August 21, 2006
Alibre Software Fuels DIY Community
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Alibre, Inc. announced today they are working with Instructables to provide free 3D CAD software along with step-by-step tutorials to the large and growing Do-It-Yourself (DIY) community. The companies are working together to put the same class of technology used by large manufacturing enterprises and government agencies like NASA into the hands of "do-it-yourselfers."

Instructables is the creation of the partners at SQUID Labs, a group of engineers and inventors from MIT who built the system because they needed a convenient, collaborative system for documenting their how-to projects. The result was, a step-by-step collaboration system that enables anyone to record and share projects with a mixture of images, text, ingredient lists, CAD files, and more. The goal is to show others how to do things like operate a machine, build a bike, construct a kayak, or basically just show the world how to make cool stuff. Instructables also hosts the Projects section of the MAKE web site ( In addition to the web site, MAKE is a
quarterly publication from O'Reilly and the first DIY magazine dedicated to the technology enthusiast in all of us.

"3D parametric CAD is really going to enable people to enrich their projects on Instructables," said Eric Wilhelm, Instructables Manager at SQUID Labs. "It's amazing to see what do-it-yourselfers are capable of producing from almost nothing, so imagine what is possible with the same class of software used by large aerospace and automotive manufacturers. Once you get a tool like Alibre Design into the hands of smart, creative people great things happen, and we can't wait to see the impact of widely available 3D."

The new CAD section of the Instructables site ( enables members to get easy access to free 3D CAD software to enrich their Instructables projects with precise 3D designs and associated 2D engineering drawings. For those new to CAD Alibre will provide step-by-step tutorials and projects on learning the fundamentals of 3D parametric CAD. Alibre will also work with "Makers" submitting actual projects to help them use CAD to improve their projects by including precise 3D designs suitable for manufacturing. With a 3D model created in a system such as Alibre Design, anyone looking at a project can zoom, rotate, measure and manipulate the 3D model
and associated 2D drawings to get an in-depth understanding of the project. They will also be able to modify and adapt designs to their specific needs and available parts. All models can also be exported or saved in industry standard formats like STEP so they can be used with any CAD System.

"Free access to professional 3D CAD software and an ongoing source of learning tools is a fantastic opportunity for Makers everywhere," said Phil Torrone, Senior Editor at MAKE. "Alibre and Instructables have made it incredibly easy for anyone to take advantage of this technology to dramatically increase their capabilities and productivity, and the huge turnout at our first Maker Faire earlier this year showed us that a growing segment of Makers are interested in doing just that."

While many projects on Instructables are simple, yet creative, uses for leftover materials or scrap people find in their garage or around the house, a significant percentage of the DIY community are serious hobbyists, inventors, woodworkers and so on, doing real design, engineering and manufacturing. Alibre sees this as a huge, untapped source of innovation and productivity, and the objective is to help foster and grow this creative group by equipping it with state-of-the-art 3D CAD software.

"Our vision is to make 3D CAD accessible to anyone who wants it by making it easy to use, easy to buy, easy to get support, easy everything," said Greg Milliken, CEO of Alibre. "As such we've attracted a large number of customers who are also part of the Do-It-Yourself community, folks who can't afford to spend thousands of dollars on 3D CAD but who are still doing serious work. We've found these people to be extremely resourceful, creating amazing things with very little. Their energy is infectious, so this is fun."


by Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

This is an interesting relationship between Alibre and Instructables, because both companies are focused on collaboration and its many implications and possibilities. The "free" software referred to in the announcement is Alibre's Design Xpress solid modeler. Admittedly, it's a 3D package for beginners, but you can't beat the price and it does, in fact, have a number of useful features and capabilities for handling parts, assemblies, and detail drawings.

It seems like the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset has enjoyed a resurgence the past several years -- in print, on television, blogs, podcasts, etc. The DIY community has proliferated to the point that has spawned local, regional, and international events for creating everything from software to games to robots, and I really glad to see it. As a long-time product designer and engineer (in a previous life), actually creating something physical was always very satisfying, and the dawning of a new generation of DIYers has got me excited again about re-engaging with a group that tinkers for the pure enjoyment of it.

Although Alibre is the only MCAD vendor currently represented, the Instructables CAD group is not Alibre-specific. Rather, it's a place to share your tips, tricks, and how-tos for any MCAD software package. Down the road, I think that Instructables users will appreciate the vendor-neutrality of the site. I recommend checking it out, learning something new, and sharing your knowledge in a fun environment.

I spoke briefly with Greg Milliken, CEO of Alibre, and he said that this relationship with Instructables is only the first of many things that will be announced by the company in the coming months. We discussed a number of future Alibre issues and advancements on a non-disclosure basis. Although we can't discuss it here right now, suffice it to say that there are some big and positive things brewing for the company and its customers that we will be covering as they become reality in the MCAD marketplace.

The Week's Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

The Web's first CAD- and graphics-targeted search engine developed by eDocHelp Publications,, launched the first beta version of the new site. Feedback from the CAD and graphics community is encouraged. Users can filter their search to specific resources such as tutorials and then search within the results to narrow down their search. Search tips and best keywords are also suggested. also comes with a CAD and graphics Help Desk and Knowledge Base. The Help Desk will be stocked with technology and CAD and graphics related FAQs. Users can browse the Help Desk, submit questions, comments, rate FAQs, and can email them to colleagues.

UGS announced continued momentum of its mid-market approach through UGS Velocity Series portfolio wins as well as increased channel expansion. UGS Velocity Series wins provided strong year-over-year growth while second quarter indirect channel license revenue increased by 30 percent and more than 50 new partners were signed up in the first half of the year. The UGS Velocity Series portfolio is a comprehensive, preconfigured portfolio of digital product design, analysis, manufacturing and data management software for the PLM mid-market. UGS achieved several product milestones in its mid-market plan during Q2 and its wins provided year-over-year growth. UGS announced the fourth product to the
Velocity Series portfolio, NX CAM Express, a full- function numerical control (NC) programming application. In addition, UGS announced Solid Edge Version 19 and Femap version 9.2.

Swiss mechanical engineering company, Montech, specializing in monorail, transportation, automation, and conveyor systems since 1963, has standardized on SolidWorks for all of its new designs. The company's design engineers particularly value its ease of use and ability to detect collisions in the early stages of its product designs. Montech's previous software was consuming too many training, maintenance, and upgrade costs. Detecting collisions in assembly designs at an early stage saves time and money that would otherwise be spent on exhaustive redesign and error correction. The company is also reaping benefits from its extensive use of SolidWorks' free-form design functions for complex
surfaces on high-visibility parts.

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-- Jeff Rowe, Contributing Editor.


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