Midlife Is a Real Thing—Here Is What I See Now That I am 50

“Midlife” is a real thing. It is a real and meaningful passage of life, different than what came before. I’ve slowly come to understand this. About the “midlife crisis,” I am not so sure. A life lived well is full of change and challenge and therefore full of crises; to label one of them a “midlife” crisis seems arbitrary. But midlife itself is real, and I have at last come to see—with gratitude overdue—that this vital and powerful time of life is where I now get to be.

Demonstrations of Software for Additive Manufacturing (Video)

The team on Additive Manufacturing produced a series of pieces, each consisting of an article plus a recorded demonstration, on software tools for manufacturers employing 3D printing. My contributions describe simulation for very big 3D printed parts, using a simple spreadsheet for trial-and-error of the process, and making discoveries by mapping the layers of a 3D printed metal part.

Conversations With Machine Shop Owners (Video)

Recent conversations I have filmed with machine shop owners focus on launching a startup machine shop and the challenge of succession planning in family-owned machine shops. Plus, a panel discussion on reshoring includes two owners of machining businesses talking about the importance of returning mold and die machining to the United States.

5 Hard Lessons from a 28-Year-Old Startup Machine Shop Owner

This owner/operator of an independent machining business openly and authentically shared his story with me, and allowed me to draw these conclusions. Luck, endurance, and long hours were all important factors. Read »

Hope Is an Asset: Here Are Machine Shops Following Clear Visions for the Future

A simple strategy offering a clear aim to hope for is particularly valuable during a disrupted time. In this essay, I talk about examples of machining businesses following clear ideas for the way ahead. Read »

My Latest E-Book Both Continues the Pattern and Doesn’t

My latest longform work is the e-book This Is Not a Book. It makes the case for physical books and argues that e-books and printed books are different media serving different roles for readers, writers, and the very transmission of ideas. It is an odd work out of an odd time. I wrote it entirely during my state’s shelter-at-home period of the 2020 pandemic, and I drew inspiration from this period. 

Die Makers Adapt to Challenges All Machine Shops Face

Even among manufacturers, die making is underappreciated relative to the importance it holds. Here is an appreciation for die making. Read »

Additive Manufacturing and Sustainability Go Together—Here Is Why

Manufacturers shifting toward 3D printing as their mode of production also have the chance to shift toward a greater level of resource frugality in production. Both shifts are disruptive, but this is already a year of disruption. Read »

My New E-Book, “This Is Not a Book,” Now Available for Kindle

My latest longform work is more than an essay, more than a blog post, but not quite a book. The very title makes this clear. My new e-book is This Is Not a Book. The work is about physical books. Printed books and e-books are different from one another—fundamentally so—and something is lost if we assume that one is a ready substitute for the other. My new e-book explores their differences, and the e-book itself is an illustration of the difference. 

Pandemic Writings

I am posting this piece perhaps as just a record to be found, a snapshot of an unusual period of time. This blog has lasted nine years so far. If it lasts nine years more, then this post and its subject matter will be a curious relic.


A word I’ve found myself using a lot lately is “bandwidth.” As in, the signal frequency spectrum as an analogy for the limits of what I can do or pay attention to. People I care for plus responsibilities I am committed to plus the exigencies and adaptations of a challenging period of time have all summed lately to a situation in which my bandwidth is mostly full, most of the time.

We Answer Your Questions About “The Cool Parts Show” (Video)

 A frequently-asked-questions episode of our YouTube series. Watch »

A Machine Tool Becomes an Automated System for Making N95 Masks (Video)

Machine tools are supposed to cut metal, but this one is forming protective masks for defense against covid. To report this story, I made my first out-of-state trip since the beginning of the covid lockdowns. Watch »

Generative Design to Bring Weight and Cost Savings for Micromobility FUV

What if a car was engineered to match the ways we really drive cars? I am excited by this vehicle and the aims and thinking that have gone into creating it. Visiting the factory where this car is made proved to be my last trip before the covid lockdowns began. Read »

AM’s 2020 Advance: How the Crisis Created Conditions for Additive Manufacturing to Leap Ahead

We thought additive manufacturing might have been as disrupted as other segments of manufacturing by the events of 2020. Perhaps it was, but here are examples of the different ways companies using industrial 3D printing kept moving ahead. Read »

Has COVID-19 Made a Case for Automation? Taught Us About People Instead

Many expect the lasting impact of the coronavirus on manufacturers to be a rise in their use of automation, but I do not see the same direct link. The shift to automation was already happening. Covid highlighted something else. Read »

“The Cool Parts Show” Special COVID-19 Episodes

After season 2 of our YouTube series finished in January, we thought we were on a long break as the pandemic delayed season 3. No way: Our discovery of what companies using 3D printing were doing during the interruption led us to develop a series of special episodes during and about this time. Here are stories of an implant maker getting ready for surgeries to return, an eyeglasses maker shifting to protective glasses, a drone engine maker discovering an even bigger win for additive manufacturing, and a coalition of companies going into scale production of 3D printed test swabs.

After Machine Monitoring, Is Machine Learning the Next Step? Getting Ready for AI in Manufacturing

Thinking about artificial intelligence as a tool for manufacturing. Read »

Conversations on Data and Manufacturing (Video)

I filmed conversations about the impact of AI on manufacturing and machining and the potential impact of 5G.

3D Printing and the Coronavirus

Short reads on 3D printing and personal protective equipment (PPE) for the coronavirus: how metal 3D printing can make filters for PPE and how the leader of a movement using desktop 3D printers for face shields decided the effort is now done.