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 »
February 8th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
This week was the 20th edition of SOLIDWORKS World and I think I’ve been to 17 or 18 of them. Some have been great, some not so great, but every one has provided something interesting that makes the company and its impact on the MCAD community stand out. This year was no exception as it had several significant announcements.
The theme for this years SOLIDWORKS WORLD was “Think,” which was a good idea but was really more about “experience,” as in 3DEXPERIENCE which is the mantra of Dassault Systemes, and not so much about specific software products. The various experiences that were discussed ranged from 3DEXPERIENCE Design Services to the 3DEXPERIENCE Marketplace|Make that include Socual Collaboration and PLM services. I’m still trying to get my head wrapped around all of this because there was little discussion on what all this means and how it’s all tied together, but it’s an interesting direction that I’ll continue to explore and try to understand.
Dassault Systems 3DEXPERIENCE platform continues to play an increasingly prominent role at the annual SOLIDWORKS event, although this is SOLIDWORKS World, not Dassault Systemes Universe. That aside, I heard SOLIDWORKS and CATIA mentioned a couple times in the same sentence on the stage during the event — a first for me.
However, things got much better as the conference commenced in earnest with classes and the exhibition floor in full swing.
SOLIDWORKS World 2018 Day 1 Highlights
Not to be left off the Internet of Things (IoT) bandwagon, SOLIDWORKS is also making a strong charge into this market by including design elements from SOLIDWORKS mechanical, SOLIDWORKS Electrical, and SOLIDWORKS PCB. During the conference, Seebo announced a SOLIDWORKS add-in for manufacturers to plan and deliver smart, connected products. As a new certified Gold Partner for SOLIDWORKS, theSeebo add-in for SOLIDWORKS lets users transform existing 3D product designs into a visual model of the entire IoT system, and get auto-generated specs, simulations, and analytics to make products IoT connected.
February 1st, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
It’s almost time to head to Los Angeles for SOLIDWORKS World 2018 and for many attendees, it will be a welcome relief from winter weather. This year will mark the 20th event and more than 5,000 attendees are expected.
For us, SOLIDWORKS World is all about people, products, and exchanging ideas — reacquainting ourselves with old friends and meeting new ones.
Conference Theme: Think!
Every day of SOLIDWORKS World starts with a general session with speakers that range from engineers, to industry leaders, to SOLIDWORKS executives and partners on their visions, perspectives, and ideas that provide a present and future context for the company and industry.
Day 1 – THINK: Future
The first general session is focused the future from several different perspectives. While SOLIDWORKS has been keeping specifics of the general sessions secretive, we do know the session feature the following speakers: Gian Paolo Bassi, Bernard Charles, Kishore Boyalakuntla, Richard Doyle, and Neri Oxman.
Day 2 – THINK: Innovation
Day 2 ‘s general session focuses on innovation whay it’s obviously important and how to achieve it. There will be a little something for everyone, including “Wearable Robots That Help People Walk Again” presented by Kyoungchul Kong. The other speakers include Suchit Jain, Michel Jagemann, Suchit Jain, Kishore Boyalakuntla, and Brent Bushnell.
Day 3 – THINK: Next Is Now
The final general group session includes one of our favorite parts of the conference, a peek into possible SOLIDWORKS 2019 features and capabilities. It wraps up with speakers that include Suchit Jain, Kishore Boyalakuntla, Mark Schneider, Joseph Hiura, Robert Andrew Johnson, Kurt Anliker, and Gian Paolo Bassi.
New and Improved SOLIDWORKS Products
Several SOLIDWORKS products, both new and improved, will be showcased and demonstrated on the main stage, breakout sessions, and the exhibition floor. Some of the more significant include:
SOLIDWORKS 3D 2018
Although the flagship product has been out for a few months, with SOLIDWORKS 2018, the company says its design-to-manufacturing process provides the tools needed to implement a comprehensive design-through-manufacturing strategy, all inside the SOLIDWORKS environment. These tools let you work without having to export and import data from one system to another. With IP embedded in the 3D design model, and at the center of the model-based definition (MBD) process, and thanks to associativity, changes from design or manufacturing are automatically reflected in all related CAD models, CAM programs, drawings, and documentation.
Additionally, all the information for manufacturing, inspection, and simulation and verification is directly linked to the design, so it always reflects the current design iteration (which is always a good thing).
Some of the other major new and improved features for SOLIDWORKS 2018 include:
Inspection for MBD – With the enhancements in SOLIDWORKS 2018, you can now create inspection documentation directly from 3D models with Production Manufacturing Information (PMI), as well as from 2D drawings, PDFs, and TIFFs. SOLIDWORKS Inspection is now integrated with SOLIDWORKS PDM, and supports SOLIDWORKS part and assembly files (*.sldprt, *.sldasm), as well as non-native 3D CAD formats.
3D Interconnect – You can work with more file formats including ACIS, STEP, and IGES, and automatically update your design whenever new files are received. In addition, 3D Interconnect now supports internal file information like custom properties, materials properties and reference axes.
Working With Mesh Data – You can now work directly with mesh data as you would with surface or solid geometry. Combine, intersect, split, move/copy, cut with surface, and check for interference. In addition, you can quickly fit surface bodies to regions of mesh models.
Sheet Metal – SOLIDWORKS 2018 includes tab and slot features for self-fixturing of parts for welding. A normal cut feature ensures that clearances are included for manufacturing, and tools to easily create or flatten corners that include three bends.
Generative Design – SOLIDWORKS Simulation Topology Study tool can automatically optimize the shape of a design based on weight, function, and manufacturing criteria. You can improve performance or reduce product weight based on simulation and manufacturing constraints.
The SOLIDWORKS CAM rules-based technology enables you to integrate design and manufacturing, connecting design and manufacturing teams through a common software tool and 3D model. SOLIDWORKS CAM is an add-on to all versions of SOLIDWORKS CAD that lets you prepare your designs for manufacturability earlier in the development cycle. Manufacturing tasks that had to wait until a design was complete can now be performed concurrently with the design process.
SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard lets you quickly program individual milled parts and configurations without leaving the SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD environment. You have full access to defining rules within SOLIDWORKS CAM to create and build to company standards, as well as Tolerance-Based Machining (TBM).
SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional builds on the capabilities of SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard with increased programming capabilities. The additional features include High-Speed Machining (HSM), configurations, assembly machining, turning, and 3+2 programming to drive four- and five-axis machines.
SOLIDWORKS Visualize lets you leverage your 3D CAD data to create photo-quality content in the fastest and easiest way you can–from images to animations, interactive web content, and immersive Virtual Reality. Bring your products to life. SOLIDWORKS Visualize is the “camera” for your CAD data.
SOLIDWORKS Visualize is hardware-agnostic and can leverage one or many GPUs in a single machine or across a network, which dramatically increases rendering performance over CPU hardware.
SOLIDWORKS Visualize Standard lets you produce photo-quality images for taking “photos” of 3D data, cutting costs, and accelerating time-to-market with compelling imagery.
SOLIDWORKS Visualize Professional lets you tell a deeper story with your CAD data by generating photo-quality imagery, interactive animations, 360-degree spins, and immersive Virtual Reality (VR) for communicating complex design details.
SOLIDWORKS Model-Based Definition (MBD) lets you define and organize 3D dimensions, tolerances, datums, notes, Bills of Material (BOMs), and other annotations; customize publishing templates for manufacturing, such as Part or Assembly Specifications, Request for Quote (RFQ), and Incoming Inspection Reports. You can also publish to widely accepted formats, such as eDrawings, STEP 242, and 3D PDF for clear 3D communications.
SOLIDWORKS MBD helps you define feature-based annotations in Parts and assemblies (DimXpert), and import 3D annotations from common CAD formats for more efficient design collaborations.
When there are too many 3D annotations, you can show and hide annotations automatically as a model rotates, capture comprehensive settings with 3D views similar to visual bookmarks, compare 3D annotation differences between revisions to capture subtle but critical differences, and reuse 3D views in 2D drawings when necessary.
I don’t know a lot about this product yet, but suffice it to say this could be a real cloud-based game changer for SOLIDWORKS.
SOLIDWORKS Xdesign combines ease of use with innovative design methodologies and cloud collaboration from inside your browser. Create parametric models and assemblies, or let Xdesign’s Design Guidance suggest solutions. Share designs and collaborate through communities.
Being cloud-based, with no software to install configure or manage, you are always working with the latest version of Xdesign on all your devices.
With the single modeling environment, there is no need to worry about parts and assemblies. Top-down or bottom-up—Xdesign supports design needs and automatically creates a design structure.
When facing tough structural design challenges, Design Guidance can offer possible solutions. Simply provide the part connection points and force conditions and Design Guidance will give you insight into what your part should look like. Keep it as a guidance reference or use it in your model.
Not too much to discuss here yet, but a preview of what the future might hold will be presented the final day of the show during the morning’s general session. More on this and what we might expect to see in the next release will be covered next week.
We’ll be on the lookout for innovative companies, products, and services. Next week I will discuss what I considered to be “Best of Show” for hardware, software, and service.
Meet Us At SOLIDWORKS World 2018!
We’ll be at SOLIDWORKS World 2018 in Los Angeles, February 4-7, 2018 conducting video interviews. If your company is interested and you haven’t signed up yet, click on this link to schedule a video interview. If you have any questions, contact me at 719-221-1867 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Stop by and say “hello” during the conference in exhibit booth #302. Hope to see you there!
January 25th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
For quite some time, I’ve been saying to my peers and detractors that 2018 might finally be the year the “cloud” takes off, whether we’re talking storage in the cloud, CAD in the cloud, simulation in the cloud – whatever in the cloud. I also think that another “cloud” innovation that will get its just attention is the point cloud that will grow far beyond its traditional role for representing surfaces to becoming an integral component of 3D modeling and maybe even virtual reality.
So, exactly what is a point cloud? Technically, a point cloud is a data base containing points in a 3D coordinate system. A point cloud is a very accurate digital record of an object or space. It is saved as a (very) large number of points that cover surfaces of a scanned/sensed object. The points in a point clouds are always located on the external surfaces of visible objects, because they are the points reflected from scanned objects.
In a three-dimensional coordinate system, these points are usually defined by X, Y, and Z coordinates, and intended to represent the external surface of an object.
Point clouds can be created by several methods, including 3D scanners and photographs. These devices measure a large number of points on an object’s surface, and often output a point cloud as a data file. The point cloud represents the set of points that the device has measured.
Reality Capture – Converting Photos Into 3D Models
The key factor in acquiring point cloud data is the access/visibility to scanned surfaces. It is important to remember, that point clouds are created with visible access to real objects. Regardless of the method of acquisition (scanner or photos). It is impossible to obtain points on the surfaces that are not visible from the position from which data is collected. This means that to cover entire objects, many scanning positions must be combined.
Forging Ahead With Autodesk’s Cloud-Based Development Platform, Developer Program, and Investment Fund
January 18th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
In November, Autodesk announced several updates to its Forge platform, including new cloud application development tools, the Forge Application Framework, and several new investments at Forge DevCon, the company’s event for Forge developers held immediately before Autodesk University.
Since its inception in December 2015, Autodesk claims that rapid progress has been made with adopters of the Forge Platform in changing both what and how things are made, and at transforming “the future of making things.”
The cloud-based Forge Platform features APIs and SDKs developers can use to create design, engineering, visualization, collaboration, and other types of enterprise applications. The Forge developer program aims to bring together a community of cloud application developers by providing application development resources.
The Forge Program consists of three main components:
What is Autodesk Forge?
The Forge DevCon event is part of a comprehensive Forge developer program that provides learning, support, and business development resources for Autodesk’s community of cloud developers. This community includes developers representing industries that include architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) and manufacturing, as well as emerging areas such as augmented reality (AR), additive manufacturing (AM), and the Internet of Things (IoT). The majority of Forge developers are using multiple APIs to create services and solutions that fuel how software products are designed, built and used.
January 11th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
In 2017, bitcoin value surged from just under $1,000 at the beginning of the year to nearly $20,000 by mid-December.
While some industry leaders are skeptical of bitcoin, others are eagerly investing, confident in projections that bitcoin value will reach $1 million by the end of 2020. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but then again, I’m no financial expert.
However, many financial pundits and industry observers see bitcoin’s supporting technology, blockchain, as the true star with the greatest potential in coming years, and manufacturing could prove to be one of its biggest successes.
What Exactly Is A Blockchain?
According to Investopedia, “A blockchain is a digitized, decentralized, public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions. Constantly growing as ‘completed’ blocks (the most recent transactions) are recorded and added to it in chronological order, it allows market participants to keep track of digital currency transactions without central recordkeeping. Each node (a computer connected to the network) gets a copy of the blockchain, which is downloaded automatically.
Originally developed as the accounting method for the virtual currency Bitcoin blockchains – which use what’s known as distributed ledger technology (DLT) – are beginning to appear in a variety of commercial applications, including manufacturing. Currently, the technology is primarily used to verify transactions, within digital currencies, though it is possible to digitize, code, and insert practically any document into a blockchain, including those found in the manufacturing process. Doing so creates an indelible record that cannot be changed and the record’s authenticity can be verified by an entire community (supply chain) using the blockchain instead of a single centralized authority.
January 4th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
For as long as I can remember, cloud storage and computing have offered two things – endless (unrealistic) promises and perpetual (unrealistic) growth. For some time that was true, but several things have occurred in the past couple of years that temper those claims and portend what may happen in the future for technology providers that become increasingly reliant on the cloud – reliability, accessibility, and security.
Cloud computing, or internet-based computing provide shared processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand. From the beginning, it was intended as a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort.
Proponents have always claimed that cloud computing allows companies to avoid upfront infrastructure costs, and focus on projects that differentiate their businesses instead of on infrastructure. Proponents have also claimed that cloud computing allows enterprises to get their applications up and running faster, with improved manageability and less maintenance, and enables IT to more rapidly adjust resources to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business demand. Cloud providers typically use a “pay as you go” model. This can lead to unexpectedly high charges if administrators do not adapt to the cloud pricing model. Even so, the potential for premium MCAD with minimal computing hardware cost make the prospect attractive and compelling.
To a large extent most of these claims have proven true, and I have been a proponent for many aspects of cloud computing, but there is also a downside – generally, you just don’t need as many people to run and maintain a cloud-based organization.
December 12th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
Recently, we had the opportunity to interview Grant Imahara at the Arm TechCon 2017 Conference in Santa Clara, CA.
Grant is the celebrity engineer spokesperson for Mouser Electronics, the leading global New Product Introduction (NPI) distributor. Grant is an electrical engineer, roboticist, and television host. He is best known for his work on the television series MythBusters, where he designed and built numerous robots and specialized in operating the various computers and electronics that were utilized to objectively test myths. More recently, Grant has partnered with Mouser Electronics in launching its Empowering Innovation Together program, where he hosts webisodes and contributes blog posts and articles.
Grant visited our EDACafe exhibition booth at Arm TechCon for an interesting interview that covered many topics, including his relationship with Mouser Electronics.
Interview with Grant Imahara at Arm TechCon 2017
EDACafe: Can you discuss your relationship with Mouser Electronics and what you do with the company?
Grant I: I am Mouser’s celebrity engineer spokesman, which is kind of funny because generally speaking, engineers are not the rock stars and don’t often get the recognition we deserve for all the amazing things that we do. Mouser said, “Let’s take a person who is a known face from TV, who is also an engineer and make them our spokesperson.” So, here I am.
December 7th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
If you think there are a lot of industrial robots out there, you’re right. But, by 2019, more than 1.4 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world – that’s the latest forecast from a report published by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).
The number of industrial robots deployed worldwide will increase to around 2.6 million units by 2019. That’s about one million units more than in the record-breaking year of 2015.
Broken down according to sectors, around 70 percent of industrial robots are currently at work in the automotive, electrical/electronics and metal and machinery industry segments. In 2015, the strongest growth in the number of operational units recorded was registered in the electronics industry, which boasted a rise of 18 percent. The metal industry posted an increase of 16 percent, with the automotive sector growing by 10 percent.
New Technology Enhances Industrial Robots
The US is currently the fourth largest single market for industrial robots in the world. Within the NAFTA area (US, Canada, and Mexico), the total number of newly installed industrial robots rose by 17 percent to a new record of some 36,000 units (2015). The leader of the pack was the US, accounting for three-quarters of all units sold where 5 percent growth was recorded. With a comparatively much smaller number of units, the demand in Canada increased by 49 percent (5,466 units), while that in Mexico grew by 119 percent (3,474 units). With a stable economic situation, it is expected that North America will see average annual growth of 5 to 10 percent in sales of robots through 2019.
November 30th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
One of the most interesting, but mysterious and most misunderstood technologies in the digital realm are blockchain and bitcoin. Blockchain, specifically, is also the technology with the greatest potential to secure data and transactions that demand trust. Although they are related, separately and together they require quite a bit of space to adequately explain, so this time around, I’ll focus on a few aspects of blockchain and their possible implications for manufacturing.
Blockchain combines the openness of the Internet (unless/until Net Neutrality goes away) with the security of cryptography to give companies a faster way to verify vital information and establish trust without the need for third parties and other intermediaries. It was initially developed more than a decade ago to provide the technical underpinnings for Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency with which it is sometimes mistaken. As Pat Bakey, president of SAP Industries, noted, “Early horror stories about bitcoin, the most famous digital currency to use blockchain, prompted its mainstream dismissal as a dubious tool of the dark web.”
At its core however, blockchain is simply an open and secure method of recording transactions, just like a traditional ledger. Because blockchains establish trust, they provide a simple, paperless way to establish and track ownership of money, information, and objects by individuals, companies, and other organizations.
Blockchain: What’s In It For Manufacturers?
“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value,” wrote Don and Alex Tapscott in their book, Blockchain Revolution.