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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
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 »

Wohlers Report 2018: AM Grows Overall With Metal Rising

 
May 3rd, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

An independent consulting firm and industry source that we know quite well, Wohlers Associates, Inc., recently released the Wohlers Report 2018, the company’s annual detailed analysis of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing worldwide.

Wohlers Associates is widely recognized as the leading consulting firm and foremost authority on additive manufacturing and 3D printing. This annual publication has served as the undisputed industry-leading report on the subject for two decades. Over the 23 years of its publication, many (including me) have referred to the report as the “bible” of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing—terms that are used interchangeably by the company (and industry).

Wohlers Report 2018 is filled with insightful data and perspective to inform readers of the most critical developments in the industry. According to the new report, an estimated 1,768 metal AM systems were sold in 2017, compared to 983 systems in 2016, an increase of nearly 80%. This dramatic rise in metal AM system installations accompanies improved process monitoring and quality assurance measures in metal AM, although more work is ahead. Increasingly, global manufacturers are becoming aware of the benefits of producing metal parts by additive manufacturing.

The Dramatic Rise In Metal AM System Sales (Source: Wohlers Report 2018)

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RAPID + TCT 2018: Metal and Post-Processing

 
April 26th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

This past week I had the pleasure of attending RAPID + TCT 2018, a conference and exhibition that showcases 3D printing/additive manufacturing with a myriad new technologies, materials, and processes. The event, put on by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) is a highlight of the year for us, and again, we came away overwhelmed (in a very good way) by all that we witnessed.

Much like last year, if there were three words to describe the SME’s RAPID + TCT 3D Printing & Manufacturing Event they would be metal, metal, and metal — machines producing metal parts were everywhere. This year marked the 28th event and seemed more like a mini IMTS than an additive manufacturing show with exhibitors ranging from material suppliers to post processors to traditional machining companies. There were, of course, the industry heavy hitters, but there were also a lot of startup companies exhibiting for the first time that made things really interesting.

Post-processing also got a lot of exposure as companies providing these technologies had more of a presence and recognizing that this important aspect of AM needs to be an integral part of the production process, and not relegated to being an afterthought.

This year’s theme was “3D In 360°,” meaning the industry is starting to come full circle in terms of capabilities and potential, and this theme was clearly evident in the technical sessions and on the exhibit show floor. This year continued a distinct change of industry direction from one-off rapid prototyping of parts to production quantities in the hundreds and even thousands.

Read the rest of RAPID + TCT 2018: Metal and Post-Processing

Creaform Launches CUBE-R For Automating CMM At-Line Inspection

 
April 19th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

Creaform, a provider of accurate portable 3D measurement solutions and engineering services, has launched the CUBE-R, a new generation complete turnkey automated dimensional inspection system. The new optical 3D measuring machine capitalizes on the MetraSCAN 3D-R metrology scanner and combines efficiency and reliability of robotization in an automated industrial measuring cell.

The  CUBE-R extends the  3D digitizing and inspection capabilities of the MetraSCAN 3D for dimensionally measuring parts ranging from 1 m to 3 m with metrology-grade volumetric accuracy on the shop floor. Unlike conventional systems, the CUBE-R provides both speed and volumetric accuracy, and also ensures a significant increase in productivity. The CUBE-R offers a realistic and comprehensive alternative to coordinate measuring machines (CMM) and other robot-mounted, structured-light 3D scanners.

Key features and benefits of the new system include:

  • High productivity – Performs effective inspections on several hundred parts a day (even on dark or reflective parts with complex geometry)
  • Multitasking – Maximizes production cycle and throughput by offering a simultaneous operation of data acquisition and analysis in a continuous and uninterrupted measurement flow
  • Automatic field calibration procedure – No accuracy drift over time and continuous operation
  • Minimum operator training – Easy-to-use and short learning curve to keep up with fast production pace
  • Complete turnkey solution – No integration required, fully enclosed and shop-floor ready
  • Smaller factory footprint – A complete 4.1 m x 4.1 m x 3.1 m turnkey solution with a flexible shop-floor configuration

CUBE-R 3D Scanning CMM

CUBE-R is an efficient comprehensive turnkey system for automated quality control applications. The CUBE-R provides manufacturing companies with the power of optical 3D measurement and industrial automation. This CMM system optimizes the production cycle and throughput resulting in better product quality.

“Quality control managers are looking for integrated solutions that enable the detection of assembly problems earlier in the manufacturing process, all while reducing waste and down time to ensure better productivity and higher product quality,” says Jérôme-Alexandre Lavoie, Product Manager at Creaform. “The CUBE-R was designed with that in mind. It is the latest addition to our  R-Series automated inspection solutions, which also include technology integration for clients looking for customized dimensional measurement solutions.”

Measurement and Inspection

Along with removing the need to inspect parts in a metrology lab, Creaform’s portable 3D measurement technologies enable inspections on the shop floor, without the need for a controlled environment, because all of its solutions can withstand the harshest environments and surrounding vibrations for maximizing the efficiency of the quality control process throughout an entire production run.

When it comes to performing routine testing of process samples there are 4 basic options of measurement and inspection instrumentation, Inline, On-line, At-line and Off-line(laboratory):

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Stratasys Unveils Spin-off Focusing on New AM Technology

 
April 12th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

This week, Stratasys officially unveiled the spin-off of its Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process (STEP) technology and forming of a new company, Evolve Additive Solutions.

After nearly 10 years as an incubation project, the new organization will be led by a dedicated management team, exclusively focused on bringing the proprietary STEP technology to market – aimed at delivering high-volume production additive manufacturing at breakthrough speeds compared to other commercially available additive processes.

Traditional manufacturers have long sought to combine the benefits of additive manufacturing with the material, quality and economics of traditional production processes. Built on Stratasys’ pioneering development and 3D printing and additive manufacturing expertise, Evolve’s STEP technology is aimed at producing parts at a cost, quality and throughput comparable to traditional manufacturing processes. The solution is intended for high-volume production runs into the hundreds of thousands per year. As such, it is expected to compete with traditional processes, such as injection molding.

For an overview of the STEP technology, click here.

“As an independent company, Evolve will best be able to focus on the advancement of the technology, provide the entrepreneurial environment and management equity incentives suitable for early stage efforts and drive the customer relationships and partnerships to foster further development and initial market adoption,” said Stratasys CEO, Ilan Levin. “As an equity stakeholder, we look forward to collaborating with Evolve and supporting this initiative to help make it a success.”

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Siemens Making Sense of Autonomous Vehicle Sensors Through Digital Simulation – Part 2

 
April 5th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-part article on Siemens’ simulation efforts aimed at making autonomous vehicles safer while making verification and validation processes more comprehensive and efficient.

Last week, Siemens introduced a solution for the development of autonomous driving systems as part of its Simcenter portfolio that minimizes the need for extensive physical prototyping while dramatically reducing the number of logged test miles necessary to demonstrate the safety of autonomous vehicles.

This computing and simulation platform is aimed at accelerating the validation and verification of autonomous cars.

The new solution integrates autonomous driving technologies from recent Siemens acquisitions Mentor Graphics and TASS International. TASS’ PreScan simulation environment produces highly realistic, physics-based simulated raw sensor data for an unlimited number of potential driving scenarios, traffic situations and other parameters.

The data from PreScan’s simulated LiDAR, radar and camera sensors is then fed into Mentor’s DRS360 platform, where it is fused in real time to create a high-resolution model of the vehicle’s environment and driving conditions. Customers can then leverage the DRS360 platform’s superior perception resolution and high-performance processing to test and refine proprietary algorithms for critical tasks such as object recognition, driving policy and more.

TASS International Acquisition

Last summer, Siemens acquired TASS International, a provider of simulation software, plus engineering and test services aimed primarily at the automotive industry, and focused on autonomous driving, integrated safety, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and tire modeling. The company developed a family of solutions that strengthen Siemens’ PLM software portfolio, and add to its position as a leading supplier of “systems driven product development” offerings for the automotive industry.

The video below shows testing of a complete vehicle in a controlled hardware-in-the-loop environment for validating Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) systems.

TASS Vehicle Hardware-in-the-Loop AEB Testing

TASS International is focused on automated driving solutions and integrated (active, passive) safety, primarily for the automotive industry. With its PreScan software, car manufacturers, suppliers and government agencies can simulate complex traffic scenarios and virtually validate automated driving and advanced driver assistance systems.

Read the rest of Siemens Making Sense of Autonomous Vehicle Sensors Through Digital Simulation – Part 2

Siemens Making Sense of Autonomous Vehicle Sensors Through Digital Simulation – Part 1

 
March 29th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

Although they hold much promise, this has not exactly been a stellar time lately for self-driving/autonomous vehicles. As a matter of fact, recent events have cast a dark cloud over them.

Testing them on the road is, of course, essential, but I’ve often wondered if digital simulation could be used more to maximize safety and efficiency with less road testing required.

As it turns out, this very thing, simulation, is finally being performed quite extensively.

This week, Siemens introduced a breakthrough solution for the development of autonomous driving systems as an addition its Simcenter portfolio that minimizes the need for extensive physical prototyping while dramatically reducing the number of logged test miles necessary to demonstrate the safety of autonomous vehicles.

In a nutshell, this computing and simulation platform is aimed at accelerating the validation and verification of autonomous cars.

Siemens PLM Software Driving Simulator

According to the findings of a report issued by the Rand Corporation, autonomous vehicle prototypes would have to be driven hundreds of millions of miles, and in some cases hundreds of billions of miles, over the course of several decades to demonstrate their reliability in terms of fatalities and injuries – an outcome the authors deemed inconsistent with the near-term commercial viability of self-driving cars. For possible solutions to these challenges, the researchers pointed to innovative testing methods such as advanced simulation technologies.

Leveraging advanced, physics-based simulation and innovative sensor data processing technologies, the new Siemens solution is designed to help automakers and their suppliers address this industry challenge with the potential to shave years off the development, verification and validation of self-driving cars.

Read the rest of Siemens Making Sense of Autonomous Vehicle Sensors Through Digital Simulation – Part 1

PTC Launches Creo 5.0 Emphasizing AM, Simulation, and Topology Optimization

 
March 22nd, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

This week, PTC announced Creo 5.0, the latest release of its Creo CAD software that covers concept to manufacturing in a single design environment. According to the company, Creo 5.0 introduces five new and enhanced capabilities for  product design and productivity enhancements in the areas of topology optimization, additive and subtractive manufacturing, computational fluid dynamics, and CAM.

“PTC is on the leading edge of some of the hottest technologies today with the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR), but it has not forgotten its roots in CAD, instead transforming this business by infusing its leading Creo software with new technologies and capabilities,” said John Mackrell, chairman, CIMdata.

Topology Optimization

The physical design of products is often limited by existing designs and practices. The new Creo Topology Optimization Extension automatically creates optimized designs based on a defined set of objectives and constraints, and freed of existing designs and thought processes. This helps users save time and accelerate development by enabling creation of optimized parts for given tasks they must perform.

Creo automatically creates optimized geometric forms/shapes based on input conditions and defined criteria.

The Creo Topology Optimization Extension will be available Summer 2018 in the first maintenance build of Creo 5.0.
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ANSYS and MachineWorks Expand Use of Polygonica

 
March 15th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

Recently, ANSYS, known for its engineering simulation software, and MachineWorks known for its machining and verification software signed an agreement to expand the use of Polygonica Polygon Modeling Software toolkit throughout the ANSYS organization.

Polygonica is a polygonal solid modeling toolkit for processing polygon mesh and is the creator of MachineWorks.

Polygonica carries out a wide range of geometric operations on polygon mesh models such as automatic solid healing, fixing self-intersections and Boolean operations. Other algorithms in Polygonica allow remeshing, simplification, offsetting and point cloud manipulation.

Polygonica is built on MachineWorks’ core technology for material removal and machine simulation, and has a wide range of applications for many sectors, including additive manufacturing/3D printing, where solving complex polygon modeling problems is required when handling defective models with vast numbers of polygons.

Polygonica is used in ANSYS Discovery Live software, ANSYS’ relatively new tool that enables fast computation of CAE analysis results using the power of local GPUs. ANSYS Discovery Live shortens the feedback loop between design and analysis and lets product designers see relevant results immediately during the conceptual design process.

Interview with ANSYS at IMTS 2016

Even though we’ve been told by a number of software vendors for several years now to use engineering simulation and analysis at the earliest stages of product development, relatively few companies have heeded the advice and actually done so. In many cases, it’s still design, break, repeat in a cycle that gets very expensive quickly trying to achieve optimized design goals. Even with all the insistence and chiding from the simulation folks, I’d estimate the percentage of design work that includes simulation early in the process as somewhere between 20-25%, although that may be a bit on the high side.

With ANSYS Discovery Live, ANSYS hopes it will break and change that cycle.

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Ultimaker Extends AM Reach

 
March 8th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

3D printing, or more accurately, additive manufacturing (AM), has come a long way since its inception, and especially the past few years. It also continues to grow at an amazing rate. IDC forecasts worldwide spending on 3D printing to be early $12 billion in 2018

A new update to the Worldwide Semiannual 3D Printing Spending Guide from International Data Corporation (IDC) shows global spending on 3D printing (including hardware, materials, software, and services) will be nearly $12.0 billion in 2018, an increase of 19.9% over 2017. By 2021, IDC expects worldwide spending to be nearly $20.0 billion with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.5%.

Discrete manufacturing will be the dominant industry for 3D printing, delivering more than half of all worldwide spending throughout the 2017-2021 forecast. Healthcare providers will be the second largest industry with a spending total of nearly $1.3 billion in 2018, followed by education ($974 million) and consumer ($831 million). By 2021, IDC expects professional services and retail to move ahead of the consumer segment. The industries that will see the fastest growth in 3D printing spending over the five-year forecast are the resource industries and healthcare.

The leading use cases for 3D printing are prototypes, aftermarket parts, and parts for new products. As the primary use cases for the discrete manufacturing industry, these three use cases will account for 44% of worldwide spending in 2018.

As testament to this tremendous growth, this week, 3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker announced that Robert Bosch GmbH, a leading global supplier of technology and services, will invest in Ultimaker 3 Extended printers on a global scale. After comparing several desktop 3D printers, the additive manufacturing department of Bosch selected Ultimaker as the most reliable, easy-to-use, and machine that produced the highest quality parts. The printers will now be used in different locations across GermanyHungaryChinaIndiathe United States and Mexico for printing innovative prototypes, tooling, jigs and fixtures, while cutting design and manufacturing costs.

Ultimaker Interview at Westec 2017

As the world’s largest supplier of automotive components and an important supplier of industrial technologies, consumer goods, and energy and building technology, Bosch, has a strategic objective to deliver innovative products. In order to save time and costs, and for a faster time-to-market for its new products, the company decided to invest in desktop 3D printing on a global scale. Now, with the Ultimaker rollout, all departments of the additive manufacturing department of Bosch can benefit from a uniform 3D printing solution with materials, training and global support. This approach will ensure consistent, quality 3D printing results across teams and locations.

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A Better Way to Create 3D Assets With ONU’s Cloud-Based Platform

 
March 1st, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

In the cloud-based technical/engineering platform world, IoT may be getting the lion’s share of attention at the moment, but right up there competing for relevance and significance are VR/AR technologies. As cool as they are, VR/AR technologies have been hindered from wider use primarily because of the expensive high GPU requirements needed to make them work, and well, be realistic. That’s changing, however, as cloud-based platforms bring performance and fidelity to VR/AR at much lower entry and implementation price points.

Case in point, this week a Detroit-based startup, ONU, announced a unique offering called ONU 3DLite, a cloud-based 3D visual platform designed to convert and optimize CAD files for creating visual content for 3D Web, AR, VR, or mobile-based applications. ONU provides technology to streamline 3D asset creation pipelines, automating processes that have been manual. In other words, an end-to-end, 3D asset management platform.

“Manufacturers design products in CAD, but those files don’t easily translate to visuals that can be displayed on a mobile device, let alone in a web browser, virtual reality headset, or augmented reality glasses,” said Sam Sesti, President of ONU. “ONU 3DLite changes that. Our easy to use tools automate processes that were previously manual, and significantly streamlines 3D asset creation. Native CAD files can be turned into low polygon Filmbox (FBX) files in just minutes. In addition to making asset creation really easy, it’s also very affordable. We’re excited to share ONU 3DLite with the world.”
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