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HP Adding A New Dimension To Printing: A True Revolution Or Impossible Dream?

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

For as long as I can remember, HP has produced an incredible range of products for science, engineering, and consumer customers. More recently the company has had a huge presence in computers and 2D printers.

Now, HP has vision for 3D printing for manufacturing parts on a relatively economical machine it calls the Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D printer. The company claims these parts will have similar quality and characteristics as injection-molded parts, and will print at speeds that HP claims to be 10x compared to similar competing technologies. More about these claims to follow.


PTC Named IoT Innovator of the Year At CES 2016

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

This week PTC received the IoT Innovation Vendor of the Year Award from marketing analytics and consulting firm Compass Intelligence at the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Compass Intelligence Annual Awards recognize the best mobile computing, wireless data communications, Internet of Things, and eco-friendly products and services offered in the market during the past year.

The IoT Innovation Vendor of the Year Award is part of the A-List in M2M/IoT awards category and is voted on by more than 60 industry-leading press and analysts based upon a range of criteria, including vision, strategy, leadership, and financial success.

In the view of the award presenting organization PTC has become a leading provider of technology that enables its customers to realize the value inherent in the Internet of Things. As well, in their opinion, PTC’s CEO, Jim Heppelmann, has become a major thought leader, having coauthored two seminal HBR articles that describe the implications of the IoT and offer companies a blueprint to get started on their own IoT journeys.


Goodbye 2015; Hello 2016 From MCADCafe

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

The end of one year and the beginning of another always makes me give pause to what has transpired in the recent past as well as what might occur in the future. For me, 2015 was no different in this regard.

Below are some of the highlights of 2015 in the MCAD arena. Keep in mind they are in no particular order, and I know there are others I could have chosen, so if I missed any, let me know.

The Cloud — It’s not just for storage anymore. As a matter of fact, 2015 saw some real innovation for cloud-based computing horsepower and applications, such as those from Onshape and Autodesk. While there are still definite concerns about cloud security and IP, the volume level isn’t quite as high as it had been in the recent past. We consider cloud-based apps to be the most significant MCAD-related technology for 2015.

Continued Consolidation — The acquisition trained continued to roll this year in many areas, including augmented reality, simulation, rendering, and Internet of Things (IoT). While consolidation does mean fewer companies for the short term, it diversifies the acquiring companies with different results for customers — some good, some not so good.


Creating Excitement and Closing Skills Gap In Manufacturing

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

My late father-in-law (and his father) were master machinists who made excellent tools and decent livings over the course of their careers. I chose not to follow in their footsteps, but rather, to go to college instead. However, I have always considered tool making and manufacturing to be noble professions and ones that have contributed immensely to the quality of our lives.

With all the news we continue to hear today about product design, engineering, and manufacturing increasingly being outsourced in every direction away from North America, surprisingly little coverage seems to be given to one of the foundational pillars of product manufacturing, namely, tooling and tool making.

Although most of our readers are manufacturing-savvy, let’s first define what we mean by “tooling,” because it’s often a misunderstood term by those outside manufacturing. Simply put, tooling entails the tools, machines, or other devices required to manufacture products – everything from car fenders to detergent bottles. The two most prominent groups of toolmakers are die makers whose tools stamp out metal parts, and mold makers whose tools mold plastic parts.

Breaking Tool Making – Is Tool Making Your Passion?

The transportation sector (primarily automotive) still dominates the tooling industry. Because the automotive sector is outsourced much of its manufacturing overseas, it has become very clear why tool and die makers, especially the family-owned small ones with five to 100 employees have suffered the most. It’s estimated that approximately 60% of stamping dies and 40% of plastic molds are used directly or indirectly by automakers worldwide, so it’s no wonder that the smaller tool shops are bearing the brunt of offshore outsourcing. This offshore outsourcing has cost a huge number of tooling jobs in North America, according to estimates from several sources.


Just One Word . . . Graphene

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Almost 50 years ago, The Graduate, a 1967 film about Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman), a recent college graduate who is talented, but aimless, premiered. It’s a good movie even today, but one of the better scenes is one when Ben is asked and advised about his future plans. Remember this one?

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

Today, I see a potential parallel to a material beyond plastics – graphene.

Conductive Ink Expands Electrical Design Possibilities

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

This week Nano Dimension Technologies announced that it had filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a proprietary copper ink that is used for printing electronic conductors.

The copper nanoparticle-based ink provides improved oxidation resistance with the ability to print copper with industrial 3D digital printers.

Copper, of course, is an electrically conductive metal, and its low price gives it a significant advantage when compared to silver (although copper is more electrically resistive than silver). However, copper nanoparticles rapidly oxidize upon contact with air that impairs electrical conductivity.

The patent application that the company has filed is an approach for overcoming the problem of copper nanoparticle oxidation. Overcoming this challenge introduces an effective and less costly method for industrial additive manufacturing of printed electronics by 3D printing.

Amit Dror, CEO of Nano Dimension, said, “Our conversations with companies across different industrial sectors indicate a strong demand for our 3D printed electronics technology. The demand is not limited to prototyping, but also includes industrial scale manufacturing applications.

The current global PCB market is estimated to be larger than $70 billion and is expected to reach about $100 billion in coming years.  A high-performance copper nanoparticle ink presents an opportunity to significantly impact this huge market.”

ZWsoft Gets Caught, Apologizes, Pays Settlement, Done. Or Is It?

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

In its latest legal challenge and triumph, Autodesk as plaintiff and WCAD Software Co., Ltd., ZWCAD Design Co., Ltd., HK ZWCAD Software Ltd., and GLOBAL FORCE DIRECT, LLC. (doing business as ZWCADUSA) (collectively, ZWSoft)  have agreed to settle lawsuits pending in the Hague and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

In these lawsuits, Autodesk alleged that the AutoCAD source code had been misappropriated and improperly used when developing ZWCAD+. Autodesk had filed suit before the Hague in the Netherlands in February 2014  and in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in March 2014.

Although it initially denied the allegations, ZWSoft’s subsequent internal investigation revealed that an employee had, in fact, improperly used AutoCAD intellectual property when developing ZWCAD+ (another AutoCAD wanna be) and concealed it from ZWSoft’s management team. This sounds something akin to the VW emissions fiasco, and you have to wonder; how could this happen without the knowledge of management?

After the “discovery,” ZWSoft and Autodesk worked to assess and remedy the inappropriate use of Autodesk’s intellectual property. Upon learning these facts and admitting fault, ZWSoft stopped selling ZWCAD+. Customers who purchased ZWCAD+ are eligible for a free replacement version of ZWCAD Classic.

Check out the video below that demonstrates some of the features of ZWCAD+ 2015. Does it look or feel much like AutoCAD? You be the judge.

ZWCAD+ 2015


Forget Just Data Interoperability; Remember Data Obsolescence

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

For as long as I can remember, CAD/CAM/CAE data (I’ll just refer to it as engineering data) has been saddled with a perpetual problematic issue – interoperability. That is, the ability (or inability) of a completely understood load of code to work with other current or future products or systems without any restricted access or utility.

The term, interoperability, was originally defined for information technology or systems engineering services to allow for information exchange. A broader definition takes into account organizational factors that impact system-to-system performance. In other words, the tough task of building coherent services for users when the individual components are technically different and managed by different organizations.


IronCAD Continues To Be Iron Solid

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

When I ask people in the MCAD community to name four or five mechanical CAD products, I get the same answers about 90% of the time. Just based on conversation, I’ve come to regard these four to five products loosely as “first tier,” based solely on mention, not capabilities. This is more of a marketing thing than a functional thing.

When I ask the same people to name another four or five products, the answers vary all over the place. I’ll call this “second tier, “ or mid range, again based on frequency of mention, not capabilities. That’s unfortunate, because a number of products in this tier (or range) have a number of interesting and often unique features and capabilities that can often provide a better user experience. Although I could name several in the so-called second (or mid-range) tier, a product I’ve followed for a long time is IronCAD.


Class Project Turns To Possible Class Action Lawsuit

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

As a first-year Denver Math Fellow (I assist math teachers and tutor in small groups), last week I was give a reprieve from my daily grind of lesson plans and teaching by participating in what my school calls Explore Week. This is a week where I was partnered with a teacher, chose a topic to explore with students, made a video promoting our explore class, and had students sign up to join us.

The topic my teaching partner and I decided on was “Creating Furniture Using Non-Traditional Methods and Materials.” Our course included designing and creating furniture models from cardboard, as well as 3D printing simple models. It was a lot of fun, and as I said, a nice change of pace, not to mention I really felt I was in my comfort zone.

Explore Week was made possible by the efforts of several companies, including:

Software we used for the project:

  • Onshape for 3D design for 3D printing
  • Autodesk 123D Make for converting 3D designs to 2D cardboard designs for laser cutting of cardboard

Hardware we used for the project:

Example 3D printed models were generously provided by:


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