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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.

BrewSpoon

November 17, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,manufacturing,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 13:52

When traveling, I like to wake up to a cup of rich coffee. Most hotel rooms in the U.S. include a coffee maker with decent coffee. When traveling outside the U.S., coffee makers in hotel rooms are not common, although many include a hot water kettle.

For years, I have traveled abroad with a Bodum travel press, which produces a good cup of coffee. The first one I had was made of plastic and eventually cracked when pouring boiling water into it. The Bodum travel press that I have now is stainless steel, which also does a good job.

About 1.5 weeks ago, I stumbled across a very clever product that rivals my relatively heavy and bulky steel press. The product, called BrewSpoon, was developed at the Product Development Technology Station (PDTS), which is a part of Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein, South Africa. It is a clever design that the group is now in the process of commercializing.

The previous images show the basic steps in using BrewSpoon, along with my first cup of coffee from the product. I’ve only had two cups from it so far, but I believe the brewed coffee is as good or better than from my steel press. For my next trip abroad, it’s going with me instead of the press. My thanks to those at PDTS, especially Allan Kinnear, for producing such as useful product and giving one to me to try.

Bangalore

October 5, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 16:25

I visited Bangalore, India for the first time last week and the experience could not have been better. The people were extremely friendly, with many approaching me and speaking as if we had met before, although we hadn’t. I was lucky enough to spend time at interesting and successful companies, including 3D Product Development, Intech DMLS, and Supercraft3D. All three are vibrant, focused on additive manufacturing products and services, and at the forefront of AM in India.

I got two very different views of the city. A surprising number of large and notable companies that you may know little or nothing about operate out of Bangalore. Examples are HCL ($8.6 billion in annual sales), Infosys ($12.1 billion), Tata Consultancy Services ($20.9 billion), and Wipro ($8.5 billion). HCL became the first Indian IT company to reach market capitalization of $100 billion. These and other companies offer design and engineering services, and a few, such as Wipro, have a growing AM services business. These companies and their work and people are impressive.

The view of these giant and successful companies was conflicting when compared to much of the rest of Bangalore. The narrow streets were constantly clogged with cars, scooters, cycles, and motorized rickshaws. Traveling a distance that should take minutes took an hour or longer. Many of the sidewalks and curbs were crumbling and lined with coils of wire and other debris. The city is in desperate need of infrastructure improvement and updating. I was told the streets were not designed to handle such growth over the years, and trying to fix them now is next to impossible. Funding for a mass transit system would be outrageously expensive and is unlikely, according to those I spoke with.

Bangalore is an intriguing place to visit and I’m glad I did. It was a privilege to participate in the 11th NASSCOM Design & Engineering Summit, which was the primary reason for the trip. Visits to the Bangalore Palace, the State Legislature building, the city’s oldest and best known bazaar shopping district, and two microbreweries made the trip even more interesting. The food was incredibly flavorful and outstanding. Best of all, I spent quality time with a couple friends from India and met many new ones that I hope will develop into lasting relationships. Bangalore offers differing views of itself, yet I look forward to the possibility of returning.

Ferries, Food, and Belugas

June 28, 2019

Filed under: travel — Terry Wohlers @ 08:56

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

This month, I visited Hamburg, Germany for the first time. My immediate impression of the city was that it felt strangely like home. I took a plane, train, bus, and ferry (bottom right in the image) to get to my hotel, and passed by commuters, tourists, and people walking their dogs. People were going about their day just as they would anywhere else. Outside the large metropolitan area, I found lovely homes in the less crowded areas, such as the neighborhood where I stayed.

While in Hamburg, I enjoyed good food. Like a true millennial, I even took a picture of breakfast the second day. I had often heard that German food was not great. I would counter by saying that yes, it is not as exciting as Mediterranean food, but it fuels the body for a productive and meaningful day.

Terry and I visited the ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research (top left in the image), as well as the Airbus assembly plant in Hamburg. Both are impressive facilities. I could see why German engineering has such a reputation for quality. We even got a few sightings of Airbus transport planes, affectionately called “belugas” for their odd shaped hulls (top right in the image). These specialized aircraft are designed to carry major sections of other airplanes, and have been doing so since the early 1990s.

Important Events in AM

April 22, 2018

Last week, I attended the 20th Annual FIRPA Conference in Espoo, Finland, which is about 20 km (12 miles) from Helsinki. The event included some excellent presentations, including one from Jonas Eriksson of Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery AB. Eriksson discussed the production of parts by additive manufacturing for land-based gas turbine engines. To date, the company has redesigned many parts for metal AM and used the technology to produce more than 1,000 burner tips. The use of AM has resulted in a time reduction from 26 weeks to just three. As many as 60 people are now focused on AM at the company, with a goal of making metal AM as simple as 2D printing on paper.

Another very interesting presentation was given by Jyrki Saarinen of the University of Eastern Finland. His group worked closely with Dutch company Luxexcel to produce an AM machine with 1,000 inkjet nozzles for the printing of optical lenses in PMMA. The surface finish of the printed lenses is <2 nm RMS (less than 2 billionths of a meter), so no post-processing is required. The machine is capable of producing 40 lenses per hour, each measuring 10 mm in diameter x 2.5 mm in height, so the process is relatively fast.

I also had the privilege of visiting two world-class companies in Finland. The first was KONE, an $11 billion manufacturer of elevators, escalators, exterior revolving doors, and security entrances for commercial buildings. The company and its products are impressive. I also visited UPM, a $12.3 billion company with a strong position in paper, pulp, plywood, composites, and bio products. The company recently entered the AM industry by introducing a material extrusion filament product consisting of cellulose fiber and PLA.

Last week’s trip to Finland could not have gone better, thanks to the fine people that organized the meetings and very successful 20th annual conference. This week, the focus is on RAPID + TCT 2018, which begins tomorrow and goes through Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. This event marks the 26th annual conference and exposition, and I’m proud to say that I have not missed a single one of them. Attendance has grown by ~2.3 times over the past four years and exhibit space has grown by ~4.5 times over the same period. If you are interested in attending one of the very best events in all things additive manufacturing, 3D printing, and 3D scanning, go to Fort Worth this week. You will not regret it.

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.

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.

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.

Ireland

June 19, 2017

Filed under: life,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 00:59

Note: The following was authored by Ian Campbell, associate consultant at Wohlers Associates.

Having been born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, I thought I knew a lot about all things Irish. However, having joined Terry and Diane Wohlers on a trip to the southwest of Ireland this week, I have learned a lot more. Ireland is sometimes called “the Emerald Isle,” and here in County Kerry, the landscape is so incredibly green. There is an Irish song named “Forty Shades of Green” and I am sure we have seen most of them.

There is, of course, good reason for all the beautiful green vegetation. It rains. We met a waiter who told us that from October through March, it rained every day. Every single day! Amazingly, we are enjoying day after day of blues skies, bright sunshine, and near perfect temperatures. Today is our fourth day of it. The locals say we must have the luck of the Irish. The contrast between blue sky and green landscape makes everything even more spectacular.

It is sometimes said that America and Britain are two countries divided by a common language. Here in Kerry, they may write in English but we are not sure if they are speaking it. I can nearly manage to understand the local dialect, but Terry and Diane often look bemused. However, the Irish are so friendly and helpful, and they work hard to make visitors feel welcome. They are also very proud of their country’s history, from medieval walls dating back over 900 years, to a parade of 300 vintage cars and tractors, celebrating the 100-year anniversary of Henry Ford setting up a factory in Cork, Ireland, where we spent the first nearly 24 hours.

Perhaps the most interesting (or frightening) experience we have had was kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle. It involved climbing more than 100 steps and hanging over backwards from the castle parapet to kiss a stone that supposedly endows the “gift of the gab,” that is, the ability to speak with eloquence. I am not sure Terry really needed to do this as he is already an eloquent speaker. However, we all had a go and survived the experience.

Another Irish song asks “Have you ever been across the sea to Ireland?” We now have, and I would encourage everyone to do likewise. It’s a fascinating country with brilliant green landscape and an intriguing history.

An Itch for Travel

February 26, 2017

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 07:58

I like to travel and so does my wife and kids. Some of our best memories and times together are from family vacations. For years, we made a habit of spending several days in a tropical area with a nice beach for some serious relaxation and scuba diving. Life does not get much better than spending quality, uninterrupted time with the family.

Many opportunities for travel have developed in recent weeks, but I’ve declined most of them due to work-related projects and commitments that have kept me in the office. After being “chained down” for weeks, I have experienced an urge for travel. Some people don’t like it, especially frequent business travel, but I look forward to the trips. I especially like going to new places, both domestically and internationally. The adventure, coupled with meeting people and creating new friendships and business contacts, makes it interesting and gratifying.

I’m looking forward to another year filled with travel and new experiences. A number of trips have been planned and many others are being scheduled. Planning them gives me another reason to get excited about getting up in the morning.

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