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Impact of a University Instructor

August 23, 2020

Filed under: education,life — Terry Wohlers @ 17:10

When attending the University of Nebraska at Kearney, I learned that first-year students were required to take a 100-level English composition course focused mostly on writing. If you did not receive a B or better in the course, you were required to take it again. The instructor (I do not recall her rank) and I did not get along well, which may have contributed to the C+ I received in the course. Alternatively, the score may have been due to my poor writing skills.

I had to repeat a course in a subject that I did not like, and I was not happy about it. Fortunately, I had a different instructor (also a relatively young woman whose rank I do not recall) the second time around and it turned out better than I could have possibly imagined. It was many years later when I began to appreciate what she did for me and probably many other students. I wish I could remember her name. She inspired me to work hard on the fundamentals of writing, so I practiced, listened to her suggestions, and improved.

To this day, I credit her for helping me to create an interest in writing and for understanding that it can take years of practice. It is somewhat like skiing or mountain-bike riding. The more you do it, the better you get at it and the more you appreciate the result. Like new product development, writing is an iterative process. The product improves with each iteration. My experience in the course created a strong foundation for what was ahead. At the time, I did not know that writing would become such an important part of my work and daily life. One cannot ask for more from a college instructor.

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.

How to Become Good at Something

July 25, 2020

Filed under: entertainment,life — Terry Wohlers @ 09:52

Perhaps it goes without saying, but repeated practice and hard work can lead to high levels of achievement. I used to play tennis, but I never became good at it because I did not play enough. The same is true with golf. With any sport, musical instrument, or another interest, you need to have a passion to get to the next level. Natural ability plays into it, including what you might inherit from your parents, but determination and a willingness to work hard may play a bigger role.

I have been mountain biking for about 20 years, but until this year, I would ride trails only 2-3 times annually. The bike I rode was at the low end of the quality and cost spectrum. In May, I purchased a much better bike (Signal Peak from Fezzari) and made the decision to ride more than in the past. I have not counted, but I have probably ridden mountain trails, some technical and challenging, 12+ times so far this spring and summer. I feel like I am improving but have a long way to go. I have snow skied since I was 19, but I had never made it out more than 2-3 times a season. I was an intermediate skier and rarely made it onto an advanced run. Ten years ago, I began to average more than 25 days per season, upgraded my equipment, and started to feel better about my ability. I also began to have a lot more fun.

In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell is convincing when he discusses what it takes to become extraordinary at something. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the Beatles became incredibly successful, but not until they accumulated 10,000+ hours of experience at their craft. Becoming extraordinary takes more than hours of hard work, but without it, the odds of greatness are next to impossible, according to Gladwell. If other elements work in your favor, such as what you have between the ears, you have a chance. For most of us, it is about enjoying what you do and contributing, but it usually comes only after reaching a certain level of achievement.

Travel and the Pandemic

July 11, 2020

Filed under: future,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 11:13

In any other year, I would have taken many plane trips by now, both domestically and internationally. I like to travel, and I miss it, to a degree. A bigger part of me shudders at the thought of boarding a plane. The possible consequences of being in airports, planes, and hotels are not appealing at this time. In-person meetings—a primary reason for traveling—are at odds with what health officials are recommending.

A few weeks ago, someone said that it has never been safer to be on a plane due to the extensive cleaning by the airlines. Just yesterday, a friend made a similar comment. I respectively disagree. It is not the inside of the aircraft before boarding that is the big risk. Instead, it is what passengers bring with them onboard, mainly what they expel when breathing, talking, coughing, and sneezing. When stuck inside an aluminum tube for hours, it is impossible to entirely escape the particulates in the air.

I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee in February, and it may be my only plane trip of the year. The path we are currently on as a nation suggests that safe plane travel could be in the distant future, with 2021 being in question. I feel sorry for companies and people in the travel business. Many are working hard to make it as safe as possible. Travelers are the big and unpredictable variable. Many of them are taking every precaution, thankfully, but others are not.

3D-Printed Bike Saddle

June 14, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 07:20

On June 3, 2020, Specialized announced the commercial availability of the first 3D-printed cycling saddle, the S-Works Power Saddle with Mirror Technology. A major part of the saddle is made with technology from Silicon Valley-based Carbon. The lattice-structure design is said to improve rider comfort and performance by absorbing impact and improving stability.

I received the saddle on Friday and the new design exceeded my expectations. I had read about it and saw pictures previously, but holding and studying it provided a far better appreciation for what went into the product. After shooting images of the new saddle, I mounted it to one of my new bikes from Fezzari, a relatively small but excellent consumer-direct manufacturer in Utah. Bikes from Fezzari have received many favorable reviews from the likes of Bike Magazine, Bikerumor, and Mountain Bike Action. I absolutely love my Signal Peak mountain bike and Catania road bike, both from Fezzari. I highly recommend both.

My first ride using the new saddle was short, but I found it exceptionally comfortable. I was told the saddle is designed for road bikes, but since my Catania it currently about two hours away, I tried it with the Signal Peak. It may handle the rigors of rocky trails, but I do not know, so I am checking with both Specialized and Carbon. Meanwhile, I plan to use it on one or more long road bike rides later this week in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I will try to share more after then.

With the new 198-gram (7-oz) saddle, Carbon and Specialized reduced the overall development process from a typical 18-24 to 10 months, while creating and testing more than 70 designs. Carbon’s 3D-printing technology reduced the design process from six to two months. Design iterations occurred in as little as one day. These are among the benefits of using 3D printing to develop a new product.

The new saddle is Carbon’s third production application in sporting goods, after running shoes from adidas and custom football helmets from Riddell. The S-Works Power Saddle sells for $450 and the company is currently sold out of them. In recent months, I have found that bikes and bike accessories have been difficult to get. Biking is an activity that people believe is safe, healthy, and fun, especially during a pandemic. If you’re looking for a comfortable bike saddle that is believed to improve performance, take a close look at the S-Works Power Saddle. Based on what I have read, seen, and experienced, it is a special product.

Response to Pandemic

May 16, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:27

On Monday of this week, an important event occurred. It was the first in the recently announced Virtual Game Day Series with Wohlers Associates. Monday’s virtual event, titled America Makes COVID-19 Response, attracted about 250 people. The panelists included:

  • Matthew Di Prima, PhD, Materials Scientist, FDA
  • Meghan McCarthy, PhD, Program Lead, 3D Printing Biovisualization, NIH/NIAID/OD/OSMO/OCICB
  • Beth Ripley, MD, PhD, Chair, VHA 3D Printing Advisory Committee, Veterans Affairs Health Administration, Innovation Ecosystem
  • John Wilczynski, Executive Director, America Makes
  • Moderator: Terry Wohlers, Principal Consultant and President, Wohlers Associates, Inc.

Additive manufacturing (AM) is playing an important role in the pandemic, especially where supply chains are disrupted. Thousands of AM systems are operating across the U.S., so local responses to the need for personal protection equipment (PPE) are occurring where traditional manufacturing is more involved. “We’ve seen it play a significant role in face shields and it’s filling a gap in the conventional supply chain for them,” Wilczynski said. Not all of it is for healthcare providers. Some has gone to the broader community, such as those working at grocery stores, restaurants, municipalities, and in shipping. Riply said that tapping into this manufacturing capacity is big, especially at a time when traditional manufacturers are pressed to deliver products. Distributed manufacturing models could become increasingly interesting in the future as local and regional disasters occur, Di Prima explained.

As of Monday, more than 523 PPE designs were submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) 3D Print Exchange, a repository of designs hosted by NIH. Eighteen designs have been reviewed for clinical use and 14 have been optimized for community use, McCarthy said. She went on to say the site has seen more than 200,000 page views and a lot of interaction among users. This capability is central to the response and has had an impact.

America Makes brought together the FDA, NIH, and VA and launched the initiative just eight weeks ago. It has come a long way in a short time. The group, made up of the four panelists, have talked every day since the beginning.

The initiative is helping manufacturers understand where they can help. The group is providing clarification around complex questions on how to make products that can be used safely. A lot is based on a risk-benefit analysis, especially where few alternatives are available, Riply explained. The biggest thing to come out of this response is a trusted resource, explained Wilczynski. Di Prima has found that hospitals are showing increased interest in 3D printing parts because of the pandemic.

Will this response to COVID-19 create a change in the adoption of AM in the medical industry? For years, the industry has adopted AM in a substantial way for surgical planning models, drill and cutting guides, orthopedic implants, hearing aids, and dental parts. The medical industry has already been a large adopter of AM, Di Prima clarified. Even so, the work and learning surrounding the response to the coronavirus will help both the AM and medical industries better and more quickly respond to supply chain gaps when widespread emergencies occur in the future, McCarthy stated.

Will we look at this time as a turning point in the AM industry? Wilczynski said, “Yes.” It will open the eyes to the capabilities of the technology, he said. This experience is teaching us how to mobilize quickly in response to emergencies, with people ready to do the work, McCarthy explained. This initiative could not have happened without these four organization coming together. One of the groups on its own could not have done it, she said.

Following the panel was an interesting opportunity for virtual networking, which worked exceptionally well. Up to six people could “sit down” to a theme-based table or join a virtual lounge to discuss specific topics related to the pandemic and AM. Among the labeled tables were face shields, face masks, swabs, ventilators, designers, manufacturers, health care community, medical devices, maker community, and member mobilization. The networking on these and other topics was about as close as you can get to actual in-person meetings. Link3D supported the event by sharing its experience with Remo, an online platform for conferencing, meetings, and other activities.

Groundhog Day

May 3, 2020

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 06:22

This a rough time for many. A big part is keeping our heads up and staying positive. With so much uncertainty, it is easier said than done. I am not an expert in psychology or pandemics, but I will do my best to offer some ideas.

As best you can, mix things up each day. If you do not, it will feel like the movie Groundhog Day where weatherman Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, repeatedly relives the same day. He needed to adjust to maintain his sanity and so do we.

My wife and I go for one or more long walks every day. While this sounds repetitious, we try to take different routes. The fresh air, sky, trees, and birds are calming and invigorating. We also go for long bike rides, although less often. We do our best to maintain our distance from others and wear a mask, as necessary.

When working from a home office, it may be helpful to take frequent breaks and mix in some personal “business” as time allows. I may take out the trash, do some lawn care, or work on a small household task. I never let these things prevent me from completing important office work, but these diversions help to add variety to the day. I especially look forward to regular Zoom meetings with family and friends.

Do what you can to mix things up while staying productive in your home office. Take short, frequent breaks and do not feel guilty for working on a personal task or two as time allows. You will make up for it. Get outside if you can but practice social distancing. We will get through it, but it may require some imagination and safe adventure to maintain a healthy level of sanity.

Working from Home

April 18, 2020

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 15:53

Prior to COVID-19, 5.2% of working Americans (8 million) called home their place of work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, estimates that 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home by the end of 2021. That is 38–46 million Americans. I believe many will like it a lot, but others may have a difficult time adjusting to it. I have had many years of practice, so I will try to pass along some suggestions. Depending on your specific situation, such as the number of people and rooms in your home, my words may or may not be helpful.

Many years ago, we had a new home built with a reasonably large garden-level office dedicated to Wohlers Associates. I remember designing the space using 3D CAD so that I could see how the custom desks, chairs, and work tables would fit with the windows, lighting, and other surroundings. With adjacent storage and work rooms, good music, and an abundance of outlets and power, the space has worked very well for up to four people. At this point in my life, I cannot imagine working anywhere else, except for airports, planes, and hotel rooms.

I especially like the extreme flexibility that comes with working from home. I can start at 4:30 or 7:30 in the morning. The commute is short. I pass by the Keurig coffee maker for a rich cup of java, and two minutes later, I am in the office getting things done. It is important to have good computers, large screens, reliable internet, and solid phone services. Professional IT support and security are also vital. A quality webcam is worth its weight in gold, especially now. If possible, find a place that is private and quiet, and make it your office “away from home.”

One of the best investments I made years ago was a sit-stand workstation from Ergotron. Previously, I viewed a quality chair as being the most critical, but I rarely use it now because I stand most of the day. Fitness experts claim it is good for the body, and it burns calories. Some days, my legs become a little tired, so I can sit in literally seconds. A few seconds later, I can be standing and working. Moving up and down is incredibly fast and simple. If you buy one, get a work tray, which is positioned just below the monitor and above the keyboard. It is where my mobile phone, coffee cup, and other odds ‘n ends rest.

Our daughter, Heather, is a PA and now working from home. She sees 12-20 patients daily using Zoom. Many have COVID-19. She likes wearing more comfortable clothing and having extra time in the day without a commute. At lunch time, she can walk, work, or nap. She said the Zoom appointments with patients are focused and some people are more open and candid. The downside, she said, is that she moves less and misses the in-office interaction.

If you are working from home, do your best to make the most of it and enjoy the perks it offers. If you can, find a place that is mostly off limits to others. Take frequent breaks and take full advantage of the freedom. I could not imagine driving to work. I can get so much done working from our home office, and I am sure you can too with the right setup.

Remarkable Struggles

April 5, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 06:58

Our nation’s healthcare providers are doing extraordinary work. They are risking their lives to help many of us. We cannot provide too much support to them. I’m hopeful they receive the personal protection equipment (PPE) they deserve. To date, many have not, and that’s unbelievably sad, especially given the sacrifices they are making.

Several organizations have stepped up to try to fill this void. One of hundreds of efforts underway stands out. America Makes, also referred to as the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, is a public-private partnership launched in 2012 by the White House. The organization, based in Youngstown, Ohio, is focused on the nation’s development and adoption of additive manufacturing (AM), more popularly known as 3D printing. The organization is largely supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, other government agencies, and 180 members. In the interest of full disclosure, Wohlers Associates has been involved with it from the very beginning, so I will admit some bias.

On or around March 19, John Wilczynski, executive director and others at America Makes made the decision to launch a nation-wide initiative to help healthcare providers with desperately needed PPE and other equipment, such as ventilators. The effort, fully described here, is fighting COVID-19 with 3D printing. It is bringing together designers, manufacturers, and healthcare providers in close collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and, and National Institutes of Health. An online repository is connecting the needs of healthcare providers with the capabilities of some of our nation’s best designers and manufacturers.

Many individuals and small companies are also doing great work. One example is Avid Product Development of Loveland, Colorado. The 18-person service provider has designed and manufactured 1,500–2,000 parts for face shields in its effort to fight the deadly virus. The company expects to produce tens of thousands. Separately, Olaf Diegel, an associate consultant at our company, has designed a face shield that can be laser cut and assembled in less than three minutes. His latest development is a ventilator, which uses MIT’s E-Vent design as the starting point. Olaf believes it could be manufactured for about $150, including the 3D-printed parts, a motor, electronics, and ventilator bladder.

Many of the hundreds of initiatives are nothing short of remarkable. They are are bringing out some of the very best in people and organizations. I urge you to do what you can to help support them so that our precious front-line healthcare professionals are protected and receive the support they deserve.

Extraordinary Times

March 21, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 13:21

Countless organizations have shut down indefinitely. The economy is tanking while the stock market declines to unthinkable levels. United Airlines cut 95% of its international flights and most business travel has halted. Meeting with others, even close friends and relatives, is discouraged. Except for getting out to pick up food and medicine, we are mostly trapped in our homes. Most of the world is in various levels of chaos, with no end in sight.

I cannot remember a time when life was so uncertain. So much has changed in a few short days. As a nation, we were slow to recognize the threat, so we may pay a very high price. My wife and I consider ourselves lucky because we have a warm home and enough supplies. I cannot imagine the fear among those who are less fortunate. All of us need to see some light—and hope—at the other end.

The crisis did not slow us down in the last few days of developing Wohlers Report 2020, a project that began to ramp up in December 2019. We published it on Wednesday—a week earlier than the past two years. I owe tremendous gratitude to our core team of nine consultants and authors, and our 79 co-authors and contributors in 33 countries. So many great people pulled together to make it happen.

Now, we need to pull together for other reasons. In today’s edition of The New York Times, I read about a group of volunteers who are working day and night to develop an open-source ventilator to help save lives. A crisis will sometimes bring out the best and worst in people, and this is an example of the best. Others in the U.S. and abroad are 3D printing masks and other devices to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

If you have ideas on how we can work together to combat the virus and support our healthcare providers, please contact me. We stand ready to help.

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