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Archive for December, 2014

Happy Holidays From MCADCafe!

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

We’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year. We’d also like to thank all of our readers and supporters for continuing to make MCADCafe a vital part of the design, engineering, and manufacturing community.

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re unveiling what we’ll be covering in 2015. The calendar below reflects what we think are some of the most important topics for the MCAD community, based on our perceptions, 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 and related events throughout the year, reporting what we see and hear from vendors, partners, and attendees.

If you have any thoughts on topics you would like to see covered in 2015, feel free to contact me at or 719.221.1867. We encourage and welcome all input and feedback.

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

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


Technology of the Year: The Internet of Things

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

This year we’ve attended several technical meetings and conferences in the design, engineering, and manufacturing realms and have heard one concept/phrase repeated much more than anything else – Internet of Things (IoT). That said, we consider IoT to be the most significant technology of the year for 2014.

Simply, IoT is a newer implementation and outgrowth of an older technology known as Machine-to-Machine (M2M).

The Internet of Things (IoT) 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 had been discussed since 1991.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) was seen as a prerequisite for the Internet of Things in the early days. The initial thought was, if all objects and people in daily life were equipped with identifiers, they could be managed and inventoried by computers.

Today, the term IoT is used to denote advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. Both of the technologies are expected to enable billions of new devices in the near future (I’ve seen forecasts of 20-100 billion connected devices by 2018 or 2020).

The Internet of Things: Dr. John Barrett at TEDxCIT

In most M2M and IoT scenarios, the device being monitored and/or controlled contains an integrated sensor and wireless transceiver connected through a cellular, WiFi, or other wireless link to the Internet. Keep in mind that all devices are assigned an Internet Protocol (IP) address for unique identification and role purposes. The Internet connection communicates with a remote server that contains the application software. The monitoring device then makes an Internet connection to the same server to complete the service request loop.

Data from the communication is then captured, displayed, stored, and control commands are issued as a result of it.

The Internet of Things Explained

In mechanical design and engineering, while many of the hardware and software vendors have expressed interest in IoT, PTC has really embraced it and positioned it as a major part of their overall strategy going forward.

The Dark Side of 3D Printing

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Like a large portion of the product design and manufacturing world, I have a lot of enthusiasm for the potential of 3D printing. I have also experienced the reality of 3D printing – most of it positive, but not all by any means. In other words, 3D printing has come a long way, but it’s still got a long way to go on three fronts: hardware, software, and materials.

When I learned about and made a move to experimenting with 3D printing and other additive technologies a few years ago, I thought by now I would have had no use for subtractive technologies, such as milling and drilling. However, experience (and some hard knocks) have taught me that additive technologies cannot be used exclusively as my only tools. They are actually complementary in what I’ve come to realize is a hybrid approach that employs both additive and subtractive technologies.

Like many others who have been relatively early adopters of 3D printing, problems have been encountered – some of which can be resolved, while others continue to frustrate. Although the video below discusses problems with a specific 3D printer, they are somewhat typical for so-called “low-end” 3D printers using PLA or ABS materials (these are the only materials I currently use).

3D Printing Problems


Autodesk University 2014 –Business Wagers Paying Off

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Along with about 10,000 other attendees, we were at Autodesk’s annual user forum spectacle in the desert – Autodesk University 2014 – now in its 22nd year. Amidst a couple of surprisingly foggy morning in Las Vegas this week we saw, heard, and experienced a number of interesting thing from Autodesk, partners, and customers.

More than anything this year, it was pretty evident that a number of business moves, some gambles really, are beginning to return real dividends on their investment.

Autodesk’s very approachable CEO, Carl Bass, was front and center as usual at AU, and this time around he didn’t have to do much defending of his business decisions of the past few years. For the most part he’s risen above the skepticism of some customers, industry pundits, and competitors, and has led Autodesk to the forefront of contemporary engineering software and services that will serve the company well near and long term. In a word, to the benefit of Autodesk he’s been a smart and savvy gambler who wagered a lot, and is starting to win big.

AU 2014


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