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Most Popular AM Application

February 24, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,machining — Terry Wohlers @ 11:30

Note: Much of the following was excerpted from Wohlers Report 2017.

The following chart shows how organizations are using industrial additive manufacturing systems for a range of applications. The information presented in the chart came from the survey question “How do your customers use the parts built on your AM systems?” The respondents consisted of 61 manufacturers of industrial AM systems (those that sell for $5,000 or more) and 100 service providers worldwide.

The survey results show that companies use AM technology to produce functional parts more than anything else. This represents the degree of interest in AM machines and materials that produce strong and accurate parts. In the future, we expect the demand for these types of parts to increase much further, especially as companies adopt AM for production applications.

RØDE Microphones

August 15, 2016

Two of our consultants and I have had the privilege of visiting RØDE Microphones of Sydney, Australia. RØDE is a manufacturer of world-class microphone products for studio recording, performances, video broadcasts, and live interviews. It also manufactures microphones for presenters (lavalier and button mics) and smart phones. Over the past nearly two years, we have worked with RØDE and learned a great deal about the company and its products. Peter Freedman, managing director and chief executive, has given permission to disclose and discuss our relationship publicly.

RØDE hires some of the best people in Australia and other parts of the world. The company has offices in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and Hong Kong. Most of the Australian employees we’ve met are young, bright, and energetic. Freedman is the driver of new products, is constantly pushing the limits, and is the heart and soul of the company. RØDE is running $30 million in precision equipment, including a considerable number of new machines that were installed since we’ve started working together. Freedman seeks to be among the best of the best in the design and manufacturing of microphones. And, it shows by the company’s strong growth in recent years.


I feel lucky to be able to work with great companies such as RØDE and people like Freedman and his team. He always has a can-do attitude and is constantly looking for new and better ways for product development and manufacturing. Over our 29 years in business, I have worked with a few people and organizations that find reasons why you cannot do something and serve as obstacles to progress. Fortunately, most of the people that we’ve encountered have the right spirit and outlook. Engineering consultant, futurist, and friend Joel Orr once said, “Success breeds success.” I could not agree more, and RØDE is a company that is producing a lot of it.

Carl’s Workshop

October 12, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,machining — Terry Wohlers @ 16:09

When I first contacted Autodesk in 1983, the vice president of market and sales answered the phone. I doubt the company had more than a couple dozen employees at the time. It was founded just a year earlier. Fast forward to October 2014. Autodesk now employs 10,000 people, generated $2.3 billion in its most recent fiscal year, and has a market cap of $12.2 billion. Not bad for a company that started with software for computer-aided drafting.

I had the privilege of spending 1.5 hours, one-on-one, with Carl Bass, Autodesk’s president and CEO, last Thursday. He is not your prototypical corporate chief executive. Carl dresses casually, is down to earth, and gives his full attention to you. Not once did he check his phone or seem preoccupied, even though he was going to greet and present to U.S. Navy admirals directly after my departure.

We were less than two minutes into our meeting at the impressive Autodesk Gallery when Carl asked if I wanted to see the company’s Pier 9 Workshop. Gonzalo Martinez of Autodesk had told me about the facility around the time it was being launched, so it has been on my “must see” list since then. Getting to visit it was a treat, but having Carl serve as my personal guide made it even more special.

I was surprised by the size and amount of equipment at the facility. The place is filled with large and advanced CNC machinery, and nearly everything you’d need to manufacture a product in metal, wood, or plastic. The number of high-end 3D printers, alone, was unexpected. See this video and these images to get a look inside. The 120 mostly young and energetic employees at the site made the place buzz with activity. The workshop includes some of Autodesk’s own photopolymer-based 3D printers, which are being developed as a part of the Spark 3D printing effort. The resolution and detail that is possible with the small machine is impressive.

When leaving the Autodesk buildings, I bumped into some business acquaintances on the street and they reminded me that Carl himself uses a lot of the workshop equipment. He knows how to program the CNC machines and run the 3D printers. In fact, he has been running a 3D printer at his home for many years. I asked Carl if he knew how to operate his company’s software products, such as Inventor and 3ds Max, and he replied with a firm Yes. With so much going on and so many people wanting his attention, I don’t know where he finds the time. If I worked for a company, such as Autodesk, I’d want to be close to the Pier 9 Workshop, and have Carl as my boss.

Morris Technologies

July 23, 2012

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,machining,manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 09:09

Note: The following was co-authored by Tim Caffrey and Terry Wohlers

Morris Technologies, Inc. (MTI) and its sister company, Rapid Quality Manufacturing (RQM), are located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Together, the two organizations employ 135 people and house 20 direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) systems from EOS—the largest DMLS capacity in the world—as well as an electron beam melting (EBM) system from Arcam. MTI also has extensive CNC machining capabilities, including a new 5-axis CNC machining center. MTI and RQM are worldwide leaders in the development and production of metal parts using additive manufacturing.

MTI began to offer additive manufacturing services in 1994, and was the first company in the U.S. to install DMLS equipment. These moves helped to transform a business that had been in the Morris family for several generations. MTI invested heavily in DMLS when it was relatively new, which was bold, even risky, at the time. In hindsight, the choice has put MTI at the forefront and is now closely aligned with some of the largest and most prestigious aerospace and medical companies in the world. We believe the decisions made by Greg Morris, CEO/COO at MTI, have proven to be genius.

From the start, Morris established a large research and development department, which has helped MTI to be innovative with the DMLS process. The company has modified its DMLS systems to enhance the material properties and has developed process parameters for new metal materials, including aluminum 6061-T6 and stainless steel 17-4 PH. Another core capability at MTI is its ability to work closely with its customers—from design to manufacturing—and co-develop designs that work for the DMLS process. Building the parts in the DMLS system is an important part of the overall process, but only a part. MTI has developed processes for the removal of supports/anchors, heat treatment, and finishing and polishing parts. Recognizing the vital importance of post treatment, the company has invested in the equipment and know-how to apply the HIP (hot isostatic pressing) procedure, and is now one of the few in the country that offers it.

With 20 engineers on staff, MTI continues to focus on R&D, process parameters, and new products. Meanwhile, RQM remains solely focused on metal part production. Both companies have ISO 13485, ISO 9001, and AS9100 quality certifications.

Greg Morris continues to steadily guide his companies into a new era of AM metal parts by focusing on process qualification and repeatability, quality, and regulatory compliance. What’s more, his leadership and on-going willingness to share information are helping to move the entire AM industry forward. We recognize and appreciate the valuable contributions he and his companies are making to the fast-growing additive manufacturing industry.


September 2, 2006

Filed under: machining,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 09:21

I visited The Protomold Company for the first time on July 27, 2006. The company is in the business of making aluminum molds and molding plastic parts. The 4,645 square meter (50,000 square foot) headquarters operation in Maple Plain, Minnesota was even more extraordinary than I had expected. I met with Brad Cleveland, chief executive officer, Larry Lukis, chief technical officer and founder, Mark Kubicek, vice president of operations, and Don Krantz, vice president of development. These individuals form the management team.

The company is known for its quick delivery at affordable prices. Standard lead time is 10-15 business days, from the receipt of 3D CAD data to shipped molded parts. For a 25% premium, delivery is <10 days. Customers can cut it to five days for a 50% premium. And, when paying a 100% premium, delivery is three days. To meet the demand, the company runs five shifts around the clock, seven days a week.  Protomold quotes more jobs each day than I would have ever imagined. The company's primary intellectual property is its mostly automated tool design software and its quoting engine. These tools, as well as everything else associated with the day-to-day operation, is totally paperless. After I was made aware of this, I kept an eye out, expecting to see at least a scrap of paper somewhere, but I did not. Impressive discipline! In seven years, Protomold has grown every quarter except for one. About a year ago, the company was acknowledged nationally as the 96th fastest-growing private U.S. company on the Inc. 500 list. The company has received other awards and recognitions for its growth and business practices and is clearly serving a genuine need here in the U.S. and abroad. If the company continues to "get it right" as it has in the recent past, it can expect a bright and prosperous future.

Complex Tooling and Molded Parts in 45 Hours

March 28, 2004

Filed under: machining,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 10:18

INCS Inc. of Tokyo, Japan is a fascinating company in the product development and manufacturing business. It can produce precision tooling with multiple side actions, as well as molded parts the size of a mobile phone, in an unbelievable 45 hours. That’s right: less than two days. Sound impossible? The company has developed special tool design software, CNC machining software, and CNC machining centers to help streamline the process. These tools contribute to the unprecedented speeds, but it’s the company’s proprietary set of processes that makes it so highly efficient.

Shinjiro Yamada, the brains behind the operation, is the CEO of INCS. He is a highly respected individual and has a reputation for pioneering impressive new methods of product design and manufacturing. I’ve had the privilege of knowing Mr. Yamada for more than a decade and have watched him build INCS from a small startup to a corporation that now employs hundreds of talented individuals. The average age of an INCS employee is 27.

The injection molds are made of tool steel or aluminum, depending upon the required part quantity. Maximum part size is 300 x 300 x 100 mm (12 x 12 x 4 inches). The company’s 50 custom-built CNC machines are capable of milling slots as thin as 0.5 mm (0.020 inch) for ribs and other features, so no electrical discharge machining (EDM) is required for most jobs. 

It is important to note that the company requires more than two days if it is producing multiple molds as part of a single job and shipping the molded parts to customers in the U.S. or Europe. Within two weeks (from CAD data to delivery), INCS can deliver the first parts, including up to 20 different types of components at the same time. That means receiving CAD data for 20 different parts, producing molds, and delivering the parts—all within a two-week time-frame. If you know of a company that can do it faster, let me know.

Precision STL-Based CAD/CAM

March 22, 2003

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE,machining — Terry Wohlers @ 08:03

MecSoft Corporation recently announced the availability of its VisualMill Basic 4.0 product for $550. The product is also being bundled with Rhino from Robert McNeel & Associates for $995. These are two excellent products with a loyal customer base. VisualMill Basic offers 3-axis, solids, surface, and STL milling and includes DXF, IGES, and other CAD imports, as well as a configurable post processor.

Bill Morgan of Vintage Industries has used VisualMill to machine more than 150 molds. He exports STL files from his CAD software and imports them into Magics Tooling for the creation of mold data. He then imports the STL data into VisualMill and machines it. He previously used MasterCAM but found VisualMill to be easier to use and more productive. Morgan said that he routinely produces precision data with resolution of up to 0.0025 mm (0.0001 inch) from STL models.

Products such as PowerMILL from Delcam, Surfcam from Surfware, and DeskProto from Delft Spline Systems also import STL data.