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 CAx Cloud Becoming More Than Vapor

 
March 26th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

As much as I have tried to resist the temptation to gush all over myself, I’ve had a tough time restraining my enthusiasm for the myriad cloud-based computing and storage options that have come online in the recent past and their potential. OK, it’s time for a reality check – facts, fallacies, myths, and risks.

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about a newcomer on the block, Onshape entitled Onshape: The Day After a New Dawn For 3D CAD.

Keep in mind, though, that Onshape is online only and always requires a Web connection to be functional. With connectivity so universally ubiquitous, this shouldn’t pose a problem for a majority of prospective users. At this time, the company has no plans for making Onshape available offfline, so if this is an issue or concern, then Onshape may not be a design tool for you. However, that said, I’d encourage you to check out Onshape.

Also, I pointed out that as interesting Onshape is, it is by no means the first or only cloud-based technical/design/engineering software offering. As a matter of fact, it turns out there are quite a few, including:

Admittedly, this is not an exhaustive list, and is not meant to be. I just wanted to provide some of the cloud-based tools currently available. I also realize that the above have different features and capabilities, so it’s not an “apples to apples” comparison.

While the following video is a few years old, and some of the technologies discussed have been superseded or retired, it provides a good overview for novices of what cloud computing is about.

Introduction to Cloud Computing

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Hardware Review: Lenovo ThinkStation P300 SFF

 
March 19th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

Although it was first introduced in May 2014, we finally got around to reviewing the Lenovo ThinkStation P300. Lenovo positions this system as “entry level,” but the build quality and performance proved to be anything but.

Ever since they first came on to the market several years ago, I’ve always been a fan of a small form factor (SFF) desktop workstation, and the P300 fits nicely in this category. Its metal enclosure with plastic front bezel measures 13.25”H x 14.5”D x 4’W. Like what many of its competitors are offering, entry into the chassis requires not tools to remove a side panel with access to the internals. The interior has a nice layout and PCI and memory slots are easy to access, even with fat fingers. That said, though, there is no wasted space and the airflow is efficient with air being drawn through the front grille.

Lenovo ThinkStation P Series Product Tour

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Onshape: The Day After a New Dawn For 3D CAD

 
March 12th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

With all the fanfare that took place earlier this week with the official launch of the Beta version of cloud-based Onshape, we thought we’d let the dust settle a bit before weighing in. That said, it’s actually a couple of days after the new dawn for 3D CAD.

Keep in mind, though, as impressive as it is out of the gate, Onshape is by no means the first cloud-based/mobile CAD application. It is, however, a unique true cloud-based technology and not a desktop/cloud hybrid.

Onshape began a couple of years ago and was one of the best and worst kept secrets in the engineering software arena. Worst, because even early on, it was evident that the technology would be cloud based, even if virtually no details were disclosed. Best, because virtually no details were disclosed (until relatively recently under NDA) that just added to the anticipation for the official launch of the Onshape Beta earlier this week.

About a year ago I asked Jon Hirschtick (Onshape’s founder and co-founder of SolidWorks) about Onshape and he said that it was indeed real, and would happen, but kept his cards close to the chest and just said the industry would be turned upside down with what he and his team were working on. Again, having experienced what I have with Onshape in its infancy, Hirschtick’s statement was an understatement.

The video clip that follows outlines the “why” behind building this new set of cloud-based Onshape technologies.

The Onshape Manifesto
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FARO Hitches Two New Cars to Its Acquisition Train

 
March 5th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

As we said a little over a month ago, we have witnessed the ongoing and perpetual consolidation of the CAD/CAM industry as companies continue to get swallowed up by others.

We’ve witnessed CAD companies acquiring CAD/CAM companies, simulation companies acquiring CAD companies, and other types of technical software and service companies acquiring CAD/CAM companies. With all the attention seemingly focused on the CAD/CAM side, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there also has been a significant consolidation through acquisition on other sides of technical software as well over the past several years. In other words, with these other acquisitions technical software circles of all types continue to get smaller.

This time around its 3D scanning giant, FARO Technologies, and its recent acquisitions of kubit (AEC point cloud processing software) and ARAS 360 (crime reconstruction/forensic software). Founded in 1981, FARO Technologies Inc. develops and markets portable 3D measurement systems for computer-aided manufacturing measurement.

FARO Focus 3D Laser Scanner

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Autodesk Gets REAL

 
February 27th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

San Francisco is always a great destination, but even more so when the weather is sunny and warm as it was this week while we attended the REAL 2015 Summit, Autodesk’s initial foray into making sense of a term it coined – reality computing. In Autodesk’s vernacular, creating data is what ultimately is used to create reality, but more about what that actually means later.

REAL 2015 was nothing like any company-sponsored event I had ever attended. It was all about 3D capture (scanning/sensing), computing (modeling), and creating (additive/subtractive manufacturing). It was more like a sophisticated maker faire than a traditional trade show. I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical about coming to REAL 2015, thinking it was going to be a 2 ½ day Autodesk sales pitch/advertisement to a captive audience, but was pleasantly surprised that it was nothing of the sort, and was more analogous to a TEDx event, which is a very good thing.

Capture was put into the context of sensing that is becoming ever more ubiquitous (think smartphone cameras); Compute was about the cloud, mobility, social media, and analytics; and Create was about the increase of accessible fabrication. These three branches were talked about going from feasible to transformational, as well as Autodesk’s initiative as a company of then transforming implications to applications.

REAL2015: Where the sensors meet the maker

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Design Space Exploration Survey

 
February 25th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

I recently came across an interesting concept that I had heard about, but didn’t know a lot about – design space exploration.

Design space exploration as an engineering formalism that originated in the embedded-systems industry as a set of methodologies for hardware/software co-design, configuration of software product lines, and real-time software synthesis. “The set of all possible design alternatives for a system is referred to as a design-space, and design-space exploration (DSE) is the systematic exploration of the elements in a design-space” (Saxena and Karsai, “Towards a Generic Design Space Exploration Framework,” Proceedings of 2010 IEEE 10th International Conference on Computer and Information Technology).

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A Short Conversations With SolidWorks’ Product Management Director: Kishore Boyalakuntla

 
February 23rd, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

During SolidWorks World 2015 we had the opportunity to talk with several SolidWorks staffers and executives during the conference.

One of the SolidWorks executives we sat down and chatted with briefly was Kishore Boyalakuntla, Director, Product Management, SolidWorks. The topic we wanted to focus on with Kishore was the SolidWorks position on cloud computing.

He started off by saying that the cloud plus connectivity are some of the vital things that equal what Dassault Systemes calls the 3DEXPERIENCE, the company’s business experience platform. To be honest, the true definition, meaning, and significance of exactly what the 3DEXPERIENCE is and where it’s going has continued to elude us until relatively recently. We’re still trying to get our arms wrapped around it.

Although about a year old and the concept continues to evolve, the following video provides a broad overview of the 3DEXPERIENCE.

 

3DEXPERIENCE Platform User Experience

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Astrobotic Shoots For The Moon Economically

 
February 19th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

As a kid growing up, I was interested in many things, but was especially fascinated by the U.S. space program that went from several early failed attempts to the ultimate triumph of landing men on the moon in 1969 with Apollo 11. Humans went back a few more times during the next few years, but the past 40 or so years has been Moon and planetary exploration by satellites, robots, and rovers. The discoveries made during these explorations have been amazing, but largely cost prohibitive. That is, until now.

Last week at SolidWorks World 2015 we saw and heard an excellent presentation given during Day 2’s General Session by John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic Technology.

The focus of his company and presentation was launching, landing, and deploying payloads on the Moon at an affordable cost.

Founded in 2008 and headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, Astrobotic Technology Inc. is a space logistics company that is positioning itself to deliver payloads to the Moon for companies, governments, universities, non-profits and individuals. Astrobotic’s spacecraft accommodates multiple customers on a single flight, offering flexibility at a relatively low price (~$500 K/lb or $1.2 M/kg) to the lunar surface. Astrobotic is also accepting small mementos for inclusion on its first mission to the Moon – MoonMail, will send personal keepsakes to a lunar destination for between $460 and $1,660 per package.

Astrobotic is a NASA contractor, and is also an official partner with NASA on the Lunar CATALYST program. With its partner, Carnegie Mellon University, Astrobotic is pursuing the Google Lunar XPRIZE and is scheduled to launch the first mission in 2016, although the company will not commit to a specific date.

Go to the 1:20 mark to check out the stage presentation of John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotics at SolidWorks World 2015.

Day 2: SOLIDWORKS World 2015 General Session Highlights

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SolidWorks 2015 Best of Show Hardware and Software

 
February 12th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

We just returned from SolidWorks World 2015 in Phoenix, AZ this week, and what a week it was! We recorded a several video interviews, met briefly with just about every exhibiting partner, talked with a lot of SolidWorks staffers and users, and even sat in on a couple of the technical sessions.

Among many events at SolidWorks World 2015, the new CEO of SolidWorks, Gian-Paolo Bassi, was introduced. Several times during the conference, he reassured current SolidWorks users that SolidWorks as we know it will continue and so will the investment in continual improvement. I took those words to mean that SolidWorks in its current form is here for the long haul. It will be supplemented by new products, such as SolidWorks Concept Design and SolidWorks Industrial Design, but the flagship product will stay the course for some time to come.

Based on what I saw and heard this week and have experienced the past couple of years, I think Gian-Paolo will be good for SolidWorks corporate and community going forward. Most of the people we spoke with this week at SolidWorks World had similar positive sentiments about the future with a more “technical guy” at the helm.

Starting with SolidWorks World 2015, whenever possible at future events with exhibitors, we will choose a Best of Show in both Hardware and Software categories. Every exhibitor is eligible, including the sponsoring vendors, but we also look long and hard at smaller companies as well with innovative technologies, products, and services.

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2015 MCADCafe Industry Show & Conference Coverage Schedule

 
February 4th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

After a relatively quiet travel schedule for January, we’re getting ready to hit the road for several industry trade shows and conferences throughout the remainder of the year.

We plan on attending the following events and will be exhibiting at most of them. We’ll be covering all of the events with new technology, product, and business announcements through social media as events unfold, blog posts during and following events, as well as video and audio interviews, and even a few surprises.

2/8-2/11/2015 – SolidWorks World 2015 (Phoenix, AZ) – http://www.solidworks.com/sww/

At SolidWorks World 2015 learn how you can work faster and be more efficient. Choose from over 200 technical breakout sessions led by SOLIDWORKS users and industry experts. Network with other SOLIDWORKS users, Solution Partners, resellers, and SOLIDWORKS employees. Explore the latest in 3D design and technology, offered by more than 100 exhibitors in the SOLIDWORKS Partner Pavilion.

2/25-2/26/2015 – Autodesk REAL 2015 (San Francisco, CA) – http://www.real2015.com/

REAL is the first event to explore the convergence of the professional 3D sensing, making & visualization industries. REAL is both an exclusive executive summit, REAL TALK, and a world’s fair of cutting-edge 3D demos, REAL LIVE. REAL is new and different: an immersive, hands-on, high-level gathering in a historic venue with a unique program.

4/15-4/19/2015 – COFES 2015 (Phoenix, AZ) – http://cofes.com/

COFES is the engineering software industry’s only annual think tank event which brings executives from design, engineering, architectural, development and technology companies together to understand the role engineering technology will play in the future survival and success of your business.

5/18-5/21/2015 – SME RAPID 2015  (Long Beach, CA) – http://www.rapid3devent.com/

RAPID is known worldwide as the preeminent event for 3D printing, scanning, and additive manufacturing. The event will be celebrating its 25th anniversary as the ultimate authority in 2015, with the most comprehensive display of 3D technology, expertise, and innovation ever showcased in one place.

6/7-6/10/2015 – PTC Live Global 2015 (Nashville, TN) – http://liveglobal.ptc.com/

PTC’s largest education and networking event. Product development professionals will discover new techniques and best practices, while building technical skills and peer networks that help them develop more innovative products, more effectively. Service leaders will access the latest industry research and technology, innovative concepts and best practices for achieving a sustainable competitive advantage.

8/9-8/13/2015 – SIGGRAPH 2015 (Los Angeles, CA) – http://s2015.siggraph.org/

Now in its 42nd year, the annual SIGGRAPH conference is a five-day interdisciplinary educational experience in the latest computer graphics and interactive techniques including a three-day commercial exhibition that attracts hundreds of exhibitors from around the world.

9/28-10/1/2015 – Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show 2015 (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada) – http://cmts.ca/

CMTS is Canada’s largest manufacturing event. More than 8,000 manufacturing professionals attend CMTS to discover the latest advancements in machine tool, tooling, metal forming and fabricating, advanced manufacturing including 3D printing/additive manufacturing, automation, design engineering and plant management segments from over 700 potential suppliers.

10/20-10/22 /2015– Inside 3D Printing (Santa Clara, CA) – http://inside3dprinting.com/

Inside 3D Printing is the largest professional 3D printing and additive manufacturing event worldwide. As a conference attendee, you’ll explore the business applications of 3D printing through conference sessions led by industry experts, demonstrations of the latest 3D printers and services, and programming for designers, professionals, and makers

12/1-12/3/2015 – Autodesk University 2015 (Las Vegas, NV) – http://au.autodesk.com/las-vegas/overview/manufacturing

Discover how new technologies such as additive manufacturing, crowd sourcing, and advanced automation are changing manufacturing. Sign up for interactive workshops and classes designed to give you an edge in product design and manufacturing. Network with thought leaders and innovators in your field from all over the world.

We hope to see you at one or more of these events. In our increasingly digital virtual world, there’s still nothing that beats a real face-to-face experience!

SolidCAM: Molds Your CNC into a Personal ATM



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