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Simulating Mechatronics Systems With LabVIEW 2015

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Simulation has received an increasing amount of attention through acquisition and integration with the CAD world. There have also been cases where simulation companies have acquired CAD technology. In any case, simulation has been a very active area in the realm of engineering and design technologies, and for good reason, simulating designs early saves money and headaches later in the design process.

National Instruments (NI) is an especially interesting simulation company that develops NI LabVIEW software as its flagship product.

I have followed NI for several years and really got interested in the company with LabVIEW 8.5 being used alongside SolidWorks. LabVIEW has followed a natural progression in the evolution of the NI product line for designing and prototyping complex systems, including robots, that are becoming increasingly pervasive in the world around us, and not just manufacturing environments anymore.

LabVIEW (short for Laboratory Virtual Instrument Engineering Workbench) is a system-design platform and development environment for a graphical programming language from National Instruments named “G” (not to be confused with G-code used in CNC machining). Originally released for the Apple Macintosh in 1986, LabVIEW is used for data acquisition, instrument control, and industrial automation on a variety of platforms. The latest version of LabVIEW is LabVIEW 2015, released in August 2015.
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Simulation Added To Fusion 360

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

A day before its official release, I spoke with a couple of Autodesk Fusion 360 staffers, Daniel Graham, Fusion 360 Senior Product Manager and Bill Danon about what to expect in the newest update.

The biggest news was the inclusion of simulation capabilities in Fusion 360 – at no additional cost – at least not for now or the foreseeable future. That in itself is pretty significant. Of course, there were some other improvements and enhancements, but let’s start with simulation

Simulation in Fusion 360 lets you perform linear stress analysis that assumes linear elastic behavior and infinitesimally small displacements and strains, as well as modal analysis for study the dynamic properties of structures undergoing vibration. With Fusion 360 simulation you can define materials, add constraints, and add loads to solve for weaknesses in assemblies, within the design environment.

When in the Fusion 360 design environment, a workspace labeled “SIM” under the workspace switcher is where you choose from two types of simulation studies: Static Stress and Modal Frequencies.

Fusion 360 Simulation

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Bunkspeed Becomes SOLIDWORKS Visualize For Photorealistic Rendering

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Although it isn’t exactly breaking news, Bunkspeed, a developer of advanced rendering technologies, as we know it, or rather, as we knew it, has a new overseer and brand — SOLIDWORKS Visualization.

SOLIDWORKS Visualization products (note the plural) provide a suite of standalone software tools that combine rendering capabilities with design-oriented features and workflows that “enable easy and fast creation of visual content for designers, engineers, marketing, and other content creators”. The last part of that statement always gives me a chuckle — advanced rendering products, even if they’re “easy to use” are not necessarily for the faint of heart or those who easily become impatient. Also, “easy to use” does not guarantee professional looking results. For example, remember back several years ago when Encapsulated PostScript arrived one scene. Suddenly, with the opportunity to use dozens of fonts, many “professional-looking” documents looked more like gaudy ransom notes or circus posters.

I’m not saying that with some training and practice, just about anyone could produce good looking photorealistic renderings. I’m just saying that this (like many aspects of technical software) is not always the “professional results out of the box solution” that too many marketing hype types like to push.

SOLIDWORKS 2016 Visualize

Since it’s GPU based for ray tracing, you might want to invest in a good graphics card to take advantage of all SOLIDWORKS Visualization packages can do.

As said earlier, and since everybody likes options, SOLIDWORKS Visualize is available as the following two packages:
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Innovation On The Hydrogen Generation Front

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

With the relatively cheap price of oil from production to pump, alternative energies, especially R&D seem to have taken a back seat. Battery technologies are progressing (slowly), wind and solar seem stagnant, as do most other innovative technologies, including fusion (well, enough said there). An alternative energy source that has always intrigued me, though, is hydrogen – the base element.

Obviously, it has challenges for safe storage and use, but producing it economically and profitably have also been challenges.

In college I was very interested in converting water to its base elements – hydrogen and oxygen – using a process called electrolysis. It works as the decomposition of water (H2O) into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen gas (H2) as an electric current is passed through the water. This technique can be used to make hydrogen fuel (hydrogen gas) and breathable oxygen; however, today most raw hydrogen fuel is made from natural gas. Not exactly a sustainable alternative source or method.

Even with this drawback, hydrogen is considered an important source of “clean” energy, and the cleanest way to produce hydrogen gas is to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. But, scientists have struggled to develop cost-effective water-splitting techniques.

Recently, though, researchers at North Carolina State University have created a technique using a new catalyst for converting methane and water into hydrogen and a fuel feedstock, called syngas, with the assistance of solar power. The team of chemical engineering researchers used a catalytic material that is more than three times more efficient at converting water to hydrogen gas than previous thermal-water-splitting methods.

“We’re excited about the new material and process because it converts water, inexpensive natural gas and clean, renewable solar energy into valuable syngas and hydrogen fuels,” said Feng He, a PhD student in the lab of Professor Fanxing Li at NC State.

How Can Water Be Turned Into Fuel?

Syngas is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, and it’s used as a feedstock for commercial processes that produce synthetic diesel fuels, olefins, and methanol.

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Mr. Rowe Goes To Middle School

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

I’ll say right at the outset: “It ain’t for the money.”

What do I mean by that? Read on . . .

For several years I have been interested not only in education in general, but how I might get actively involved, especially at the high school level in math and/or science. No, I have never been a teacher in a formal sense, and no, I don’t have a teaching  credential either. Even though I had the will and desire to become a teacher, unless I had a teaching license issued by the state of Colorado, my options were limited.

Sure, I could have been a volunteer or a private tutor, but for me these options were limited in scope, responsibility, and personal satisfaction. I thought earlier this year that I was at a dead end until I remembered an ad I had seen and saved a couple of years ago about a program called Denver Math Fellows. This program is the first large-scale tutorial program integrated into the school day to be implemented district-wide in Colorado schools.

The concept and possibility of becoming a Denver Math Fellow (DMF) really piqued my interest because one of the primary qualifications was a college degree in virtually any field (mine’s in industrial design). This was good for me because I had never been a teacher before. Other qualifications include the desire to help students close the opportunity gap in math, as well as committing to at least a one-year term of service — in my case August 2015-June 2016.

Below is a slideshow/video of some the orientation and training I did before becoming a Denver Math Fellow — just click anywhere in the photo.

 DMF Summer Institute2

Denver Math Fellows 2015 Summer Institute

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ANSYS Gets On The IoT Train By Acquiring Delcross Technologies

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

ANSYS, a major provider of engineering simulation (CAE) software, announced that it has acquired substantially all the assets of Delcross Technologies, a developer of computational electromagnetic simulation and radio frequency system analysis software.

The acquisition is intended to let ANSYS users to understand how antennas interact within their operating environments and how this behavior affects the system’s overall ability to transmit and receive data without interference. As usual, and not surprisingly, terms of the deal, which closed earlier this week, were not disclosed.

So, what does this really signify? Simulating not just large-scale antenna systems, such as those found in giant aerospace projects (which will surely go on after the acquisition), but on a much, much smaller scale for Internet of Things (IoT) projects.

Although it’s almost a year old, below is a video presentation (click on the image) from Delcross Technologies for modeling installed performance of antennas on electrically large platforms, such as aircraft and automobiles.

Delcross Technologies

 

Delcross Technologies Simulating Antenna Performance

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3D Printing Comes To Big Box Stores

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

It’s obviously no secret that 3D printing continues its march on dominating the world of 3D physical realization. In the past year I’ve personally seen 3D printers at Office Depot, UPS, FedEx, and Staples where you can bring in an STL file on a USB drive and, theoretically, come back in a few minutes or hours with a 3D product of your creation.

From what I’ve seen, I haven’t exactly been overly impressed with the results. Between under-trained store staffs, limited choices of processes and materials, and just plain bad designs, the end product and process still leave a lot to be desired. In other words, it’s a hit or miss proposition, and probably more of the latter.

Honestly, if you’re serious about the result, take your design to a 3D printing service bureau with more process and material options, not to mention a professional, experienced staff who understands those important issues, but good design practices, as well.

Sam’s Club Brings 3D Printing to Moline, Illinois

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Additive and Subtractive Processes Equal Manufacturing Innovation

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

With multitasking an increasing fact of life for us all, it’s no surprise that machine tools continue to evolve into increasingly multifunction machine platforms, as well.

Let’s be honest, though, multifunction machines are not exactly new. For example, machines with processes that work together providing several functions, such as milling, turning, drilling, tapping, measurement, and EDM have been around for a number of years as requirements have changed.

I’ve also seen a number of interesting things on the exhibit floors at manufacturing trade shows, such as RAPID and IMTS, that employ traditional multifunctional capabilities, but have been most intrigued by a new emerging class of hybrid 3D printers that employ both additive manufacturing (AM) and subtractive (conventional machining) methods. Some of these innovative hybrid machines follow.

Hybrid (Additive & Subtractive Manufacturing) Machine by DMG Mori 

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Machine Research and Spatial Partner to Develop Cloud-Based App

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

Wow, it’s still summer, but what a week for cloud-based CAD apps. First, Onshape for Android, and now this development from Spatial and Machine Research.

Spatial Corp., a provider of 3D software development toolkits announced that Machine Research, a software provider that helps manufacturers increase efficiency and profitability, has leveraged Spatial’s 3D InterOp and 3D ACIS to launch the first Machine Research app for manufacturers, providing them with the ability to view, measure, collaborate, and translate virtually any CAD file type to any other file type on a secured cloud-based platform. Customers also can manage projects, utilize a visual search engine to find legacy projects of similar geometry, and customize and standardize the quotation process across their organization.

i-phone-app2

The Machine Research Multi-Purpose App

The Machine Research App provides two levels of service:

  • BASIC service allows manufacturers to avoid the expense associated with multiple CAD seats and one-off translation tools for an easy, cost-effective viewer and translator on the cloud for a monthly subscription.
  • PRO service (currently in Preview Mode) allows manufacturers the ability to search and find parts of similar geometry. Their search engine instantly gives users access to legacy parts of similar geometry to leverage the knowledge they’ve gained in the past to do things more efficiently and profitably going forward. It also allows users to take the multiple inter-connected spreadsheets out of the quotation process by providing a customizable quotation platform throughout their company.

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Onshape Launches Android CAD App

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Today, Onshape for Android, claimed to be the first 3D CAD system to run on Android phones and tablets, was released. The new mobile release comes just five months after the launch of Onshape Beta, a full-cloud 3D CAD system that lets design teams simultaneously work together on the same model using a web browser, phone, or tablet.

This is big news because, as far as I know, Onshape for Android is the first 3D CAD app that lets you create designs on Android platforms, whereas other CAD companies have only a viewer.

“We founded Onshape with a vision to make CAD accessible on any device, anywhere,” says Onshape founder and Chairman of the Board, Jon Hirschtick. “We’re proud to be the first in the industry to run on Android. And by ‘run,’ I mean really run. You’re not just viewing models. You’re able to sketch, extrude, fillet, shell, create 3D models, edit their shape and size, and put them into assemblies.”

Editing An Assembly On A Nexus Android Tablet

Editing An Assembly On A Nexus Android Tablet

3D CAD users are no longer restricted to one primary workstation, as their data is now readily available on practically any device. In addition to Android, Onshape also runs on iPhones and iPads – and in a web browser on Mac, Windows, and Linux.

“When we first started, a lot of people were skeptical that CAD could be done on such a small device,” explains Ravi Reddy, team lead for Onshape Mobile. “We solved the precision selection problem and made sketching easy with touch-based finger offset tools. We added intuitive lock and unlock modes to help with pan, zoom, and rotate operations for sketching and assemblies.”

“We rejected the standard notion of providing a view-only version of CAD on mobile or choosing a subset of features,” he adds. “We were determined to build a full CAD product that can be used anywhere and from any device.”

Keep in mind, though, the mobile app is not intended to replace Onshape’s use on desktops and laptops – it is meant to expand a CAD user’s access to their work outside the home or office.

Onshape for Android is available now for free in the Google Play store.

SolidCAM: Program your CNCs directly inside your existing CAD system.



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