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 18th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
You don’t truly own something that you can’t get into to modify or repair.
I’ve got an iPhone 4S that’s a few years old and I still love it. I like the size, the feel, and I’ve purchased a number of accessories designed specifically for it. I’ve also rescued it from dropping it in water, and know how to replace the battery, as well as the glass back and the front screen. These self-repairs are officially no-no’s according to Apple, and aren’t easy, but knowing how to repair the phone I still really like and keeping it 100% functional, I intend to hold onto it until something happens that I can’t resolve, such as a surface mount component failure.
I’m probably not like a lot of consumers, so I don’t necessarily constantly need the latest and greatest. I’d rather maintain and repair what I have as long as I can. After all, I view my phone, cameras, and computers as tools that should be made to last, and not precious possessions on the one hand, or mere throwaway items on the other.
My journey to fixing my own stuff started a number of years ago with an excellent resource call iFixit – a free online series of repair manual for tinkering with thousands of products. The goal of iFixit was to teach virtually anyone how to fix the stuff they own — ranging from laptops to snowboards to toys to cell phones. In other words, iFixit is part of a global network of “fixers” trying to make the stuff they own last as long as possible.
Makers put things together; fixers take them apart and rebuild them. Tinkerers are a little bit of both, and are much more than just consumers — they are participants in the things we make, own, and fix.
This might sound great, but over the years, I have found that this participation — tinkering with products made by others — puts both makers and fixers at odds with manufacturers.
February 11th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
It’s already mid February, and with two months well on their way to being history this year, it’s not too late to tell our readers about what we’ll be covering for the remainder of 2016. The MCADCafe editorial calendar below reflects what we perceive as some of the most important topics today, as well as feedback from our readers and other supporters with what they feel is important and relevant.
The main theme for each month will be covered in an extended article or series of articles so that the topic can be covered more comprehensively.
We’ll also be covering some of the major MCAD events throughout the year, reporting what we see and hear from vendors, partners, and attendees. All of the events we attend will include daily written coverage and Tweets throughout event days, as well as video and audio interviews.
If there is anything we missed or if you have any thoughts of topics or events you would like to see covered in 2016, feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719.221.1867. I’m always open to suggestions and new ideas!
We look forward to an exciting 2016 and providing you with the MCAD content you want most for improving your design, engineering, and manufacturing processes and top and bottom lines.
Keep MCADCafe.com your source for all things MCAD because 2016 promises to be a great year!
February 4th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
Being the editor of MCADCafe, I am constantly on the lookout for innovative software and hardware products that make working life better for designers and engineers. While some of these products are truly unique, many are retreads and “me too’s” of existing offerings.
Lately, I’ve been especially watchful on the hardware platform front, because it doesn’t seem as compelling as it once was, much to the credit of escalating cloud-based hardware and software services.
However, something really caught my eye last year – the HP Sprout – a computing platform that is truly unique because it is a desktop computer but is also has an integrated 3D scanner for 3D object capture and editing as well as 3D print options.
In a nutshell, the Sprout is a relatively high-end Windows 8 computer with a novel two-screen configuration and advanced cameras, which combined can make some creative activities possible. The second display, on a desktop touch sensitive mat, is a major advance in the physical user interface for computers.
January 28th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
This week Siemens announced that it was hitching a new car to its acquisition train: CD-adapco. With a purchase price $970 million, CD-adapco is a global engineering simulation company with software that covers a wide range of engineering disciplines including fluid dynamics, solid mechanics, heat transfer, particle dynamics, reactant flow, electrochemistry, and acoustics. It is probably best known for its combustion engine simulation capabilities.
Established in 1980 and still controlled by its founders, the company has about 900 employees and approximately $200 million in annual revenue and an annual growth rate of 15 percent for the past five years, according to its website. Its main competitor in engine simulation software is Ansys.
January 21st, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
A lot has been debated and written about America’s general decline in science, engineering, and technology, largely blamed on the first steps of our youngest citizens – education.
The new year gives me pause to reflect on what the New Year really means. Yes, it is the beginning of a new calendar year, but it is also the beginning of the second half of the school year for elementary, middle school, and high school students. The school year is especially important to me right now as I have begun my second half as a math teacher for the current school year.
The second half of the school year provides me the opportunity to reflect on what I learned during the first half of the year and apply it to be a more effective educator during the second half.
January 14th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
For as long as I can remember, HP has produced an incredible range of products for science, engineering, and consumer customers. More recently the company has had a huge presence in computers and 2D printers.
Now, HP has vision for 3D printing for manufacturing parts on a relatively economical machine it calls the Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D printer. The company claims these parts will have similar quality and characteristics as injection-molded parts, and will print at speeds that HP claims to be 10x compared to similar competing technologies. More about these claims to follow.
January 7th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
This week PTC received the IoT Innovation Vendor of the Year Award from marketing analytics and consulting firm Compass Intelligence at the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Compass Intelligence Annual Awards recognize the best mobile computing, wireless data communications, Internet of Things, and eco-friendly products and services offered in the market during the past year.
The IoT Innovation Vendor of the Year Award is part of the A-List in M2M/IoT awards category and is voted on by more than 60 industry-leading press and analysts based upon a range of criteria, including vision, strategy, leadership, and financial success.
In the view of the award presenting organization PTC has become a leading provider of technology that enables its customers to realize the value inherent in the Internet of Things. As well, in their opinion, PTC’s CEO, Jim Heppelmann, has become a major thought leader, having coauthored two seminal HBR articles that describe the implications of the IoT and offer companies a blueprint to get started on their own IoT journeys.
December 31st, 2015 by Jeff Rowe
The end of one year and the beginning of another always makes me give pause to what has transpired in the recent past as well as what might occur in the future. For me, 2015 was no different in this regard.
Below are some of the highlights of 2015 in the MCAD arena. Keep in mind they are in no particular order, and I know there are others I could have chosen, so if I missed any, let me know.
The Cloud — It’s not just for storage anymore. As a matter of fact, 2015 saw some real innovation for cloud-based computing horsepower and applications, such as those from Onshape and Autodesk. While there are still definite concerns about cloud security and IP, the volume level isn’t quite as high as it had been in the recent past. We consider cloud-based apps to be the most significant MCAD-related technology for 2015.
Continued Consolidation — The acquisition trained continued to roll this year in many areas, including augmented reality, simulation, rendering, and Internet of Things (IoT). While consolidation does mean fewer companies for the short term, it diversifies the acquiring companies with different results for customers — some good, some not so good.
December 16th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe
My late father-in-law (and his father) were master machinists who made excellent tools and decent livings over the course of their careers. I chose not to follow in their footsteps, but rather, to go to college instead. However, I have always considered tool making and manufacturing to be noble professions and ones that have contributed immensely to the quality of our lives.
With all the news we continue to hear today about product design, engineering, and manufacturing increasingly being outsourced in every direction away from North America, surprisingly little coverage seems to be given to one of the foundational pillars of product manufacturing, namely, tooling and tool making.
Although most of our readers are manufacturing-savvy, let’s first define what we mean by “tooling,” because it’s often a misunderstood term by those outside manufacturing. Simply put, tooling entails the tools, machines, or other devices required to manufacture products – everything from car fenders to detergent bottles. The two most prominent groups of toolmakers are die makers whose tools stamp out metal parts, and mold makers whose tools mold plastic parts.
Breaking Tool Making – Is Tool Making Your Passion?
The transportation sector (primarily automotive) still dominates the tooling industry. Because the automotive sector is outsourced much of its manufacturing overseas, it has become very clear why tool and die makers, especially the family-owned small ones with five to 100 employees have suffered the most. It’s estimated that approximately 60% of stamping dies and 40% of plastic molds are used directly or indirectly by automakers worldwide, so it’s no wonder that the smaller tool shops are bearing the brunt of offshore outsourcing. This offshore outsourcing has cost a huge number of tooling jobs in North America, according to estimates from several sources.
December 10th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe
Almost 50 years ago, The Graduate, a 1967 film about Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman), a recent college graduate who is talented, but aimless, premiered. It’s a good movie even today, but one of the better scenes is one when Ben is asked and advised about his future plans. Remember this one?
Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Today, I see a potential parallel to a material beyond plastics – graphene.