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SOLIDWORKS World 2018 Greatest Hits

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

As usual, last week at SOLIDWORKS World was very busy and we enjoyed every minute of it. During the event we talk to a lot of people during video interviews, on the exhibit floor, at conference sessions, classes, and really informally over coffee, dinner, or a beer. We talked about many things over the course of the conference, but usually came back to the common question, “What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen on the exhibit floor?”

Below are what I considered to be among the most significant innovations put on display this year at SOLIDWORKS World 2018 (excluding SOLIDWORKS itself, of course) in four categories — hardware, software, service, and best of show.

 

Best Hardware: HP 300/500 Series 3D Printers – Capability and Affordability

HP Inc. expanded its 3D printing portfolio with the introduction of its new Jet Fusion 300/500 series of 3D printers that produce engineering-grade, functional parts in full color, black or white – with voxel (basically, a 3D pixel, where the position of each voxel is inferred based upon its position relative to other voxels) control – in a fraction of the time of other solutions per HP’s claims. Depending on configuration and color preference, the Jet Fusion 300/500 series is available starting in the $50,000s, which is impressive for the capabilities the machines offer.

“HP is committed to democratizing 3D design and manufacturing, unleashing new possibilities for millions of innovators around the world,” said Stephen Nigro, President of 3D Printing, HP Inc. “No matter your industry, no matter your design complexity, no matter what colors fit your business needs – black, white, or the full color spectrum – the new HP Jet Fusion 300/500 series gives you the freedom to create brilliant new parts liberated from the constraints of traditional production methods.”

HP’s unique ability to control part properties at the individual voxel level enables the design and production of previously unconceivable parts and is now available, for the first time, in full color. HP is already engaging in the co-development of new color applications with universities and businesses around the world including Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Yazaki Corp., and Youngstown State University, and others.

HP 300/500 Series 3D Printers Introduced

In addition to providing voxel-level control, the new Jet Fusion 300/500 series of 3D printers have a compact design, enhanced workflow, and the first integrated and automated materials delivery system, enabling greater unattended operation, ease of use, and dramatically increasing production efficiency and output. The Jet Fusion 300/500 series also supports the three leading color file formats (OBJ, VRML, and 3MF) enabling designers to reliably and easily produce the parts they want without file conversion or data corruption.

The HP Jet Fusion 300 / 500 series offerings include:

  • HP Jet Fusion 340 (Black and White) / 380 (Color): for customers who have smaller part-size needs or who commonly print fewer parts per build.
  • HP Jet Fusion 540 (Black and White) / 580 (Color): with a bigger build size than the 300 series for customers who have larger part-size needs or heavier production demands.

“I’m excited about the range of applications for functional multi-color 3D printing,” said Terry Wohlers, President, Wohlers Associates Inc. “It’s good to see that HP is targeting this interesting and largely untapped opportunity. The possibilities are infinite.”

The HP Jet Fusion 300/500 3D printers will launch with a new material, HP 3D High Reusability CB PA 12. Parts using this material will have mechanical properties similar to the HP 3D High Reusability PA 12 material from HP’s industrial solutions.

Leveraging HP’s unique Open Platform for materials and applications development, HP will work with its growing materials ecosystem to grow the material breadth and drive costs down. The Jet Fusion 300 / 500 series will ultimately support similar materials as the Jet Fusion 3200/4200/4210, and also support unique materials that enable color or other voxel-level capabilities.

The HP Jet Fusion 300/500 series of 3D printers is available for order today and will begin shipping in the second half of 2018. For complete details and technical specifications please visit HP.com/go/Color3DPrint.

At SOLIDWORKS World HP Inc. and Dassault Systèmes announced their collaboration to align future technology roadmaps to ensure that users have access to the latest design tools integrated with HP’s voxel-level technology, as well as design tools for new materials. This roadmap includes upcoming releases of the SOLIDWORKS portfolio to support the full-color capabilities of HP’s new Jet Fusion 300/500 series 3D printers. Both companies are also strong supporters of the 3MF standard to ensure reliable exchange of color information for 3D printing. They will continue to test, validate, and support 3MF for their solutions to assure accuracy of information exchange across the manufacturing workflow.

 

Best Software: 3DXpert – Direct Path From SOLIDWORKS To Additive Manufacturing

This was the toughest category because there so many noteworthy new and improved software products demonstrated. In the end, though, I found 3DXpert for SOLIDWORKS from 3D Systems to be one of the most compelling for a couple of reasons – first, for its capabilities; second, it’s a free add-in for SOLIDWORKS subscribers. Free? I was surprised, too. The free version is called the Standard Edition, and the Pro Edition with additional capabilities is available for purchase.

3DXpert For SOLIDWORKS Overview

3DXpert for SOLIDWORKS is a complementary software for SOLIDWORKS, providing designers and engineers with everything needed to prepare and optimize designs for 3D printing. A click of a button in SOLIDWORKS brings native CAD data directly into 3DXpert for SOLIDWORKS and provides an extensive toolset to easily analyze, prepare and optimize designs for additive manufacturing. In other words, 3DXpert for SOLIDWORKS provides a direct path from SOLIDWORKS design to additive manufacturing and eliminates the need for a back and forth iterative process.

Some of the capabilities of 3DXpert include:

  • Native Data Transfer — click a button in SOLIDWORKS to continue working with your native CAD data (both solid and mesh) without conversion. Maintain data integrity including analytic geometry, part topology and color-coding. There is also automatic healing of both STL and B-rep (solids and surfaces) geometry when required.
  • Ensure Printable Geometry — Automated best fit – minimize printing time, supports and tray area usage. Shrinkage compensation – apply scaling to compensate for part shrinkage during build. Hybrid CAD – use direct modeling, parametric and history-based hybrid (B-rep and mesh) CAD tools to improve part printability
  • Optimize Structure – minimize weight and material usage and apply surface textures.
  • Design Supports – ensure quality 3D prints with minimal supports
  • Arrange Build Plate and Send To Print – optimize utilization of tray area and printer time

3DXpert for SOLIDWORKS is machine agnostic and can work with any printer and technology, although the product’s main focus is currently on powder bed metal (DMLS), however, the part positioning on tray, lattice design and send to print tools are suitable for any printer and technology. Dedicated supports’ functionality is optimized for powder bed metal (DMLS) and Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF, FDM, MJP). Support free technologies such as Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Plaster-Based Printing (PP, CJP) are supported as well.

In terms of exporting data to the 3D printer, 3DXpert for SOLIDWORKS can export slicing as CLI C0 contours to any machine that can read it. Geometry can also be sent to a 3D printer as mesh data in various formats (STL, 3MF, OBJ, VRML).

 

Best Service: Xometry – On-Demand Quoting and Manufacturing Services

Xometry is 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 transforming 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 well 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 customers include General Electric, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, NASA, and the United States Army.

Video Interview With Xometry at SOLIDWORKS World 2017

Xometry’s technology platform enables it to leverage the expertise and capacity of more than 200,000 manufacturers across the United States who have on average less than 20 employees. Xometry’s partners are spending less time bidding for new business and more time producing parts.

Xometry employs strict quality control to ensure it’s only offering up the best vendors. When a manufacturer initially signs up to join the network, Xometry screens the company by giving it only one job to complete. Instead of shipping the product directly to the customer, it’s first sent to Xometry; where their team assesses the quality of the product and whether it meets standards established by the customer and Xometry. Customers are also encouraged to rate their vendors based on their performance, and any manufacturers flagged for producing poor-quality products will receive additional scrutiny from Xometry.

Xometry’s capabilities are available as a free SOLIDWORKS Instant Quoting add-in that can be accessed directly from the SOLIDWORKS interface.

Some of the features available in the SOLIDWORKS add-in include:

  • Instantly price a design inside SOLIDWORKS
  • Feedback on how to best make the parts
  • Transparent and instant lead time estimation
  • Add notes and drawings to further specify part features, finishes, and tolerances
  • Order custom parts with one click
  • Adjust parts based on manufacturability analysis to avoid potential fabrication issues
  • Insight into pricing, lead-times, and manufacturability impacts for materials and processes
  • Re-quote directly in SOLIDWORKS to explore design iterations
  • Access manufacturability resources, guidelines, and knowledge base

Is Xometry the first company to explore the possibilities of on-demand manufacturing? Well, no, not exactly. However, we have been impressed with the company’s approach, growing partner network and customer base, relationship with SOLIDWORKS, and substantial financial connections that will help it continue down a bright path.

 

Best of Show: Desktop Metal Live Parts – Auto-Generate Optimized Part Designs

Although a technology preview right now, Desktop Metal Live Parts awed just about everyone who witnessed it being demonstrated, myself included.

Live Parts is an experimental technology that applies morphogenetic principles and advanced simulation to auto-generate part designs very quickly. Desktop Metal’s vision for Live Parts is to enable users to realize a new potential for additive manufacturing—including material and cost efficiency, as well as design flexibility.

Desktop Metal Live Parts Discussion

At this point, Live Parts is actually an explorative extension of generative design, a form-finding process that can mimic nature’s evolutionary approach to design.

Overview Of Adjusting Live Parts Cell Properties

Similar to how plants grow, there are no straight lines in parts except where needed for mounting regions, symmetries, or keep out zones. This makes them well suited for additive manufacturing processes, where typical design limitations don’t apply.

Some of Live Parts most notable capabilities include:

  • Real-time simulation of static and dynamic load – A GPU-accelerated multi-physics engine models parts as living organisms so that parts can be generated in real-time based on constraints and load conditions. Loads can be linear, radial, rotational, and dynamic.
  • Auto-generates designs in minutes – Nature-inspired algorithms drive Live Parts. Unlike topology optimization, no pre-existing part design is needed. Parts grow and adapt like plants and bones, changing shape to find the best form for their environment and function.
  • Integrated with SOLIDWORKS – Define constraints and forces inside the Live Parts for SolidWorks add-in before exporting to Live Parts for part generation. Parts can be exported back to SOLIDWORKS, auto-assembled, and further analyzed.

Very interesting and innovative technology from a relatively new company.

Editor’s Note: If you want to check out the video interviews we recorded at SOLIDWORKS World 2018, check out our website and click on videos.

 

And We Have A Winner!

At our exhibit booth last week at SOLIDWORKS World we encouraged attendees to drop a business card off for a chance to win an Amazon Echo with a random drawing at the end of the conference. We received a lot of business cards and the winner of our drawing was Victor Oswaldo Carreon.Victor is an electromechanical engineer working with Intelligy a SOLIDWORKS Value Added Reseller from Mexico, who specializes in data management. He says he went to SWW2018 to see the different solutions that SolidWorks will release in the future, as well as see the solutions that the partners offer to customers and resellers. Congratulations Victor!

Victor Oswaldo Carreon Won An Amazon Echo From MCADCafe At SOLIDWORKS World 2018

 

HP Introduces Wearable Commercial VR System – The HP Z VR Backpack

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

This week at SIGGRAPH, HP today announced a unified approach and commercial solutions for virtual reality (VR), positioning itself as a provider for businesses looking to reduce concept to production cycle times, improve training procedures, and deliver fully immersive customer experiences using VR. As part of this strategy, the company unveiled what it claims is the world’s first professional-grade wearable VR PC – the new HP Z VR Backpack. Designed to realize a fuller potential of VR, it is, as the company claims, a secure and manageable wearable VR PC.

“Virtual reality is changing the way people learn, communicate and create,” said Xavier Garcia, vice president and general manager, Z Workstations, HP Inc. “Making the most of this technology requires a collaborative relationship between customers and partners. As a leader in technology, HP is uniting powerful commercial VR solutions, including new products like the HP Z VR Backpack, with customer needs to empower VR experiences our customers can use today to reinvent the future.”

HP Z VR Backpack Docked

Well beyond gaming, the opportunities for commercial VR are virtually (sorry for the pun) limitless for businesses in product design, architecture, healthcare, first responder training, automotive, and entertainment. Technologies like VR can provide unique experiences, ranging from reinventing the buying experience in automotive showrooms to changing the way fire departments train their staff.

HP Z VR Backpack

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One Year In, HP Inc. Continues To Reinvent Itself

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

If there ever was a company that has struggled to reinvent and find itself, as well as its former stature in consumer and commercial technology, it’s HP.

There was a time when HP had no equal in several product segments, such as test & measurement, calculators, pocket PCs/personal assistants, etc., but those days are long gone. Sure, the company reigns in printers, and their desktop and mobile workstations are good, but not nearly as compelling as in the good old days.

HP’s reign as the world’s largest manufacturer of personal computers came to an end in the second quarter of 2013. At the time sales figures showed that Chinese PC manufacturer Lenovo shipped more computers during that period than HP, which had held the crown as the largest PC maker since at least 2006.

In an attempt to return to its former glory days, HP split into two public companies with one side focusing on its cloud and enterprise market (Hewlett-Packard Enterprise), and the other on personal systems (computers) and printers (HP Inc.). To make this happen, the company also cut thousands of jobs in the process.


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HP Adding A New Dimension To Printing

Monday, October 10th, 2016

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.

However, I have to wonder if HP will be able to fulfill its promise.

The HP Multi Jet Fusion Printer

HP wants to deliver SLS-quality parts on a system targeted at the professional 3D printer market. So-called professional 3D printers can be run in office environments and use photopolymers as material and inkjet printheads for material deposition. HP’s Multi Jet Fusion uses a printhead to jet a resin onto a powderbed where it will be fused.

In a Multi Jet Fusion technology white paper HP states, “Compared to SLS, HP Multi-Jet Fusion technology helps reduce the overall focused energy requirements needed to attain full fusing, resulting in more consistent material properties.” So SLS has higher “focused overall energy requirements,” yet the strong thermal bonds this energy creates is exactly what make SLS so desirable. So, exactly what is this process and can it really create material properties that match SLS and even injection-molded parts?

 

Tim Heller, Director 3D Printing, Hewlett-Packard At IMTS 2016

Historically, parts made from 3D printers, such as the MJF have lacked the robust mechanical properties of injection-molded parts. SLS is the only viable additive manufacturing technology capable of matching injection-molded parts in tensile strength and long-term stability. Materials undergoing the fusion process have issues that point to a natural limitation, not a technological oversight that HP or any other manufacturer can truly fix.

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Shapeways Hopes To Provide Boost For HP Jet Fusion 3D Printers

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Shapeways, a leading 3D printing service and marketplace for consumers, announced a collaboration with HP Inc. to help drive HP’s Jet Fusion 3D Printer.  Shapeways said it is the first company to receive an early prototype unit in its Eindhoven, Netherlands factory and is working closely with HP.  Once publicly available sometime later this year, Shapeways hopes the new commercial HP offering will provide its 3D community with a superior quality black nylon material that will 3D print in greater detail, with a faster lead time, and at a lower cost than current dyed nylons.

Shapeways produces roughly 3,000 unique products every day and over 1 million unique products annually.

“We chose to work with Shapeways because they are the leading authority in bringing creative ideas to life and are the largest consumer 3D printing portal, with 3,000 products made every day,” said Stephen Nigro, president of HP’s 3D printing business.  “The HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution will enable Shapeways to bring high quality parts up to 10 times faster than before for lower cost.”

HP Shapeways Printer1

HP’s Virginia Palacio and Stefan Rink, Shapeways VP of Manufacturing, with the new HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution, the world’s first production-ready commercial 3D printing system, installed in Shapeways’ Eindhoven factory.

According to Shapeways, in addition to offering superior quality, this new technology could potentially reduce standard shipping from the current seven business days to next day delivery.
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Is The The Sprout Helping HP Grow?

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

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.

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HP Adding A New Dimension To Printing: A True Revolution Or Impossible Dream?

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

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.

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HP Splits, Hopes To Get It Right This Time

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

If there has ever been a company that has struggled to reinvent and find itself and its former stature in consumer and commercial technology, it’s HP.

There was a time when HP had no equal in several product segments, such as test & measurement, calculators, pocket PCs/personal assistants, etc., but those days are long gone. Sure, the company reigns in printers, and their desktop and mobile workstations are utilitarian (although the HP Z1 is a notable exception), but not nearly as competitive as in the good old days.

In an attempt to return to its former glory days, HP said Monday that it will split into two public companies with one side focusing on its cloud and enterprise market (Hewlett-Packard Enterprise), and the other on personal systems (computers) and printers (HP Inc.). The company also plans to cut another 5,000 jobs.

Although it’s a couple years old, check out HP’s CEO, Meg Whitman explain her plans for reviving HP:

Interview with Meg Whitman, HP CEO – The Plan to Revive HP

Some of the highlights of the announcement include:

  • Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will build upon HP’s leading position in servers, storage, networking, converged systems, services and software as well as its OpenStack Helion cloud platform
  • Meg Whitman to be President and Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise; Pat Russo to be Chairman of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Board
  • HP Inc. will be the leading personal systems and printing company with a strong roadmap into the most exciting new technologies like 3D printing and new computing experiences
  • Dion Weisler to be President and Chief Executive Officer of HP Inc.; Meg Whitman to be Chairman of the HP Inc. Board
  • Company reiterates fiscal 2014 non-GAAP diluted net earnings per share (EPS) outlook of $3.70 to $3.74 and updates GAAP diluted net EPS outlook to $2.60 to $2.64
  • Company issues fiscal 2015 non-GAAP diluted net EPS outlook of $3.83 to $4.03 and GAAP diluted net EPS outlook of $3.23 to $3.43

Immediately following the transaction, which is expected to be completed by the end of fiscal 2015, HP shareholders will own shares of both Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. The transaction is intended to be tax-free to HP’s shareholders for federal income tax purposes.

The announcement comes as HP approaches the fourth year of its five-year turnaround plan. Over this time, the company has executed at least somewhat successfully against its turnaround objectives.

“Our work during the past three years has significantly strengthened our core businesses to the point where we can more aggressively go after the opportunities created by a rapidly changing market,” said Meg Whitman, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of HP. “The decision to separate into two market-leading companies underscores our commitment to the turnaround plan. It will provide each new company with the independence, focus, financial resources, and flexibility they need to adapt quickly to market and customer dynamics, while generating long-term value for shareholders. In short, by transitioning now from one HP to two new companies, created out of our successful turnaround efforts, we will be in an even better position to compete in the market, support our customers and partners, and deliver maximum value to our shareholders.”

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Stratasys and HP End 3D Printer Relationship

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Not all marriages are made in heaven, and the news that Stratasys and HP have agreed to discontinue their manufacturing and distribution agreement for 3D printers, effective at the end of 2012 proves it. The relationship lasted only a couple of years.

Stratasys  said it does not expect the termination of its agreement with HP to have a material impact on its financial results for the current year and intends to work closely with HP to ensure a smooth transition for customers. I doubt, though, if the same holds true for HP.

Under the terms of the definitive agreement signed in January 2010, Stratasys developed and manufactured for HP an exclusive line of 3D printers based on Stratasys’ Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology. Later that year, HP began a phased rollout of the 3D printers in the MCAD market in select European countries, but never made it over here to North America, which was both a mystery and a shame.

When Stratasys made the original distribution announcement with HP, it was regarded as a pretty big deal. The announcment also boosted Stratasys’ stock price. It truly was a big announcement for additive fabrication, but I don’t think many in the industry regarded it as the turning point for the technology. In the end, the annoucement and partnership never did fulfill the initial hype or substantive change in the additive fabrication market.

To be fair to HP, though, it only got Stratasys’ entry level UPrint and Dimension product lines. I think this was done to expand Stratasys market presence and installed base without canibalizing its more lucrative high-end 3D printer market that it wanted to keep. Fair enough.

It always puzzled me, though, why HP didn’t develop and market its own 3D printer for a worldwide market — especially at the low-end, prosumer level. After all, HP has provided 3D print heads for ZPrinters (now owned by 3D Systems) and is a market leader in 2D printers. Why not go the next step to develop and mass market your own 3D printing machine?

Admittedly, these are tough times, and no technology company knows that better than HP.

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