Jeff's MCAD Blogging

Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has over 35 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design and engineering. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CG, CAD, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the design community. As editor of ShareCG, … More »

The Continuing Relevance of Spatial’s 3D Software Components

 
November 20th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

Last month we attended the Spatial Insider’s Summit 2014 and got a good look at the company’s technologies, current position, and future direction.

From its inception, Spatial, a Dassault Systèmes company, has been a developer and provider of software components – modular software packages that perform a set of specific and related functions. This class of software is designed to work as a functional component of a larger application, such as CAD, CAM, or CAE. The goal of component software is to standardize the interfaces between software components so that they can work together efficiently

Although far from the only issue of concern, reusability also is a vital characteristic of software components. Ideally, software components should be designed and implemented in such a way that many different applications could reuse them. This is not an easy task because it takes significant effort to write software components that are effectively reusable. To succeed, components need to be:

  • Fully documented
  • Thoroughly tested
  • Designed knowing that they inevitably will be put to unforeseen uses.

In developing its software components, Spatial has always realized, too, that the best modeling components excel at modeling with imported data, and through data reuse, data import is more prevalent than data creation. With regard to the second part of the statement, Spatial understands that design data reuse is much more than just data exchange.

Spatial Software Components in Fabrication and Manufacturing

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In Search of the 3DEXPERIENCE

 
November 13th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

We just returned from Dassault Systemes 3DEXPERIENCE Forum North America in Las Vegas this week. Truth be told, Las Vegas is not one of my favorite destinations, but I was intrigued by what I might discover about Dassault’s elusive 3DEXPERIENCE, something I’ve always had difficulty getting my head wrapped around. I came to Las Vegas hoping to finally understand what the 3DEXPERIENCE platform was about, also hoping the Forum would provide that opportunity.

After learning all I could at the Forum, I now realize that the 3DEXPERIENCE platform is a comprehensive engineering and business platform, each dependent on the other and not mutually exclusive.

On many different levels and in many different contexts, the Forum was all about experience, experience, and experience. Design and engineering definitely took a back seat at this event. This is a departure from competing engineering software companies where it’s all about products and subscriptions. Keep in mind, though, that the Forum was geared primarily toward big companies with current and prospective customers at the CxO level. This being the case, most of the presentations were high level and emphasized business potential over technology implementation. Technology was presented in the context of strategy, experience, and culture; not as an end in itself.

Dassault Systemes’ 3DEXPERIENCE Platform

 

Until this Forum, I reacquainted myself  to the fact that Dassault Systemes (DS) is involved in 12 major market segments/industries that include:

  • Aerospace & Defense
  • Architecture, Engineering, & Construction (AEC)
  • Consumer Goods & Retail
  • Consumer Packaged Goods & Retail
  • Energy, Process & Utilities
  • Financial and Business Services
  • Life Sciences
  • High-Tech (ECAD)
  • Industrial Equipment
  • Transportation and Mobility
  • Marine and Offshore
  • Natural Resources

That’s quite a broad range of markets that are served, and DS has strategically entered these markets through organic in-house development, as well as through acquisitions.

Below is the 3DEXPERIENCE compass with brief descriptions of its various points of reference and components.

 

3DS-compass-small-640x252

The 3DEXPERIENCE Platform Compass

In DS’s view, consumers do not just buy products anymore, but rather, experiences. During the Forum, DS used Apple as an analogy to reinforce this thought on customer experience. Apple sells both products and supporting services that equate to an overall experience for customers – Macs, iPhones, iPads, iTunes, Genius Bar, etc. It seems like DS aspires to do the same.

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It’s Never Too Early To Plan For Obsolescence

 
November 5th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

I’m not an impulsive buyer now, and never have been. Before I purchase just about anything, especially for business purposes, I explore function, options, alternatives, and expected life span. Before purchasing, as much as it pains me, I also plan for the product to eventually become obsolete

Obsolescence is a fact of life, whether incidental with regard to function or intentional because it was deliberately planned. As time goes by, it seems that the latter occurs with greater and greater frequency. Just look at cell phones, computers, software, clothing . . . just about anything you can name.

Even high-ticket capital investments, such as manufacturing equipment are not immune.

The video link below is simplistic and slightly off topic, but is a great case in point for how and why obsolescence is very much part of product design and consumption:

Planned Obsolescence, Perceived Obsolescence

Along these lines I recently came across an article written by Frank Powell, Grinding Products Manager at Marposs Corp. (Auburn Hills, MI). It appeared in the August 2014 edition of SME’s magazine, Manufacturing Engineering and is entitled, “The Time to Start Planning for Obsolescence is Now.” It really resonated with me, as I’m sure it will with many of you as follows:

________________________________________________________________________________

So, your shiny new, state-of-the-art metrology system is up and running. What’s next on the agenda? Well, after you relax for a minute and admire your handiwork, starting some serious, in-depth planning for its replacement is probably not a bad idea.

No, there is nothing wrong with today’s hardware and software, and your shiny new system will probably last for many years. But, it absolutely won’t last forever and when the time comes to repair or replace it you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Metrology, like all technologies, is evolving rapidly and continuously. That’s why your new system is a lot more capable than anything you could buy a few years ago. Your tolerances are tighter, you need more flexibility, you can’t find skilled operators so you need more capabilities in the software and a simplified interface—all of these evolving requirements are reflected in the components of your system.

Your needs will be different in a few years, and so will the systems available to meet them. The parts you need to keep the old one running, however, may not be available. In fact, some basic building blocks of today’s widely-used systems, like Intel 486 processors, component-mount transistors and some specialized chips are already in short supply. Other things, like gas-plasma displays are now listed as environmental hazards that can’t be used at all, even in a like-for-like replacement.

And, even if a manufacturer can find legacy components, in many places it’s already illegal to use them in commercial products. They often contain lead and other heavy metals for which voluntary reduction or elimination is being replaced with strict bans in many places and the list is growing rapidly.

There is no question that the time is rapidly approaching when manufacturers simply will not be allowed to produce many of the components and apparatus you are using today. Don’t wait for a crisis; you need to start planning now to avoid unpleasant surprises tomorrow.

A good place to start is with an inventory of everything that’s on your floor now. Talk to your suppliers about the status of key components, with particular attention to the electronic items that have the highest incidence of obsolescence. Let your suppliers know that you expect to get ample advance warning about anything that is going to be unavailable. That way you can make decisions about whether to repair or replace components or systems now, or to stock up on key parts that may not be available when needed in the future.

Barring crashes or catastrophic damage, any piece of metrology gear from a reputable supplier ought to deliver 10–15 years of service with routine maintenance. That’s a reasonable number to use as a base for prioritizing your spare-part requirements and replacement schedule.

It’s obvious, but nonetheless worth mentioning, that the older a system or component is, the less likely parts or direct replacements are to be available. In other words, prioritize your plan to deal with your oldest components first because that’s where failure is both most likely to happen, and most likely to cause the greatest disruption.

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Autodesk Has Big Plans For 3D Printing Program With Spark Investment Fund

 
October 30th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

Autodesk, Inc. announced that it will be investing up to $100 million in 3D printing companies over the next several years. The Spark Investment Fund, which will be operated within Autodesk, is the first of its kind for the 3D printing industry and will invest in entrepreneurs, startups, and researchers pushing the boundaries of 3D printing technology and accelerating the third industrial revolution.

Check out the video below from May 2014 at the MakerCon Bay Area event where Carl Bass, the president and CEO of Autodesk, announced the company’s first venture into digital fabrication hardware:

Autodesk Spark Demonstration With Carl Bass, Autodesk CEO

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Looking Ahead: 2015 MCADCafe Calendar of Topics

 
October 28th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

It’s almost November, so with just two months left of this year, it’s not too early to start thinking about what we’ll be covering in 2015. The calendar below reflects what we perceive as some of the most important topics today, as well as feedback from our readers and other supporters.

The main theme for each month will be covered in an extended article or series of articles so that the topic can be covered in a more comprehensive way. We’ll also be covering some of the major MCAD events throughout the year, reporting what we see and hear from vendors, partners, and attendees.

If you have any thoughts of topics you would like to see covered in 2015, feel free to contact me at jeff@ibsystems.com or 719.221.1867.

We look forward to an exciting 2015 and providing you with the MCAD content you want most for improving your design, engineering, and manufacturing processes.

Keep MCADCafe.com your source for all things MCAD. It’s going to be a great year!

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When Manufacturing Technology and Entertainment Creativity Collide, Good Things Can Happen

 
October 21st, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

Since I handle two publications for IBSystems, MCADCafe and ShareCG, I attend a number of conferences and trade shows during the year for each publication. The markets for these events couldn’t be more different with regard to content, markets, audience, technologies, end products, and so on. The more I think about it, though, are they really that different?

Obviously, both entertainment and manufacturing employ a number of the same technologies, such as digital design methods, 3D scanning, 3D printing, project management, etc. – just with different end results – one physical, and one virtual.

This commonality really hit home in the past couple of months after attending two gigantic conferences and exhibitions – SIGGRAPH for ShareCG and IMTS for MCADCafe.

IMTS 2014 Overview

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AutoCAD 2015 and AutoCAD LT 2015 for Mac Released

 
October 14th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

Coming about six months after its major Windows releases, Autodesk, Inc. announced today the releases of AutoCAD 2015 for Mac and AutoCAD LT 2015 for Mac.

Although Autodesk estimates that only 1-3% of all Macs run CAD software, this is still a significant milestone for AutoCAD for the Mac platform, now in its fifth release. Significant because in the five years since the first release of AutoCAD for Mac, the Mac platform base and presence has expanded from about 15 million to today’s approximately 80+ million. A nice increase in potential market.

AutoCAD 2015 For Mac Overview

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HP Splits, Hopes To Get It Right This Time

 
October 8th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

If there has ever been a company that has struggled to reinvent and find itself and its former stature in consumer and commercial technology, it’s HP.

There was a time when HP had no equal in several product segments, such as test & measurement, calculators, pocket PCs/personal assistants, etc., but those days are long gone. Sure, the company reigns in printers, and their desktop and mobile workstations are utilitarian (although the HP Z1 is a notable exception), but not nearly as competitive as in the good old days.

In an attempt to return to its former glory days, HP said Monday that it will split into two public companies with one side focusing on its cloud and enterprise market (Hewlett-Packard Enterprise), and the other on personal systems (computers) and printers (HP Inc.). The company also plans to cut another 5,000 jobs.

Although it’s a couple years old, check out HP’s CEO, Meg Whitman explain her plans for reviving HP:

Interview with Meg Whitman, HP CEO – The Plan to Revive HP

Some of the highlights of the announcement include:

  • Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will build upon HP’s leading position in servers, storage, networking, converged systems, services and software as well as its OpenStack Helion cloud platform
  • Meg Whitman to be President and Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise; Pat Russo to be Chairman of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Board
  • HP Inc. will be the leading personal systems and printing company with a strong roadmap into the most exciting new technologies like 3D printing and new computing experiences
  • Dion Weisler to be President and Chief Executive Officer of HP Inc.; Meg Whitman to be Chairman of the HP Inc. Board
  • Company reiterates fiscal 2014 non-GAAP diluted net earnings per share (EPS) outlook of $3.70 to $3.74 and updates GAAP diluted net EPS outlook to $2.60 to $2.64
  • Company issues fiscal 2015 non-GAAP diluted net EPS outlook of $3.83 to $4.03 and GAAP diluted net EPS outlook of $3.23 to $3.43

Immediately following the transaction, which is expected to be completed by the end of fiscal 2015, HP shareholders will own shares of both Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. The transaction is intended to be tax-free to HP’s shareholders for federal income tax purposes.

The announcement comes as HP approaches the fourth year of its five-year turnaround plan. Over this time, the company has executed at least somewhat successfully against its turnaround objectives.

“Our work during the past three years has significantly strengthened our core businesses to the point where we can more aggressively go after the opportunities created by a rapidly changing market,” said Meg Whitman, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of HP. “The decision to separate into two market-leading companies underscores our commitment to the turnaround plan. It will provide each new company with the independence, focus, financial resources, and flexibility they need to adapt quickly to market and customer dynamics, while generating long-term value for shareholders. In short, by transitioning now from one HP to two new companies, created out of our successful turnaround efforts, we will be in an even better position to compete in the market, support our customers and partners, and deliver maximum value to our shareholders.”

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Stratasys Grabs CAD

 
September 30th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

Along with SpaceClaim being acquired by ANSYS earlier this year, the CAD consolidation train moves to its next stop with Stratasys announcing that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held GrabCAD in an all-cash transaction.

Stratasys Ltd, of course, is one of the leading global providers of 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but is rumored to be in the $100 million range. The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of September (that’s today!), subject to the fulfillment of customary closing conditions. Upon completion of the transaction, GrabCAD will operate as a unit within the Stratasys Global Products and Technology Group. Hardi Meybaum, co-founder and CEO of GrabCAD, will continue to lead GrabCAD within the group.

The company’s flagship product, GrabCAD Workbench is its cloud-based PDM for sharing and managing CAD files. The video provides a quick overview of GrabCAD Workbench.

What IS GrabCAD Workbench?

For those new to GrabCAD, it’s unique in that it’s more of a 3D CAD collaboration platform than it is a traditional CAD product. Launched earlier this, GrabCAD Workbench is a unique cloud-based collaboration hub designed to manage and share product development CAD files and other design data. In other words, a PDM system.

Founded in 2010 and led by Mr. Meybaum, a visionary entrepreneur and pioneer in 3D CAD cloud collaboration tools, GrabCAD is helping engineers get products to market faster by connecting people, content and technology. GrabCAD offers GrabCAD Workbench, a cloud-based collaboration tool that enables engineers and designers to share, view and manage CAD files and other design data. GrabCAD is also home to a community of more than 1.5 million global members who can access a large public CAD file library, as well as connect with other designers and engineers.

The acquisition should enable Stratasys to provide its customers with enhanced collaboration tools and improved accessibility relating to 3D CAD content. The addition of GrabCAD Workbench provides Stratasys with an opportunity to drive communication and collaboration throughout the 3D printing process and grow its technology solutions and user communities.

“The addition of GrabCAD provides Stratasys with a leading cloud-based collaboration platform for engineering teams to manage, share and view CAD files,” said David Reis, Stratasys Chief Executive Officer. “By increasing the collaboration and accessibility of 3D CAD files, we believe we can further accelerate the adoption of 3D printing solutions and Stratasys’ product offerings. Together with GrabCAD, we believe that we will accelerate innovation and provide increased value to a growing universe of customers seeking to utilize 3D printing solutions. We also welcome GrabCAD’s active and important community to the Stratasys family. The potential within our 3D ecosystem is very exciting.”

“GrabCAD was founded to bring the world’s engineers together and help them collaborate to bring better products to market faster,” said Hardi Meybaum, Chief Executive Officer of GrabCAD. “By joining forces with Stratasys, a global leader in 3D printing and additive manufacturing, we believe we can extend the reach of one of the most exciting and innovative design collaboration technologies available. With its broad and growing customer base and worldwide presence, Stratasys can provide more customers around the world with exciting new solutions to meet their design needs.”

Prior to the acquisition, GrabCAD had a number of relationships with CAD vendors for making it easier for users of products, such as Autodesk Fusion and Siemens Solid Edge to use the cloud-based service. It seems that the cloud-based nature of GrabCAD is what especially interested/enticed Stratasys for the acquisition.

The potential benefits are many, and through its acquisition of GrabCAD, Stratasys expects to gain:

  • Knowledge: With the addition of GrabCAD, Stratasys gains a team of software professionals with a deep understanding of the needs of designers and engineers.
  • Products: GrabCAD’s cloud-based collaboration platform, Workbench, will enable Stratasys to offer customers a solution to drive communication and ease of use throughout the design and 3D printing process. GrabCAD also provides Stratasys with the opportunity to further partner with CAD vendors and other ecosystem partners while offering innovative collaboration tools related to 3D CAD.
  • Community: GrabCAD has built a global, leading and fast growing community of mechanical engineers and designers, with 1.5 million users who are passionate about design. This includes a large online community of M-CAD users and a significant public online repository of free CAD files, with more than 500,000 CAD designs available for download and nearly 50,000 file downloads per day.

Our View
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CG Market Forecast To Be ~$150 Billion By 2017

 
September 23rd, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

At SIGGRAPH 2014 last month we saw and heard many interesting things that greatly influence the computer graphics market – hardware, software, and services. We were invited to a luncheon sponsored by our friends at Jon Peddie Research that included a presentation on the CG market, entitled “Expectations, Fact, and Fantasy.”

As usual, Jon’s comprehensive presentation covered many aspects of the CG market, but the most telling facts were his forecast that the CG market will enjoy at least 5.5% annual growth for the next few years, and that he thinks the CG market as a whole will exceed $149 billion by 2017.

Interview With Jon Peddie Research and Dreamworks Animation

He said that the computer graphics industry has been a growth industry since it was established in the late 1970s. It has weathered the storms of recessions and has emerged renewed vigor and potential, partly due to a big boost from mobile and the move to 4K, but also from emerging technologies including 3D scanning, 3D printing, augmented reality, and VR.

The computer graphics hardware market was worth $120 billion in 2013 and is expected to exceed $149 billion by 2017, with software growing slightly slower than hardware.

The hardware segment of the CG industry has had steady growth, with the exception of gaming PC sales, which dropped by 3% over the past year. The largest growth has been in workstations and monitors, with (the already high) mobile graphics segment coming in a strong third. Gaming PCs have had steady to strong growth, and the total PC gaming hardware market (which includes aftermarket sales and peripherals) is estimated to be worth over $30 billion. New activity in APIs with developments like AMD’s Mantle, Google’s driver extensions for OpenGL ES, Apple’s Metal, and the promise of DirectX 12 in 2015 all will contribute to faster, richer, and higher resolution graphics for everyone.

For CG hardware, the biggest segment for 2017 will be mobile devices, with forecast sales exceeding $127 billion.

In 2013 the CG software market was worth $14 billion (not counting services, maintenance and other aspects) and is expected to grow to $17 billion by 2017 as the industry shakes off the remaining effects of the recession and starts upgrading software tools. The software suppliers (ISVs) have also changed their sales model moving more services to the cloud.

On the CG software side, CAD/CAM software was the largest single segment, with forecast sales of almost $9 billion in 2017.

We will see the development of traditional segments like CAD/CAM expand as new design approaches in automotive, aerospace, and architecture are adopted. The visualization market is showing significant growth due to the availability of more powerful and less expensive visualization technologies. GPU compute employing OpenCL and CUDA is penetrating further into new as well as traditional applications.

The software content creation market has been tough for the market leaders. They’re living with a mature market, with little growth, but stability among the competitors. However, there are new opportunities emerging as new approaches to content creation become practical, new distribution channels open up, and young generations arrive with a new fascination for 3D.

The demand for programmers, artists, scientists, and designers has picked up and the CG market is seeing startups arrive in emerging and reborn markets such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and casual games. The arrival of new APIs, and platforms are also stimulating development. Firms are actively looking for people who can use and exploit these new programs and their associated hardware accelerators.

New opportunities are also growing out of mainstream applications for the web and consumer applications. The social web remains a strong engine for growth. Social networks are encouraging people to learn new tools, create content for pleasure, and even look for jobs in the field. What used to be a very closed society of experts is now opening up due to the democratization of CG, fueled by Moore’s law and price-elasticity due to lower software costs.
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SolidCAM: Live imachining



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