Jeff's MCAD Blogging
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 »
November 19th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe
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.
November 12th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe
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.
November 5th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe
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:
Hardware we used for the project:
Example 3D printed models were generously provided by:
October 30th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe
Late last year I started following a federal-level initiative that’s been around a while on establishing manufacturing hubs (known as institutes) around the country specializing in specific areas of expertise.
Some of these hubs include:
Together, this is known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). This network may expand to as many as 16 institutes (there are currently seven to nine, depending on who you talk to) by the end of 2016. The vision is for an eventual total of 45 institutes, although no target date has been set for that goal, but a decade sounds about right.
October 23rd, 2015 by Jeff Rowe
A few months ago I went to an event that was new to me, Hexagon Metrology’s big U.S. event, HxGN. The conference was specifically targeted for metrology (science of measurement) with regard to sensing, inspection, QA, and reverse engineering applications – in other words what, Hexagon Metrology is all about.
However, metrology was not the only area represented, as the company known as Hexagon AB also has a huge presence with its hardware, software, and services in other industry segments, such as geospatial (GPS and surveying); process, power, and marine (PP&M); and security, government, and infrastructure (SG&I). It was a lot to take in and I focused on industrial metrology and related technologies – sensors and software used for optimizing manufacturing processes and throughput. I was especially interested in optimizing manufacturing processes with metrology because I have felt that this is a gap that genuinely needs to be filled.
The core of Hexagon Metrology’s business is sensing – the acquisition of information about an object with (touch probe, CMM) or without (laser, visible light) making physical contact for purposes of precise measurement for a variety of purposes. For example, measuring quality is becoming more prevalent earlier in the manufacturing process, and not just measuring a product as it comes off a production line. Earlier measurement and inspection to ensure ultimate quality are analogous to what simulation used to be – often an afterthought. Today, however, an increasing number of manufacturers are realizing the value that both simulation and measurement can provide if applied earlier in the design and manufacturing processes.
One of Hexagon’s customers who spoke during the conference said that earlier measurement has made it reorder its priorities in making its products “better before cheaper.”
October 16th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe
As part of its ongoing acquisition quest, earlier this week PTC announced that it had signed an agreement to acquire the Vuforia business from Qualcomm Connected Experiences for $65 million. Vuforia is a widely adopted augmented reality (AR) technology platform, that PTC is betting will enrich its technology portfolio and further foster its strategy to provide technologies that blend the digital and physical worlds. In other words, the next phase of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Under terms of the agreement, PTC will acquire the Vuforia business, including its developers ecosystem. PTC is committed to continued investment in the Vuforia platform and to the ongoing support and growth of the Vuforia ecosystem, but why wouldn’t it? The deal is expected to close later in 2015.
It was first reported last month that Qualcomm was soliciting bids for Vuforia as part of its effort to cut costs and focus on its key mobile business. The surprise was that PTC was the ultimate suitor for the company and its technology.
Vuforia is a mobile vision platform that enables apps to “see” and connect the physical world with digital experiences that demand attention and drive engagement. Vuforia is supported by a global ecosystem of developers, and has powered more than 20,000 apps with more than 200 million app downloads and installs worldwide.
Vuforia’s technology lets people use their smartphone or tablet to bring advertisements, toys, and other real-world objects to life. The effort has attracted a notable base of developers, but let’s face it, augmented reality remains more of a novelty than a big business. Obviously, PTC is out to change that.
October 9th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe
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.
October 1st, 2015 by Jeff Rowe
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
September 24th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe
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:
September 17th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe
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.