Jeff's MCAD Blogging
Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has almost 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 design … More »

SolidCAM: Solid Past, Solid Future

 
April 9th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

We talk with dozens of CAx vendors monthly and on an ongoing basis so we can (hope to) stay current with new features and capabilities. We have also noted for several years the ongoing consolidation of CAx vendors. When I blogged specifically a couple months ago about the CAM segment entitled, “CAM Consolidation 2015: The Circle Continues To Get Smaller,” only one vendor challenged me that it was always independent and would remain so – SolidCAM. That statement piqued my interest, so I thought I better follow up to see how they would substantiate their insistence.

The following video demonstrates a 3D car model machined in C45 steel roughed with iMachining 3D technology, which SolidCAM claims saves >70% of machining time. The car model is finished using SolidCAM 5-Axis simultaneous – all integrated into SolidWorks.

 

SolidCAM iMachining & Simultaneous 5X-Milling of a Car Model

 Shortly after SolidWorks World, I spoke with SolidCAM’s founder and CEO, Emil Somekh, in a lively and candid conversation that set a number of things straight specifically about SolidCAM, as well as the CAM industry in general.

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COFES 2015: Taking A Giant Step Backwards

 
April 2nd, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

If it’s April, it’s time for COFES (Congress On the Future of Engineering Software). This annual informal event, now in its 16th year, is the engineering software industry’s only think tank/industry summit event that brings executives from design, engineering, architectural, development, and technology companies together to understand the role engineering technology will play in the future survival and success of business customers who also attend.

COFES is well-known for hosting leading keynote visionaries that bring a new perspective to the future of the industry.

The central theme for COFES 2015 is that as engineers and software professionals we are good at focusing on the thing at hand – the design challenge; the need for a new tool; our competitive situation. However, rarely do we consider the bigger world in which these issues reside.

This year, COFES takes a giant step backwards for broadening our view. In other words, to think about thinking about the bigger picture. The nature of our work requires that we spend the majority of our time getting things done, tightly focused on executing our tasks and plans. And while we do that, we are continuously faced with choices, big and small, along the way. Too often, we make decisions in the narrow context of what we have in front of us, unless some outside force pushes a broader context into our consciousness.

A quick blast from the COFES past — In 2008 Gartner declared Augmented Reality (AR) one of the Top Ten Disruptive Technologies for the next few years. While AR has arrived on mobile devices and digital cameras, it remains imprecise and far from disruptive. Are there changes in the wind? Although the video below is a couple of years old, during his COFES 2011 presentation Joseph Juhnke reviews the strengths and weaknesses of various types of Augmented Reality (hardware and software) technologies.

Practical applications for augmented reality – Joseph Juhnke – COFES 2011 Keynote Presentation

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The CAx Cloud Becoming More Than Vapor

 
March 26th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

As much as I have tried to resist the temptation to gush all over myself, I’ve had a tough time restraining my enthusiasm for the myriad cloud-based computing and storage options that have come online in the recent past and their potential. OK, it’s time for a reality check – facts, fallacies, myths, and risks.

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about a newcomer on the block, Onshape entitled Onshape: The Day After a New Dawn For 3D CAD.

Keep in mind, though, that Onshape is online only and always requires a Web connection to be functional. With connectivity so universally ubiquitous, this shouldn’t pose a problem for a majority of prospective users. At this time, the company has no plans for making Onshape available offfline, so if this is an issue or concern, then Onshape may not be a design tool for you. However, that said, I’d encourage you to check out Onshape.

Also, I pointed out that as interesting Onshape is, it is by no means the first or only cloud-based technical/design/engineering software offering. As a matter of fact, it turns out there are quite a few, including:

Admittedly, this is not an exhaustive list, and is not meant to be. I just wanted to provide some of the cloud-based tools currently available. I also realize that the above have different features and capabilities, so it’s not an “apples to apples” comparison.

While the following video is a few years old, and some of the technologies discussed have been superseded or retired, it provides a good overview for novices of what cloud computing is about.

Introduction to Cloud Computing

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Hardware Review: Lenovo ThinkStation P300 SFF

 
March 19th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

Although it was first introduced in May 2014, we finally got around to reviewing the Lenovo ThinkStation P300. Lenovo positions this system as “entry level,” but the build quality and performance proved to be anything but.

Ever since they first came on to the market several years ago, I’ve always been a fan of a small form factor (SFF) desktop workstation, and the P300 fits nicely in this category. Its metal enclosure with plastic front bezel measures 13.25”H x 14.5”D x 4’W. Like what many of its competitors are offering, entry into the chassis requires not tools to remove a side panel with access to the internals. The interior has a nice layout and PCI and memory slots are easy to access, even with fat fingers. That said, though, there is no wasted space and the airflow is efficient with air being drawn through the front grille.

Lenovo ThinkStation P Series Product Tour

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Onshape: The Day After a New Dawn For 3D CAD

 
March 12th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

With all the fanfare that took place earlier this week with the official launch of the Beta version of cloud-based Onshape, we thought we’d let the dust settle a bit before weighing in. That said, it’s actually a couple of days after the new dawn for 3D CAD.

Keep in mind, though, as impressive as it is out of the gate, Onshape is by no means the first cloud-based/mobile CAD application. It is, however, a unique true cloud-based technology and not a desktop/cloud hybrid.

Onshape began a couple of years ago and was one of the best and worst kept secrets in the engineering software arena. Worst, because even early on, it was evident that the technology would be cloud based, even if virtually no details were disclosed. Best, because virtually no details were disclosed (until relatively recently under NDA) that just added to the anticipation for the official launch of the Onshape Beta earlier this week.

About a year ago I asked Jon Hirschtick (Onshape’s founder and co-founder of SolidWorks) about Onshape and he said that it was indeed real, and would happen, but kept his cards close to the chest and just said the industry would be turned upside down with what he and his team were working on. Again, having experienced what I have with Onshape in its infancy, Hirschtick’s statement was an understatement.

The video clip that follows outlines the “why” behind building this new set of cloud-based Onshape technologies.

The Onshape Manifesto
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FARO Hitches Two New Cars to Its Acquisition Train

 
March 5th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

As we said a little over a month ago, we have witnessed the ongoing and perpetual consolidation of the CAD/CAM industry as companies continue to get swallowed up by others.

We’ve witnessed CAD companies acquiring CAD/CAM companies, simulation companies acquiring CAD companies, and other types of technical software and service companies acquiring CAD/CAM companies. With all the attention seemingly focused on the CAD/CAM side, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there also has been a significant consolidation through acquisition on other sides of technical software as well over the past several years. In other words, with these other acquisitions technical software circles of all types continue to get smaller.

This time around its 3D scanning giant, FARO Technologies, and its recent acquisitions of kubit (AEC point cloud processing software) and ARAS 360 (crime reconstruction/forensic software). Founded in 1981, FARO Technologies Inc. develops and markets portable 3D measurement systems for computer-aided manufacturing measurement.

FARO Focus 3D Laser Scanner

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Autodesk Gets REAL

 
February 27th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

San Francisco is always a great destination, but even more so when the weather is sunny and warm as it was this week while we attended the REAL 2015 Summit, Autodesk’s initial foray into making sense of a term it coined – reality computing. In Autodesk’s vernacular, creating data is what ultimately is used to create reality, but more about what that actually means later.

REAL 2015 was nothing like any company-sponsored event I had ever attended. It was all about 3D capture (scanning/sensing), computing (modeling), and creating (additive/subtractive manufacturing). It was more like a sophisticated maker faire than a traditional trade show. I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical about coming to REAL 2015, thinking it was going to be a 2 ½ day Autodesk sales pitch/advertisement to a captive audience, but was pleasantly surprised that it was nothing of the sort, and was more analogous to a TEDx event, which is a very good thing.

Capture was put into the context of sensing that is becoming ever more ubiquitous (think smartphone cameras); Compute was about the cloud, mobility, social media, and analytics; and Create was about the increase of accessible fabrication. These three branches were talked about going from feasible to transformational, as well as Autodesk’s initiative as a company of then transforming implications to applications.

REAL2015: Where the sensors meet the maker

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Design Space Exploration Survey

 
February 25th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

I recently came across an interesting concept that I had heard about, but didn’t know a lot about – design space exploration.

Design space exploration as an engineering formalism that originated in the embedded-systems industry as a set of methodologies for hardware/software co-design, configuration of software product lines, and real-time software synthesis. “The set of all possible design alternatives for a system is referred to as a design-space, and design-space exploration (DSE) is the systematic exploration of the elements in a design-space” (Saxena and Karsai, “Towards a Generic Design Space Exploration Framework,” Proceedings of 2010 IEEE 10th International Conference on Computer and Information Technology).

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A Short Conversations With SolidWorks’ Product Management Director: Kishore Boyalakuntla

 
February 23rd, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

During SolidWorks World 2015 we had the opportunity to talk with several SolidWorks staffers and executives during the conference.

One of the SolidWorks executives we sat down and chatted with briefly was Kishore Boyalakuntla, Director, Product Management, SolidWorks. The topic we wanted to focus on with Kishore was the SolidWorks position on cloud computing.

He started off by saying that the cloud plus connectivity are some of the vital things that equal what Dassault Systemes calls the 3DEXPERIENCE, the company’s business experience platform. To be honest, the true definition, meaning, and significance of exactly what the 3DEXPERIENCE is and where it’s going has continued to elude us until relatively recently. We’re still trying to get our arms wrapped around it.

Although about a year old and the concept continues to evolve, the following video provides a broad overview of the 3DEXPERIENCE.

 

3DEXPERIENCE Platform User Experience

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Astrobotic Shoots For The Moon Economically

 
February 19th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

As a kid growing up, I was interested in many things, but was especially fascinated by the U.S. space program that went from several early failed attempts to the ultimate triumph of landing men on the moon in 1969 with Apollo 11. Humans went back a few more times during the next few years, but the past 40 or so years has been Moon and planetary exploration by satellites, robots, and rovers. The discoveries made during these explorations have been amazing, but largely cost prohibitive. That is, until now.

Last week at SolidWorks World 2015 we saw and heard an excellent presentation given during Day 2’s General Session by John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic Technology.

The focus of his company and presentation was launching, landing, and deploying payloads on the Moon at an affordable cost.

Founded in 2008 and headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, Astrobotic Technology Inc. is a space logistics company that is positioning itself to deliver payloads to the Moon for companies, governments, universities, non-profits and individuals. Astrobotic’s spacecraft accommodates multiple customers on a single flight, offering flexibility at a relatively low price (~$500 K/lb or $1.2 M/kg) to the lunar surface. Astrobotic is also accepting small mementos for inclusion on its first mission to the Moon – MoonMail, will send personal keepsakes to a lunar destination for between $460 and $1,660 per package.

Astrobotic is a NASA contractor, and is also an official partner with NASA on the Lunar CATALYST program. With its partner, Carnegie Mellon University, Astrobotic is pursuing the Google Lunar XPRIZE and is scheduled to launch the first mission in 2016, although the company will not commit to a specific date.

Go to the 1:20 mark to check out the stage presentation of John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotics at SolidWorks World 2015.

Day 2: SOLIDWORKS World 2015 General Session Highlights

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