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Expert Interview with James Woodcock on Trends to Watch in 3D Printing

January 6, 2015 Leave a comment

3D printingWhile James Woodcock, Group Editor and Conference Director at TCT + Personalize, is passionate about the possibilities of 3D printing, he wants to make sure the hype surrounding the technology isn’t overblown. It sets everyone up for a fall, he says.

“Consumers expecting to be able to ‘make anything’ at home will be sorely disappointed when they realize the limitations of the technology at every level,” James says.

Like any manufacturing process, 3D printing has limitations, and many of those limitations are at the consumer end of the spectrum, he says. And because the mainstream coverage is read by all, it can lead to some potential industrial users to have the same inflated expectations.

“The key is making the most of the truly incredible things people are really doing with 3D printing right now,” he says.

James recently checked in with us to discuss the most exciting aspects of the technology and how CAD workstations are evolving to make the most of it. Read on:

Tell us about TCT …
TCT encompasses a portfolio of communications products: the printed magazine established in 1992, the TCT Show established in 1995 and a host of digital products including tablet apps, website, social media, etc. People are often surprised that as a brand, TCT has been involved in “3D printing” since 1992. Back then it was almost always called rapid prototyping or rapid manufacturing, but the developments in the technologies and applications has led to that being somewhat redundant – although rapid prototyping is still the major use of 3D printing.

What excites you about 3D printing?
The most exciting thing about 3D printing today is the possibility for tomorrow. 3D printing really covers dozens of technologies processing hundreds of materials for thousands of applications. The rate of development is increasing all the time, and the last five years have seen arguably more activity in the industry than the preceding 25. 3D printing is often touted as the “third industrial revolution,” but really it is the breakdown of barriers between digital and physical workspaces that is facilitating the current sea change in the way we make things. Computing is still very much at the heart of this “revolution” through CAD and communication, with 3D printing representing one of the routes to realizing the digital world.

What do you think are the long-term implications of 3D printing as more businesses and consumers begin using the technology?
Professional and consumer 3D printing are at once very distinct and in the same breath inseparable – it all depends on the definitions used. If “consumer” 3D printing is defined simply as someone using a 3D printer in their bedroom, garage, shed or even kitchen, we have some way to go before we reach a critical mass – if indeed we ever will. Access to capabilities of 3D printing is, in my opinion, more likely to be through services that do the 3D printing on professional machines, for consumers. This depends on a huge part to the next generation of “digital natives” and their exposure to 3D design and print throughout their education.

In a business setting, things are more established, but we’re only starting to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential applications. The rate of technological development really means that anything is still possible, given time.

What are the biggest headlines or most exiting innovations in your industry today?
In the last month or so, the big news has probably been HP entering the market with its new technology platform. The entry of such an established player will certainly have an effect, but no one can quite predict what that will be yet! Exciting innovations are mostly at the low-cost end of the industry, where innovation is always less inhibited, and in the development of applications. Medical, aerospace and automotive continue to push the boundaries and drive the technology forward.

What do you think are the most useful tools for someone designing for 3D printing?
As for designing for any manufacturing process: a realistic knowledge of the end output device. Designing for 3D printing really means designing with one of a number of production technologies in mind, and the capabilities vary wildly. The usual overhangs and wall thickness/feature size limitations apply broadly across the board, but designing a part that will be made in titanium on a SLM machine vs. a part made in PLA on a desktop FDM machine are like chalk and cheese.

How should CAD workstations evolve to accommodate the proliferation of 3D printing?
CAD vendors are really starting to take the wheel when it comes to 3D printing – Autodesk and their Spark platform and Ember 3D printer being a great example, SolidWorks and their work with 3D printing integration another. I think the changes will happen as a matter of course as 3D printing becomes an increasingly viable output method for digital files. Maybe free up a little room nearby (not too nearby, 3D printers can drive you mad with their noise) and get a cheap 3D printer to play with – who knows where it may lead.

What are some of your favorite 3D printers and accessories?
For contractual reasons, I don’t have favorites… but accessories like the AstroPrint project are really interesting!

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Categories: Printers Tags: ,

Expert Interview with Mirza Coralic About BabaCAD

January 4, 2015 Leave a comment

CADHelpful software is something virtually everyone can relate to. The only problem with helpful software is that many times this comes with a hefty price tag. BabaCAD is different.

BabaCAD is free software for CAD users and developers. According to Mirza Coralic of BabaCAD, the site is beneficial for both the novice and experienced CAD user. The site offers a full suite of downloads to help meet the needs of users.

In addition, the site’s forum and blog help address common questions among CAD users, so those using the software can always find answers and helpful tips.

Here, BabaCAD’s Coralic described some of the biggest and best features of BabaCAD and shared some plans for the free software site’s future.

BabaCAD offers free software for individuals to create their own technical designs. How does this free software differ from what people can purchase?
BabaCAD as a freeware software differs in a few minor features from costly commercial software. Missing features can be compensated by using LISP scripts or programming new features using free BabaCAD API.

What do you think makes up the perfect workstation for CAD users?
BabaCAD is very economical because users don’t have to change their workstations to work with it. Minimum recommended configuration is dual core workstation with 128 Mb. But, users who can afford Intel i7 based workstation with GEForce GTX 980 and SSD disks will experience BabaCAD like driving a new La Ferrari (startup time < 0.2 seconds).

In terms of the perfect workstation for CAD users, I would recommend everyone to go for middle-powered workstation from graphics workstation market, and I guarantee a good CAD performances using most CAD software packages today.

Your website says that the software you offer is always growing to keep up with trends in the industry. How do you ensure you are keeping up with these trends and offering what individuals proficient in CAD need?
I’m active in a few CAD forums and reading CAD portals to get myself up to date with CAD trends. I read user comments and questions on the BabaCAD forum and try to analyze and prepare the next software release with requested features included. As an example, there is the story about making command ASPLIT (Area Split) in BabaCAD. I found one user asking about how to write LISP function to equally divide some irregular area or closed polyline. I read other users’ comments and realized that this problem is not trivial and only a few costly “Land Design” software can solve this problem. I wrote some math algorithms and programmed a new command in BabaCAD, named AREASPLIT or ASPLIT.

What kind of customization do you offer users?
LISP scripts and BabaCAD API are customization options in the current BabaCAD release. BabaCAD API is included in the installation package in the form of c++ header and library. LISP is available as a free extension module. There is a developer’s section on the home site where developers can read more about programming BabaCAD extension modules (.bem). Some users asked about macro scripts, which I will try to enable in the next release.

Of the features that BabaCAD offers, what are some of the most popular/used features that users recommend?
Block explorer, object snap and tracking, smart dimensions and plot to scale are features that users value most. LISP programming in BabaCAD is something that advanced users find useful, as commercial CAD programs have LISP enabled only in their premium packages.

What are some of the challenges individuals face when working with CAD? Are there any limitations that BabaCAD either has or overcomes?
I’ve realized that many “newbies in CAD” users start to use BabaCAD. They often contact me and ask trivial questions about CAD. That’s why I made some video tutorials covering beginner’s topics. BabaCAD breaks the size/capacity ratio and I will quote one user from the Belgium CAD forum talking about BabaCAD: “If you look at the size (less than 5 Mb) and opportunities, this is out of proportion!”

What does the future look like for BabaCAD? Are you able to talk about any special or upcoming features?
I’m working hard to enable 3D modeling in BabaCAD. Here are some upcoming features: spline, extrude, revolve, loft, sweep to make complex 3D objects, and one special feature is NURB surface modeling. Some of these features have already passed my internal beta testing, so with God’s help, I hope that a beta version will be available for download soon.

How user-friendly are the features? For instance, can someone who is just starting out with CAD use BabaCAD?
BabaCAD is very user-friendly, as users can choose between using menus, toolbar buttons and a command window to input commands and parameters. Right mouse button clicks bring about a popup menu with many different options, based on which command is currently active. Users can create buttons for custom LISP functions and associate a new command to it.

What are some of the other features users can work with while using BabaCAD?
Users can draw many complex objects by using the pline command, because there is an option to include arc (bulge) segments inside a polyline object. Hatch is another useful object, as there are many patterns included but not limited to. Users can download pattern files (.pat) from many CAD-related sites to get more hatch patterns. There is a great feature using multiple viewports inside paper layout. Multiple viewports allow users to display some model parts with more details using smaller plot scale factor.

Please share any additional information you would like people know about BabaCAD.
I would like to inform existing users that I’m aware of some bugs in the current release 1.3. They can check to see if there is a newer beta version with bug fixes until the next stable release. Beta version download can be found on the “Extension Modules” section on the home site. Upcoming the BabaCAD 3D release 1.4 will also include all bug fixes.

Categories: Workstations Tags: ,

AU 2014: A Wrap-Up

January 2, 2015 Leave a comment

Autodesk University (AU) 2014 was held in Las Vegas, December 2-4, at the conference center of Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Featuring 793 classes, 822 speakers, and 183 exhibitors, AU 2014 offered seminars, training sessions, and activities for several key industries, including architecture, infrastructure, automotive manufacturing, education, construction, and reality computing. Here is a wrap-up of this year’s Autodesk University, along with the key takeaways of the event.

 

Autodesk is Now Free to Educators and Students

 

AutoDesk

Schools and students can now get Autodesk products for free, meaning the workers of tomorrow will graduate with brand loyalty to AD’s products.

 

Autodesk earns around $2 million USD on education licensing each year, but is now making their products free to all schools, teachers, and students, according to Autodesk president and CEO Carl Bass. While the gesture does have a philanthropic result, it’s not entirely generosity driving this decision. If a large majority of students receive their CAD training on Autodesk products, there will be a larger market for the products in the future due to simple brand loyalty. This educational initiative is offered to schools around the world.

 

Autodesk Now Offers Open Source 3D Printers and Software

 

AudoDesk

Autodesk looks to solidify their place in the market with open source printers and software.

 

Autodesk is also attempting to dominate the market via open source code software and printers. This initiative began with the Spark Investment Fund, which offered $150 million USD to entrepreneurs, new companies, and researchers who were pushing 3D printing technology to its outer limits. Later, Autodesk furthered this program by announcing Spark, its first open source 3D printing software.

At AU 2014, Autodesk unveiled the Ember 3D printer, an open source printer for which Autodesk is offering the design specs to anyone who wishes to develop a new 3D printer based on Autodesk’s designs. Bass announced that this initiative was intended to show how integrated hardware and software could benefit the 3D printing process. Currently, as many as 75 percent of all 3D printed designs are failures. With open source code hardware and software, Autodesk hopes that new ways of doing things can be developed to improve the success rate of 3D printed products.

 

The Cloud is Becoming More Crucial to the 3D Printing Industry

Autodesk was the first 3D software company to offer cloud-based support. Now, Autodesk is improving their cloud offerings, hoping that the move away from expensive perpetual licensing opens the doors to 3D printing for smaller companies, startups, and those without the resources to support hefty licensing fees.

 

Generative Design is Now Becoming Available to Smaller Companies

Generative design is the concept of beginning with an intention for the design and exploring numerous solutions through a series of “generations” until the design is perfected. While generative design isn’t new to the industry, it’s usually been the property of those working for governments or large enterprises with access to sizeable databases or research institutes. Now that more cloud resources are available to designers along with HPC (high performance computer) centers, Autodesk hopes that the concept of generative design can be employed by smaller companies and startups to advance the industry as a whole. When designers no longer have to start from scratch with each design, 3D printing designs can improve more and improve faster.

For CAD users, Cadalyst is the brand of CAD information provider that offers the most complete and up-to-date information about CAD. Visit Cadalyst today to see up-to-date news and information on 3D printing, CAD for manufacturing, and more.

Categories: Printers, Workstations Tags: , ,