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Archive for May, 2013

Autodesk Acquiring Tinkercad, Preventing Demise, and Adding to its 123D Family

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Over the weekend we learned that Autodesk had signed a definitive agreement to acquire Tinkercad, a browser-based 3D design tool/service that is relatively easy to use. The addition of Tinkercad makes a lot of sense for Autodesk and will further broaden its 123D family of apps. The acquisition will also rescue Tinkercad and its user community, despite a previously announced June 2013 shutdown by its founders.

“We are excited to have reached an agreement with Autodesk that will provide a solid home and bright future for Tinkercad,” said Kai Backman, founder and CEO of Tinkercad. “We found in Autodesk a shared vision for empowering students, makers and designers with accessible and easy to use software, and with their global reach and expertise in democratizing design, we’re confident in their ability to introduce Tinkercad to new audiences around the world.”

Introduction to 3D Modeling with Tinkercad

Autodesk said it intends for Tinkercad to remain available as part of its consumer portfolio. I assume this also includes Tinkercad’s four pricing tiers: $0-$499/month.  The company also intends to incorporate elements of the Tinkercad technology and user experience into the Autodesk 123D family of products. The transaction is expected to close within the next 30 days, although (as usual) no financials were disclosed.

“Tinkercad is a natural extension of the Autodesk 123D family as well as our other apps and services for consumers, as it is already used alongside Autodesk products,” said Samir Hanna, Autodesk vice president, consumer products. “We look forward to welcoming the Tinkercad community to Autodesk and to continuing their mission of accessible 3D design for all.”

Summarizing the acquisition, Backman said, “Before signing the deal we spent a lot of time talking to Autodesk engineers and product people about their vision for Tinkercad. We were impressed by the deep insight the Autodesk team had into the Tinkercad interface and its underlying technology. There is also a strong alignment on topics like furthering education and the vision of making design more accessible. But most of all we are very excited about the roadmap Autodesk has drafted for Tinkercad.”

This acquisition is good news for Tinkercad principals and users, and should be a good addition to the Autodesk 123D portfolio and its users. The companies are also located less than a mile apart, so the commute won’t be too bad for either party during the transition period.

Hardware Review: GoBOXX G2720 Mobile Workstation

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

BOXX Technologies builds a diverse range of desktop and mobile workstations geared for high-performance applications, such as CAD, CAE, advanced animation and rendering, game production, and architectural design.

In the past we’ve evaluated some of the company’ desktop and mobile workstations and have come away impressed with the performance and build quality of the machines. This time around, we’re reviewing the GoBOXX G2720, a machine I’d classify as a high-end mobile workstation. Normally, we evaluate mid-range workstations because they can provide a good balance between performance and price. However, we did not regret going high-end this time because the GoBOXX G2720 exceeded our expectations for its performance, price notwithstanding.

The GoBOXX G2720 Mobile Workstation

This machine will appeal to those users who really need high levels of performance, and are ready, willing, and able to pay for it. So, let’s see how this mobile beast fared.

G2720 Mobile Workstation Specifications and Build Quality

The GoBOXX G2720 we received had the following specifications as supplied:

CPU: Intel Core i7 – 3970X (3.5 GHz); 6-core

GPU: NVIDIA Quadro K5000M

RAM: 32 GB DDR3; 4 DIMMs

SSD: 240 GB SATA

Connectivity: 3 SATA ports internal; 1 IEEE 1394 port; 1 USB 3.0/eSATA port; 2 USB 2.0 ports; 2 USB 3.0 ports; 1 HDMI; 1 external DVI; 1 display port; Ethernet

Other: 8X DVD Multi-drive; 9 in 1 Flash memory reader; 2MB digital video camera; fingerprint reader; Kensington lock port;

OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate Edition 64-bit

Display: 17.3″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) LED Backlit with Super Clear glare screen

Dimensions: 16.5″(W) x 11.3″(D) x 2.4″(H)

Weight: 12.8 pounds (with battery)

Warranty: One-year limited

Default resolution of the full-HD backlit LED that measures a whopping 17.3″ is 1,920 x 1,080. Screen image resolution/clarity, colors, and brightness were excellent.

Measuring Performance

When we received the GoBOXX G2720, we had high expectations for performance, largely because of the high levels of performance we have experienced in the past with other machines from BOXX Technologies. The objective (formal documented generic benchmarks) and subjective (actual design and engineering software applications) tests we ran fulfilled our expectations. In fact, this machine posted the highest performance numbers ever for an engineering workstation — mobile or desktop.

The tests were performed with the GoBOXX G2720 “out of the box,” as we received it – nothing was tweaked or optimized to distort the performance numbers (such as enabling multi-threading) in a positive or negative direction. I actually get more out of the subjective testing because it’s more “real world,” but the raw numbers from the benchmarks are also useful as a means of objective comparison with other machines in the class. Your evaluations will probably differ from mine, but they do, at least, provide a point for comparison.
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Using Simulation for Accurately Modeling Fiber-Reinforced Composites

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Designing lighter products, whether they’re as large as jet liners or as small as mobile phones, has always been smart business. Less material means less cost and lower energy consumption, both in production and operation. Lower production costs mean higher profit margins for manufacturers. Lower operational costs lead to broader customer acceptance and higher market share.

These days, the “smart business” in lighter products has been upgraded to “essential ingredient.” Lower weight and material efficiency are mandatory for companies that expect to succeed in markets coping with volatile energy prices and increasing environmental regulations. Higher energy prices cause sharp swings in production costs. Manufacturing a product and its component materials means more predictable costs and higher profit margins.

End products are also subject to more scrutiny during their operational lives. Vehicles have to squeeze more miles out of every gallon to satisfy mandates such as U.S. corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards

 

For decades, making a product lighter meant optimizing designs to cut out mass that wasn’t needed to achieve engineering goals. Now, extensive use of fiber-reinforced composites has introduced a new weight-saving measure into product design. Especially in vehicle design but also in appliances and industrial machinery, composites offer comparable strength to metal at a fraction of the weight.

However, introducing composites into product design requires extensive testing. Composites’ plasticity means they do not perform as predictably as metals under real-world conditions. Many manufacturers qualify composites through extensive physical testing on prototypes. This is expensive, time consuming, and can be replaced by simulation – provided that simulation evolves to accommodate composites. Otherwise, they will not yield accurate material allowables, and inaccurate allowables can lead to poor product performance or outright failure.

Simulation technology has traditionally focused on metals. Composites, however, have different properties from metals. For example, a metal-stamped part will behave the same way regardless of how it is manufactured. By contrast, the manufacturing process can change a fiber-reinforced plastic part’s behavior significantly because the process can affect the orientation of the fibers in the material’s epoxy-resin matrix.

Those additional variables complicate engineers’ tasks. They can optimize a design for maximum lightness but end up with a different set of problems because the composite won’t perform the way they expected. Engineers must be able to simulate the strength of composites in different configurations and through various manufacturing processes down to the microstructure level. However, simulation technology hasn’t accommodated them so far.

Most simulation solutions depict composites as “black aluminum.” They represent a composite part’s geometry, but not the full range of its properties. Composite suppliers provide their customers with property data, but that data seldom takes into account the manufacturing process’ influence on the material. Entered into a simulation, these data points will not produce accurate results.

Without accurate material modeling and simulation, designers have to approximate how the composite will perform under real-world conditions. That often leads to over-designing to guard against failure. Over-designing undermines the purpose of designing with plastic or composite in the first place – using less material and reducing weight. It also adds unnecessary cost.

Many simulation technology vendors have incorporated some level of non-uniform material behavior into their solutions. However, these solutions only simulate composite behavior on the surface. A truly realistic model requires an intelligent handle on:

  • individual properties of the fiber and the matrix;
  • the composition of the overall materials; and
  • manufacturing processes’ influence.

Conventional simulation tools do an excellent job of modeling a party’s geometry, loading, deformation physics, etc.  Incorporating detailed material behavior for composites drives further precision into the simulation lifecycle.

Giving engineers that precision opens a new range of possibilities for making products lighter without sacrificing performance. For example, an automotive OEM wants to re-design a metal engine mount in composite to save weight. Design engineers develop the basic geometry for the new mount in a 3D CAD environment. The mount weighs 1.2 kilograms. Simulation reveals that the engine mount performs its function under normal loads and in normal operating conditions.

Through virtual simulations to analyze the composite’s behavior in that shape and function, the design team does a series of iterations, analyzes the mount’s performance, and reduces its mass by 40 percent without compromising performance. The lower mass shaves 15 percent from the mount’s cost.

This is what design teams can achieve when they have the tools to model and simulate composites with the same precision they have for simulating metals. It’s the approach that manufacturers need to incorporate in bringing composites into their designs while keeping prototyping costs. The result will be lower material use and energy consumption in production and operation, and more accurate material and part performance. These essential qualities will enable manufacturers to meet the new economic realities of rising energy costs and the societal obligations of sustainability through lighter, better products.

This article was contributed by Dr. Roger Assaker, PhD,  founder and CEO of e-Xstream Engineering, and also chief material strategist at MSC Software. Please see http://www.mscsoftware.com/product/digimat for more information.)




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