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Wohlers Audio Series—Episode 2

July 25, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 07:17

By Noah Mostow

The challenge of educating and training users on how to design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) must be overcome before the industry can reach mass adoption of AM. In the second episode of the Wohlers Audio Series, Terry Wohlers talks with Olaf Diegel, associate consultant and lead DfAM instructor at Wohlers Associates. They discuss advancements in DfAM and how to optimize new products with straightforward techniques.

Diegel is an expert designer and has developed more than 100 commercial products for theater lighting, security, marine, home health-monitoring, and other industries. He is a professor of additive manufacturing at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He previously worked at Lund University in Sweden and Massey University in Auckland. Diegel is perhaps best known for his family of ODD guitars, which have been featured in previous blog posts.

                                         

Wohlers and Diegel discuss a wide range of approaches and software products used to reduce material and weight, eliminate part numbers, and improve product performance. This episode can be found at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and here. Please share your feedback and ideas for a future episode.

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.

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.

Print Often, Learn Fast

November 14, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 11:52

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

Years ago, 3D printing was generally referred to as rapid prototyping. Then and now, engineers and designers often experience inherent gaps between a 3D computer model and a physical part. 3D printing can turn an idea into reality and quickly expose mistakes, saving time and money.

A physical model or prototype does not need to be a complete part or idea. Depending on the application, the critical feature of the part may be the location of a hole or spacing for the cables to prevent pinching. These are critical features that one can quickly test with a small 3D-printed part. If you break down these critical features into individual elements, you can prototype them quickly and learn immediately.

A 3D printer can be a great investment for a company, designer, or engineer. A 3D-printed part can take minutes or hours, depending on the size of the part and the machine used. When a part is in your hands, you can learn from it in seconds. Learning also occurs from simulations and CAD models, but a 3D-printed part brings a concept to reality. With a physical part, one can learn more about its actual size, weight, ergonomics, and how it fits to mating parts. Also, a part makes it possible to test the ease or difficulty in assembly and disassembly. Some of this can be done using CAD, but you can learn so much more when you have a part in your hands.

                                                   

I once designed sunglasses that fold to the size of my palm. The idea was to consolidate 17 parts into one by designing for additive manufacturing. I questioned tolerances, the hinge, and the entire concept. Before continuing to move ahead with the design, I segmented the hinge and printed it. The print took 26 minutes and cost $0.19 in material on a small filament-based, material extrusion machine. I very quickly learned that the proposed design did not work, which saved me hours because I was able to immediately adjust the design. By 3D printing a small segment of a new product, I was able to learn so much in less than 30 minutes and at little cost.

Newest Member of Wohlers Associates

November 1, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 20:28

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

I produced my first 3D-printed part while working at Burton Snowboards in Burlington, Vermont. The part is shown in the following image. Its purpose was to test transforming rotation into linear motion. I found a concept online, made a quick model of it in SolidWorks, and sent it to my mentor at Burton for his review. That Friday, I stayed late to learn how to load the part into the machine. Also, I waited to see the first layers of nylon spread across the build platform of the powder bed fusion system. On Monday, I arrived early to learn how to break out parts from the build. My first 3D-printed part was hidden between components for prototype bindings and goggles.

                                                        

The concept was not going to work for our application, but that was okay. It showed me how much and quickly one can learn from a physical concept model or prototype part. Since that day nearly four years ago, I have used 3D printing to prototype many new concepts and manufacture parts.

After leaving Vermont, I moved out to Colorado and was employed by 3D Systems Healthcare in Littleton. I worked my way up from a data entry job to becoming a biomedical engineer, designing craniomaxillofacial reconstruction surgeries. You can read about these types of procedures on pages 33–37 of Wohlers Report 2020. After nearly two years at the company, I was driven to learn more about additive manufacturing and enrolled in a master’s program on Advanced Manufacturing at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, not far from where I was working. I have learned from some of the best in the industry and been exposed to a wide range of new ideas and technologies. I am excited to bring my experience from academia, biomedicine, and sporting goods to Wohlers Associates. Also, I look forward to learning so much more.

                                                     

Away from the computer, I am an avid outdoorsman who enjoys traveling and getting into the colorful Colorado mountains. This lifestyle can be traced back to hiking through the woods of Akron, Ohio where I grew up. I am especially passionate about snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, camping, fly fishing, and cooking. Interestingly, 3D printing is enhancing these industries, which makes them even more attractive to me. In fact, I have designed and printed a few personal parts to test new ideas. However, just like my first 3D-printed part, the initial prototypes are usually not the ideal solution. With every print, I am learning and improving, and someday, perhaps I will see one of my ideas become commercially available.

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.

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