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Coming Soon — CAD/PDM Evaluation Series

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

As most of us know who deal with the digital design world, for many years, all of the major CAD vendors have been stressing the vital importance of managing the design and manufacturing data created using their software. Surprisingly though, even after all of the talk of imminent disaster, still relatively few design and manufacturing companies, especially SMBs, have a formal PDM system of any type in place beyond Windows Explorer and Excel.

Some of the reasons we hear for PDM not being deployed include the perceptions (and experiences) that PDM is time consuming and expensive to implement. Also, some companies are perfectly happy with a sort of homegrown approach – Windows Explorer and Excel spreadsheets. In many cases these provide legitimate reasons for not implementing a formal PDM system, but times and circumstances are changing, and reasons for not implementing PDM are becoming weaker and weaker.

While most SMBs have made the transition from 2D to 3D, we have found that many of these same companies are finally exploring how to manage the mountains of CAD and associated product development and project data with a dedicated PDM system. These companies are seeking real solutions that are more capable and scalable than handling just files and folders with Excel spreadsheets and Windows Explorer. For example, PDM systems that connect the design department to the shop floor; will connect to other systems, such as MRP; and are scalable, so the system can grow as the company grows.

Because of the interest shown by our readers in PDM, we are in the process of exploring and evaluating several options for product and project management.

Keep in mind, these evaluations will be PDM systems only. Although the line between PDM and PLM systems is blurring, we’ll focus and restrict these evaluations to PDM only.

Check out the following video that clearly delineates the differences between PDM and PLM.


3D Printers Rule at SolidWorks World — Part 2

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Last time we covered the introduction of the the MarkForged Mark One that can print parts with carbon fiber filament. This time around we’ll discuss the Stratsys Objet500 Connex3 3D printer that can produce multi-material/multi-color parts.

Before the conference officially commenced, Stratasys formally introduced its new Objet500 Connex3 3D printer. For a pre-event event, it was well attended by those interested in Stratasys’ new 3D printer.

The Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer features a unique triple-jetting technology that combines droplets of three base materials to produce parts with a myriad combinations of rigid, flexible, and transparent color materials, as well as color materials — all in a single print run. This ability to achieve the characteristics of an assembled part without assembly or painting is a significant technological achievement and time-saver.

Connex3 uses a print block with eight print heads — two for each material, including supports. This technique leaves six print heads for three model materials. The print heads deposit material droplets in a pre-defined pattern to create combinations from as many as three base materials. The patterns yield digital materials that are more than just a simple blending of the base materials.


3D Printers Rule at SolidWorks World — Part 1

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or just don’t care, 3D printers and what they can do have become some of the hottest technology topics I can remember. Although its potential has only begun to be realized, the technology has matured beyond the curiosity stage and is being embraced by a wide range of users with a wide range of budgets. Like anything else, you get what you pay for, and 3D printing is no exception. By that I mean, sure, you buy a 3D printer relatively inexpensively, but there are always limitations with regard to material choice, part quality etc.

That’s changing, though, based on a couple of new 3D printers that were introduced at this year’s SolidWorks World. The Partner Pavilion had a few less exhibitors than previous years, but the level of traffic was high. A lot of attention was paid to a couple of new 3D printers that really set themselves apart from competing multi-material machines — the MarkForged Mark One and the Stratasys Objet500 Connex3.

This time around, we’ll take a look at the MarkForged Mark One, and will examine the Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 in our next edition.


SolidWorks World 2014 — SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual Finally Takes Center Stage

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

This year’s edition of SolidWorks World, held in San Diego, CA attracted a crowd of more than 5,600 attendees. I’m sure the location and weather in San Diego helped draw attendees from parts of the country caught in this winter’s the Polar Vortex.

Of course, the first morning of the conference offered the obligatory good news of sales and user (2.3 million+) numbers, as well as a long-awaited new product.

A presentation slide showed all the areas that DS SolidWorks is involved in, including CAD, simulation, electrical design, technical publications, PDM, inspection, etc. Noticeably absent, however, is CAM, but the company has partners willing to take that on. Absent from the Partner Pavilion was Delcam; probably because that company is about to be acquired by Autodesk. (more…)

Software Review: SimWise 4D – Motion, Finite Element Analysis, and Optimization in One Package

Monday, January 20th, 2014

There are a number of simulation/analysis software products available for conducting motion and FEA studies. However, the ability to conduct them both, as well as optimizing assemblies is a tall order, especially for mere mortals and non-CAE specialists. With a relatively short learning curve, for this evaluation SimWise 4D proved its mettle for handling motion, FEA, and optimization in one comprehensive package.

What is known today as SimWise 4D began when Design Simulation Technologies (DST) acquired a license from MSC Software Corp. to the MSC.visualNastran 4D (vn4D) product. That software traces its roots to the Working Model 3D product developed by Knowledge Revolution, which was acquired by MSC in 1999, extended to include FEA capabilities, and renamed Working Model 4D.


A Tale of Two Upcoming Conferences: CIC & NAFEMS

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Although still a few months away, there are a couple of important conferences that will be co-located this year — Collaboration & Interoperability Congress (CIC) and NAFEMS Americas Congress.

NAFEMS and Longview Advisors just announced plans to co-locate the NAFEMS 2014 Americas Conference and the Collaboration & Interoperability Congress (CIC) in Colorado Springs, CO, running May 28-30, 2014..

The central theme of the co-located events is, “Driving Product Development with Collaboration, Simulation, and Integration.” (more…)

2013: The MCADCafe Year in Review

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

The MCAD industry, like in recent years past, had many interesting and significant events that took place in 2013. Below are just some of the highlights that we noted for the year.

Cloud-Based Everything

It wasn’t all that long ago that an MCAD executive referred to the cloud as “mere vapor,” but that is rapidly changing as real engineering applications become available.

In 2013, the cloud began to transition from just a giant storage device to a true platform for running applications as varied as conceptual design to simulation/analysis to rendering.


AU 2013: Something For Everyone

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Last week we were at the Venetian in Las Vegas for what has to be the biggest spectacle in the CAD business — Autodesk University. While other cities could handle the crowd and serve as venues for AU, Las Vegas has been the destination for the annual event for a long time. Vegas is big, bold, easy to get to, and just a lot of fun to be around, even if you’re not into the “Vegas Lifestyle” — gambling, smoking, etc.

AU takes place at an odd time of year because it immediately follows Thanksgiving and is about four to five months prior to the new versions of Autodesk products being released. That said, though, there are always interesting product announcements made at AU.


New Company Focusing On 3D Printing With Graphene

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

It’s not too often that a new material with incredible physical and electrical characteristics comes along, much less a process for turning it into products with endless possibilities. Well, that very thing happened recently when Lomiko Metals and Graphene Laboratories launched Graphene 3D Labs.

The company was formed primarily to focus on developing high-performance graphene-enhanced materials for 3D printing.

New developments in 3D printing will allow products with different components such as printed electronic circuits, sensors or batteries to be manufactured. High-quality graphite is a base material for producing graphene, and Lomiko will provide graphite to Graphene 3D Labs as the exclusive supplier to Graphene 3D Labs


Autodesk CAM: A Small Step and a Giant Leap

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Over the years, and with considerable interest, we have observed the ongoing consolidation of the technical/engineering software industry, and it continues unabated today. The consolidation occurs primarily through mergers and acquisitions, whether in whole or in part, but consolidation marches on.

We’ve witnessed consolidation in CAD, CAE, and more recently, CAM, and Autodesk has been a major participant in this consolidation. Relatively recently, Autodesk has made it clear that it intends to become a major force in CAM to round out its Digital Prototyping philosophy that also includes design and simulation. As examples to this CAM commitment, in the past year or so it has acquired HSMWorks (a significant, but relatively small step in CAM), and just last week announced its intention to acquire Delcam (a relatively giant leap in CAM).


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