sales answered the phone. I was employed by Colorado State University at the time. I requested free use of AutoCAD version 1.3 in a 500-level CAD course I was planning to conduct later that year. He said, “Yes” and provided the software. It turned out to be what we believe was the first university credit course on the subject worldwide.

Autodesk was launched a year earlier, so the company was small. Even so, it was vibrant, progressive, and gaining attention and traction. The IBM PC was introduced in 1981, so the software and hardware combination offered a new platform to millions that could not otherwise afford or justify CAD. I recall people saying that AutoCAD offered 60% of the capabilities of “conventional” CAD at one-tenth the price.

In 1984, I had the privilege of meeting Autodesk founder John Walker here in Fort Collins, Colorado. He attended our first International Forum on Micro-based CAD. We had one international guest, but we later found out he was from Iowa working as a theater set designer at the Malmö Stadseater theater in Sweden. The forum continued for five consecutive years, with the fourth and fifth events in North Carolina and England. I credit Autodesk as the main sponsor for helping us get it off the ground.

In the 1980s and well in to the 90s, Autodesk did not receive the respect some of us felt it deserved. Many clung to the idea of needing to invest in expensive hardware and software to get “real” CAD. Options back then were from the likes of Auto-trol, CADAM, Calma, Computervision, Intergraph, and Tektronix. Eventually, most of these companies did not survive the assault brought on by Autodesk and others offering less expensive alternatives. With Moore’s Law at work, CAD on a PC became more powerful at an exponential rate. As a result, companies offering the more expensive systems went out of business or morphed into something else.

Fast-forward 35+ years. At nearly $3.3 billion in fiscal 2020, Autodesk’s has risen to unthinkable heights. It the largest 3D modeling software company in the world, according to Autodesk. The company offers 140 products, including software for additive manufacturing and 3D printing. I certainly would not have guessed the company would become so incredibly successful, although some of us could tell it was doing something special back in the 1980s. A few things needed to line up for real change to occur. This is one case in which many elements came together and provided a new price-to-performance ratio that brought significant benefits to millions of designers and engineers worldwide. Similar benefits developed many years later when designers and engineers gained access to affordable 3D printing.

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.

Beatlemania Bass Guitar

January 12, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 14:39

Associate consultant Olaf Diegel has designed and manufactured an impressive range of guitars. The main body of each is the most interesting part because it is designed for 3D printing. The character and complexity of these guitars make them, in my opinion, remarkable.

One of Olaf’s most recent creations is the Beatlemania bass. The design and details are stunning. It features the four Beatles crossing Abbey Road, John Lennon’s glasses, a yellow submarine, and other items associated with the Beatles. The music (notes) on the front are from the song Yesterday. You can’t look at the guitar without thinking, “Wow!” Olaf’s wife, Akiko, did the painting. She is a talented artist, and I have no idea how she did it so beautifully and flawlessly.

Olaf is an gifted designer and it is a privilege to work with him. He serves as lead instructor for the design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) courses we conduct. He also plays an important role in the development of the Wohlers Report. Olaf has hands-on DfAM experience that almost no one has or will ever achieve. He knows what works based on countless hours of fine-tuning designs and manufacturing them. The Beatlemania bass is a great example of DfAM and what is possible with extraordinary talent.

Elastic and Rigid Behavior in Single-Material Parts

September 9, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 14:41

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

The elastic behavior of polymers, coupled with the design freedom of AM, allows designers to produce some very interesting products. A single-material part can have rigid and springy features, all driven by design. A good example is a small catapult on display in our office. The coil around the main shaft provides the spring force for operating the catapult, although both parts are made of PA12. The image at the left shows the catapult loaded and ready to launch. The one at the right shows the catapult after launching the ball. Notice the coil spring and locking mechanism.

Recent applications have developed with this principle in mind, many using elastomers to amplify this behavior. An example is the latticed helmet liners developed by Riddell and Carbon. Using sophisticated software, designers produce thicker lattice members and meshes where more rigid behavior is needed. Thinner lattice members alloy more flex and shock absorption in other areas. Similar functionality is being developed by HP for use with TPU on its new Jet Fusion 5200 series machines. Lattice structures and hybrid flexible/rigid components are a relatively new frontier, but we expect to see more of these types of products in the near future.

Design Rules for AM

August 11, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 09:57

Little by little, companies are learning that it can be very different to design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). To make AM economical for production quantities, DfAM is usually necessary. As costs of the machines, materials, and post-processing are driven downward over time, this may change in some instances. For the foreseeable future, DfAM is not only useful, it’s a requirement.

When considering DfAM, we often think of using topology optimization, lattice structures, and other methods to reduce material and weight and potentially improve part functionality. Just as important are design rules and guidelines to reduce trial ‘n error among engineers and designers. This information usually comes from experience and tribal knowledge among very few at a company.

The previous guitar stand was designed by Olaf Diegel, an associate consultant and DfAM instructor at Wohlers Associates. The stand is cleverly designed to fold and unfold, as shown. The large hinge depicted at the left requires a surface gap of 0.4 mm (0.016 inch) for it to operate so that it is not too tight or lose. A smaller hinge, shown in the center, requires a gap of 0.3 mm (0.012 inch) because the rotating surface area is much less. Making the gap larger would result in a hinge that’s too lose.

Olaf has learned many rules and guidelines from his extensive experience with DfAM, AM, and post-processing parts. They often differ from process to process and material to material. Many of these methods of DfAM will be discussed at a special three-day DfAM course in Frisco, Colorado next month. If you’re transitioning to AM for production applications, you or your colleagues may want to attend this training. It could save your organization months or longer and help you determine if/when a part or assembly is a good candidate to produce by AM.

DfAM in Germany

May 18, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,future — Terry Wohlers @ 05:33

Design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) is not easy. That’s why we have been offering DfAM courses since 2015. Our first two were for NASA Marshal Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. We have since conducted courses in other parts of the U.S., as well as in Australia, Belgium, Canada, and South Africa. Our most recent course was held with Protolabs 2.5 weeks ago near Raleigh, North Carolina. It could not have gone much better.

Our first DfAM course in Germany will occur next month in cooperation with Airbus and ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research. ZAL is hosting the event in Hamburg and we are very excited about it. Already, people from many countries in Europe and North America have registered to attend.

Other DfAM courses are being planned. Our second annual Design at Elevation DfAM course is September 2019 in Frisco, Colorado. Elevation: 2,774 meters (9,097 feet). Attend the course in Hamburg, but if you cannot, visit the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado in September—the most colorful month of the year.

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.

AM in Africa

October 21, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,event — Terry Wohlers @ 07:29

Yesterday, I recently returned from my 22nd visit to Africa. Twenty of them have been to South Africa where additive manufacturing activity is the strongest. In fact, I estimate that 99% of AM work on the continent has occurred in the country. Some limited activity is underway in Botswana, Egypt, Namibia, and Nigeria. Adoption has been especially strong at Central University of Technology, Vaal University of Technology, Stellenbosch University, and North-West University—all in South Africa.

The Government of South Africa has been supportive of AM, with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) doing the most in a hands-on way. Among the companies that are leading the way is Aerosud, an 800-person supplier of parts and assemblies to Airbus and Boeing. Many other companies are benefiting from AM parts, but they do not own high-end equipment. A reseller network of companies for AM products has been in place for many years.

Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein was the first to install multiple high-end industrial machines in South Africa. Its world-class Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing (CRPM), shown in the following two images, continues to have the largest commercial impact in the country. Last year, the CRPM completed 580 projects consisting of ~13,500 AM parts. Twenty-five percent of the projects were medical cases, most of high complexity. The centre received ISO 13485 quality certification for medical devices in 2016, which has contributed to its capabilities.

CUT and its impressive CRPM served as host to last week’s three-day course on design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) conducted by Wohlers Associates. Twenty-five engineers and others participated, and many were advanced in their knowledge and experience in AM and DfAM when they arrived. Wohlers Associates has conducted many of these courses, the first in August 2015 for NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. One exercise involved the redesign of a manifold by the participants on the first day. Five of them were manufactured in titanium and delivered for inspection by the third day. Thanks to our good friends at the CRPM for helping to make this happen.

The previous images show the conventional manifold design (left) and five versions of the manifold produced by AM. One of the primary objectives of this hands-on, DfAM exercise was to reduce weight and substantially reduce or eliminate the need for support material, which can add substantial time and cost to a part. We are thankful to those who participated, for how engaging they were, and for their favorable feedback. It was one of our very best three-day DfAM courses. Thanks also to CUT and its CRPM for organizing the event and serving as such great hosts.

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.

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