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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 »

Open Source Software For 3D Printing: Rapidly Evolving Capabilities

 
May 5th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

Like virtually all of our readers, I have purchased and used a lot of proprietary software for a long time. I am also a fan and proponent of the open software and hardware movement. Here, I’ll touch on open source hardware and focus on open source software.

One of the things I really like about source software and hardware is that it is about working not with just technology, but people. Also, the open source software and hardware sectors are growing. Open source software is not driven by corporate budgets, but by people fulfilling a need and software development and use freedom. My open source experience has also taught me that the currency of open source is not necessarily money, but more likely, beer and T-shirts.

Both open source software and hardware projects are built and maintained by a network of volunteer developers and other team members that help with development, testing, documentation, marketing, etc. While much of the software may be free or very low cost (depending on the licensing arrangement), there are also independent implementation, customization, and support consultants who are paid for their services.

Over the years I have learned the four basic tenets to open source software:

  • Use the software
  • Study and modify the software to improve it
  • Redistribute the software
  • Actively participate and give back to the open source community

I have always felt that this philosophy was a refreshing change and difference when compared to most closed, proprietary software.

When I thought about it, the list of open source software applications is actually quite long. Some of the major open source applications you may have heard about include MySQL, LibreCAD, Apache Server, FreeCAD, WordPress, Mozilla Firefox, Joomla, WordPress, OpenSCAD, and Drupal, to name just a few.

I have found it interesting that all of the members of the European Union (EU) are required to use open source Linux-based software exclusively, and this includes everything from operating systems to office applications. There is also a move afoot here in this country to attempt to do a similar thing, although, like many things technical, we are years behind from making this happen.

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Wohlers Report 2016: The Best 3D Printing Resource Just Keeps Getting Better

 
April 28th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

Wohlers Associates, Inc., recently released the Wohlers Report 2016, the company’s annual detailed analysis of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing worldwide. According to the Report, interest in 3D printing again reached an unprecedented level and exceeded $5.1 billion last year, as well as growing by $1 billion for the second consecutive year.

Wohlers Associates is widely recognized as the leading consulting firm and foremost authority on additive manufacturing and 3D printing. This annual publication has served as the undisputed industry-leading report on the subject for more than two decades. Over its 21 years of publication, many (including me) have referred to the report as the “bible” of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing—terms that are used interchangeably by the company and industry. I think it easily remains the most comprehensive resource on the topic and market.

Wohlers Report 2016
As it has from the beginning, Wohlers Report 2016 covers virtually every aspect of additive manufacturing, including its history, applications, underlying technologies, processes, manufacturers, and materials. It documents significant developments that have occurred in the past year, R&D and collaboration activities in government, academia, industry, and summarizes the worldwide state of the industry.

According to Wohlers Report 2016, the additive manufacturing (AM) industry, consisting of all AM products and services worldwide, grew 25.9% (CAGR) to $5.165 billion in 2015. The CAGR for the previous three years was 31.5%. Over the past 27 years, the CAGR for the industry has been an impressive 26.2%.

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Wohlers Report 2016

For Wohlers Report 2016, input was collected from 51 industrial system manufacturers, 98 service providers, 15 third-party material producers, as well as many manufacturers of relatively low-cost desktop 3D printers.

The Report also includes contributions from 80 experts in 33 countries. No other published analysis of the AM industry is supported by more than two decades of hard data (and the knowledge gained from it) as the basis for computing growth, analyzing trends, and forecasting the future.

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Lantek Sheet Metal Software Release Moves Customers Closer to Industry 4.0

 
April 21st, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

Lantek, a provider of sheet metal software systems announced the global 2016 release of its Lantek Factory concept and associated software products. The new version is targeted toward companies producing parts for sheet metal tubes and profiles. According to the company, the new release provides capabilities for customers to implement Industry 4.0 advanced and agile manufacturing processes. It’s the Industry 4.0 angle that makes this announcement really interesting.

Headquartered in Spain, Lantek Sheet Metal Solutions’ product suites include, Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), as well as its CAD/CAM nesting software. The software is used by companies fabricating sheet metal, tubes, and beams with cutting techniques that include laser, plasma, oxy-cut, water jet, shear, and punching.

Lantek Factory

The new release includes the following products and suites:

  • Lantek Workshop MES software enables the typical lag time between work centers to be checked, the arrival of outsourced work monitored and working capacity to be examined. Visual tools let users see the estimated time sum for an execution date and get reports on the available capacity by work center. Lantek has also introduced a new web-based version of Lantek Workshop Capture, specifically designed for use on a tablet for mobile data capture.
  • Lantek Integra Has improved the quotation stages of this ERP system with tools for calculating costs associated with operations and new dynamic pricing controls, which allow companies to apply different mark-ups according to commercial considerations or, if preferred, the capability for various methods of margin calculation. New quality assurance features keep track of returns, including reasons for the return, replacement parts, credit notes, and returnable packaging management. The traceability offered here helps to reduce the instance of returns and, for packaging, helps companies to maintain their commitments for recycling.
  • REPLICA is a system of integration mechanisms. The newOpentalk capability makes it possible for a machine to send events in real time and transfer them to management systems, while Powersync enables integration between Lantek software and the management systems already in place within a company, synchronizing defined data sets to a specified schedule, or on demand.
  • Lantek Flex3D The company introduced a complete new CAD toolbox for tube design to ease designing tubes and incorporating machining features necessary for cutting. Capabilities include multiple shapes for tube ends and for text on tubes as well as enhanced machining features such as break holes, control of ordering and direction of cut, weld preparation and micro joints, as well as verification and simulating processes. Step-by-step, forward and rewind simulation for providing true representation of machine movement.
  • Lantek Expert Advanced automatic geometry recognition for multiple parts and dynamic lead in/out positioning reduces programing times, while the new Bevel 3D Designer allows interactive irregular bevel design in 2.5D. Part cost calculation has also been enhanced with compensation for head-up/-down times and sheet load/unload times.

All of Lantek’s software now supports 3D CAD formats from Autodesk Inventor, CATIA, SOLIDWORKS, Solid Edge, Parasolid, PTC Creo, Siemens NX, and VDA. The range of supported CAD formats makes it possible to work with a 3D model, adding machining features in Lantek software.

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Will 3DPLM Become Newest Dassault Systemes’ Newest 3D Experience Compass Point?

 
April 14th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

Last week, Dassault Systèmes announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire full ownership of 3DPLM Software Ltd. (3DPLM), its joint venture in India with Geometric Ltd.

3DPLM, formed in 2002 with Dassault, has a team of about 2,000 employees in India working on research and development and services related to Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform and brand applications. In 2002, Geometric was a joint venture with Dassault Systèmes, 3D PLM Software Solutions Ltd. with an equity participation of 58% and 42% respectively.

In other words, moving forward to last week, Dassault Systemes said it will acquire all of 3DPLM Software, an R&D company it owns jointly with Geometric, an Indian engineering services provider. The transaction means that the French PLM software group will be able to fully integrate 3DPLM into its operations, which center around its 3D Experience platform.

IFWE Compass

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MakerBot Reaches 100k 3D Printers Worldwide

 
April 7th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

This week MakerBot announced that it had sold more than 100,000 3D printers worldwide. The company said it was able to reach this milestone (as the first 3D printer company to do it) by providing an accessible, affordable, and easy-to-use 3D printing experience.

“Being the first company to have sold 100,000 3D printers is a major milestone for MakerBot and the entire industry,” said Jonathan Jaglom, CEO at MakerBot. “MakerBot has made 3D printing more accessible and today is empowering businesses and educators to redefine what’s possible. What was once a product used only by makers and hobbyists has matured significantly and become an indispensible tool that is changing the way students learn and businesses innovate.”

MakerBot was one of the first companies to make 3D printing accessible and affordable. Since its founding in 2009, MakerBot has pushed 3D printing and has introduced many industry firsts. Thingiverse was the first platform where anyone could share 3D designs and launched even before MakerBot was founded. In 2009, MakerBot introduced its first 3D printer, the Cupcake CNC, at SXSW. In 2010, MakerBot became the first company to present a 3D printer at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Now, 3D printing is its own category at CES with a myriad of 3D printing companies from around the world in attendance each year.

MakerBot 5th Generation 3D Printer

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Are Software Patents Relevant?

 
March 31st, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

While proponents (usually with deep pockets) have touted their benefits, software patents have also been used in the software industry to suppress innovation, kill competition, generate undeserved royalties, and make patent attorneys rich. So I ask, are software patents still relevant?

It’s no secret that the engineering software business is extremely competitive, as it always has been. The engineering software business has also proven to be a very fertile ground for lawsuits regarding patent infringement, reverse engineering, and outright copying and pasting blocks of code.

Could stronger patent protection have prevented this from happening? Maybe yes, but probably, no.

The Danger of Software Patents – Richard Stallman

Software patents has been hotly debated for years. Opponents to them have gained more visibility with less resources through the years than pro-patent supporters. Through these debates, arguments for and critiques against software patents have been focused mostly on the economic consequences of software patents, but there is a lot more to it than just money.

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Farewell To Andrew Grove: Instrumental In Jumpstarting PCs and CAD

 
March 24th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

Earlier this week many of us in the MCAD community were saddened to hear of the passing of Andrew (Andy) Grove, the former CEO and Chairman of Intel Corp. He was one of the most acclaimed and influential personalities of the computer and Internet eras, as well as being instrumental in the development and proliferation of the CAD software as we know it today that runs on PCs.

Born András Gróf in Budapest, Hungary in 1936, Mr. Grove came to the United States in 1956. He studied chemical engineering at the City College of New York, completing his Ph.D at the University of California at Berkeley in 1963. After graduation, he was hired by Gordon Moore (of Moore’s Law fame) at Fairchild Semiconductor as a researcher and rose to assistant head of R&D under Moore. When Robert Noyce and Moore left Fairchild to found Intel in 1968, Mr. Grove was their first hire.

He became Intel’s President in 1979 and CEO in 1987, and served as Chairman of the Board from 1997 to 2005. During his time at Intel and in retirement, Grove was a very influential figure in technology and business, and several business leaders, including Apple’s Steve Jobs, sought his advice.

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Andrew Grove

 Mr. Grove played a critical role in the decision to move Intel’s focus from memory chips to microprocessors and led the firm’s move as a recognized consumer brand. Under his leadership, Intel produced the chips, including the 386 and Pentium, that helped foster the PC era. The company also increased annual revenues from $1.9 billion to more than $26 billion.

Just as we could have rode into the sunset, along came the Internet, and it tripled the significance of the PC.

–Andrew Grove

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Rules And Requirements Changing For PLM

 
March 17th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

Like many of the ingredients in a manufacturing organization’s computer technology alphabet soup, such as ERP, SCM, CRM, not to mention CAD, CAM, and CAE, product lifecycle management (PLM) for years has been touted as being the final frontier for integrating all manufacturing IT functions.  Honestly, though, can it truly provide all that the various vendors are promising? I have asked myself that question for several years now: Is PLM a great hope or just another great and continuing hype?

It seems that every vendor defines PLM in a manner that best suits their respective existing product lines and business practices, and not always necessarily the processes of the customers they are trying to serve. Therein lies a big part of the PLM problem. PLM should address processes and not just products, especially the vendors’. Too few vendors still stress the processes they are claiming to improve over the products (and perpetual services) they are selling.

It also seems like everybody (yes, now including just about every CAD vendor big and small) has at least tried to get into the PLM act, regardless of whether they should or should not based on their development and integration capabilities or the needs of their customers. Even database giant, Oracle, has said for years that it wants to be a major PLM player, although the company has eluded that it doesn’t want to dirty its hands with traditional CAD/CAM stuff. Oracle wants to look at the bigger picture, although it has never elaborated on what that picture is.

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Autodesk and Siemens Sign Interoperability Deal: Gateway To Open PLM?

 
March 10th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

In a major move last week, Autodesk and Siemens announced an interoperability agreement aimed at helping manufacturers decrease the huge costs associated with incompatibility among product development software applications and avoid potential data integrity problems. Through this agreement, Autodesk and Siemens’ product lifecycle management (PLM) software business will take steps to improve the interoperability between their companies’ respective software offerings. The agreement brings together two CAD heavy hitters with the common goal of streamlining data sharing and reducing costs in organizations with multi-CAD environments (and these days, who doesn’t have a multi-CAD environment?).

PLM

The interoperability agreement aims to decrease the overall effort and costs commonly associated with supporting these environments. In particular, the companies are hoping that interoperability between the offerings from Siemens and Autodesk will significantly improve the many situations where a combination of each other’s software is used. Under the terms of the agreement, both companies will share toolkit technology and exchange end-user software applications to build and market interoperable products.

“Interoperability is a major challenge for customers across the manufacturing industry, and Autodesk has been working diligently to create an increasingly open environment throughout our technology platforms,” said Lisa Campbell, vice president of Manufacturing Strategy and Marketing at Autodesk. “We understand that our customers use a mix of products in their workflow and providing them with the flexibility they need to get their jobs done is our top priority.”

“Incompatibility among various CAD systems has been an ongoing issue that adversely affects manufacturers worldwide and can add to the cost of products from cars and airplanes to smart phones and golf clubs,” said Dr. Stefan Jockusch, Vice President, Strategy, Siemens PLM Software. “Siemens has been at the forefront in helping to resolve this incompatibility issue with a wide variety of open software offerings that significantly enhance interoperability. This partnership is another positive and important step in our drive to promote openness and interoperability and to help reduce costs for the global manufacturing industry by facilitating collaboration throughout their extended enterprises.”

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For Some, Computing Clouds Turn Dark

 
March 3rd, 2016 by Jeff Rowe

For as long as I can remember, cloud storage and computing have offered only one thing – endless promises and perpetual growth. For a while that was true, but some things have happened in the past couple of years that temper those claims and may portend what may happen in the future for technology providers that become increasingly reliant on the cloud – layoffs.

Cloud computing, or internet-based computing provides shared processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand. From the beginning it was intended as a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort.

Cloud-Computing- reduced1

Proponents have always claimed that cloud computing allows companies to avoid upfront infrastructure costs, and focus on projects that differentiate their businesses instead of on infrastructure. Proponents have also claimed that cloud computing allows enterprises to get their applications up and running faster, with improved manageability and less maintenance, and enables IT to more rapidly adjust resources to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business demand. Cloud providers typically use a “pay as you go” model. This can lead to unexpectedly high charges if administrators do not adapt to the so-called cloud pricing model.

To a large extent most of these claims have proven true, and I have been a proponent for many aspects of cloud computing, but there is also a downside – generally, you just don’t need as many people to run and maintain a cloud-based organization.

The downside is that you will have limited customization options. Cloud computing is cheaper because of economics of scale, and like any outsourced task, you tend to get what you get. A restaurant with a limited menu is cheaper than a personal chef who can cook anything you want. Fewer options at a much cheaper price: it’s a feature, not a bug and the cloud provider might not meet your legal needs. As a business, you need to weigh the benefits against the risks.

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