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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 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 … More »

A Short Tale Of Two Conferences: Siemens PLM Connection & RAPID + TCT

May 11th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

It’s not often (thankfully) that I cover two major conference events in the same week, but this week was exceptional (in a good way) — Siemens PLM Connection and RAPID + TCT 3D Printing & Manufacturing.

Siemens PLM Connection

The Siemens PLM Connection event in Indianapolis was a first timer for me and I got a lot out of it.

The major theme I came away with was Siemens’ push for what it calls the digital enterprise hub based on a digital twin.

There are many definitions of the digital twin, but for Siemens, a digital twin is a set of computer models that provide the means to design, validate and optimize a part, a product, a manufacturing process or a production facility in the virtual world. It does these things fast, accurately and as close as possible to the real thing – the physical counterpart. These digital twins use data from sensors that are installed on physical objects to represent their near real time status, working condition or position.

Siemens supports digital twins for product design, manufacturing process planning, and production through the Smart Factory loop and via the Smart Product.

A deployment of a digital twin includes three pillars: in product design, in manufacturing process planning and in feedback loops.

1. In product design. A digital twin includes all design elements of a product, namely:

• 3D models (using CAD systems)

• System models (using system engineering product development solutions, such as systems driven product development)

• Bill of Materials

• 1D, 2D and 3D analysis models (using CAE systems such as Simcenter)

• Digital software design and testing (using ALM systems such as Polarion)

• Electronic design (using systems such as Mentor Graphics)

Using these elements results in a comprehensive computerized model of the product – enabling almost 100 percent of virtual validation and testing of the product under design. All of this eliminates the need for prototypes, reduces the amount of time needed for development, improves quality of the final manufactured product and enables faster reiteration in response to customer feedback.

2. In Manufacturing Process Planning. The Siemens solutions available today can enable the development of three models critical to any manufacturer:
• Manufacturing Process model – the “how” – resulting in an accurate description as to how this product will be produced.
• Production facility model – providing a full digital representation of the production and assembly lines needed to make the product.
• Production facility automation model – describing how the automation system (SCADA, PLC, HMI, etc.) will support the production system.

3. In feedback loops. There are two feedback loops which have a major impact on most manufacturers – the Smart Factory loop and the Smart Product loop.

Solid Edge ST10

We got an overview of the latest release of Siemens’ Solid Edge software (Solid Edge ST10) with new design technology, enhanced fluid flow and heat transfer analysis and cloud-based collaboration tools. Improved publishing tools enable the creation of interactive technical documents and the ability to share designs in the cloud. Solid Edge ST10 can optimize parts for additive manufacturing (AM) and obtain quotes, material selection and delivery schedules from AM service providers. New topology optimization technology, combined with Siemens’ exclusive Convergent Modeling technology, enables designers to dramatically improve product design efficiency and streamlines the ability to work with imported geometry.

Convergent Modeling also simplifies the process of working with scanned data. Users in various industries, including medical, auto and consumer goods, among others, are increasingly using scanned 3D data as part of the design process. This reverse engineering of existing designs has traditionally been an expensive and tedious process because the scanned data requires a time-consuming manual conversion of the faceted geometry into surface and solid form before it can be used for further modeling.

Convergent Modelling allows users to immediately begin using scanned data to create molds based on the shape, include it in an assembly, analyze it, or other CAD operations.

Enhancements to integrated CAM enables efficient programming of CNC machine tools, and the ability to define complex sheet metal components, optimized for manufacturing. New additive manufacturing tools enable users to 3D print parts in house or access a network of additive manufacturing services, optimizing material selection and delivery.


If there were three words to describe the SME’s RAPID + TCT 3D Printing & Manufacturing Event they would be metal, metal, and metal — machines producing metal parts were everywhere. This year marked the 27th event and seemed more like a mini IMTS than an additive manufacturing show with exhibitors ranging from material suppliers to post processors to traditional machining companies. There were, of course, the industry heavy hitters, but there were also a lot of startup companies exhibiting for the first time that made things really interesting.

This year’s theme was “Accelerating 3D Manufacture, ” and it was clearly evident in the technical sessions and on the exhibit show floor. This year marked a distinct change of industry direction from one-off rapid prototyping of parts to production quantities in the hundreds and even thousands.

Hanging Out With Scott Crump, Founder of Stratasys and Inventor of FDM

Among many first time exhibitors, the two companies that really stood out for me were:

Desktop Metal with a pair of machines, desktop and  production, that produce high-quality metal parts using a unique process.

Impossible Objects employs composite-based additive manufacturing (CBAM) technology to make functional, fiber-reinforced parts at production speeds.

Stratasys demonstrated its multi-cell additive manufacturing platform for continuous production.

Editor’s Note: In the next few weeks I will provide much more detail on the two events I attended this week because there was so much presented at each of them. All in all, though, a great week!

And, More News From Autodesk

Autodesk continues its transition in the post Carl Bass era by jettisoning yet another technology, this time its open source 3D printing platform, Ember. It’s not going away, it’s just that Autodesk will not be manufacturing the machine anymore.

In an April 7th communication, Autodesk said:

“We wanted you to know that we are no longer manufacturing Ember printers. However, our commitment to customer support and consumables for your printers will continue, and we encourage all Ember customers to continue pushing the boundaries of DLP printing using Ember’s open-source platform “.

So, is this the end of Ember? Judge for yourself:

“The Ember team is still here . . . in fact, we are now focused more than ever on new research to advance the 3D printing industry. We hope you will join the new Ember Research Hub where we will continue to provide support and drive conversations across the community relating to SLA technology”.

While the open source nature of the Ember will ensure that its design remains available for future development, it looks like Autodesk’s involvement will take the form of a discussion forum.

This event is not too surprising because Autodesk is a software company and wants to focus on just that — its core business, and not hardware. So, why drop it now? Primarily because there is a lot of competition in this area since Ember’s introduction in 2014 that are less expensive and more refined, making the Ember less attractive. Also, Autodesk’s distributor  network involved only two resellers that limited potential sales, and transferred control of consumable supplies to a third party, so Ember’s demise was probably a good business move for Autodesk.

Finally, Autodesk announced this week that it is moving its office in Lake Oswego, Oregon to the Towne Storage Building at the Burnside Bridgehead in Portland. The company said it will bring its 200 employees (whose roles include product development, marketing, human resources, customer support, finance and sales) to the new space in 2018, and is taking the Towne Storage Building’s entire 100,000 square feet of office space.

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