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RAPID 2012: Day Three

The line was even longer by the coffee pots on the last day of RAPID 2012. I manfully shouldered my way through the crowd to get my own cup of wake up, noticing as I did so that there were already two empty containers sitting forlorn and abandoned. Java in hand, I found a seat in the conference room to await the keynote speech by Terry Wohlers. Really, this time.

Wohlers began by informing the crowd that this was the 20th year of RAPID. The industry has changed a lot in more than two decades. According to Wohlers, since 1988, the CAGR of additive manufacturing (AM) has increased by 26.4%. Around 6,500 industrial AM systems were sold in 2011 and material sales to feed those systems added up to $327 million.

Terry Wohlers

Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates.

Another area of growth for AM is what Wohlers calls “personal 3D printers.” These are the types of systems produced by MakerBot, Solidoodle, and the audience targeted by 3D Systems with its Cube. Basically, any printer that costs under $5,000 is included in this category.

Wohlers said quantifying just how many personal 3D printer units have been sold is more difficult, partially because it’s harder to track small start-up sales and even harder to guess how many hobbyists are building their own printers. He estimates that around 23,265 personal 3D printers were sold in 2011, up from 5,978 in 2010.

Upon the conclusion of Wohlers’ keynote, I milled around the floor show for a bit until it was time to meet with Geomagic CEO Ping Fu. I asked how Geomagic’s acquisition of Sensable would affect design engineers in the short term. Fu said that Sensable brings an improved workflow for design.

Ping Fu

Ping Fu, CEO of Geomagic.

As an example, when working with a sculpt, the new workflow will allow a single sculpt to be rethought and redesigned virtually, rather than creating a resculpt. Fu also told Rapid Ready she believes haptic feedback is the future of design. Adding touch to the process brings a sense of “digital reality” to prototyping, as well as medical and engineering applications.

My last visit for the day was with Brent Stucker, professor of Industrial Engineering and Clark Chair of Computer Aided Engineering at the University of Louisville. We discussed the introduction of standardized terminology for AM processes. In place of the muddle of terms used by individual companies (you could probably find six different descriptions for what amounts to additive laser tech), ASTM has created a list of standardized terminology to cover the spectrum of AM.

You’ll start seeing the terms used more often on Rapid Ready. I’ll also be updating the processes page using the new terminology to streamline the page. I will, of course, add a definition list along with the update at a later date.

Below you’ll find a video about Geomagic.

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About John Newman

John Newman is a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering magazine. He covers the rapid prototyping and manufacturing beat.

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