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Skiing by Helicopter

January 9, 2022

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 14:26

Heli-skiing is something I have always wanted to do and I got a chance last Wednesday near Whistler, British Columbia. Due to a lot of new snow and poor visibility, the service was suspended the previous four days. My wife and I rolled into Whistler the night before, so I woke up the next morning not knowing whether it would happen, although the forecast was favorable. I got up, had breakfast, geared up, and headed to the “powder hut” and heliport. All systems were “go,” so the excitement quickly mounted.

As with other extreme sports, heli-skiing comes with risk. Among the top are avalanches, tree wells, and crevasses. One of our two guides, named Rob, was experienced and mature and possibly only slightly younger than me. With these and many other activities, nothing replaces experience. He gave a lengthy, detailed, and hands-on briefing on safety and the use of the shovel, probe, and transceiver. (A transceiver is a combination of a transmitter and receiver in a single device). Each of the 11 of us carried all three items, and I was one of three carrying a radio. Rob was clear on what we should and should not do around the helicopter and other elements of heli-skiing. When we were near the five-ton aircraft, we were required to always move low and slow.

The skiing was amazing. Many of the turns were waist deep—something I had never experienced. The Whistler area had received 132 cm (52 inches) of snow in the days leading up to Wednesday morning, and I was told it was unusually dry and light, which made for ideal conditions. We were lucky.

The heli-rides, mountains peaks, and deep powder skiing were absolutely mind-blowing. It is one of those activities in which you ask yourself, “Am I really doing this?” It ranks up there with jumping off a bridge 43 meters (141 feet) above a raging river and encountering lions and great white sharks in Africa. Would I do it again? Yes!

Looking Back on 2021

December 12, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 14:10

by Noah Mostow

This past year has been interesting, exciting, and different than I had expected. At the beginning of the year, COVID-19 cases were spiking and now the omicron variant is spreading globally. I feel so fortunate we have been able to gather at industry events, including America Makes TRX, Formnext, ICAM, and RAPID + TCT, to name a few. Thank you to the organizers for creating the space for the AM industry to come together again. By mid-summer, things were improving, but it looks like COVID-19 could affect our lives for years to come.

The pandemic taught many of us how to work remotely. Even so, it cannot entirely replace in-person networking and collaboration. Even so, I believe the pandemic has made us more resilient while working globally nearly daily. The economy has mostly recovered, yet some supply chains continue to struggle.

We cannot look back at this year without noting the influx of acquisitions and initial public offerings. Desktop Metal acquired Envisiontec, Aerosint, and ExOne. 3D Systems acquired Oqton, a producer of a manufacturing execution system, while selling its surgical simulation and service provider businesses. At one point, we began to wonder if multiple AM-related companies would be acquired each month. Wohlers Associates was acquired by ASTM International in Q4 2021.

The year was also active for companies going public, with six having initial public offerings through mergers with special purpose acquisition companies. It is too early to know how this might impact the industry.

Make sure to listen to the latest episode from the Wohlers Audio Series. Melissa Orme, vice president of additive manufacturing at Boeing, provided thought-provoking ideas and insight. You can find it at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and our website.

Limits to 3D-printed Gear

August 24, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 18:23

By Noah Mostow

I returned this week from a month of remote work while traveling through the east coast and mid-west. One of my favorite activities is kayaking on lakes and rivers. Recently, I came across Melker, a Swedish company that produces 3D-printed kayaks. The company uses a bio-based composite material and large-format material extrusion systems to create full-size kayaks. The boats are beautiful and can range from 480 cm (189 in) to 586 cm (231 in) in length. These boats are beautiful and sustainable, but it is daunting to travel a distance with them.

While traveling, my girlfriend and I had two inflatable kayaks from Advanced Elements with us. I have been using them for the past few years and they are work great. They track well (i.e., go straight) and are rugged. During our trip, we paddled the Cuyahoga River in Akron, Ohio and went over many rocks in shallow rapids. What I like most is that each fit into a 76 x 43 x 20 cm (30 x 17 x 8 in) duffle bag and can be inflated in less than five minutes. We never had to worry about them being stolen from the top of the car or breaking from hitting a rock. To underscore their transportability, we fit four people, four kayaks, and all our gear into a Volkswagen hatchback multiple times.

Over the past few years, the outdoor industry has begun to adopt additive manufacturing. I am excited about this because 3D printing can improve the gear’s performance, aesthetics, and sustainability. However, for now, I will stay with my inflatable kayak because nothing travels as easily, costs as little, and is as durable.

The Biltmore

June 13, 2021

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

My wife and I stayed on the Biltmore property in Asheville, North Carolina last week. I knew little about it prior to booking the trip. The more I learned about it, the more interested I became. The 250-room home, covering 16,630 sq meters (179,000 sq ft), is the largest in the U.S. and resembles a European palace. It was completed in 1895 by owner George Washington Vanderbilt, the grandson of Cornelius H. Vanderbilt, who created enormous wealth from railroads and shipping. The mother of CNN’s Anderson Cooper is Gloria Laura Vanderbilt. Her grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, is George’s brother.

The mansion includes 35 bedrooms and 65 fireplaces. We spent a couple hours inside but did not see all of it. Several rooms and spaces stood out. The large swimming pool was interesting, especially given that pools and swimming were not common back then. The primitive nature of the gym was captivating, yet not that different from those of today. The setting of pins in the two-lane bowling alley was not automated, but the design made it easy to return the balls to the players.

                                

The technology in the building was years ahead of its time. An elevator, powered by electricity, was functional in 1895 and is still operating today. We saw it taking people up and down. A much smaller version for food and tableware, called a dumbwaiter, is adjacent to the kitchen. The house included five electric refrigerators, including a walk-in unit. The home’s 43 bathrooms were complete with plumbing, bathtubs, and toilets, but only two had sinks with running water. I recall my parents not having indoor plumbing in their farmhouses 40+ years later.

I found the visit to the Biltmore house intriguing. I had no idea a home with such impressive technology of the time was in the U.S. We stayed at one of two hotels on the property, making it convenient for visiting the many gardens and hiking/biking trails, winery adjacent to our hotel, and mansion. Both staff and visitors were extremely friendly. I highly recommend a visit to the Biltmore.

In-Person Meetings

January 23, 2021

Filed under: event,future,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 05:53

I miss in-person meetings and events and you probably do too. Thankfully, Zoom and other video conferencing tools have helped fill the void, but they are not the same. I look forward to informal conversations when bumping into friends and business acquaintances in exhibition hallways and hotel lobbies. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings contribute greatly to forming and strengthening relationships, often leading to new business.

                               

When can we safely meet in person? Honestly, I do not know. The people who know more than me about the vaccine distribution do not know. I am hopeful it will occur in the second half of this year. As of today, I have tentative plans to travel to Africa, Asia, Europe, and within the U.S. A family vacation would be great too. I am sure the airlines, hotels, and ride-sharing services are also hoping that travel turns around in the coming months.

If you have a story to share about your hopes and plans for 2021, please send it to me. I may use it in a future blog commentary, with your permission, of course. Best wishes to you and your colleagues for a healthy and travel-filled second half to 2021.

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.

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.

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