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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.

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.

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.

Vaccinated

March 6, 2021

Filed under: event,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 10:52

Yesterday was a good day. That’s because my wife and I received our first vaccination. Our second Moderna shot occurs in 28 days from yesterday. Both of us are ecstatic! I feel great today, other than a mildly sore left arm. The injection, itself, could not have gone faster or better. Honestly, I did not feel a thing, so I asked if she had given it to me.

                               

Thank God for vaccines and the scientists who create them. My mother got polio when she was 17 and it significantly impacted the quality of her life. Thankfully, a polio vaccine prevented my wife, kids, and me from getting it, along with hundreds of millions of others worldwide. If you are unsure about getting a COVID-19 vaccination, do not think twice about it.

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.

In-Person Meetings

January 23, 2021

Filed under: event,future,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 05:53

I miss in-person meetings and events and you probably do too. Thankfully, Zoom and other video conferencing tools have helped fill the void, but they are not the same. I look forward to informal conversations when bumping into friends and business acquaintances in exhibition hallways and hotel lobbies. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings contribute greatly to forming and strengthening relationships, often leading to new business.

                               

When can we safely meet in person? Honestly, I do not know. The people who know more than me about the vaccine distribution do not know. I am hopeful it will occur in the second half of this year. As of today, I have tentative plans to travel to Africa, Asia, Europe, and within the U.S. A family vacation would be great too. I am sure the airlines, hotels, and ride-sharing services are also hoping that travel turns around in the coming months.

If you have a story to share about your hopes and plans for 2021, please send it to me. I may use it in a future blog commentary, with your permission, of course. Best wishes to you and your colleagues for a healthy and travel-filled second half to 2021.

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.

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.

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