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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has almost 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the design … More »

Is The The Sprout Helping HP Grow?

February 4th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

Being the editor of MCADCafe, I am constantly on the lookout for innovative software and hardware products that make working life better for designers and engineers. While some of these products are truly unique, many are retreads and “me too’s” of existing offerings.

Lately, I’ve been especially watchful on the hardware platform front, because it doesn’t seem as compelling as it once was, much to the credit of escalating cloud-based hardware and software services.

However, something really caught my eye last year – the HP Sprout – a computing platform that is truly unique because it is a desktop computer but is also has an integrated 3D scanner for 3D object capture and editing as well as 3D print options.

In a nutshell, the Sprout is a relatively high-end Windows 8 computer with a novel two-screen configuration and advanced cameras, which combined can make some creative activities possible. The second display, on a desktop touch sensitive mat, is a major advance in the physical user interface for computers.

Basic Sprout specs include:

  • Intel Core i7-4790S 3.20 GHz with Turbo Boost Technology up to 4.00 GHz
  • 8GB DDR3 1600 MHz Memory
  • 1TB 5400 RPM Hybrid Drive
  • 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • 23 inch diagonal IPS Full HD LED (1920 x 1080), 10-finger multi-touch support
  • DLP Projector (1024 x 768)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 745A with 2GB dedicated graphics memory, Intel HD Graphics 4600
  • HP Illuminator (up to 14.6MP TouchMat-facing camera + Intel RealSense 3D camera)
  • 1MP front-facing webcam
  • Windows 8.1, 64-bit

The MSRP is ~$1,900. Not inexpensive, but not bad for all that the Sprout is capable of doing.


The HP Sprout

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Is CD-adapco A Good $1 Billion Fit For Siemens?

January 28th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

This week Siemens announced that it was hitching a new car to its acquisition train: CD-adapco. With a purchase price $970 million, CD-adapco is a global engineering simulation company with software that covers a wide range of engineering disciplines including fluid dynamics, solid mechanics, heat transfer, particle dynamics, reactant flow, electrochemistry, and acoustics. It is probably best known for its combustion engine simulation capabilities.

Established in 1980 and still controlled by its founders, the company has about 900 employees and approximately $200 million in annual revenue and an annual growth rate of 15 percent for the past five years, according to its website. Its main competitor in engine simulation software is Ansys.

The sale comes after CD-adapco’s co-founder and CEO Steve MacDonald passed away last September. He was succeeded by his widow, Sharron MacDonald, who was named interim CEO and president

“As part of its Vision 2020, Siemens is acquiring CD-adapco and sharpening its focus on growth in digital business and expanding its portfolio in the area of industry software. Simulation software is key to enabling customers to bring better products to the market faster and at less cost. With CD-adapco, we’re acquiring an established technology leader that will allow us to supplement our world-class industry software portfolio and deliver on our strategy to further expand our digital enterprise portfolio,” said Klaus Helmrich, member of the Managing Board of Siemens.

Siemens CD Adapco 1

Siemens Simulation Acquisition Chronology

CD-adapco simulation tools are led by its flagship product, STAR-CCM+. The company currently has over 3,200 customers worldwide, and its software is currently used by 14 of the 15 largest carmakers, by all of the top ten suppliers to the aerospace industry, and by nine of the ten largest manufacturers in the energy and marine sectors.

The company has a positive storied past. For example, NASA hired CD-adapco to help with simulation of structural engineering problems following the Space Challenger disaster in 1986. Car manufacturer Renault SA has used CD-adapco software to simulate engine combustion, cooling and exhaust for Formula One race cars.

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STEMming The Tide Of Illiteracy And Innumeracy

January 21st, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

A lot has been debated and written about America’s general decline in science, engineering, and technology, largely blamed on the first steps of our youngest citizens – education.

The new year gives me pause to reflect on what the New Year really means. Yes, it is the beginning of a new calendar year, but it is also the beginning of the second half of the school year for elementary, middle school, and high school students. The school year is especially important to me right now as I have begun my second half as a math teacher for the current school year.

The second half of the school year provides me the opportunity to reflect on what I learned during the first half of the year and apply it to be a more effective educator during the second half.

From my perspective, I have learned that I have to teach to overcome two different but related needs – innumeracy (unfamiliarity with mathematical concepts and methods and the inability to use mathematics) as well as illiteracy (the inability to read and write). They both go hand in hand, because as important as getting the numbers right is, the ability to provide a convincing argument and communicate the numerical answer of the “why and how” is just as important.

On any given day I spend as much time on helping students communicate solutions to math problems as I do solving the math problems by saying, “Convince me that your solution is correct,” and by asking other students, “Do you agree or disagree, and why.” In this daily scenario, the math is relatively easy, it’s the student discourse that is hard.

Admittedly, math can be a very dry subject, so as much as I have been able to I have taken a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) approach to teaching math and have introduced what opportunities down the road math might provide. I focus on these areas together not only because the skills and knowledge in each discipline are essential for student success, but also because these fields are deeply intertwined in the real world and in how students learn most effectively. STEM is an interdisciplinary and applied approach that is coupled with hands-on, problem-based learning. Where I’m at right now, as soon as the basic math concepts are conveyed, and I feel understood, I jump into real world word problems where both numeracy and literacy are road tested.

Some of my students are quite aware that if they start with a solid STEM education now and go from here, they probably have a bright future ahead. As much as I can I reinforce this mindset with the fact that they will be in very high demand with good salaries and room to grow, regardless of gender or current family financial status.

I’ll be the first to admit that STEM has become an overused buzzword that implies it will solve all educational problems. By itself, it doesn’t. There are those that say that STEM has many negative impacts that are felt by students who don’t get a more well-rounded education. But, in general its hype is justified because students simply need greater scientific and technological literacy than they did before to function and compete in today’s society and economy. I can attest to this.

“Anything that gets this kind of buzzword character tends to lose some of its real meaning in the process,” said Michael Teitelbaum, a senior research associate with the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and author of the new book Falling Behind? Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent.

“I think every kid who graduates needs to understand science, math, and technology,” said Teitelbaum, who points out that, “Being competent in STEM fields at the end of secondary school is the modern equivalent of being literate and numerate in the 19th century.” I couldn’t agree more.

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HP Adding A New Dimension To Printing: A True Revolution Or Impossible Dream?

January 14th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

For as long as I can remember, HP has produced an incredible range of products for science, engineering, and consumer customers. More recently the company has had a huge presence in computers and 2D printers.

Now, HP has vision for 3D printing for manufacturing parts on a relatively economical machine it calls the Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D printer. The company claims these parts will have similar quality and characteristics as injection-molded parts, and will print at speeds that HP claims to be 10x compared to similar competing technologies. More about these claims to follow.

However, I have to wonder if HP will be able to fulfill its promise.


The HP Multi Jet Fusion Printer

HP wants to deliver SLS-quality parts on a system targeted at the professional 3D printer market. So-called professional 3D printers can be run in office environments and use photopolymers as material and inkjet printheads for material deposition. HP’s Multi Jet Fusion uses a printhead to jet a resin onto a powderbed where it will be fused.

In a Multi Jet Fusion technology white paper HP states, “Compared to SLS, HP Multi-Jet Fusion technology helps reduce the overall focused energy requirements needed to attain full fusing, resulting in more consistent material properties.” So SLS has higher “focused overall energy requirements,” yet the strong thermal bonds this energy creates is exactly what make SLS so desirable. So, exactly what is this process and can it really create material properties that match SLS and even injection-molded parts?

HP’s new Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer: First Look

Historically, parts made from 3D printers, such as the MJF have lacked the robust mechanical properties of injection-molded parts. SLS is the only viable additive manufacturing technology capable of matching injection-molded parts in tensile strength and long-term stability. Materials undergoing the fusion process have issues that point to a natural limitation, not a technological oversight that HP or any other manufacturer can truly fix.

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PTC Named IoT Innovator of the Year At CES 2016

January 7th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

This week PTC received the IoT Innovation Vendor of the Year Award from marketing analytics and consulting firm Compass Intelligence at the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Compass Intelligence Annual Awards recognize the best mobile computing, wireless data communications, Internet of Things, and eco-friendly products and services offered in the market during the past year.

The IoT Innovation Vendor of the Year Award is part of the A-List in M2M/IoT awards category and is voted on by more than 60 industry-leading press and analysts based upon a range of criteria, including vision, strategy, leadership, and financial success.

In the view of the award presenting organization PTC has become a leading provider of technology that enables its customers to realize the value inherent in the Internet of Things. As well, in their opinion, PTC’s CEO, Jim Heppelmann, has become a major thought leader, having coauthored two seminal HBR articles that describe the implications of the IoT and offer companies a blueprint to get started on their own IoT journeys.

“We’re honored to receive this award,” said Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO, PTC. “From thought leadership to technology to partnerships, PTC is focused on empowering its customers with tools and solutions that capitalize on the Internet of Things – and bridging the digital and physical worlds to fundamentally transform the way we create, operate, and service products and systems.”

“PTC has emerged as an IoT powerhouse,” stated Keith Robinson, Director of M2M & IoT Research & Consulting, Compass Intelligence. “Its big vision, robust tech stack, and market success make the company a clear winner. I project that PTC and its ThingWorx IoT business unit will continue its strong growth trajectory in 2016 with superior technology and leadership.”

This award signals the fact that IoT has become much bigger than just a fad. Based on my experience at PTC’s LiveWorx 2015 in Boston last summer, IoT is a big part of the collective future for PTC, and for all of us.

It’s pretty obvious that the acquisition of ThingWorx by PTC was the crux of the entire notion of IoT, not only for integration into PTC’s world, but also in the bigger IoT universe. What was at first an enigma when PTC acquired ThingWorx is becoming more clear for the future direction of PTC.

Today there is no standard definition for an IoT platform, but PTC is at the forefront for establishing that definition and expanding the IoT marketplace far from its current place in business and in life.

So what does IoT really mean? I don’t know either because it’s evolving and all participating vendors define it so that it best accommodates what they offer. In other words, until standards are established, the definition will continue to evolve. I will admit, however, that PTC currently has a leg up on virtually all of the competition for IoT in its traditional design, engineering, and manufacturing space.

However, a standard definition is in the works, and IoT generally refers to uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure. The term Internet of Things was proposed by Kevin Ashton in 1999, although the concept has been around since 1991, so it’s not exactly brand new.

According to PTC, the Internet of Things has the potential to create trillions of dollars of new economic value in the coming decade. To capture this value, manufacturers will rely on new applications that enable the creation of smart, connected products, thus PTC’s interest and commitment, as shown in the video below.

PTC’s Vision for Smart, Connected Products

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Creating Excitement and Closing Skills Gap In Manufacturing

December 16th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

My late father-in-law (and his father) were master machinists who made excellent tools and decent livings over the course of their careers. I chose not to follow in their footsteps, but rather, to go to college instead. However, I have always considered tool making and manufacturing to be noble professions and ones that have contributed immensely to the quality of our lives.

With all the news we continue to hear today about product design, engineering, and manufacturing increasingly being outsourced in every direction away from North America, surprisingly little coverage seems to be given to one of the foundational pillars of product manufacturing, namely, tooling and tool making.

Although most of our readers are manufacturing-savvy, let’s first define what we mean by “tooling,” because it’s often a misunderstood term by those outside manufacturing. Simply put, tooling entails the tools, machines, or other devices required to manufacture products – everything from car fenders to detergent bottles. The two most prominent groups of toolmakers are die makers whose tools stamp out metal parts, and mold makers whose tools mold plastic parts.

Breaking Tool Making – Is Tool Making Your Passion?

The transportation sector (primarily automotive) still dominates the tooling industry. Because the automotive sector is outsourced much of its manufacturing overseas, it has become very clear why tool and die makers, especially the family-owned small ones with five to 100 employees have suffered the most. It’s estimated that approximately 60% of stamping dies and 40% of plastic molds are used directly or indirectly by automakers worldwide, so it’s no wonder that the smaller tool shops are bearing the brunt of offshore outsourcing. This offshore outsourcing has cost a huge number of tooling jobs in North America, according to estimates from several sources.

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Just One Word . . . Graphene

December 10th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

Almost 50 years ago, The Graduate, a 1967 film about Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman), a recent college graduate who is talented, but aimless, premiered. It’s a good movie even today, but one of the better scenes is one when Ben is asked and advised about his future plans. Remember this one?

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

Today, I see a potential parallel to a material beyond plastics – graphene.
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Conductive Ink Expands Electrical Design Possibilities

December 3rd, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

This week Nano Dimension Technologies announced that it had filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a proprietary copper ink that is used for printing electronic conductors.

The copper nanoparticle-based ink provides improved oxidation resistance with the ability to print copper with industrial 3D digital printers.

Copper, of course, is an electrically conductive metal, and its low price gives it a significant advantage when compared to silver (although copper is more electrically resistive than silver). However, copper nanoparticles rapidly oxidize upon contact with air that impairs electrical conductivity.

The patent application that the company has filed is an approach for overcoming the problem of copper nanoparticle oxidation. Overcoming this challenge introduces an effective and less costly method for industrial additive manufacturing of printed electronics by 3D printing.

Amit Dror, CEO of Nano Dimension, said, “Our conversations with companies across different industrial sectors indicate a strong demand for our 3D printed electronics technology. The demand is not limited to prototyping, but also includes industrial scale manufacturing applications.

The current global PCB market is estimated to be larger than $70 billion and is expected to reach about $100 billion in coming years.  A high-performance copper nanoparticle ink presents an opportunity to significantly impact this huge market.”
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ZWsoft Gets Caught, Apologizes, Pays Settlement, Done. Or Is It?

November 25th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

In its latest legal challenge and triumph, Autodesk as plaintiff and WCAD Software Co., Ltd., ZWCAD Design Co., Ltd., HK ZWCAD Software Ltd., and GLOBAL FORCE DIRECT, LLC. (doing business as ZWCADUSA) (collectively, ZWSoft)  have agreed to settle lawsuits pending in the Hague and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

In these lawsuits, Autodesk alleged that the AutoCAD source code had been misappropriated and improperly used when developing ZWCAD+. Autodesk had filed suit before the Hague in the Netherlands in February 2014  and in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in March 2014.

Although it initially denied the allegations, ZWSoft’s subsequent internal investigation revealed that an employee had, in fact, improperly used AutoCAD intellectual property when developing ZWCAD+ (another AutoCAD wanna be) and concealed it from ZWSoft’s management team. This sounds something akin to the VW emissions fiasco, and you have to wonder; how could this happen without the knowledge of management?

After the “discovery,” ZWSoft and Autodesk worked to assess and remedy the inappropriate use of Autodesk’s intellectual property. Upon learning these facts and admitting fault, ZWSoft stopped selling ZWCAD+. Customers who purchased ZWCAD+ are eligible for a free replacement version of ZWCAD Classic.

Check out the video below that demonstrates some of the features of ZWCAD+ 2015. Does it look or feel much like AutoCAD? You be the judge.

ZWCAD+ 2015

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Forget Just Data Interoperability; Remember Data Obsolescence

November 19th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

For as long as I can remember, CAD/CAM/CAE data (I’ll just refer to it as engineering data) has been saddled with a perpetual problematic issue – interoperability. That is, the ability (or inability) of a completely understood load of code to work with other current or future products or systems without any restricted access or utility.

The term, interoperability, was originally defined for information technology or systems engineering services to allow for information exchange. A broader definition takes into account organizational factors that impact system-to-system performance. In other words, the tough task of building coherent services for users when the individual components are technically different and managed by different organizations.

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