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 »
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
March 23rd, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
At software conferences it’s always fun to catch up with old industry acquaintances, but is more interesting to strike up conversations with new companies with innovative ideas. That very thing happened a few weeks ago at SOLIDWORKS World 2017 when we got introduced to Xometry, a company committed to bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. with its software platform for building a reliable and scalable manufacturing program. It employs a unique machine-learning approach that provides its customers with optimal manufacturing capabilities at the best price based on parameters input by customers.
Founded in 2014, Xometry is hoping to transform American manufacturing through a proprietary software platform that provides on-demand manufacturing to a diverse customer base, ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies. The platform provides an efficient way to source high-quality custom parts, with 24/7 access to instant pricing, expected lead time and manufacturability feedback that recommends best processes and practices. With more than 100 manufacturing partners, the manufacturing capabilities include CNC machining, 3D printing, sheet metal forming and fabrication, and urethane casting with over 200 materials. Xometry’s 4,000+ customers include General Electric, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, NASA, and the United States Army.
CNC Machining and How Xometry Is Different
March 16th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
While it seems that central processing units (CPUs) get all the glory for computing horsepower, graphical processing units (GPUs) have become the processor of choice for many types of intensively parallel computations.
As the boundaries of computing are pushed in areas such as speech recognition and natural language processing, image and pattern recognition, text and data analytics, and other complex areas, researchers continue to look for new and better ways to extend and expand computing capabilities. For decades this has been accomplished via high-performance computing (HPC) clusters, which use huge amounts of expensive processing power to solve problems.
Researchers at the University of Illinois had studied the possibility of using graphics processing units (GPUs) in desktop supercomputers to speed processing of tasks such as image reconstruction, but it was a computing group at the University of Toronto that demonstrated a way to significantly advance computer vision using GPUs. By plugging in GPUs, previously used primarily for graphics, it became possible to achieve huge performance gains on computing neural networks, and these gains were reflected in superior results in computer vision.
March 9th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
A few weeks ago we were in Los Angeles attending SOLIDWORKS World 2017. As usual, it was an overwhelming whirlwind of people, sights, sounds, and information while it was taking place, but has come into better focus now that some time has transpired for letting all of it sink in and make sense. One of the things I wanted to especially sort out was SOLIDWORKS’ take on model-based definition (MBD), where it stands today, and where it might be headed in the future
The last day of SOLIDWORKS World 2017 I sat down with Oboe Wu, SOLIDWORKS MBD Product Manager, and we discussed several aspects of MBD. Our discussion on SOLIDWORKS MBD centered around the creation and consumption of MBD data (that are tied to customers’ workflows), and the fact that MBD is transitioning from the “why implement” phase to the “how to implement” phase.
In the video below, SOLIDWORKS MBD Product Manager, Oboe Wu, discusses how to eliminate conversion of 3D data to 2D documents and fully leverage 3D design data throughout an organization and partners to reduce redundant tasks. He explains MBD from SOLIDWORKS’ point of view.
What is SOLIDWORKS Model-Based Definition?
March 2nd, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
Since it began in 1986, Spatial has developed software components – modular software packages that perform a set of specific and related functions. This class of software is designed to work as a functional component of a larger application, such as CAD, CAM, CAE, Additive Manufacturing (AM), and Building Information Modeling (BIM). The goal of component software is to standardize the interfaces between software utility functions so that they can work together efficiently and cohesively.
In developing its software components, Spatial has always realized, too, that the best engineering software excels at optimizing imported data for data reuse. Spatial understands that design data reuse is much more than just data exchange.
February 23rd, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
It wasn’t all that long ago that manufacturing machines, such as 3D printers and CNC mills were relegated to the factory floor because of their size and tendency to need or produce undesirable compounds, such as coolants, smoke, chips, solvents, etc. Today, however, there are a number of desktop 3D printers and milling machines available. Until relatively recently, though, one of the major manufacturing processes that hadn’t appeared on the desktop was injection molding. That’s about to change with the advent of the APSX-PIM desktop plastic molding machine from Advanced Production Systems (APSX).
Injection molding machines are known for being large and expensive machines that require significant infrastructure, steep learning curve, and high maintenance. For these and other reasons most individual makers and small businesses don’t have access to an injection molding machine, so APSX decided to make one that could be used by organizations with budget and space constraints.
February 21st, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
Since its inception, I have been intrigued by Dassault’s elusive 3DEXPERIENCE, although it’s something I’ve always had difficulty getting my head wrapped around until relatively recently. A couple weeks ago at SOLIDWORKS World I spoke with David Mann, High-Tech Industry Sales Director at Dassault Systemes hoping to get a better understand what the 3DEXPERIENCE platform was all about.
After talking with Mr. Mann (in a video shown below), I now realize that the 3DEXPERIENCE platform is a comprehensive engineering and business platform, each dependent on the other and not mutually exclusive.
David Mann, High-Tech Industry Sales Director, Dassault Systemes At SOLIDWORKS World 2017
Mann said that Dassault Systemes has evolved from 3D design and mockup to PLM to the 3DEXPERIENCE, which is helping customers understand the true behavior of the products they are developing. He said one of the next frontiers for Dassault Systemes is using virtual reality for designing more compelling products for better visualization instead of physical prototypes. As for IoT, he said, “IoT is a technology and business change. We want to be instrumental in designing IoT products and transform companies that will best serve the new economy as business models change from physical products to services.”
February 16th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
It’s said that all good things must come to an end, and last week at Autodesk, they did, with the resignation of Carl Bass, Autodesk’s President and CEO.
While at SOLDIWORKS World last week, I received an early morning email from an Autodesk spokesperson that the company was announcing that Carl Bass had decided to step down from his role as President and CEO. “With our subscription and cloud business well underway, Carl and the board have determined that now is the right time for Carl to step aside and let someone else guide the company into its next phase,” said the spokesperson.
Carl Bass Steps Down. Source: Bloomberg
February 9th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
This week was one giant blur at SOLIDWORKS 2017 in Los Angeles that was witnessed not only by me, but also more than 5,000 attendees. The exhibit floor with over 120 partners opened at the beginning of the Superbowl with TVs and libations all around, so most people were in a good mood by the end of the game, especially if they were a New England Patriots fan.
The theme for this years SOLIDWORKS WORLD was, “The New; The Next; The Never Before,” which was a good idea but was not evident until the third day of the conference exactly what this meant. On the first day, the SOLIDWORKS message was choppy, not cohesive, clear, or coherent as it could/should have been; and some of the presenters didn’t make sense, as there was too much entertainment fluff and not nearly enough technical content that users come for, me included. Why drag AEC and the Dassault Systems 3D Experience platform into a SOLIDWORKS event? After all, this is SOLIDWORKS World, not Dassault Systemes Universe.
SOLIDWORKS WORLD 2017: Entrance to Exhibit Hall
However, things got much better as the conference commenced in earnest with classes and the exhibition floor in full swing.
Some of the biggest announcements from SOLIDWORKS World 2017 follow briefly below. In coming weeks we will cover each of these and others in much more detail based on discussions we had with SOLIDWORKS’ product managers.
February 2nd, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
This week MSC Software Corporation, the company that brought you such products as Nastran, Patran, Marc, and Apex, announced that it had reached an agreement to be purchased by Hexagon AB for $834 million cash. Like all corporate acquisitions, this one is subject to clearance and standard regulatory filings, and is expected to be completed in April. 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.
With 2016 proforma sales of $230, MSC will continue to run as an independent business unit within Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence (HMI) division. HMI’s main businesses are in the automotive, aerospace, machinery, consumer electronics, and other discrete manufacturing markets. Process-oriented solutions are essential for manufacturers, and MSC’s products address key design and engineering processes for CAE.