MCADCafe Weekly Review May 8th, 2014

I just returned from the Arizona desert and COFES 2014. The annual event (in its fifteenth year), also known as the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES), is more than just an event featuring technology as its central theme for technology’s sake. It’s actually more of an immersive educational experience that brings together many of the best minds in the technical realms of engineering software, hardware, education, and architecture, among many others.

COFES is recognized as a think-tank event that gathers vendors, users, press, and analysts together to discuss the many important issues facing both customers and providers of diverse technologies. The three-day event provides a relaxed and informal atmosphere designed to foster genuine conversation.

According to Cyon Research, the organization behind it, COFES is:

  • A think tank where great minds come together to discuss best practices and to share ideas for managing change
  • A technology summit that promotes discussion and problem-solving among industry thought-leaders, analysts and customers
  • A business event that delivers practical strategies for achieving financial success in the engineering and design technology sector
  • An informal environment where business leaders and technology providers can meet to identify and address key industry issues and challenges

Having been to a few COFES events myself, it is certainly those things, but also a lot more.

The theme for COFES 2014 was “Correcting 2020 Vision,” that forces our attention to look further down the road to a six-year horizon. Many of the discussions centered on the non-linear nature of the future beyond a two-year horizon. The stated goal at COFES 2014 was to help attendees achieve this clearer vision – one that better reflects the business realities we will all face by 2020.

Until the second day of the conference, I couldn’t discern if the 2020 reference was just the year and/or a reference to visual acuity. As it turns out, it was some of both. Although no one can predict the future with absolute certainty, the year 2020 provides a good vision and timeline for what might be on the horizon. The trick is now that the horizon has been set, how do we build the vision?

The format of the Congress encourages active (and sometimes very spirited) exchanges and interactions on everything ranging from PLM to 3D printing to STEM to coding to engineering search engines. The keys are the discussions, dialogs between individuals and not just corporate entities. Discussions take place at all meals, around the pool, outdoors between formal sessions, and around moderated roundtables. Companies, some you’ve heard of and some you haven’t, sponsor briefings in dedicated technology suites. These provide a good opportunity to learn what new and established companies are planning. In any case, all of the discussions point to the value of disagreement, diversity, and respect, as well as rethinking rejected ideas.

SOLIDWORKS Electrical: Update and Replace Part Data
May 6, 2014  by Hawk Ridge Systems

Technological innovation is a never ending process of iterative design. The products we use evolve and change, often incrementally and sometimes drastically, over time. This leaves the engineer with the normally tedious task of backtracking through old projects to update their part designs.

Typically an engineer may spend countless hours manually reviewing and updating previous projects every time a new part is released. In SOLIDWORKS Electrical, you can reduce this tedious process to a rapid workflow that only takes a few minutes. Update and replace part data using one of two tools: the “Update data” tool or the “Replace data” tool, both located under the Process Tab as illustrated below.

Replace Part Data - SOLIDWORKS Electrical

Navigating through your hard drive, you click on an STL… only, there’s no thumbnail preview. What gives?

I’ve experienced this a few times. It’s always hard for me to remember what a part looks like just by the file name. Sometimes file names are obscure, or specific to a part number – things like P32324.STL – and I have a terrible time remembering what the file looks like. Windows Explorer isn’t much help – it just gives me the stock .stl thumbnail on every single STL file.

So I did a little research on a way to get a preview of my STL files before opening them. I asked some of the engineers around the office for their opinion, too. A co-worker suggested using SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM (EPDM) and the built-in eDrawings preview. This almost worked, but the STL files were not associated with eDrawings. I didn’t get discouraged – I knew that there had to be a way. After working a little magic in the registry, I was able to fix the issue.

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