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Archive for August, 2018

PTC Named A Leader In IIoT With Thingworx Platform

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

PTC announced that it has been named a leader in the Industrial IoT software platforms market for its ThingWorx Industrial Innovation Platform, according to a new evaluation from Forrester Research. In the Forrester evaluation, entitled “The Forrester Wave: Industrial IoT Software Platforms, Q3 2018,” PTC was the among the top five highest ranked in the “Current Offering” category and among the top four in the “Strategy” category.

Forrester evaluated the current offering, strategy, and market presence of PTC and 14 other vendors. Each company was evaluated according to a comprehensive set of 24 criteria, grouped into three high-level categories: current offering, strategy, and market presence. Participating vendors all had a significant focus on the industrial domain and its use cases, native support for key industrial protocols, and a strong international presence. Within that context, PTC was named one of the leaders by Forrester.

With few exceptions, the leaders had a public cloud capability, analytics capabilities, and API-led integration. Some companies, such as C3 IoT are focusing on the analytics part of Industrial IoT, while leaving device connection to companies such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, although C3 IoT is a partner of both AWS and Azure.

The following graphic shows how Forrester perceives the industrial IoT platform market based on its criteria:

Regarding PTC’s standing in the evaluation, Forrester noted: “PTC fuses device connectivity strength with augmented reality vision . . . and the company offers rich capabilities spanning design, manufacture, service, and operations, combining these in accessible end-user applications.”
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Velo3D Releases Unique Metal Hardware & Software AM Solution With New Approach

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

The march of new metal AM machines continues as this week, Velo3D announced its comprehensive metal additive manufacturing (AM) solution comprised of the Sapphire system, Flow print preparation software, and Intelligent Fusion technology. According to the company, the solution solves some difficult AM challenges including product design limitations, part-to-part consistency, process control, and cost-effective manufacturing.

“Additive manufacturing has the potential to be revolutionary,” said Ashley Nichols, general manager at 3D Material Technologies (3DMT), a leading metal additive manufacturing services bureau. “Systems are getting bigger, but not delivering on the promises of metal additive manufacturing. Through a collaborative partnership, 3DMT and Velo3D are unlocking new applications, pushing the envelope of what is currently considered possible. We look forward to continued success, and to delivering on the promises of the potential of metal additive manufacturing.”

 

Sapphire System

The Sapphire system is a laser powder bed metal additive 3D printing system designed for high-volume manufacturing. Sapphire is capable of building complex geometries including designs with overhangs that are less than five degrees and large inner diameters without supports. To deliver part-to-part consistency, Sapphire’s integrated in-situ process metrology enables closed loop melt pool control. To maximize productivity, the Sapphire system contains a module that enables automated change-over with offline unpacking.

 

The Velo3D Sapphire automated system in action

Build envelope is 315 mm diameter, z-axis 400 mm. Build materials include IN718 and Ti6AlV with a typical throughput of >60 cm^3/hour of IN718.

 

Flow Print Preparation Software

Flow print preparation software includes support generation, process selection, slicing and simulation of complex part designs to validate execution feasibility before the build. Geometrical feature-driven processing enables low angles below 5 degrees. In addition, deformation correction technology enables the user to produce parts without the need for iterations, achieving a first print success rate of up to 90 percent. Flow minimizes the need for supports, reducing typical support volume by 3-5 times, which removes or at least reduces the labor intensive post processing necessary with conventional approaches.

Supporting a part may seem like a straightforward proposition, but there are significant hidden costs and complexities in this process. The first is in the design of the supports. Deciding where to put supports takes design time and effort during print preparation, because support shape and placement is not a simple process; it requires experience and judgement in order to get the best results.

A frequent outcome is that designers err on the side of over-supporting low-angle surfaces, in order to avoid build failure. This results in many supports that later need to be removed, and depending on the complexity of the supports, this can be a difficult proposition, requiring multiple set-ups on a CNC mill, or wire EDM, or a turning step. It takes time to print so many supports; this adds to the total build time, and build cost is primarily a function of build time.

 

 

The Velo3D Sapphire System is a 3D metal printer for high-volume manufacturing

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ASSESS Initiative Presents Credible Arguments For Increased Engineering Simulation

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

An innovative organization called ASSESS Initiative LLC was formed by Joe Walsh in mid-2016 for bringing together the key players for guiding and influencing the software development and implementation strategies related to model-based analysis, simulation, and systems engineering, with the primary objective of expanding the use and business benefit of the many forms of engineering simulation.

The changing role of engineering simulation is really about business benefits. However, achieving those benefits and associated growth of the engineering simulation market is tempered due to the lack of understanding regarding its true benefits. According to ASSESS Initiative, a simulation revolution needs to occur that will bring a whole new set of opportunities as well as challenges.

The ASSESS (Analysis, Simulation & Systems Engineering Software Strategies) Initiative is a broad reaching multi-industry initiative with a primary goal to facilitate a revolution of enablement that will vastly increase the availability and utility of Engineering Simulation, leading to significantly increased usage and business benefits across the full spectrum of industries, applications and users. The vision of the ASSESS Initiative is to bring together key players for guiding and influencing the software tool strategies for performing model-based analysis, simulation, and systems engineering. To achieve this vision the ASSESS Initiative will collaborate with multiple activities and organizations across the broad spectrum of engineering simulation.

ASSESS Initiative has been organized around a key set of themes associated with expanding the usage and benefit of engineering simulation that include:

Align – Alignment of Commercial, Research and Government Efforts
Business – Business Challenges
Credibility– Engineering Simulation Credibility

DoES – Democratization of Engineering Simulation
Generative – Generative Design
Integration – Integration of Systems and Detailed Sub-System Simulations

ASSESS Initiative is planning on publishing a series of positioning papers and Strategic Insight papers related to each of these themes.  The positioning papers will be publicly available from the ASSESS Initiative website, however, ASSESS Strategic Insight papers will be made available on a “members only” basis.

As part of this effort, the ASSESS Initiative recently released the first two positioning papers related to its themes above:

Alignment of Commercial, Research and Government Efforts (Align) Positioning Paper

Like a debate, position papers (sometimes called point of view papers) present one side of an arguable opinion about an issue; in this case engineering simulation. The goal of any position paper is to convince the audience that your opinion is valid and defensible. However, it is very important to ensure that you are addressing all sides of the issue and presenting it in a manner that is easy for your audience to understand – not always an easy case with engineering simulation. The biggest job is to take one side of the argument and persuade your audience that you have well-founded knowledge of the topic being presented. It is important to support your argument with evidence to ensure the validity of your claims, as well as to refute the counterclaims to show that you are well informed about both sides. ASSESS has succeeded on all counts with the publication of the first two papers.

The second paper is particularly interesting because the Democratization of Engineering Simulation is implemented in many forms. While there are many common characteristics, issues and opportunities across them all, there are also critical differences that need to be identified and explained, to enable a path to achievable solutions.

The first aspect of any form of implementation of DoES is whether or not it is driven by customers or providers of Engineering Simulation.  The second aspect in any form of implementation of DoES is the type of customer that this form of implementation is intended to be used by (Large Enterprise, Small-Medium Business (SMB), Industry Consortium, mixture of customer types).  The third aspect in any form of implementation of DoES is the “level” of democratization desired, that include:

Product/Project-level democratization – Democratization within a company, at a project level.

Product Development Process-level democratization – Democratization within a company, at a product level; crosses various departments involved in the development of a product; could be distributed globally.

Corporate Enterprise-level democratization – Democratization as a standard practice across an entire enterprise; the company has standardized simulation practices, wishes to enforce them globally, and has committed to putting simulation in the hands of everyone who needs it globally.

Industry-level democratization – Democratization across a particular industry; solution providers create applications that are targeted towards the particular needs of an industry and its products and promote democratization; these applications become widely used across the industry.

The ASSESS Initiative working group related to the Democratization of Engineering Simulation has established the following initial goals for the ASSESS activities related to this theme:

1. Highlight the issues, impediments, and opportunities related to Democratization of Engineering Simulation

2. Advocate for all people who could benefit from using engineering simulation to be able to use it appropriately

3. Advocate for getting engineering simulation safely into the hands of current non-users

4. Advocate for addressing engineering simulation ease of use and required expertise issues that are limiting its broader usage

5. Collaborate with other organizations (e.g. NAFEMS, Revolution in Simulation, …) to support the Democratization of Engineering Simulation

6. Advocate for and support growth in the use of engineering simulation by 10x in 5 years

The paper surmises that the Democratization of Engineering Simulation, not too surprisingly, is likely to require significant changes to current business models for engineering simulation software and computing infrastructures. The current business models for Engineering Simulation software is based on a small number of expert users that run simulations as their primary task. Democratization of Engineering Simulation requires that the use of engineering simulation is broadened to a large number of part-time users with the objective of having more technical personnel being able to make informed design decisions when needed.

This paper reinforces what we have witnessed over the past several years. Namely, engineering simulation being conducted earlier and more often in the product development process by “non-specialists,” such as designers and engineers.

These two papers bring some interesting insights into the present and future direction of engineering simulation on several different levels and I’m looking forward to reading more as they become available.

For more information: www.assessinitiative.com

 

 

Autodesk’s Forge Transforming the Future of Making Things

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

Since its inception in December 2015, Autodesk claims that rapid progress has been made with adopters of its Forge Platform in changing both what and how things are made, and at transforming “the future of making things.”

Simply, the Autodesk Forge Platform is a set of cloud services that connects design, engineering, visualization, collaboration, production, and operations workflows. Application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) let software developers of all sizes to build cloud-powered applications, services, and experiences. Admittedly, this is a heady set of claims, but Autodesk is well on its way to fulfilling them.

The cloud-based Forge Platform features APIs and SDKs developers can use to create design, engineering, visualization, collaboration, and other types of enterprise applications. The Forge developer program aims to bring together a community of cloud application developers by providing application development resources.

Forge is an application program interface (API) platform and supporting materials (sample code, manuals) as well as a community of developers who use those APIs. Although Forge is intended for Autodesk customers and 3rd party developers to be able to use its web services. The company uses Forge for its development of cloud-based services, and developers can leverage Forge in the same ways that Autodesk does.

Forge is defined by seven groups of APIs:

  1. Authentication

Authentication for Forge is based on the industry standard OAuth, specifically OAuth2, that provides for token-based authentication and authorization. The basic flow for using OAuth is:

  1. Your app makes an HTTP call to an OAuth REST (REpresentational State Transfer) endpoint and provides its credentials.
  2. A token is returned to your app.
  3. In making subsequent HTTP calls to various APIs on the platform, your app includes the token in a request header.

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Markforged Prevails In 3D Printer IP Lawsuit

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

Markforged, a 3D printer manufacturer, announced this week that following a 21-day trial, a jury in the United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, Boston, unanimously found that Markforged did not infringe any claims of IP belonging to Desktop Metal, another developer of 3D printing machines.

Desktop Metal had filed a patent infringement lawsuit against rival metal 3D printing company Markforged. Markforged responded, saying it “categorically denies” the allegations. Markforged responded to those allegations, denying any wrongdoing and responded with its own court filings. Desktop Metal sought significant damages from Markforged.

Desktop Metal CEO Ric Fulop said: “We believe Markforged products clearly utilize technology patented by Desktop Metal and we will do what is necessary to protect our IP and our company.”

Desktop Metal had claimed that the manner in which the Markforged Metal X printer forms ceramic release layers in order to print complex parts infringed on their patents. After deliberating for less a day, the jury returned a complete non-infringement verdict, finding that Markforged did not infringe and had not induced or contributed to infringement by its customers.

In a nutshell, the lawsuit alleged that Markforged used Desktop Metal’s patented technologies on the Metal X 3D printer, specifically technologies relating to support structure breakaway.

The most relevant Desktop Metal patents, numbers 9,815,118 and 9,833,839, were first put to use in Desktop Metal’s Studio and Production 3D printing systems. In its legal complaint, Desktop Metal compares the patented technology to apparently similar technology used in Markforged’s Metal X 3D printer.

Other patents referenced in the case included:
9,815,118 – Fabricating multi-part assemblies
9,833,839 – Fabricating an interface layer for removable support
5,182,056 – Stereolithography method and apparatus employing various penetration depths
5,182,170 – Method of producing parts by selective beam interaction of powder with gas phase reactant
5,204,055 – Three-dimensional printing techniques
5,242,098 – Method of explosively bonding composite metal structures
5,286,573 – Method and support structures for creation of objects by layer deposition
5,387,380 – Three-dimensional printing techniques
5,496,682 – Three dimensional sintered inorganic structures using photopolymerization

For Markforged, this verdict validates the history of independently developed IP that has fueled its year-over-year growth. To date, Markforged has 100 filed patent applications and 15 issued patents, the most recent of which – US Patent 10,000,011 – was issued last month.

Announced in 2017, the Markforged Metal X 3D printing system is transforming the way businesses approach their manufacturing operations, amidst a quickly growing metal 3D market that IDTechEx estimates will be worth $12B by 2028. Markforged Metal X customers print end-use parts that the company claims are 50% lighter and 95% faster than other part creation processes.

Greg Mark, founder and CEO of Markforged, said, “I founded Markforged in my kitchen six years ago. I dreamt of giving every engineer the ability to 3D print real, functional, mechanical parts. We invented something that had never existed before — a continuous carbon fiber 3D printer. Our Metal X product is an extension of that platform. We’ve come a long way. We now have the most advanced technology platform in 3D printing, and I’m incredibly proud of what our team of engineers have accomplished. A competitor filed a lawsuit against us, including various far-fetched allegations. Markforged categorically denies these allegations and we will be formally responding shortly in our own court filing”.

“Markforged printers have changed the way businesses produce strong parts while dramatically impacting the delivery times, cost, and supply chain logistics.” said Mark. “We feel gratified that the jury found we do not infringe, and confirmed that the Metal X, our latest extension of the Markforged printing platform, is based on our own proprietary Markforged technology.”

Something struck me as weird with this whole legal debacle. Ironically, the Desktop Metal CEO was on the Markforged board, he left and started Desktop Metal, and less than two years later Markforged announced the Metal X with prototype parts. Likely both parties had worked on this particular project for a while. I just wonder how much the Desktop Metal CEO knew before he left the Markforged board.

Although patent infringement lawsuits like this are nothing new, and will certainly continue, I’m torn. On the one hand, lawsuits like this do the industry no good. I wasn’t so sure the patents would hold up considering that using a binder that gets “sintered” out is not novel to 3D printers – that science has been around a long time. The fact they are pushing it out of a nozzle into shapes also does not make it unique.

On the other hand, to the extent these companies are relying on external investment, and to the extent patents mean the company experiences less competition and is worth more in case of liquidation, patents can accelerate the industry.

Desktop Metal has raised well over $200 million in investment, and obviously some of that was on the based of the value of its patents.

Ultimately, I wasn’t so sure the patents would hold up considering that using a binder that gets “sintered” out is not unique to 3D printers. A quick scan of the two patents in question makes them look a little deeper than just that. I’m not sure how unique they truly are, but it’s more than just “binder + sintering.” However, that does make it unique, as long as they properly reference prior art. That’s how patents work.

Without reading the independent claims of the patents in question, its impossible to know how good or bad the patents are. And unless you’re experienced in reading patents (either because you’ve been trained in it or are a patent attorney), it’s hard to really determine the specific set of claims, just because of how obtuse they’re written. I did a quick skim of the claims in both and didn’t see anything that seemed unusually broad, and they do reference a number of prior patents. One of them, for example, has a few independent claims, but they all are clones of the first one.

That’s not about sintering material with a binder, its specifically about how to do so with two parts in close proximity with them maintaining their mechanical association, but without becoming bound by the binder. All the dependent claims derive from that, and the other independent claims call out specific materials to use as the interface to prevent the bonding of the two sintered parts. That is not obvious, and is justifiably patentable.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on developments in the Desktop Metal versus Markforged case because it certainly won’t be the last.

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