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Recycling with AM

January 26, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 18:50

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

No one is surprised to hear that people produce copious amounts of waste every day. A 2017 study found that over 300 million tons of waste plastic is generated annually. The question of how to reuse this material, rather than leaving it to degrade over millions of years, may be tiresome. Fortunately, AM is bringing new options much closer to home in a variety of ways.

Companies are looking at methods of using some of this waste material for AM. GreenGate3D produces and sells plastic filament from 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG). I recently bought a spool and I am making useful home goods with it. Filamentive, NefilaTek, Refil, RePLAy 3D, and others have produced fully or partially recycled filaments. Research shows that recycled filament is slightly weaker than virgin plastic, but this is predictable, which means that it can be accounted for in design. As proof of this, the U.S. military has used recycled plastics to build bridges that supported Abrams tanks in at least two cases.

In a recent article, 30,000 water bottles were recycled to 3D print a public structure in Dubai. The pavilion, called Deciduous, showcases how AM can be applied to creative structures using materials that would otherwise be waste. An advantage to using AM is the option of repurposing locally produced materials. With cleaning, grinding, and extruding technologies, such as those advocated by Netherland-based Precious Plastic, nearly anyone can recycle plastics in their hometown.

Recycling initiatives are not restricted to polymers. Newly renamed 6K (formerly Amastan Technologies) of North Andover, Massachusetts has developed a method of grinding and melting recycled metals into spherical powder particles for AM. The company is expected to commercially launch its materials soon. Similar techniques can be applied to produce wires and sheet materials for metal AM. The AM supply chain has not developed sufficiently for recycled materials to economically replace virgin materials. Growing interest, investment, and global conscience is sure to tip the scale, hopefully within a few years.

The Edge of the Ledge

December 14, 2019

Filed under: entertainment,event,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 11:36

In February 1989, Diane and I were driving in the countryside near Queenstown, New Zealand when we saw some interesting activity on a bridge. It extended over a deep gorge down to a raging river. We pulled into a small dirt parking lot overlooking the scenic area and walked onto the bridge. A person was being geared up with straps and ropes for something we knew nothing about at the time. Those in charge said the person was about to jump off the bridge with an elastic rope connected to his legs. In astonishment, we saw him take the plunge.

Weeks after returning to the U.S., we read about bungy jumping on the South Island of New Zealand. This news was the introduction of commercial bungy jumping as we know it today. It originated at this place, named Kawarau Bridge, located 43 meters (141 feet) above the water. In recent years, I developed the urge to return. A big part of me wanted to make the jump, although another part was unsure about the idea.

Last Saturday, December 7, Diane and I drove to Kawarau Bridge, which now has a large parking lot, nicely constructed overlook to watch jumpers, and a substantial visitor’s center. Early that morning, the forecast showed possible sun at 2:00 pm, so I booked the time slot for the jump. It had been raining daily for more than a week—unusual for early summer in New Zealand—resulting in a rise of the river by nearly 10 meters (33 feet), according to the guy rigging me up. It turned out to be windy, raining, and cold, but the weather was the least of my worries. I made small talk with the staff and then realized I was not paying close attention to how things were being connected. I asked myself whether he fastened everything correctly, but I had no way of checking because the connections were covered by fabric and Velcro. This made me feel uneasy, but I could not turn back at that point.

Stepping up to the edge of the platform and taking a peek over it was terrifying. I tried not to look down when the attendant counted “5, 4, 3, 2, ….” and that’s when I made the last small step to the edge and pushed off. I bounced upward a good distance after the bungy fully extended, and I bobbed around for what was probably 30 seconds. The connections were sound. By then, my nerves were mostly calm, knowing the equipment was secure, and I would probably survive. About an hour later, the clouds had cleared and the sun was bright. Diane and I walked across the bridge to shoot pictures, soak up the rays, and relax after experiencing some adventure we discovered 30 years earlier.

Professional videography captured it all.

Lee Kuan Yew

June 4, 2019

Filed under: future,life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 16:15

I recently finished a book titled Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World. Lee Kuan Yew, commonly referred to as LKY, was the first Prime Minister of Singapore and served in this capacity for three decades. I am unaware of another person with such clarity of understanding in so many parts of the world. His knowledge and insight are extraordinary.

In easy to understand language, LKY drilled down deeply into the past, present, and future of China, India, the U.S., and other parts of the world. His wide-ranging discussions included geopolitical, social, economic, healthcare, education, and religion. He even discussed how a dominant language in a given country, such as China, will impact its future.

The book is written in question/answer format, which is a little unusual. The content, however, made up for it. Amazon customer reviews—103 total—gave it 4.9 out of 5 stars. I recommend it highly.

Snow in the Rockies

March 9, 2019

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:28

The snow has been very good this winter in the high country. Copper Mountain, our favorite ski resort, has received nearly 7 meters (23 feet) of snow this season. In the past three days, alone, it has received 0.9 meters (35 inches). The snowfall in many parts of the Colorado Rockies is well above average.

With so much snow, the threat of avalanches is high. Several occurred last weekend, and this one between Frisco, Colorado and Copper Mountain was caught on video. It looked terrifying. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Today, we were first to ski one of the back bowls at Copper. It had been closed for three days due to all the snow, so it was fun to create first tracks in nearly a meter of snow. I never thought I’d complain about too much snow, but it was work to ski in such deep powder.

If you’re in the high country, have fun and be careful.

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.

Successful Company Founders

January 27, 2019

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 07:48

I thoroughly enjoy listening to NPR’s “How I Built This” series of podcasts. I wrote about them here nearly 15 months ago. Each one consists of an interview with a successful founder of a company. After listening to more than 50 of them, I have drawn a few conclusions about what it takes to successfully launch and grow a company.

A good idea: It often starts with a “half-baked” concept. I learned that it does not necessarily need to be a brilliant idea. In fact, the original ideas behind most of the companies were questionable at the time. An example is Perry Chen, principal founder of Kickstarter. It took him eight years to refine the concept of crowdfunding.

Another example is Jake Burton of Burton Snowboards. He founded the company in 1977, but it took him and others years to develop the snowboard and make it commercially viable. Without the following attributes, a good or great idea will go nowhere.

Passion: This is something that Chen, Burton, Richard Branson, and countless other successful entrepreneurs have. Most have a great deal of it. Without passion, a company founder has little chance of commercializing an idea.

Risk-taking: This means courage and grit. Some might view it as an adventure, which can really get their blood flowing. Those who succeed in starting a company are willing to take calculated risks.

Hard work: Perhaps this goes without saying, but do not underestimate the number of hours, including evenings and weekends, that company founders spend. It’s often at a time when they are raising a family, making it even more challenging.

Determination: Founders of companies face a seemingly endless number of obstacles and problems, including flat-out rejection. Yet, they get up in the morning and work tirelessly to overcome them. They are absolutely determined to move forward, no matter what gets in their way.

Luck: Some would argue that you create your own luck. While this may be true, a little luck, such as accidentally meeting a person that becomes your co-founder or partner, helps a great deal. Putting yourself in a position to create luck is helpful.

Having an idea or two, along with passion, a willingness to take risks, a great work ethic, and determination does not guarantee success. Without these attributes, along with a bit of luck, a person has little chance of launching and growing a winning company.

Note also that much of this applies to entrepreneurs working within another organization. Launching a new product or business in these companies is not entirely different from starting a company.

Favorite Products of 2018

December 29, 2018

Filed under: life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 19:09

Nearly every year at this time, I look back at the products I purchased and like the most. The following is a summary.

Data projector ($350): Buying a data projector is not as easy as one would expect. The first one we purchased was said to have 2,500 lumens, but it was anything but bright. We returned it in favor of a ViewSonic projector with 3,600 lumens. It’s a great product, especially for the relatively low price.

Projector screen ($97): This 16:9, 254-cm (100-inch) screen is exceptional. It’s easy to transport, stand up, and take down. It comes with a carrying case that makes it even better.

Travel brief ($379): This is my second ballistic nylon laptop brief from Tumi. My first one is still like new and our son is now using it.

Stackable wine rack ($32): We liked the first one so much, we bought two more. Each bamboo rack stores 18 bottles.

Snow skis ($748): The Soul 7 HD skis from Rossignol are superb. They are not inexpensive, but they’re worth every penny.

Ear protection ($20): If you attend concerts or other events where sound can be excessive, consider this ear protection filter product from Westone. My wife and I each got a pair for the recent Eagles, Zac Brown, and Doobie Brothers concert.

Small USB fan ($14): Whether you’re working or relaxing in an area that’s a bit warm, consider this little gem from Opolar. The five-inch, USB-powered fan is well designed, offers two speeds, and is quiet.

 

How to Spell “Wohlers”

December 15, 2018

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 17:57

I inherited a name that is inherently misspelled. The most common misspelling is an omission of the S. The second most common is the swapping of the O and H. The most irritating is the addition of an apostrophe, as in “Wohler’s.” Adding an apostrophe to Wohlers is no different than adding one to Smith, Johnson, or Brown (i.e., Smit’h, Johnso’n, Brow’n). It is obviously incorrect and looks absurd, yet it’s really no different.

No one likes their name misspelled, especially when it’s published broadly. What’s puzzling to me is spelling a name accurately is really very easy, and it shows that the writer cares. It only takes a second or two to get it right. I can assure you that the person will be grateful.

Friends

December 1, 2018

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 06:20

What would we do without them? They give us so much. Friends ski, hike, bike, hunt, and fish together. And, sometimes, they get into deep and interesting discussions when traveling together. They hang out, tell jokes, and laugh together. They are there when one is in need of an ear. I can’t imagine life without them.

This week was rough. The world lost a great person and friend, Dave Tait, on November 27. He was a friend—and a very good one—of nearly 30 years. I met Dave in or around 1990. He was a pioneer in additive manufacturing and 3D printing when few people knew what it was. Dave and his company, Laserform, pushed the limits of the technology in the 1990s and helped countless companies adopt it for a range of useful applications.

I admired Dave for his early work in AM, but also for his work ethic, passion, and support of family and friends. I looked up to him for his upbeat attitude and demeanor. Dave knew how to bring out the best in people. His smile and words of kindness, even to strangers, were contagious. I told myself many times over that I wanted to be like him.

Some of my very best memories of Dave are from our times together in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. For a string of many years, we skied together, along with family and friends. I will forever miss those great times with him. If only we could ski together and hang out one more time.

Dave taught many people a great deal. What I learned most recently from him is to never take friends for granted, nor forget who they are, and to spend as much time as possible with them. Friends are precious. A mutual friend once said, “Live each day as if it is your last.” I believe he meant to live life to it fullest each and every day because none of us know what the future holds.

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.

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