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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 »

Customers and Partners Demonstrate Continued Confidence in ESPRIT CAM Software

 
November 8th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

A couple times this year, I have met up with CAM developer DP Technology. Each meeting impressed me with the company itself and where its ESPRIT CAM Software product line is heading.

DP Technology is the developer of the diverse ESPRIT CAM Software system sold and supported via the company’s regional offices and its network of resellers throughout the world. ESPRIT has also developed close partnerships with several leading milling, turning, and wire-EDM machine tool manufacturers, such as Okuma, Mazak, DMG Mori, Citizen, Mitsubishi, and GF AgiCharmilles.

From the beginning and still one of the company’s main goals is ease of use, and greatly reducing the learning curve, which Don Davies, VP of Americas, DP Technology Corp., said is usually on the order of a year or more for most competing CAM products. Learning is one thing, mastering is another, and DP Technology is more interested in providing its customers the potential at mastery.

Video Interview with Don Davies of DP Technology at IMTS 2018

When asked about the state of the CAM market, Davies said that it is largely fragmented into distinct segments – integrated CAD/CAM vendors, and independent CAM vendors. He said each has its own advantages but thought that the dedicated efforts that independent companies specializing in CAM bring the most to the table, and obviously, he felt that DP Technology had the ability to serve up the most comprehensive product/technology lineup in the competitive CAM market.

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Altair Acquires SIMSOLID

 
November 1st, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

Altair, a company that promotes and enables “Simulation-Driven Innovation” has acquired  SIMSOLID, a company founded by asking a simple question:  “Why does the geometry used in the Design and Structural Simulation worlds have to be so different?”

SIMSOLID works on full-fidelity CAD assemblies to provide fast, accurate, and robust structural simulation without requiring geometry simplification, cleanup, or meshing.  Its underlying technology is based largely on the work of Dr. Victor Apanovitch, a former professor at Belarus Polytechnic University and the cofounder of SIMSOLID Corporation.

“We believe SIMSOLID is a revolutionary technological breakthrough which will have a profound impact for product design,” said James Scapa, Altair’s Founder, Chairman, and CEO, “It’s incredibly fast, accurate, and robust and we believe a game changer for our industry.”

SIMSOLID is structural analysis software developed specifically for design engineers. It eliminates geometry simplification and meshing, the two most time consuming and expertise extensive tasks done in traditional FEA.

SIMSOLID can analyze complex parts and large assemblies not practical with traditional FEA and do it efficiently on a desktop class computer. Both fast and accurate, SIMSOLID controls solution accuracy using a unique multi-pass adaptive analysis. Adaptivity can be defined on a global or part local basis and adaptivity is always active. The SIMSOLID methodology is fast and efficient.  It provides superior performance metrics for computational time and memory footprint that allow very large and/or complex assemblies to be solved quickly on desktop-class PC’s.

The SIMSOLID computational engine is based on breakthrough extensions to the theory of external approximations. External approximations are a generalization of Finite Element Method (FEM) in terms that:

  • Absolutely arbitrary geometrical shapes can be used as “finite elements”
  • Basis functions which approximate field of interest in the part volume can be of arbitrary class and are independent of the volume shape

SIMSOLID does not use the point-wise degrees of freedom (DOF) inherent in traditional FEA. SIMSOLID DOF are functionals with geometrical support in the form of volumes, areas, line clouds, and point clouds. This provides the ability to handle geometrical imperfections, as well as assembly contact imperfections like gaps, penetrations and ragged contact areas.

According to the company, the SIMSOLID computational engine is a commercial implementation of novel and unpublished mathematics based on extensions to the theory of external approximations.

Dr. Uwe Schramm, Altair’s Chief Technical Officer, notes that, “We are very serious about solution accuracy.   Others have tried to accelerate the interface between CAD and simulation by degrading the mathematical robustness.   It is our feeling that by rapidly moving forward with the methods in SIMSOLID and expanding them across applications we can have a real effect on how design gets done while maintaining our high standards for computational excellence.”

SIMSOLID Cloud App

Earlier this year SIMSOLID announced SIMSOLID Cloud, a browser-based structural analysis application. Available in the Onshape App Store, it uses Onshape’s single sign-on and runs completely within an Onshape Document tab. With SIMSOLID Cloud, you never have to leave the Onshape environment. All modeling, analysis and results visualization are completely embedded.

SIMSOLID Cloud offers structural static, modal vibration, and thermal analyses. It comes with an integrated material properties library. Both individual parts and assemblies can be analyzed and parts can be either mesh or CAD solids based.

SIMSOLID Cloud comes with unique design study capabilities. Design studies are used to collect and quantify design performance variation. Each SIMSOLID project can contain multiple design studies and each study can contain multiple analyses. SIMSOLID design studies are also associative to Onshape geometry updates. As the geometry evolves, the study can be updated without having to recreate existing analysis configuration settings.

“SIMSOLID is an innovative partner,” said Jon Hirschtick, Onshape CEO. “Their meshless FEA approach is truly changing the way design analysis is performed. I think it is fantastic that Onshape users no longer have to simplify geometry before running analysis.

For some time I’ve thought that Altair was one of the more interesting and innovative companies in the simulation space, and the SIMSOLID acquisition, as well as cloud availability, reinforce that sentiment as additions and capabilities that will benefit customers.

Bricsys Acquisition Could Challenge Autodesk

 
October 25th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

At its annual user conference this week in London, Bricsys, a developer of CAD software that has provided open, collaborative construction design technology since its founding in 2002, announced that it had been acquired by Hexagon AB and will become a part of Hexagon PPM (Plant, Process & Marine). With the Bricsys acquisition, Hexagon strengthens its construction solutions portfolio and position for the Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC ) market.

The acquisition should help Bricsys make inroads to the North American market, and could prove to be a great opportunity for gaining prospective current (disgruntled) Autodesk customers, developers, and resellers. It will be interesting to see how Autodesk responds as this looks to be a real challenge to its historical territory.

The acquisition also brings potentially strong implications to Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence, but more about that later.
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Some Second Thoughts About Onshape and Magic Leap

 
October 18th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

Last week I covered the new partnership between Onshape and Magic Leap with a 3D design app for Onshape’s spatial computing initiative. The new CAD app is being developed for the Magic Leap One Creator Edition, a lightweight, wearable computer and headset for a unique mixed reality user experience.

When wearing Magic Leap’s Lightwear headset, which allows users to see contextually aware digital objects in the real world, engineers will be able to bring life-size 3D CAD models into their physical surroundings and collaborate on design changes. “We’re excited to bring the many benefits of modern CAD to engineers in the Magicverse,” said Onshape CEO, Jon Hirschtick. “For more than a half-century, CAD users were confined to working on a flat screen. The Magic Leap One will push product design into a whole new stratosphere.”

It seems that Magic Leap’s focus with LeapCon was software over hardware. Given that the platform is in need of content, that’s probably a good idea.

All of this might be OK for developers (such as Onshape) and early adopters, but I don’t think it’s very consumer-friendly at this point for reasons I’ll discuss below. Having thought it over, I think healthy skepticism seems appropriate at this juncture.

As great as it initially sounded, I reflected on exactly what was meant by the announcement because it’s such a new development platform and few details were provided. With that in mind, I contacted Onshape about any enlightenment they could provide about the announcement.

Below are some responses to questions I posed to an Onshape spokesperson regarding the technology and partnership:

Can you provide any details on what the app will actually do?
Onshape: The vision is that this app will extend Onshape’s full capabilities to the Magic Leap platform, just like we have with our iOS and Android mobile apps for phones and tablets. This will NOT be a simple CAD-viewing tool. When this app is released, engineers will be able to model and edit within the Magic Leap mixed-reality universe – and collaborate with their design and manufacturing teams, and outside partners, just like they currently do with Onshape.
When will the app be available?
Onshape: We have not announced a release date. Jon Hirschtick’s presentation at Leap Con was an industry preview of the app and the first public announcement of the Onshape-Magic Leap partnership, which has been in stealth mode for many months.
What will the app be called?
Onshape: “Onshape for Magic Leap”
Approximately what will the app cost?
Onshape: This app is still in development and there has been no announcement about cost.
How does Onshape envision the app working for multi-party collaboration? 
Onshape: Collaboration through the “Onshape for Magic Leap” app would work exactly the same way as collaboration works with Onshape currently. Every member of a team would instantly see design changes in real time as they are made. The only difference is that Onshape users would be able to their life-size models in a richer, more immersive environment than they do on the flat screens of their laptops, phones, or tablets. 
How about a public demonstration on how this all works?
Any public demonstration will depend on our development cycle, which isn’t public.
So there you have it from the source. While my questions cleared up a couple things, I thought about the bigger picture and the implications of the partnership.
Needless to say, Onshape was not the only technology demonstrated at last week’s conference. In fact, the demonstrations were all over the place, ranging from Star Wars to porgs to controlling in-home devices, such as speakers and lamps.
Of course, if you buy in, you’ll have to lay down $2,295 for the privilege of wearing the computer and headset. Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of money for a product still in its early stages. Although corporations could afford this, much as the CAVE walls of the past, I don’t see this as affordable and accessible enough for the masses yet.
The announcement that Onshape made last week with Magic Leap  does indeed mark a real advancement for product design on what could be regarded as a new development platform that combines mixed reality and CAD. Onshape has been at the forefront of cloud-based design, but the announcement shows that they may really be on to something that truly sets them apart in a space that is becoming increasingly crowded with “me-toos,” but that remains to be seen.
Honestly, though, at this stage of development and price point, I’d consider the Magic Leap device experimental and out of step with reality (pardon the play on words). However, done right, this technology and those that will will follow, the possibilities for mixed reality experiences are almost endless.
Of course the company says that the technology could be used for just about everything, but from what I’ve seen, read, and heard, there is still a long way to go.

Onshape Teams Up With Magic Leap For New Spatial Computing CAD App and Hardware

 
October 11th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

Onshape, developer of a 3D cloud-based CAD system also called Onshape, is partnering with  Magic Leap on a new 3D product design app for its spatial computing initiative. The new CAD app is being developed for the Magic Leap One Creator Edition, a lightweight, wearable computer that lets digital content step out of the screen and into the real world for a unique user experience.

Onshape CEO Jon Hirschtick previewed “Onshape for Magic Leap” at the L.E.A.P. Conference. Magic Leap
streamed its keynote addresses at  www.magicleap.com/LEAPcon.

When wearing Magic Leap’s Lightwear headset, which allows users to see contextually aware digital objects in the real world, engineers will be able to bring life-size 3D CAD models into their physical surroundings and collaborate on design changes.“ We’re excited to bring the many benefits of modern CAD to engineers in the Magicverse,” says Onshape CEO Jon Hirschtick. “For more than a half-century, CAD users were confined to working on a flat screen. The Magic Leap One will push product design into a whole new stratosphere.”
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Frustum Generate: A New Take On Generative Design and Topology Optimization?

 
October 4th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

Frustum Inc., developer of what it calls the industry’s first interactive generative design solution, this week announced a new release of its Generate software. According to the company, Generate represents a new paradigm for design, interactive generative design, which fundamentally alters how products are modeled for manufacture by allowing engineers to interact and iterate in real time with generative design models. As a result, engineers can develop multiple well designed and optimized models to identify the best solution literally in minutes versus hours or days.

The origin of the company’s name was kind of intriguing to me because a frustum is a mathematical term and is the portion of a cone or pyramid that remains after its upper part has been cut off by a plane parallel to its base, or that is intercepted between two such planes. Frustum examples include:

  • On the back (the reverse) of a United States one-dollar bill, a pyramidal frustum appears on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, surmounted by the Eye of Providence.
  • The John Hancock Center in Chicago, Illinois is a frustum whose bases are rectangles.
  • The Washington Monument is a narrow square-based pyramidal frustum topped by a small pyramid.
  • Buckets, lampshades, and shot glasses are examples of conical frustums.
  • Rolo brand chocolates approximate a right circular conic frustum.

If all the edges are forced to be identical, a frustum becomes a uniform prism.

OK, enough of the fun with math, let’s get back to Frustum’s technology . . .

A General Electric Bracket With Frustum’s Generative Design and Topology Optimization Applied To It

Designed to meet the complex needs of design for manufacturing, Generate is a 3D design software that provides interactivity with generative design models. It combines the creativity of the engineer with artificial intelligence to significantly shorten the time of designing products – effectively delivering a near real-time interaction with a generative design model, generating designs by functional requirements and producing a result that is ready for manufacture. Parts and products designed through this process are [theoretically] lighter, stronger, and use less materials than those designed using traditional CAD software.

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A Quick Look At SOLIDWORKS 2019

 
September 27th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

A couple of weeks ago Dassault Systèmes launched SOLIDWORKS 2019, and just before the launch I spoke with Manish Kumar, an R&D vice president at Dassault Systèmes, for a briefing on the 2019 product line. On the call, Manish provided me an overview of the new features and updates in SOLIDWORKS 2019, including enhanced performance, added depth to functionality, and opportunities to incorporate new technology and workflows into the design-to-manufacture process. With all of the ew features and enhancements, Manish said the pricing for SOLIDWORKS 2019 would remain the same from 2018.

This time around, SOLIDWORKS says its design-to-manufacturing process provides the tools needed to implement a comprehensive design-through-manufacturing strategy, all inside the SOLIDWORKS environment. These tools let you work without having to export and import data from one system to another. With IP embedded in a 3D design model, and at the center of the model-based definition (MBD) process, and thanks to associativity, changes from design or manufacturing are automatically reflected in all related CAD models, CAM programs, drawings, and documentation.
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Autodesk Accelerating Its Way Back To Manufacturing

 
September 20th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

I spent most of the week in Toronto at Autodesk Accelerate, a conference that discussed Autodesk’s manufacturing strategy going forward. The theme of the conference was “The Future of Making Things” (at least according to Autodesk), and in large part Autodesk succeeded in getting this message across with its Fusion 360.

For a long time Autodesk has tried to be everything to a wide range of industries – from manufacturing to mapping to architecture to entertainment. Some forays have been successful, some not so much, but that hasn’t stopped the company from trying. I personally was glad to see manufacturing return as a focus of Autodesk recently, because for the past couple years a focus has been, in my opinion, AEC and rebuilding the world. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but this focus left a lot for mechanical design/manufacturing customers wondering how committed the company was to them for the long haul.

After making a big noise about its investments in manufacturing, the company has divested itself of some interesting manufacturing products and technologies for a variety of reasons. Previously, and I’m dating myself, but it wasn’t all that long ago that Autodesk had dedicated manufacturing products, such as Mechanical Desktop and AutoCAD Mechanical (I was a big fan of both at the time). Then came the late arrival of Inventor for 3D design, but that’s story for another time. Finally, Autodesk has said to me that IoT is definitely in the center of their radar screen but what is there to show for it? Sure, IoT has a mechanical component, but it’s a lot more than just that, and it will become more prominent in Fusion over time.

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IMTS 2018: Survival Of The Fittest

 
September 13th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

IMTS 2018 is behind us and we survived it! With thousands of exhibitors spread over a million+ square feet and shoulder to shoulder with well over 100,000 attendees, it’s a challenge to see what’s the latest and greatest, but we did our best.

Walking the show floor, I personally checked out hundreds of products and services and talked with dozens of exhibitors trying to find what was most interesting and unique. Although tough to determine, below are the hardware and software products that I considered to be the best of the best with a close runner up.

Hardware Best of Show: Wazer Desktop Waterjet

Wazer is a relatively new company (it began as a Kickstarter project) that had a booth directly across the aisle from ours, and we were impressed with both the machine itself, its low functional requirements (110V and a little water), as well as the crowds it attracted throughout the week.

The result of a design project of a group of University of Pennsylvania graduates, WAZER is the first desktop waterjet that cuts a wide variety of hard or soft material with a high level of precision. Initially the team was looking for an easy-to-use tool that could make precision cuts in hard materials. Existing desktop digital tools like 3D printers and laser cutters work well for soft materials, but the only affordable method for cutting metal, glass and stone was to use hand operated tools, both of which are time consuming and inaccurate.

“We set out to create the very first desktop waterjet cutting machine. WAZER is not just a low-cost tool for hobbies and prototypes – we wanted to empower individuals to turn ideas into durable, finished goods,” said co-founder Nisan Lerea.

WAZER takes standard drawing files like .svg or .dxf and cuts out the digital profile with a high-velocity jet that uses a combination of high pressure water and sand-like abrasive particles to cut through the work piece.

WAZER is the only desktop machine that cuts virtually everything, including steel, titanium, aluminum, glass, stone, tile, and carbon fiber. The waterjet machine is compact, self contained, and fits in any small workshop. It’s fully enclosed, making operation safe, clean, and quiet.

Wazer’s cutting area is 12″ x 18″ and kerf (width of cut) is 0.044″

Price for the Wazer desktop waterjet starts at $7,500, a good price for a machine with this level of design and capabilities.

For More Information: Wazer

Hardware Honorable Mention: Velo3D Metal 3D Printer

I wrote about this new metal 3D printer a couple weeks ago (check out this link), and got to see it in action this week at IMTS, as well as some representative parts. The system actually consists of the following three parts:

Sapphire System: A laser powder bed metal additive 3D printing system designed for high-volume manufacturing and capable of building complex geometries including designs with overhangs that are less than five degrees and large inner diameters without supports. Sapphire’s integrated in-situ process metrology enables closed loop melt pool control.

Flow Print Preparation Software: The 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.

Intelligent Fusion Technology: The technology that powers Flow software and the Sapphire system that optimizes the AM process by combining thermal process simulation, print prediction, and closed-loop control during print execution.

The parts produced were impressive in terms of size, density, and surface finish.

For More Information: Velo3D

Software Best of Show: nTopology

This company develops functional design and optimization software for additive manufacturing. The company has developed software with a unique combination of computational, procedural, and simulation-based design tools for creating lightweight and optimized parts that meet functional requirements. Its lattice design products include:

Element Free that provides a full set of lattice design tools for creating complex structures with variable properties.

Element Pro adds powerful editing, analysis, and data interchange features to Element Free’s structure design tools.

The heart of lattice design is the ability to create and use infinitely variable lattice topologies in your designs. With nTopology’s lattice rule builder you can do just that – select from a wide variety of predefined tessellations and units or create your own from scratch.

Element’s non-round thickening feature allows for lattice beams with non-round cross sections to be generated and thickened for improving printability or creating beams with specific directional properties, offset thickening promotes design freedom.

With the conformal structures tool, you can create lattices that follow the form of your part and support just the loads that you need them to.

The company gets it that STL files suck, and with its CAD interchange module, you can import and export native CAD data in a variety of formats including IGES, STEP, and Parasolid. Its Lattice Graph interchange file allows lattices to be imported and exported in a lightweight, open source, XML based file format,  providing analysis capabilities for complex structures using existing FEA toolsets and without having to deal with slow, heavy 3D meshes.

There are a number of lattice design optimization tools out there on the market, many of which promise more than they can actually deliver, but nTopology’s products look like the real deal. In the future, the company is hoping to include subtractive manufacturing process capabilities to its additive manufacturing ones.

Interestingly, nTopology has partnered with Velo 3D with some impressive results.

For More Information: nTopology

Software Honorable Mention: Artec 3D Studio 13

There is a lot of 3D scanning point cloud processing software out there, but Artec 3D Studio 13 really caught our eye at IMTS for its capabilities and ease of use.

On the capabilities side, for checking raw scans, X-Ray mode highlights high point density areas and makes the data semi-transparent. This is a good tool for checking complex geometry for possible holes or misalignments.

You can make DXF sections of 3D models in Artec Studio 13 and export non-closed contours to CAD software, such as SOLIDWORKS.

Global and fine registration performance have been significantly improved, for controlling scanning speed/quality balance by specifying the number of key frames, the feature type, and feature search radius.

On the ease of use side, the most significant feature is 3D Radar mode, a new distance-based prompt for easier 3D scanning. It helps you hold your scanner at the optimal distance from an object by visualizing the real-time data capture in green. If you hold the scanner too close, the color turns yellow, and then red if you get even closer. Moving the scanner too far away turns the color blue. 3D Radar mode is helpful for getting the best scanning results quickly.

For More Information: Artec 3D

And We Have A Winner!

Based on a drawing of business cards dropped off at our booth at IMTS 2018,honor  a third-party person randomly picked the winner of an Amazon Gift Card. And the winner is Gary Pribyl, Toolroom Machinist at QuickCable. Congratulations Gary!

We recorded over 30 video interviews during the course of IMTS 2018 and will post them to our website as soon as they are edited and ready for viewing. The interviews covered a range of the offerings from the show and represent a broad cross-section of what was presented and demonstrated at the show, so stay tuned! We also interviewed all of the Best of Show and Honorable Mention winners.

So you can start planning now, IMTS 2020 will be held in Chicago, September 14-19, 2020. It’s a manufacturing spectacle not to be missed! Just be sure and wear comfortable walking shoes.

Homage To A Great Man & Machinist

Finally, I’ve been attending IMTS for a long time, and for the past several events, I have made a pilgrimage to a special elevated vantage point in the middle of the Metal Cutting pavilion that overlooks a large number of big (and I mean BIG) machines that incredibly transform pieces of metal, some that weight tons, into a wide variety of amazingly finished parts. The reason I do does this every IMTS is to pay respect and special homage to my late father-in-law who was a machinist. He was a master in his craft and a wonderful person who instilled in me the honor of making things and the self respect of doing things well and seeing them through. I miss him and at every IMTS wish we could walk the show floor together and talk about how manufacturing has changed, but is still a very worthy endeavor.

We’ll See You At IMTS 2018!

 
September 6th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

We’re preparing for five exhausting but exhilarating days at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2018 in Chicago. This biennial, week-long exhibition and conference is by far the biggest manufacturing showcase in North America. As a matter of fact, it is expected to host over 115,000 registrants this time around.

IMTS 2018 is on pace to have the most exhibit space in the show’s 91-year history. Technology, product, conference and meeting areas will occupy all five levels of McCormick Place’s four buildings.

Changes for IMTS 2018 include portions of the Controls & CAD-CAM Pavilion and events associated with HANNOVER MESSE USA: four co-located shows, a Digital Factory and the Solutions Theater. IMTS has expanded the Tooling & Workholding Pavilion. Recognizing the pace of innovation, IMTS 2018 will feature not one but two AMT’s Emerging Technology Centers (ETC) in the North and West Buildings. The ETCs explore current and over-the-horizon technologies for digital connectivity and additive manufacturing, the industry’s most explosive growth areas.

“A myriad of factors are bolstering the manufacturing technology market, and IMTS 2018 has expanded its exhibit space to accommodate the increased interest,” says Peter R. Eelman, Vice President – Exhibitions & Business Development at AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, which owns and produces IMTS.

“Factors include the exponential rate of technology advances, the need to use technology instead of manpower to boost productivity and the strongest manufacturing economy in a decade,” says Eelman. “Businesses have more money and will continue boosting their investment in capital equipment and R&D. Coupled with higher consumer confidence, manufacturers need to increase production to meet strong demand.”

Since IMTS occupies virtually all of the buildings at McCormick Place, covering well over a million square feet,  you have to strategize how to see everything you want to see. It showcases just about anything you can imagine for manufacturing – metal cutting, abrasives, additive processes, CAD/CAM, controls, inspection – you name it, and it’s probably at IMTS.

MCADCafe will be conducted several video interviews that will be available for viewing in the very near future after the show at www.mcadcafe.com. The interviewees we’ve got lined up so far are a diverse group, everything from traditional CAD/CAM vendors, to software component suppliers, to metrology and machine manufacturers, and service providers.

Read the rest of We’ll See You At IMTS 2018!

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