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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 »

Forging Ahead With Autodesk’s Cloud-Based Development Platform, Developer Program, and Investment Fund

 
January 18th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

In November, Autodesk announced several updates to its Forge platform, including new cloud application development tools, the Forge Application Framework, and several new investments at Forge DevCon, the company’s event for Forge developers held immediately before Autodesk University.

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

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.

The Forge Program consists of three main components:

  • The Forge platform (PaaS) that originally provided access only to APIs, but now can be used to do that as well as build apps from scratch with the Forge Application Framework
  • The developer program which is the growing Forge community
  • Autodesk Forge Fund investments that increased significantly in 2017

What is Autodesk Forge?

The Forge DevCon event is part of a comprehensive Forge developer program that provides learning, support, and business development resources for Autodesk’s community of cloud developers. This community includes developers representing industries that include architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) and manufacturing, as well as emerging areas such as augmented reality (AR), additive manufacturing (AM), and the Internet of Things (IoT). The majority of Forge developers are using multiple APIs to create services and solutions that fuel how software products are designed, built and used.

Read the rest of Forging Ahead With Autodesk’s Cloud-Based Development Platform, Developer Program, and Investment Fund

Blockchain For The Manufacturing Supply Chain

 
January 11th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

In 2017, bitcoin value surged from just under $1,000 at the beginning of the year to nearly $20,000 by mid-December.

While some industry leaders are skeptical of bitcoin, others are eagerly investing, confident in projections that bitcoin value will reach $1 million by the end of 2020. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but then again, I’m no financial expert.

However, many financial pundits and industry observers see bitcoin’s supporting technology, blockchain, as the true star with the greatest potential in coming years, and manufacturing could prove to be one of its biggest successes.

What Exactly Is A Blockchain?

According to Investopedia, “A blockchain is a digitized, decentralized, public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions. Constantly growing as ‘completed’ blocks (the most recent transactions) are recorded and added to it in chronological order, it allows market participants to keep track of digital currency transactions without central recordkeeping. Each node (a computer connected to the network) gets a copy of the blockchain, which is downloaded automatically.

Originally developed as the accounting method for the virtual currency Bitcoin blockchains – which use what’s known as distributed ledger technology (DLT) – are beginning to appear in a variety of commercial applications, including manufacturing. Currently, the technology is primarily used to verify transactions, within digital currencies, though it is possible to digitize, code, and insert practically any document into a blockchain, including those found in the manufacturing process. Doing so creates an indelible record that cannot be changed and the record’s authenticity can be verified by an entire community (supply chain) using the blockchain instead of a single centralized authority.

Read the rest of Blockchain For The Manufacturing Supply Chain

2018: The Year of MCAD Cloud Computing?

 
January 4th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

For as long as I can remember, cloud storage and computing have offered two things – endless (unrealistic) promises and perpetual (unrealistic) growth. For some time that was true, but several things have occurred in the past couple of years that temper those claims and portend what may happen in the future for technology providers that become increasingly reliant on the cloud – reliability, accessibility, and security.

Cloud computing, or internet-based computing provide 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.

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 cloud pricing model. Even so, the potential for premium MCAD with minimal computing hardware cost make the prospect attractive and compelling.

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.

Read the rest of 2018: The Year of MCAD Cloud Computing?

Good Week for 3D Printing

 
December 21st, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

With 2017 winding down and the holidays upon us, MCAD news typically slows down big time. Not so this year, though, as two 3D printing manufacturers – Desktop Metal and Carbon – announced big news this week.

Desktop Metal Shipping Studio System

Just eight months after its initial introduction, Desktop Metal announced it has begun shipping its metal 3D printer to early pioneer customers as part of the Studio System rollout.

The Studio System, which debuted in May, is the first office-friendly metal 3D printing system for rapid prototyping and is 10 times less expensive than existing technology today. The Studio System is a complete platform, including a printer, a debinder, and a sintering furnace that, together, deliver metal 3D printed parts in an office or on the shop floor.

Participating in Desktop Metal’s Pioneers Program, Google’s Advanced Technology and Products (ATAP) group is the first pioneer to receive the Studio printer. Among the inaugural Pioneer customers in the program, companies span six industries – heavy machinery, consumer electronics, automotive, service bureaus, machine shops and government & education. Benchmark parts range from tooling, prototyping and jigs & fixtures, to end-use parts for functional applications.

Desktop Metal’s 3D Printer (video courtesy of TechCrunch)

“Since the launch of our Pioneers Program, we have seen really passionate engineers and world-class companies begin to develop benchmark metal 3D printed parts with the Studio System,” said Ric Fulop, CEO and co-founder of Desktop Metal. “We are extremely excited to begin shipping our Studio printer to these early pioneer customers and sales partners, including Google’s ATAP, and, over the next several months, will be working closely with each to learn more about how engineers want to use our system.”

Read the rest of Good Week for 3D Printing

A Conversation with Grant Imahara at Arm TechCon 2017

 
December 12th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

Recently, we had the opportunity to interview Grant Imahara at the Arm TechCon 2017 Conference in Santa Clara, CA.

Grant is the celebrity engineer spokesperson for Mouser Electronics, the leading global New Product Introduction (NPI) distributor. Grant is an electrical engineer, roboticist, and television host. He is best known for his work on the television series MythBusters, where he designed and built numerous robots and specialized in operating the various computers and electronics that were utilized to objectively test myths. More recently, Grant has partnered with Mouser Electronics in launching its Empowering Innovation Together program, where he hosts webisodes and contributes blog posts and articles.

Grant visited our EDACafe exhibition booth at Arm TechCon for an interesting interview that covered many topics, including his relationship with Mouser Electronics.

Interview with Grant Imahara at Arm TechCon 2017

EDACafe: Can you discuss your relationship with Mouser Electronics and what you do with the company?

Grant I: I am Mouser’s celebrity engineer spokesman, which is kind of funny because generally speaking, engineers are not the rock stars and don’t often get the recognition we deserve for all the amazing things that we do. Mouser said, “Let’s take a person who is a known face from TV, who is also an engineer and make them our spokesperson.” So, here I am.

Read the rest of A Conversation with Grant Imahara at Arm TechCon 2017

The March Of Industrial Robots Continues

 
December 7th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

If you think there are a lot of industrial robots out there, you’re right. But, by 2019, more than 1.4 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world – that’s the latest forecast from a report published by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

The number of industrial robots deployed worldwide will increase to around 2.6 million units by 2019. That’s about one million units more than in the record-breaking year of 2015.

Broken down according to sectors, around 70 percent of industrial robots are currently at work in the automotive, electrical/electronics and metal and machinery industry segments. In 2015, the strongest growth in the number of operational units recorded was registered in the electronics industry, which boasted a rise of 18 percent. The metal industry posted an increase of 16 percent, with the automotive sector growing by 10 percent.

New Technology Enhances Industrial Robots

The US is currently the fourth largest single market for industrial robots in the world. Within the NAFTA area (US, Canada, and Mexico), the total number of newly installed industrial robots rose by 17 percent to a new record of some 36,000 units (2015). The leader of the pack was the US, accounting for three-quarters of all units sold where 5 percent growth was recorded. With a comparatively much smaller number of units, the demand in Canada increased by 49 percent (5,466 units), while that in Mexico grew by 119 percent (3,474 units). With a stable economic situation, it is expected that North America will see average annual growth of 5 to 10 percent in sales of robots through 2019.

Read the rest of The March Of Industrial Robots Continues

What’s Blockchain Got To Do With Manufacturing?

 
November 30th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

One of the most interesting, but mysterious and most misunderstood technologies in the digital realm are blockchain and bitcoin. Blockchain, specifically, is also the technology with the greatest potential to secure data and transactions that demand trust. Although they are related, separately and together they require quite a bit of space to adequately explain, so this time around, I’ll focus on a few aspects of blockchain and their possible implications for manufacturing.

Blockchain combines the openness of the Internet (unless/until Net Neutrality goes away) with the security of cryptography to give companies a faster way to verify vital information and establish trust without the need for third parties and other intermediaries. It was initially developed more than a decade ago to provide the technical underpinnings for Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency with which it is sometimes mistaken. As Pat Bakey, president of SAP Industries, noted, “Early horror stories about bitcoin, the most famous digital currency to use blockchain, prompted its mainstream dismissal as a dubious tool of the dark web.”

At its core however, blockchain is simply an open and secure method of recording transactions, just like a traditional ledger. Because blockchains establish trust, they provide a simple, paperless way to establish and track ownership of money, information, and objects by individuals, companies, and other organizations.

Blockchain: What’s In It For Manufacturers?

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value,” wrote Don and Alex Tapscott in their book, Blockchain Revolution.

Read the rest of What’s Blockchain Got To Do With Manufacturing?

What’s Next: 2018 MCADCafe Editorial Calendar

 
November 23rd, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

It’s almost the end of November, so with just over a month left of this year, it’s not too early to start thinking about what we’ll be covering in 2018. The calendar below reflects what we regard as some of the most important topics today in design and manufacturing, as well as feedback from our readers and other supporters requesting content.

The main theme for each month will be covered in an extended article or series of articles so that the topic can be covered more comprehensively.

We’ll also be covering some of the major MCAD events throughout the year, reporting what we see and hear from vendors, partners, and attendees. All of the events we attend will include daily written coverage and Tweets throughout event days, as well as video and audio interviews, and podcasts.

If you have any thoughts of topics you would like to see covered in 2018, feel free to contact me at jeff@ibsystems.com or 719.221.1867.

We look forward to an exciting 2018 and providing you with the MCAD content you want most for improving your design, engineering, and manufacturing processes.

Keep MCADCafe.com your source for all things MCAD because 2018 is going to be a great year!

2018 MCADCafe Editorial Calendar of Monthly Topics

January 2018 – Blockchain in Manufacturing

February 2018 — Cloud Computing with MCAD Applications

Show Coverage — SolidWorks World 2018

Read the rest of What’s Next: 2018 MCADCafe Editorial Calendar

Autodesk University 2017: Design More, That’s Better, With Less

 
November 16th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

Although I’m not much of a fan for Las Vegas per se, I do enjoy attending Autodesk’s annual spectacle that attracts at least 10,000 attendees to Sin City — Autodesk University.

This year’s event was markedly different than ones in the recent past. Different because:

  • This was the first AU presided over by Autodesk’s new President and CEO, Andrew Anagnost
  • The attention the Forge development platform received
  • AEC and construction seemed to take center stage for much of the event and the exhibit floor
  • Generative design and Fusion 360 were emphasized on the manufacturing side of the business
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) is getting a lot of attention fro Autodesk and will be coming out of the shadows very soon
  • The “cloud” was everywhere, including the addition of AnyCAD into Fusion 360

I’ll briefly discuss each of these bulleted items, but will cover each of them in more detail in coming weeks

Words From The New CEO

Having been the President and CEO of Autodesk since June, Andrew Anagnost took the stage the first day of AU in his relatively new role to talk about the theme of this year’s AU, which was designing more things, designing better things, and accomplishing this with less — materials, staff, resources, and time.

Andrew Anagnost, AU 2017 Keynote

Anagnost said the panacea for making this happen is automation that will actually increase jobs and productivity. We shouldn’t be so concerned about if automation take our jobs as we should be of the opportunities of where automation will take us. With so much happening so quickly on the automation and technology fronts, the problem is not so much a scarcity of jobs as it is a scarcity of skills to benefit from the opportunities.

An interesting numerical comparison he made that back in the day there were approximately 300,000 drafters in design, manufacturing, and architecture. Compare that to today’s approximately 10,000,000 design software users and you appreciate how things have changed by the sheer number of people involved on the creative design side.

This week Autodesk also announced that it has formed a new partnership with Village Capital to fund the creation of their workforce development and transition initiative, focused on entrepreneurship, job training, and upskilling in a world of automation. The company is also teaming up with LinkedIn Learning to offer free access to more than 40 courses in multiple languages, relevant to the architecture, infrastructure, construction, and manufacturing industries.

Technology can accelerate solutions to our most pressing problems, such as anticipated global population growth of 30 percent by 2050, but only if people are prepared work with machines in new ways. These are the latest moves in Autodesk’s efforts to prepare the workforce to thrive in a future that will require people to make and build more, do it better, and with less negative impact on the world.

Read the rest of Autodesk University 2017: Design More, That’s Better, With Less

L&H Design Werks Migrates and Benefits from Kenesto’s True Cloud Vault

 
November 9th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

Like many small- and medium-size businesses contemplating a PDM system, L&H Design Werks wondered what PDM could do for them. The Coopersville, Michigan-based company designs customized production machines, but also designs fixturing, and robotic cells, with experience in welding, metal forming, automotive glass and high-speed material handling applications. L&H has also done a considerable amount of conceptual design. All these capabilities demand that design and associated data be managed with a secure PDM system that can be accessed by those needing the data. It was secure data management and access that prompted L&H to make the decision to implement a PDM system in the first place.

Since 2005, L&H Design Werks has been using SOLIDWORKS as its primary design tool, largely because it perceived its industry moving toward it, and they saw SOLIDWORKS as being a more flexible a tool than some of the other CAD packages they had evaluated.

After the CAD tool was in place, what prompted L&H Design Werks to consider PDM in the first place? According to Brian Land, CEO of L&H Design Werks, “We wanted to be able to have more than one person work on a project/design at a time. We started with SOLIDWORKS PDM Workgroup because it was relatively inexpensive and fairly straightforward to use. We started using it right away with our first purchase of SOLIDWORKS.”

The Move to Kenesto PDM

While L&H was satisfied with SOLIDWORKS PDM Workgroup for a while, it started to look for alternatives because SOLIDWORKS decided to no longer offer Workgroup PDM and wanted the company to move to SOLIDWORKS PDM Enterprise. “Because we are not very large, we like to keep things basic. I felt Enterprise had more bells and whistles than we needed. We like the keep it simple, stupid (KISS) approach,” said Land.

“Also, one of our customers wanted to be able to easily access our CAD files. That way if they made changes on the floor it was immediately updated, so that we saw the changes as soon as they did. I also knew that cloud-based storage seemed to make the most sense moving forward for safety in knowing it’s always backed up. That’s when we seriously looked at Kenesto as an alternative and replacement, and have been using it for the past several months. We have been putting some of our older projects up to Kenesto and put all new projects there.”

Land said, overall, his experience with Kenesto has exceeded his expectations. “The people I have dealt with at Kenesto are all excellent, going above and beyond to help us out. We had some problems in the beginning that were a result of some of our equipment and setup, and they helped us to get in the right direction and it’s made a big difference. There have been some glitches from time to time, but most of those problematic issues are related to SOLIDWORKS, and not Kenesto.”

Read the rest of L&H Design Werks Migrates and Benefits from Kenesto’s True Cloud Vault

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