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 »
August 4th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
Almost all of today’s CAD products are pretty capable right out of the box, but I’ve often wanted them to do more to suit my particular needs and workflow. Over the years I’ve created macros and used Visual Basic and AutoLISP for defining, customizing, and automating functions and processes not found in CAD products out of the box. My results varied widely – some were good, some were OK, and some were downright unpredictable and bad.
Several years passed and I didn’t really do too much with CAD programming, so my interest waned. That all changed, though, when cloud-based Onshape’s FeatureScript came along earlier this summer.
FeatureScript is a programming language designed by Onshape for building and working with 3D parametric models. The language is built into Onshape and provides the foundation of Part Studio modeling, including geometric references, parametric tools, and a type system with types built for math in three dimensions.
The standard feature types in Onshape, such as Extrude, Fillet, and Helix are already written as FeatureScript functions. Using FeatureScript, custom feature types extend this same function mechanism to Onshape.
Is FeatureScript the first specific programming language to be released for a CAD product? No, not exactly, but it is unique in many ways and adds to Onshape’s positive differentiation in the crowded CAD marketplace.
Introducing Onshape’s FeatureScript
July 28th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
All 3D printers need host software to function. That’s a given. Host software sends the commands to a 3D printer that tells the printer how to build an object. Most host software communicates with the printer via a wired USB connection. For almost all 3D printers, a computer running the host software must stay tethered to the 3D printer at all times while it is running. Obviously, this is not always a great situation, hence the advantage of being wireless.
There are basically two ways to perform wireless 3D printing. First, a G-code file can be saved onto an SD card using a computer, then the SD card can be transferred to the 3D printer where the print job is initiated via a controller into a 3D printer.
This arrangement allows wireless 3D printing, but it lacks most the advantages of a truly wireless setup. The 3D printer can still be placed away from a work area, but beyond that, using the SD card transfer method is really no different than transferring data over a cable. The second way to do (truly) wireless 3D printing is by running the host software on a small embedded device, like the Raspberry Pi, that is connected to the 3D printer.
Which Is Better, OctoPrint or AstroPrint?
This is analogous to using a dedicated computer for 3D printing that stays connected to the printer at all times. But, instead of using a computer for this purpose, the host software can be run on something, such as a Raspberry Pi, which is just powerful enough to run the software.
The two most popular host software packages developed for wireless 3D printing are OctoPrint and AstroPrint. AstroPrint is, in fact, based on OctoPrint, and claims to have an optimized codebase for running on embedded computers. The AstroPrint team has made changes and additions to the software, making the two host software offerings quite a bit different in many ways.
While OctoPrint and AstroPrint do share some similarities, they are also different, primarily with regard to their intended users.
July 21st, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
A couple of days ago, the internet of things (IoT) world was rocked with the announcement that the UK’s semiconductor and software design giant, ARM, was being purchased by Japan’s SoftBank in a cash deal for some $32 billion.
In the official acquisition statement, SoftBank says it intends to:
July 14th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
With all the fanfare that took place a couple years ago with the launch of cloud-based Onshape, we thought we’d weigh in with partner Geometric’s announcement of its STL Workshop.
Onshape is by no means the first cloud-based/mobile CAD application. It was and still is, however, a unique true cloud-based technology and not a desktop/cloud hybrid.
Onshape began with what 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, and that just added to the anticipation for the official launch of Onshape.
One of the inherent advantages that Onshape has always had is the fact that it was created from scratch by a team used to creating things from scratch with no legacy baggage to overcome and work around. Of course, the development team has not done everything themselves, because Onshape includes software components from Siemens PLM (Parasolid; ironically the same modeling kernel used by SolidWorks) and D-Cubed. This component licensing has let the Onshape team focus its efforts on what it does best.
Geometric’s STL Workbench for Onshape
July 7th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
Like them or not, PC benchmarks let you evaluate performance, identify potential bottlenecks, and choose effective system upgrades of both hardware and software. Unfortunately, too many users still think that system performance is simply a matter of CPU frequency or memory capacity, which leads them to think that dropping in a faster CPU or more memory will automatically yield significant performance improvements. Unfortunately, however, this is not always the case.
While CPU and memory upgrades can help in some instances, it often makes more sense to upgrade the storage subsystem or the graphics board if you’re looking for perceptible improvement in system responsiveness or performance. For example, if you run a series of benchmarks and identify the components holding your system back, you’ll be able to choose the most effective upgrade for your current system – or at least determine which components make the most sense in a new system suited to your particular needs.
June 30th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
A couple weeks ago at Hexagon’s International Conference (HxGN Live 2016), Gamma 2 Robotics, makers of artificially intelligent autonomous security robots, intoduced RAMSEE, a new security patrol robot. The launch at HxGN LIVE was part of a new partnership with Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure.
I spoke with the company’s chief product officer, Francis X. Govers III in a video interview at the conference that you can view by clicking here.
RAMSEE is a physical robotic presence that, once it is programmed, patrols autonomously without supervision and provides real-time data on intruders, motion, heat, fire, smoke, and toxic gas leaks. The company says that it will soon offer fire suppression options for RAMSEE. As a human-machine interface it creates a powerful force multiplier, especially noteworthy for jobs that are difficult to fill, such as overnight security.
June 23rd, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
Last week Autodesk announced several updates to its Forge platform, including new cloud application development tools, and three investments at Forge DevCon, the company’s inaugural event for cloud developers.
Since its inception in December 2015, Autodesk claims that rapid progress has been made with early adopters of the Forge Platform in changing both what and how things are made, and at transforming “the future of making things.”
The Forge Program consists of three main components; the Forge platform (PaaS), developer program, and a $100M investment fund. 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.
June 16th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
We were in the land of Disney this week in Anaheim, California attending HxGN Live 2016, Hexagon’s international user conference. Millions of kids are now out of school and it seemed like a good percentage of them were in town to visit Mickey Mouse and company.
A little over six months ago, what was known as Hexagon Metrology became Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, a major rebranding to reflect its increasing capabilities in data-driven manufacturing. Much of the rebranding was enabled by Hexagon’s acquisitions that broadened its historical scope, such as the acquisition of Vero Software, a diverse CAD/CAM vendor. Surprisingly, Vero had a relatively minor presence at HxGN Live this year, but that is supposed to change at next year’s HxGN conference.
June 9th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
What a difference a few days make. Last week I was in Denver teaching math to middle schoolers and this week I was in Boston with about 4,000 others attending PTC’s LiveWorx 16. The spotlight at the conference shone on the Internet of Things (IoT) and PTC’s commitment to it.
So, you think that the Internet of Things (IoT) thing is still just a fad? Based on my experience at PTC’s LiveWorx 16 in Boston this week, IoT is becoming an increasingly big part of the future – not only for PTC, but for all of us.
Still not convinced? Just the attendance figures alone from this year over the past couple might help convince you – LiveWorx 2014 (~350 attendees); LiveWorx 2015 (~2,300 attendees); LiveWorx 16 (~4,000 attendees). Attendance numbers don’t lie and that shows the growing interest in IoT.
June 2nd, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
This week marks the end of grand experiment and challenge for me – I’ve taught middle school math for the past 39 weeks. I began the school with an apprehensive sense of anxiousness and hope and ended it with a great sense of accomplishment and relief.
Before I got involved this school year I had been interested not only in education in general, but how I might get actively involved, especially at the high school level in math and/or science. No, I have never been a teacher in a formal sense, and no, I don’t have a teaching credential either (something I was reminded of continually throughout the year). Even though I had the will and desire to become a teacher, unless I had a teaching license issued by the state of Colorado, my options were scarce.
I could have been a volunteer or a private tutor, but for me these options were limited in scope, responsibility, and personal satisfaction. I thought last year that I was at a dead end until I remembered an ad I had seen and saved a couple of years previously about a program called Denver Math Fellows. This program is a large-scale supplemental intervention program integrated into the school day.
A Typical Classroom Setting
The concept and possibility of becoming a Denver Math Fellow (DMF) really appealed to me because one of the primary qualifications was a college degree (mine’s in industrial design/mechanical engineering technology). This was a good option for me because I had never been a teacher before. Other qualifications included the desire to help students close the opportunity gap in math, as well as committing to at least a one-year term of service — in my case August 2015 through this week.