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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 »

Thingworx 8 Takes Center Stage At LiveWorx17

 
June 1st, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

PTC’s user conference in Boston last week (LiveWorx17 ) covered a lot of ground — everything from Creo to Windchill to augmented reality (AR), but the focus of the event was PTC announcing the launch of its newest version of  ThingWorx Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) platform – ThingWorx 8. According to the company, with this update, ThingWorx evolves into a more robust, comprehensive industrial IoT (IIoT) technology offering. PTC also announced a new lineup of ThingWorx-powered apps for the manufacturing environment, as well as ThingWorx Studio support for native authoring and publishing of AR experiences for Microsoft HoloLens.

Interestingly, PTC’s VP of Corporate Communications, Jack McAvoy said that two of this year’s three main messages for LiveWorx17 revolved around ThingWorx as more than a platform and the evolving ThingWorx ecosystem through physical/digital convergence.

PTC’s foray into IoT got a big boost about four years ago when it  acquired ThingWorx, creators of a platform for building and running applications for the Internet of Things (IoT), for about $112 million. The acquisition of ThingWorx immediately positioned PTC as a major player in the emerging Internet of Things era.

According to a research report, Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy  from the McKinsey Global Institute, the Internet of Things has the potential to create economic impact of $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025. The firm believes perhaps 80 to 100 percent of all manufacturing could be using Internet of Things applications by then, leading to potential economic impact of $900 billion to $2.3 trillion, largely from productivity gains. For example, with increasingly sophisticated Internet of Things technologies becoming available, companies can not only track the flow of products or keep track of physical assets, but they can also manage the performance of individual machines and systems.

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Wohlers Report 2017 Shows Vibrant New Business Activity In 3D Printing With Slower Worldwide Growth

 
May 25th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

Last week at the RAPID + TCT conference in Pittsburgh, I made a point of catching up with my friend (and fellow Coloradan), Terry Wohlers, President of Wohlers Associates. I caught him after his excellent keynote presentation where we discussed several aspects of the 3D printing industry in a video interview that will be posted on the MCADCafe site very soon.

Among the things we discussed was the recently released the Wohlers Report 2017, his company’s annual detailed analysis of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing worldwide. According to the Report, the AM industry grew by 17.4% in worldwide revenues in 2016, down from 25.9% the year before, according to the new report. Much of the downturn came from declines by the two largest system manufacturers in the business — 3D Systems and Stratasys. Together, they represented $1.31 billion (21.7%) of the $6.063 billion AM industry. If these two companies were excluded from the analysis, the industry would have grown by 24.9%.

Wohlers Associates is widely recognized as the leading consulting firm and foremost authority on additive manufacturing and 3D printing. This annual publication has served as the undisputed industry-leading report on the subject for more than two decades. Over its 22 years of publication, many (including me) have referred to the report as the “bible” of AM and 3D printing—terms that are used interchangeably by the company and industry. I think it easily remains the most comprehensive resource on the topic and market.

Wohlers Report 2017

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Summer Preview: Solid Edge ST10

 
May 18th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

Solid Edge SE10’s Generative Design + Reverse Engineering + 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing = Siemens Convergent Modeling

Last week at the Siemens PLM Connection 2017, I was introduced to several new products and technologies, and was reintroduced to a product that I had prior experience with, but needed a refresher as to where it stood today — Solid Edge ST10.

The latest release brings just about every aspect of product development forward with new design technology, enhanced fluid flow and heat transfer analysis, and cloud-based collaboration tools. Solid Edge ST10 makes it easier to optimize parts for additive manufacturing (AM) and obtain quotes, material selection and delivery schedules from AM service providers. Newly integrated topology optimization technology, combined with Siemens’ Convergent Modeling technology, improves product design efficiency and the ability to work with imported geometry.

Originally developed and released by Intergraph in 1996 using the ACIS geometric modeling kernel it later changed to the Parasolid kernel. In 1998 it was purchased and further developed by UGS Corp (the purchase date corresponds to the kernel swap).

In 2007, UGS was acquired by the Automation & Drives Division of Siemens AG. UGS company was renamed Siemens PLM Software in October 2007.

Solid Edge ST10 Preview (Video Courtesy of Nancy Johnson).

In an effort to appeal to SMBs with Solid Edge ST10, John Miller, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Siemens PLM Software, said, “Digitalization is leveling the playing field, providing unlimited opportunities for small-to medium-sized businesses to disrupt industry.”

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A Short Tale Of Two Conferences: Siemens PLM Connection & RAPID + TCT

 
May 11th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

It’s not often (thankfully) that I cover two major conference events in the same week, but this week was exceptional (in a good way) — Siemens PLM Connection and RAPID + TCT 3D Printing & Manufacturing.

Siemens PLM Connection

The Siemens PLM Connection event in Indianapolis was a first timer for me and I got a lot out of it.

The major theme I came away with was Siemens’ push for what it calls the digital enterprise hub based on a digital twin.

There are many definitions of the digital twin, but for Siemens, a digital twin is a set of computer models that provide the means to design, validate and optimize a part, a product, a manufacturing process or a production facility in the virtual world. It does these things fast, accurately and as close as possible to the real thing – the physical counterpart. These digital twins use data from sensors that are installed on physical objects to represent their near real time status, working condition or position.

Siemens supports digital twins for product design, manufacturing process planning, and production through the Smart Factory loop and via the Smart Product.

A deployment of a digital twin includes three pillars: in product design, in manufacturing process planning and in feedback loops.

1. In product design. A digital twin includes all design elements of a product, namely:
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Whether Additive Or Subtractive, Post Processing Remains Key For Manufacturing

 
May 4th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

Clean up after anything is not usually an especially enjoyable endeavor, even where subtractive or additive manufacturing processes are concerned. This is where post processing comes in.

The Problem with CAD In Subtractive Manufacturing

To cut parts using a CNC cutting machine, it has to be programmed with the path of the desired shape or nest of shapes. Most parts are designed with a CAD program where they are saved in a CAD drawing format, such as DWG, STEP, or several others.

But you can’t just take the CAD file and send it to a cutting machine. It has to be interpreted first, so the CNC on the cutting machine can understand it. The problem with CAD file formats is that:

  • They usually contain a lot of information that the CNC cutting machine doesn’t need or would find confusing, such as title blocks, Bills Of Material, dimension lines, borders, welding symbols, etc.
  • They usually have multiple layers, some of which are useful to the CNC and some of which the CNC needs to ignore.
  • They sometimes have many parts in one file, some of which might need to be cut on the CNC cutter, and some might need to be machined, cast, or sent to an EDM.
  • They don’t have all of the information needed by a CNC machine. Machines need to be told when to turn a process on and off, how to lead-in and lead-out from a part, etc. All of this information is referred to as the process technology.

Post Processing For Subtractive Machining

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Bricsys Insights: ACAD to BCAD

 
April 27th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

I spent this week in the beautiful city of Ghent, Belgium for a series of company and product overviews at Bricsys at an event the company called Bricsys Insights.

For me, this was an introduction to and company and product line I had heard about, but didn’t have much knowledge about. This week that all changed for the better.

As a company, Bricsys has taken on several iterations over the years since it was founded in 2002, and has emerged today as a real player in the CAD markets for both architectural and mechanical design applications. The company currently has 130-140 employees, the majority being developers, so it is efficiently run and product focused.
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Hexagon’s Recent Ups & Downs Update

 
April 20th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

A lot has gone on in the past couple months at metrology giant Hexagon AB, so let’s have a look.

For starters, Hexagon AB, announced recently that it was acquiring MSC Software Corp. for $834 million cash. While not quite as big, the acquisition is Hexagon’s largest deal since it bought Intergraph for $2.1 billion in 2010.

MSC Software is the the company that has brought products that include Nastran, Patran, Marc, and Apex to market. For more than 50 years MSC has been a leading provider of CAE solutions, primarily simulation software for virtual product and manufacturing process development, and was one of the first 10 commercial software companies.

As I noted when the acquisition was first announced, acquiring MSC provides Hexagon with a strong foothold in the competitive simulation/analysis market with MSC’s diverse portfolio of CAE applications.

Hexagon: Shaping Smart Change

As it has with all recent acquisitions, Hexagon plans for MSC to run as an independent business unit within the Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence (MI) division, that focuses on automotive, aerospace, machinery, consumer electronics, and other discrete manufacturing markets, getting close to offering comprehensive end-to-end solutions in these diverse workflows. About the only link missing is a true CAD component and I can think of several possible targets for closing this gap.

Process-oriented solutions are essential for manufacturers, and MSC’s applications definitely address design and engineering processes through simulation and analysis.

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COFES 2017 Tackles Complexity, Looks Ahead To Future

 
April 13th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

I just returned from Scottsdale, Arizona after a great week at the annual Congress on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES) event.

Over the years I’ve attended probably 8-10 of these unique events, and they have all been a bit different, but I have always come away with new insights and perspectives on engineering software.

The keynotes are always thought provoking and the roundtable discussions and general conversations are stimulating, because they often provide food for thought and questions for further investigation rather than just simple answers.

One of the aspects I especially appreciate about COFES is that the company behind the conference, Cyon Research, strictly forbids blatant “selling” by attendees. For the most this request is honored, noted a few exceptions, but I ignored them. This event is meant to be more a meeting of the minds than an opportunity to capitalize on a captive audience.

This year’s theme was on the many facets of transformative complexity and how to understand it and take advantage of the benefits it can present.

At COFES, Everyone Is Encouraged (and Expected) To Participate 

The growth of complexity in everything we do is presenting us with new and difficult challenges, from our constantly changing business environment, to conflicting requirements of more simplicity (to the customer) in products that require more complexity to deliver. New phenomena result from complexity, often requiring consideration of things that were not previously an issue. The demands of IoT, the emergence of additive manufacturing. And it’s not just products: emergent properties of complexity occur in processes, in IT, in business models, in politics, and in economies.

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ESPRIT CAM Software: 21st Century CAM

 
April 6th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

A few weeks ago at SOLIDWORKS World, I got reacquainted with a CAM company that previously I had only limited experience with – DP Technology. After talking with Don Davies, DP Technology’s VP of Americas, I came away from the event impressed with the company, as well as where DP Technology and its ESPIRIT product line are heading as ESPRIT CAM Software.

DP Technology Corp is a privately held company co-founded in 1982 by Daniel Frayssinet and Paul Ricard. The company gets its name from the first names of the co-founders – (D)an and (P)aul. The company’s corporate headquarters is in Camarillo, California. The rest of the company is structured by function with offices in France, Germany, India, Italy, China, and Japan. DP Technology is the developer of the diverse ESPRIT CAM 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, GF AgiCharmilles, and Sodick.


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Hardware Review: HP Z2 Mini Provides Big Performance In A Small Package

 
March 30th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

As has been the case for several years, not all computer users need a workstation-class machine, but many do, especially with graphics-oriented and computationally intensive applications, such as MCAD, FEA, and animation. However, high-powered workstations for graphic-intensive applications can come with a price premium. So, you can really pay a relatively high price for higher levels of performance, but is often worth it. There are exceptions, however, and the HP Z2 Mini workstation offers the best of both worlds – a versatile machine with excellent performance at a reasonable price.

I’d classify the HP Z2 Mini as a mid- to high-level machine that provides just about everything most customers would need in a desktop engineering workstation. Then there’s added benefit of the small footprint, which can be huge in a tight work environment.

The HP Z2 Mini Workstation

 
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