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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.

Live Music

September 23, 2018

Filed under: entertainment,life — Terry Wohlers @ 18:05

It’s been a good year for live music. In June, my wife and friends and I saw Alan Parsons at Levitt Pavilion in Denver. A client, RØDE Microphones of Sydney, Australia, knows Alan, so we met him and the band after the concert. The entire evening was a great experience. In July, a friend and I saw the Robert Cray Band at the relatively small but impressive Washington’s music venue in Fort Collins. The blues guitarist and singer gave a solid performance. Last month, we saw Blondie at NewWestFest in Fort Collins. Like Alan Parsons, Blondie was especially popular in the mid 1970s with a number of hits.

Last night, my wife and I, and ~45,000 others, were treated to several hours of music at Petco Park in downtown San Diego. The concert started in the late afternoon with the Doobie Brothers—a band I’ve always wanted to see. Zac Brown followed, and both were excellent. Zac definitely attracted a younger generation to the stadium.

The highlight of the evening was seeing and hearing the Eagles for the first time, another band I’ve always wanted to see. As expected, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmidt were a central part of the performance. The only unfortunate part of it was not seeing Glenn Frey (he died in January 2016 at the young age of 67), but we were treated to Glenn’s 25-year-old son, Deacon. He and country singer and songwriter Vince Gill sang Glenn’s songs, and both did a great job. Like his father, Deacon is an outstanding musician and vocalist. He became a permanent member of the band more than a year ago.

I’m finding that one should not wait too long to see an artist or band. I wanted to see Tom Petty, but that will never happen. It also occurred to me that rock ‘n roll groups are not emerging like they did in the past. In fact, it’s difficult to name even three that have become popular in the past 10 years. For our generation, now is the time to see live classic rock before it’s too late.

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.

Two Nights at a Kibbutz

December 17, 2017

Filed under: life,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 18:45

I returned from my eighth trip to Israel last week. The country is intensely interesting and thriving with many new infrastructure investments. Nearly everything about the country is fascinating, and I wish I had added another day or two with each visit. The Israeli people are highly educated, speak flawless English, and are up-to-date on world events and American politics. The amount of history in every corner of the country is staggering.

When visiting Israel the first time in March 1993, long-time friend Dave Tait, then with Laserform, and I were introduced to the concept of the kibbutz. A kibbutz is a type of community that originated in 1909 and initially focused on agriculture. The communal lifestyle has changed over the years and sources of income have expanded into the production of many types of products. I had always wanted to visit a kibbutz to see, up close, what life on one was like. More than 24 years later, the opportunity emerged.

Thanks to associate consultant Joseph Kowen, who lives in Zichron Ya’akov, Israel, for booking a room for me at Kibbutz Dalia, located about 37 km (23 miles) southwest of Nazareth. Upon our arrival, Joseph and I immediately caught the aroma of herds of sheep and cattle, which were located adjacent to the 800 or so residents. Dalia was formed in 1939 and has since expanded into the manufacture of water metering products, as well as wine-making. It offers visitor lodging as an additional stream of revenue.

I found my time at the kibbutz interesting. The lodging is not high-end, but my room was clean and comfortable and the wireless Internet and breakfast were excellent. Also, the employees were very friendly and helpful. Coincidentally, the father of one of them is working in Estes Park, Colorado, which is about an hour from Fort Collins. I went for walks both mornings to get a good view of the lifestyle on a kibbutz. It looked and felt somewhat similar to a quiet neighborhood in a rural village in the U.S., but without a main street, shops, restaurants, and signs with advertisements.

The Israeli kibbutz is among a lengthy list of reasons why I find the country so interesting. The country’s beaches, orchards, valleys, and deserts are striking, and its history is extraordinary. High-tech start-up companies and the economy are thriving, and many major infrastructure developments, including a light rail system, have been completed recently or are under construction. Tel Aviv is lively with trendy restaurants and nightclubs, posh hotels, and a beautiful Promenade that runs along the Mediterranean Sea. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

How I Built This

November 4, 2017

Filed under: entertainment,life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 08:22

NPR’s “How I Built This” series of podcasts are excellent. They are candid interviews with the founders and CEOs of some of the top companies in the world. Among them: Jake Carpenter (Burton Snowboards), Perry Chen (Kickstarter), Jim Koch (Samuel Adams), and Herf Kelleher (Southwest Airlines). Others are Mark Cuban (serial entrepreneur), Richard Branson (Virgin), and John Mackey (Whole Foods Market).

To listen to the podcasts, go to the NPR website, review the titles and descriptions, and download the MP3 files. I have downloaded 16 thus far, copied them to my phone, and listened to 12 of them. Most are 40-50 minutes in length. Thanks to John Dulchinos of Jabil for telling me about them.

Most of the people being interviewed had humble beginnings, with little financial resources. They believed strongly in what they were doing and had extraordinary determination. One podcast details how Jim Koch and his 23-year old former secretary sold their first beer and was voted the best in America just six weeks after it became available. Another is an interview with Maureen and Tony Wheeler and how they started Lonely Planet, the largest publisher of travel guide books.

The podcasts provide fascinating insight into how some of the most recognizable brands were established. They are easy listening, inspiring, and entertaining. Thanks to NPR for making them available free of charge.

Ukraine

September 9, 2017

Filed under: life,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 08:53

I visited Kyiv, Ukraine for the first time in July. It was an eye-opening and intensely interesting experience. The Ukrainians are friendly and Kyiv is safe. Many of the restaurants in Kyiv were full, suggesting that people have discretionary money to spend. The streets and many of the buildings are beautiful, even though much of the city was destroyed in World War II. City planners did a great job with the architecture and feel of the buildings and streets. A recently built area of the city is stunning.

To some, Ukraine is best known for Chernobyl, which is 130 km (80 miles) north of Kyiv. The 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident was the most catastrophic nuclear disaster in history. At the time, Chernobyl was a part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union. The city was evacuated 30 hours after the accident. Chernobyl is almost entirely a ghost town today, although a few people currently live there. Two general stores and a hotel are available for tourists.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kyiv remained the capital of Ukraine. In November 2013, a wave of demonstrations and peaceful protests began in Independence Square. My hotel was adjacent to the Square, so I walked around the area a few times. Russia’s Vladimir Putin pressured Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from forming close ties with the European Union, which Putin had long opposed. The protests in Kyiv led to calls for the resignation of Yanukovych and his administration for this, along with corruption, abuses of power, and human rights violations. This led to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. Special riot police were ordered to take over Kyiv, although the Uranium people dug in their heels. Scores of innocent people were injured and killed.

Hundreds of thousands, including my host and his wife, came to Independence Square, some for weeks or months, to join the protest. Some who did not, or could not, such as my host’s mother, prepared food for those demonstrating. In mid February 2014, the riot police finally gave up due to the extraordinary resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people. Yanukovych and others in his administration fled the country and headed to Russia in late February. The strength and will of the Ukrainians helped to make them stronger and define who they are today. A very good documentary, titled Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, is available on Netflix. It chronicles the sequence of events with horrifying detail and video footage.

My visit to Kyiv could not have gone much better. The food, people, history, sight-seeing, and hand-crafted products made it a fascinating place to visit. Ukraine is in territorial dispute with Russia over Crimea, which is in the south. In March 2014, after the revolution, Crimea was taken over by pro-Russian separatists and Russian Armed Forces. Eastern Ukraine is facing conflict, violence, and war with Russia. When returning to Ukraine, I will stay away from those parts of the country. In addition to Kyiv, my hosts told me that western Ukraine is beautiful and has a lot to offer.

New On-Campus Experience

August 27, 2017

Filed under: event,life — Terry Wohlers @ 14:29

Colorado State University broke in its sparkling new on-campus stadium yesterday as it hosted Oregon State University in college football’s first game of the season. Emotions were running high in anticipation of the $220 million facility. It is absolutely beautiful, inside and out. In almost every way, the stadium, and nearly everything associated with it, exceeded my expectations. The score board, for example, is as crisp and clear as an HD television and is the size of a basketball court. The energy in and around the stadium was off the charts.

My wife, daughter, and I arrived about three hours before kickoff. Our plan was to first walk around the stadium and then visit a couple “tailgate” parties. A countless number of them were spread across the expansive campus, so it’s difficult to know how many were underway. My guess is a few hundred, when considering the family gatherings in the 20+ parking areas. We attended one of the largest, which was sponsored by the Bank of Colorado, as well as a small one. Bands were playing on three stages, and as many as 30 bands are scheduled to play throughout the football season.

The multi-use stadium includes an impressive and spacious Alumni Center, large weight and training room for the athletes, and offices for coaches, including one for former coach Sonny Lubick, a legend in Colorado. The stadium also includes a New Belgium Porch (at the main entrance), 22 suites, 40 loge boxes, state-of-the-art classrooms, and space for events such as wedding receptions. The stadium has the capacity for 41,000 people, compared to 34,400 at the previous off-campus Hughes Stadium.

The in-seat experience was the best of all. We were lucky enough to secure season tickets in row 17 near the 50-yard line. Our daughter decided to attend the game yesterday morning, so we were “on a mission” to find a ticket for her prior to the game. We found a reasonably-priced one less than an hour before kickoff. With it being a sell-out crowd, tickets were going for $120 two hours before the game. The people that sat around us were great, making the experience as good as it could possibly be, with many “high fives” when CSU scored.

Best of all, the Colorado State Rams crushed the Oregon State Beavers, with a final score of 58-27. At halftime, it was a close 24-20. The Rams played an incredibly strong second half, piling up a total of 525 yards in four quarters. Senior quarterback Nick Stevens played nearly flawlessly with 334 yards passing and three touchdowns. The Rams defense forced five turnovers, which contributed greatly to the big win at the new and impressive stadium.

It’s All About the People

August 14, 2017

Filed under: education,life,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:27

Note: The following was authored by Doug Rhoda, CEO of DMS (Colorado Springs, Colorado). Rhoda was directly responsible for hiring more than 200 interns while CEO of Wolf Robotics (Fort Collins, Colorado). Today, an estimated 75% of Wolf’s permanent employees came from internships.

In my personal leadership and management journey, people that make up a team are the distinguishing factor of any business. My former mentor, now deceased, would coach me as I was growing a struggling robotic welding company, and he would say “It’s all about the people.”

Getting the right people “on the bus” is one of the most important tasks of a leader. Although not quick or expedient, I have found that building long-term mutual beneficial relationships with local universities and developing internship programs have been critical to getting the best people.

In spite of some of the headlines today, I have found reason for optimism with today’s young people. I have had the privilege of hiring and coaching so many millennials that are bright, hard-working, and capable. Like anyone, they are looking for autonomy (not to be micro-managed), mastery (to learn), and purpose in their work.

Our recipe, refined over the years, challenges young people. Our student interns start on the factory floor, getting their hands dirty, and learning our machines from the ground up. While they are in the factory, they are being evaluated by senior factory floor leaders to determine whether the individual has the right work ethic, attitude, and ability to learn.

An internship is like an extended interview. It’s an interview of the student by our staff, and it’s an interview of the company by the student. During the internship, the intern can determine whether the company and industry are of interest for long-term employment.

If the person is right and the economics justify it, we will hire graduating interns into full-time positions. In the case of engineering students, they are hired into a field service role, where they learn how the machines are applied and what customers value. We have found that after their customer service stint, the former interns discern where their passion and interests lie, and self-select—with our involvement—key roles in the business. Among them are design engineering, project management, and software development. Because of their strong foundation in the business, they contribute in unique and precious ways.

Talent recruited and developed through internships have been critical success factors in the businesses in which I have had the honor of being responsible. We will continue to invest in our internship programs to grow our business because it’s all about the people.

Traveling the Iron Road

July 28, 2017

Filed under: life,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 04:05

Note: The following was authored by Julie Whitney, executive assistant at Wohlers Associates.

What do World War I, the Dolomites in Italy, and Telluride, Colorado have in common? The Iron Road (aka, via ferrata). Previously, I did not know what a “via ferrata” was and had never even heard the term before our German exchange student introduced it to me. According to Wikipedia, a via ferrata is a protected climbing route in the Alps and other areas. A modern version uses a steel cable, iron rungs, pegs, or other climbing aids that run along the route. Our exchange student’s family does a via ferrata trip every summer, and I wanted to try one.

When my Google search found a via ferrata route in Telluride, Colorado, I could not believe it. I anticipated a need to travel much further. Unlike its European brethren, the Telluride route is almost completely horizontal. Traversing 4 km (2.5 miles) and 152 meters (500 feet) above the valley floor, it is one of the most spectacular and breathtaking things I’ve ever experienced.

The route is not all metal rungs. In fact, most is hiked along a trail, albeit a very narrow one with a significant drop off. At certain points, it becomes so narrow that it is necessary to hook in with harness lanyards. At these points, the trail is literally a foot step in width. At one particularly interesting spot, a tree is in the middle of the path with a cable running behind it. It’s necessary to hook in and then hug the tree as you swing around, with your rear suspended in the air.

The actual via ferrata section is called the “main event.” It’s not particularly physical, but it is “off the charts” mentally-challenging, especially to those new to rock climbing. Tyler, our guide, was cheering me on and it felt awesome. As we were eating our lunch after successfully completing one pass, Tyler asked if we would like to return using the same route. He felt confident in our abilities and suggested that we head back while he stayed to take pictures of us. How could we say no to that?

As we eased back onto the rungs, I felt a little differently than before. I was missing Tyler and his encouragement. In the middle of the “main event,” panic was knocking at my door, but I was able to give myself a pep talk and pull myself back from the figurative edge, while standing on the literal one. Nothing worthwhile is easy, and sometimes you need to get out of your own way and go for it. The result is having one of the most memorable times of your life.

Click here to read the full version of this story at Empty Nest Adventures.

The Wonder of Flight

July 15, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,entertainment,event,life — Terry Wohlers @ 08:07

Note: The following was authored by Joseph Kowen, associate consultant at Wohlers Associates.

I have always loved to fly. As far back as I can remember, I was always looking upward at the first sound of a plane. I can still feel the excitement of a trip to the airport as a child. I grew up in the southern tip of Africa when air travel was not very popular, so an airport visit might result in seeing only two or three planes. The Concorde came to visit one year, and my cousin was allowed off school to see it. I was not so lucky and had to make do with viewing the pictures he took.

Last month, I visited the Paris Air Show for the first time, a dream come true for an aviation aficionado. The show is a biennial celebration of all things aerospace. It’s a big deal—and big business. Orders valued at $150 billion were announced at the event.

The event is a showcase for new aircraft. It is also an opportunity for more than 2,000 exhibitors to display products and services used to build these complex machines. One of the main reasons for my attendance was to observe how additive manufacturing is advancing in the aerospace industry. AM is indeed playing an increasingly important role in aircraft design and manufacturing. Many AM systems and service providers demonstrated how complex shapes and geometric features can be built additively. Also, they showed how these parts can be made much lighter without sacrificing strength. In the aviation industry, every bit of weight reduction translates into cost savings.

After my professional duties were out of the way, the real excitement was seeing the aircraft on display. The Airbus A380 showed remarkable agility for a craft of its size. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and the Dassault Rafale performed breathtaking feats in the air.

I have always felt that flying was the ultimate mastery of science over the forces of nature. I never fail to marvel at the ease with which tons of equipment lift off the ground. Having spent a few days soaking up the latest that aerospace has to offer, I am more in awe of the ingenuity of the engineers that have made flight seem so effortless.

When leaving for home, I again luxuriated in the wonder of flight, as I have done since first stepping onto a plane. I suppose I’ll always feel the excitement of flight every time the wheels lift off the runway. It’s not something I will ever take for granted.

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