Archive for February, 2015

A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 3: Installing AutoCAD 2015

February 27, 2015 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst’s blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey into Modern Times. In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!

Installing AutoCAD 2015When AutoCAD 2015 arrived at my desk I eagerly ripped open the cellophane wrapper with my sharpened claws and inserted the 64-bit install CD. I had previously uninstalled the 2014 trial copy and was relieved that there were no conflicts during the 2015 install. The support files, block libraries, and customization files I had copied previously remained in place since they resided in a folder structure independent of the Autodesk files. I merely needed to adjust my file paths within the Options dialog box.

Upon initial startup, as was true when I used the V2104 trial version, I was greeted with the default dark drawing background, but this time AutoCAD also displayed the new dark scheme interface for the ribbon and other elements. Being the crusty old dinosaur I am, I figured I should explore my options and set the scheme to light and the background to white. I do think the new dark scheme is attractive and perhaps I’ll give it a more thorough try at some point. For now, these old dino-eyes are grateful once more for AutoCAD’s easy customization.

I updated from the default dark screen scheme to the white background. Oh, so much easier on my Dino-eyes!

Change Color Scheme in AutoCAD 2015

I updated from the default dark screen scheme to the white background.

Changing Color Scheme of AutoCAD 2015

Oh, so much easier on my Dino-eyes!


Speaking of customization, since I began using AutoCAD roughly 23 years ago, I’ve written my share of AutoLISP routines and integrated them into custom menus and toolbars. Upgrading from R14 to 2015, I now had a whole new set of tools to learn and a mental shift in how to put them to use. One feature that I am enjoying is the new Customize User Interface (CUI).

Up until AutoCAD 2006, customizing menus and toolbars required creating and editing MNU and MNS text files. The CUI Editor replaces the need for editing those files in a text editor and provides a rich graphical way to add and arrange elements by dragging and dropping them into place. With AutoCAD 2010, the CUI became XML-based CUIx.

I’m by no means fully up to speed in making my desired changes via the CUI, but I’m eager to make good use of the tool. In some ways, I miss the simplicity of right-clicking on a toolbar icon and entering a new command sequence, but I’m rather certain that those of you who are responsible for a large group of CAD operators appreciate the more refined control the CUI offers.


In closing, when Autodesk first introduced the ribbon interface I worried that it consumed too much drawing real estate. After all, I’ve always thought you could never have enough drawing area. Now that I’m used to it, it’s not a major hindrance. As I continue to make modifications, I now realize how flexible it is. My biggest challenge is arriving at an efficient grouping and placement of the commands I most commonly use. However, as I discover the latest tools AutoCAD 2015 has to offer, those tried and true (but tired) methods will likely be replaced with new approaches. I already feel my T-Rex reach lengthening; soon I may even be able to scratch my nose.


About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.

A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 2: Getting Started in AutoCAD 2015

February 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst’s blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey into Modern Times. In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!

A CAD Dinosaur's Journey into Modern TimesMy new CAD workstation arrived! I threw my T-Rex arms up in delight! The trouble is that they’re so tiny that no one noticed…. I really need some arm extensions. Maybe with time they’ll grow.

Due to my office remodel, I delayed setting the new workstation up for a week or two. Plus, after an anxious wait, Autodesk agreed to supply a new AutoCAD license in exchange for my writing a blog about my journey out of the dark ages of hardware and AutoCAD software. Now, I had to decide if I wanted a license to 2014 or wait for the soon-to-be-released 2015?

I decided to download the free 30-day trial version of AutoCAD 2014 to get familiar with it, and then move to the full version of AutoCAD 2015. (As you might recall from Part 1 of this series, I was using AutoCAD R14, so I had a LOT of catching up to do.) Reviewing the product selection on the Autodesk web site, I choose to go all in and sample the Autodesk Product Design Suite Ultimate to get a taste of the product offerings related to my machine-design needs.

Gigabytes Are Large

I’m not sure what I was thinking. Maybe I wasn’t thinking. I’m a dinosaur, you know, so there’s not a lot of room in my brain for such things. At any rate, I didn’t immediately realize that 33 GB is somewhere around 1,000 times more than 33 MB, which doesn’t sound too bad. But I did come to that realization shortly after I started the download process at 6:45 p.m. After 10 minutes, I checked on the download progress; the system indicated that 1 day, 14 hours remained. Oh, no! I finally gave up around 11:30pm and retired for the night. The download completed overnight, and upon snooping around I noted the last file timestamp was 12:50 a.m. That put the total download time at just over six hours. Compare that to a calculated download time of 40 minutes for AutoCAD 2015 (3.9 GB), based on a rate of roughly 17 Mbps.

Getting Acquainted

Installation went smoothly — a very nice surprise. I have etched in my tiny memory the pain of installing software during the Microsoft Windows 95 era, so there is always a certain amount of trepidation when it comes to installing a hefty program.

I anxiously launched AutoCAD 2014 and was greeted with the default dark background. Long ago I had accustomed my eyes to a white background and adjusted my display and linework colors accordingly. Changing defaults was no problem — setting options is still a right-click in the command window, so I simply adjusted the settings in the Options Display dialog box to my color preferences. Whoa, you can see by the two images that AutoCAD includes a much greater number of optional settings, and the dialog box is even resizable. I started by saving the default settings to a separate profile and made a new one for changes. (Note that images shown are from 2015)

Difference in options for AutoCAD 2014 versus AutoCAD 2015

AutoCAD Release 14 Preferences (left) versus AutoCAD 2015 Options dialog box (right). Note that 2015 offers MANY more options.

The grid is turned on by default as of AutoCAD 2011, although I prefer to work with the grid turned off, so adjustments also were in order. Hmmm… I didn’t see a specific setting in the Options dialog box, so I have to dig around. Once I start banging around with my stubby appendages, I finally discover that <F4> brings up the Drafting Settings dialog box where I can turn off the grid and updates other settings.

Options in AutoCAD 2015

I think it might take me a while to get to know all of the new options and how they will improve my workflow, but I’ve got a feeling they’re going to benefit me in many ways yet to be discovered.

Next up was copying my support files, block libraries, and customizations to the new workstation along with some current project files. I anticipated that some of my customization files would need modifications to work properly, but I wasn’t under any sort of tight schedule to do so. That turned out to be a good thing, too, as there was much to get up to speed with.

The most obvious difference between R14 and 2014 was the ribbon interface along with tool palettes and other sundry display and input options. I had become somewhat familiar with the ribbon interface, having previously used DWG TrueView, Inventor Fusion 2013, and other Autodesk software. I was determined to further acquaint myself and commit to its use.

The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Dinosaurs

I had hoped to get more familiar with AutoCAD 2014 and the plethora of software included in the Autodesk Product Design Suite before my trial expired. As it turned out, I was able to only dabble with several programs, including Inventor, one of my greatest interests. Surprisingly, 30 days goes by rather rapidly — in fact, it was over in what seemed like no time at all.

But soon AutoCAD 2015 would be on the scene, and I would begin my journey out of the swamp.


Interested in giving the AutoCAD ribbon a(nother) go? Check out “Give the AutoCAD Ribbon a Second Chance,” a four-minute video from Cadalyst and Lynn Allen, Autodesk evangelist, that illustrates the advantages of moving to the ribbon and offers tips for making the transition as easy as possible.


About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.

Rapid Prototyping: The Present and the Future

February 23, 2015 Leave a comment

Sometimes a group of technologies can be lumped together to create an entirely new technology. This is the case with rapid prototyping. Using a group of technologies developed for CAD design, ink jet printing, and other applications, rapid prototyping is revolutionizing the fields of engineering and manufacturing. What is rapid prototyping, and how is it relevant to the world of CAD?

What is Rapid Prototyping?


3D printing

Rapid prototyping borrows from 3D printing and several other technologies to produce accurate models of parts or assemblies quickly.


Rapid prototyping is the process of fabricating a model of a part or assembly to scale using a variety of techniques. Rapid prototyping was built on the technique of stereo lithography, and also makes use of technologies like selective laser sintering, laminated object manufacturing, fused deposition modeling, solid ground curing, and ink jet printing.

During the process, a CAD model of the part or assembly is constructed and converted to .STL format. The rapid prototyping machine or 3D printer then creates the model one layer at a time. After each layer is generated, the model is lowered by the thickness of that layer so that the next layer can be applied. The surface of the model is then finished and polished.

What are the Uses for Rapid Prototyping?


3D Printing

The models produced by rapid prototyping are realistic and sometimes able to undergo certain testing, as would the finished product.


Rapid prototyping is most commonly used to quickly generate prototypes of parts and assemblies so that engineers, manufacturers, marketers, and purchasers can see what the design looks and acts like before it is put into actual production. It is used to generate prototypes of things like machine parts and production tools. The difference between prototypes generated by rapid prototyping is that these models are lifelike, made of actual metal, instead of a plastic guesstimate of the object. Even the most complex part or assembly model can be produced in about half a day, compared to the weeks and many machines it takes to produce a prototype by traditional manufacturing methods.

What are the Benefits of Rapid Prototyping?

The models produced through rapid prototyping are ideal for design teams to visualize the eventual product, and can even undergo some actual real-world testing, such as being monitored in a wind tunnel. Tooling models can also be created, and occasionally the finished models can be used in the actual final assembly of the product.

Rapid prototyping improves communication among designers, manufacturers, and other parties, allowing developers to identify and correct mistakes early in the design process. This speeds up development times and improves the lifespan of products. It allows for greater variation among the products produced, allows designers to develop more complex products, reduces time to market, and helps build products that don’t become obsolete so quickly.

What is the Future of Rapid Prototyping?

Currently, rapid prototyping (like most newly developed technologies) is expensive and not actually so rapid. Researchers are working on faster processes. Additionally, the three materials used for rapid processing are aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium; researchers are working on ways to expand the number of materials that can be used for this process. The process also needs to be made more tolerant of temperature variations, and eventually it would be ideal if a single print head was able to deposit multiple materials instead of just one at a time.

The market for rapid prototyping is expected to reach $7 billion by 2025, aided by product patent expirations and the overall availability and affordability of 3D printers. Enjoy learning about 3D printing, CAD, and related technologies? For CAD users, Cadalyst is the brand of CAD information provider that offers the most complete and up-to-date information about CAD.

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4D Printing: The Next Frontier of Additive Manufacturing

February 18, 2015 Leave a comment

Remember when it took eons for 2G mobile technology to give way to 3G? Then it took much less time for 3G to become 4G, which is now the standard. Already, mobile companies are buzzing about the promise of 5G. 3D printing technology might follow mobile technology in this manner, taking ages to progress and then seeing a phenomenal boom in a short period of time.

Just as the reality of 3D printing is becoming accepted and widely used, a group of researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder have developed 4D printing. It uses the same printers and basic techniques as 3D printing, but the materials are combined in interesting ways to do unique things. The research was funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation.

What is 4D Printing?


4D printing

Items could be made in one shape, shipped, and completely transformed into a new shape at its destination.


In 4d printing, “shape memory” polymer fibers are incorporated into composite materials, creating a 3D object. But when the object is heated or cooled, key “printed active composites” are activated, allowing the object to transform into another object entirely. The shape memory fibers behave in a predetermined way when exposed to the stimulus (like heat or cold), and therefore the designer can predict how and when the object will transform from one shape to another. Yes, wacky science, but it works.

How Does 4D Printing Work?


4D printing

It’s magic! No, not really. It’s just a super trick cooked up by chemists.


When the shape memory polymers are embedded into the composite materials, the object can be 3D printed into one shape, then heated or cooled to produce another shape. For example, a flat piece of laminate can be printed, and then heated or cooled into a bent, coiled, twisted, or folded shape. It is possible that with further research and experimentation, the same technique can be applied to other materials used in 3D printing, such as metals.

What are the Possible Applications for 4D Printing?

What’s the big deal? Well, 4D printing could revolutionize engineering, manufacturing, packaging, and the biomedical industry. One application would be the ability to produce something flat and easy to ship that then transforms into something useful at a job site. For example, solar panels could be 3D printed in a flat, compact form, shipped into space via a satellite, and then transformed into its eventual shape by the cold temperatures of space.

4D printing could revolutionize the field of engineering, allowing designers and manufacturers to produce a multitude of items for a variety of applications that have never before been conceived. 4D printing could be especially useful in applications that call for compact shipping of larger objects, such as items used by the military, rescue workers working in harsh conditions, as well as in space travel, shipping, and medical sciences.

Unlike 3D printing, 4D printing isn’t yet ready for mass acceptance. However, the science is there and with further research and development could soon yield huge gains for a variety of industries and applications.

Do you enjoy reading about 3D printing and new technologies related to CAD design? Cadalyst is the brand of CAD information provider that offers the most complete and up-to-date information about CAD. Visit now for the latest news stories, product reviews, tips and tricks for CAD, digital manufacturing and more.

Categories: Printers Tags:

A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 1: Emerging from the Swamp

February 18, 2015 1 comment

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst’s blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey into Modern Times. In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!


1-acadblog-T-rex-iheartcadAs are most nights here in the swamp, it was dark and stormy. Fortunately, my Internet connection held up. Surfing my favorite CAD sites, I came across an interesting contest sponsored by Cadalyst that just might help me out of this swamp.

It seemed Cadalyst was just itching to give away a professional CAD workstation to someone who submitted the best video explaining his or her need for a more powerful computer.

From the Beginning

Let’s back up a bit. Allow me to introduce myself: Call me T, short for T-Rex, short for Tyrannosaurus Rex. Yes, I’m a dinosaur. You see, for the longest time I’ve used AutoCAD R14 — yes, the original R14 — for all my machine design work. R14 was very capable and served my purpose, but as time passed, and as the days and weeks continued their relentless passage, I felt more and more mired in the swamp of obsolescence.

Perhaps this contest would be my ticket into modern times. My walnut-sized brain spun into high gear as I crafted my video submission and lo and behold, my video was a winner. Woo hoo! Or, as we say in dinosaur parlance, “Rawrrr.”

The new, state-of-the art professional workstation was going to change history for this T-Rex — but it was only part of the solution. To emerge fully from the swamp, I would need modern CAD software as well. But how could I afford it? A new version of AutoCAD would cost a pretty penny.

So, I pitched an idea.

If Cadalyst could persuade Autodesk to supply a copy of AutoCAD 2015, the latest version of the software, I would gladly write a series of articles journaling my transition from AutoCAD R14 to 2015, sharing my experience and the benefits gained by moving out of the technological dark ages and into modern times. It could be a win–win–win for Cadalyst, Autodesk, and T.

You can imagine my big-toothed grin when the idea was met enthusiastically and I was given the thumbs-up to proceed.

Join the T Team

Being the dinosaur I am, I would be relatively content to apply my new software to my old work style. But the purpose of upgrading to new software is to learn the new tools and, more importantly, to put them to productive use.

I’ve got a good idea about the things I want to improve upon and how I might use the new tools. But this technological transition is a tall order, especially for a guy with short arms, so I invite you to participate in my journey. How can you help? Well, I’m glad you asked. I’m guessing a number of you are currently working with an older release of AutoCAD with an eye on upgrading. I’m confident most of you work in different engineering fields than I do and use AutoCAD in vastly different ways. AutoCAD 2015 holds new features that don’t interest me but would likely appeal to you. Send me your suggestions! Maybe I could actually use those tools — or at least I could experiment with them in new and exciting ways.

So, I invite you to send me your questions about things you may have heard about in modern AutoCAD. I’ll do my best to explore them, and in that way add you to the “win” equation.


Stick around and watch original video from Patrick Hughes T:


About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.

Expert Interview with Kathleen Maher of Jon Peddie Research On CAD Trends

February 16, 2015 Leave a comment

CAD trendsCAD Software is not just for engineers and architects anymore. The field is opening up, with promising new innovations in 3D printing and computer graphics to name a few.

Jon Peddie Research has been keeping tabs on the computer graphics industry for over 35 years, sharing valuable expertise, insight, and market research for a number of industries.

Jon Peddie Research’s Vice President and Editor-In-Chief Kathleen Maher took a moment to tell us a bit about the company, watching the computer graphics industry change for decades, and what those changes could mean for CAD users.

For people who haven’t visited your site, can you introduce yourself? When did Jon Peddie Research get started? Where are you based out of? What inspired you to start your own company?

Jon Peddie Research is a well-established research firm based in Tiburon, California. We are technically oriented and focus on computer graphics. Our current business was founded in 2000, but the core of Jon Peddie Research has been tracking computer graphics for 35 years. We published our first reports on the graphics industry in 1986. In 1995, we introduced our definitive study on 3D graphics chips, now called Market Watch, and followed up with a continuing series of studies on the visualization, content creation, and CAD software markets. See a list of our publications here.

Who is your main clientele, and what are some of the different ways JPR fills their needs?

Our services are business to business, and our clients are primarily executives in computer technology companies, investors, and startup companies. We advise and educate our customers on the basics of graphics technology as well as the advanced trends that are transforming computing in general. We are often called upon to advise companies on their strategies, new products, and product introductions. We are sometimes asked to evaluate companies and perform “reality checks” on market strategies.

One of the services that Jon Peddie Research offers is comprehensive analysis reports on a variety of topics. What are some of the areas that you go over in these reports? How are they useful for the companies?

We have market reports in hardware and software. Our reports on graphics hardware reports include:

  • Market Watch, our report on graphics chips and technologies
  • Add-in-Board report, which provides market and segment information on the AIBs being built using new GPUs
  • Workstation report, our report (refreshed quarterly) that covers the CPUs, GPUs, new machines, and vendors in the workstation market
  • The Game series of reports, which track the machines being used by gamers and the trends influencing the game market

All of these reports provide market data, sizing, market share information, forecasts and detailed information about the technology. These reports provide our clients with a clear idea of the targeted markets, the opportunities, their size, and information on emerging adjacent markets.

On the software side, our market reports track the growth of resource-demanding applications including CAD, modeling, animation, video, and entertainment content creation. Similar to the hardware reports, we including technology overviews, market size including market share, and forecasts.

Our clients subscribe to these reports for a thorough view of the markets they are interested in or markets they might want to move into. In addition, clients often ask for customized data not contained in the reports. We can fulfill these requests, and we offer various levels of subscription and retainer relationships to our clients.

Another service is Jon Peddie’s Tech Watch. Can you tell us a bit about that program? What are some reasons why people might want to sign up?

Tech Watch is our broadest report, but it is not a publication. It is a subscription service which includes an ongoing, flexible retainer benefit that can be customized according to the customer’s interests and requirements. The Tech Watch report is published twice monthly, and it is designed to provide a knowledgeable and opinionated view of the technology industry as a whole. We concentrate on graphics related fields, but we are not restricted to them. We include in-depth coverage of news, trade shows, conferences, briefings, financial reports, and product reviews.

Retainer clients are free to call upon us for any information they need. Consultation is provided on an hourly basis. If we have the required information, retainer clients can have it as part of their relationship with us. If the request requires additional work, we can prorate it according to our clients’ level of subscription.

You keep a close eye on tech trends. What have been some recent hot topics for CAD engineers?

The CAD industry is a leading indicator for many things, including technology and world economies. CAD engineers tend to be early adopters. As a result, we see an interest in adapting mobile tools for use in engineering both in the field and in the office. One of the most interesting trends has been the relatively fast acceptance of the cloud and virtualization technologies. Companies that recognized the interest engineers would show in these technologies have benefitted at the expense of those slower to move.

Another interesting aspect worth mentioning is that people working in the CAD fields – like designers, architects, analysts, etc. – have long been using advanced visualization techniques including 3D visualization, CAVEs, very large format displays, etc. Virtual reality is not a new trend in CAD; it has always been used. (For more on this, see the answer to the last question on predictions for 2015).

JPR wrote an 80-page study on the CAD industry back in 2012. What were a few things you found when putting that report together, and how has the situation changed since you wrote the book?

We have been publishing the CAD report since 2000. The most recent CAD report is being written as we speak.

To look back, in 2012 the recession was still affecting CAD-related businesses. At the time of publication, we were expecting the negative forces of recession to recede at a faster pace. It was disappointing that it took until 2014 for real growth to take hold and show up consistently across segments. (Luckily, we were conservative in our forecasts.)

There are many evident changes, including much broader adoption of 3D technology and the serious challenge being offered by low-cost CAD and free 2D CAD programs. We will have a great deal more to say on this subject in a short time.

You wrote that in the third quarter of 2014, CAD workstations sales rose 4.7% since the same quarter the previous year. What are some reasons for this rise in sales?

The PC market in general has weathered some very “interesting times.” Low-cost machines, tablets, and ARM-based notebooks have all confused the PC market and caused a drop in shipments for traditional notebooks and desktop machines. The workstation market has seen a much more stable environment for several reasons. Primarily, customers who require stability, accuracy, power, and support usually choose workstations. That did not change during the recession. In addition, the allure of mobile devices like tablets and ARM-based notebooks might induce workstation users to buy the product as an additional device, but never as a replacement. In contrast, some PC users could see a use case for switching.

The workstation market did see some slowdown as a result of the recession, but not as much as PCs did; and when the market began to pick up, workstation sales rebounded faster and stronger. If anything, sales did not so much contract as buying cycles expanded. Customers waited longer to buy new machines.

What are some things people should consider when looking to get their first CAD workstation? Have you found that particular companies suit particular needs?

This is a difficult question to answer concisely. The workstation report goes into a great deal of depth about the different companies involved in the market as well as the technology.

The workstation market leaders are extremely well-matched in terms of features and prices. Each may have some stylistic differences and customers may have personal preferences, especially when it comes to mobile workstations and displays for desktops. Customers interested in buying a workstation should be most interested in support options, price/performance ratios, and ISV support. In addition to the Jon Peddie Research site and our reports, the SPEC organization provides valuable comparison data on workstation performance. Also, of course, the leading workstation OEMs provide information on ISV relationships and support options.

What are some of the topics you cover in your workstation report, and how is this useful for the companies?

The Workstation Report is one of our most in depth reports, and includes information about the CPUs, GPUs, and the workstation vendors and their models. Regular updates are published quarterly. A TOC of the report is available on the Jon Peddie Research site.

With the trends and statistics you’ve analyzed, do you have any predictions for 2015 for the CAD industry?

2015 is a year for growth for CAD. The segment hardest hit by the recession was AEC and it was remarkably slow to recover. We are seeing strong new growth in the fields related to architecture and construction, propelled in no small part by the retooling done by the CAD vendors’ customers. The use of BIM has gotten a boost as more customers demand it and more providers adopt it.

Manufacture is likewise, growing and there are exciting new workflows emerging as PLM and Design become more integrated and projects are addressed in a holistic way.

The process of modeling itself is undergoing a dramatic transformation as technologies like photogrammetry become easier as a result of powerful processors, low cost scanners and cameras; and aerial capture is becoming the source of integrated data for CAD.

On another front, the use of sensor data is changing the way projects are designed, built, and maintained. Quite a few companies are interested in helping design the burgeoning Internet of Things from the things themselves to the systems that support them.

Any period after a recession brings significant inflection points. This was a particularly long and painful recession, but the resurgence promises to bring significant change and growth. Not all of the inflection points we see coming will help the incumbents. For the long term, we think there might be changes to the long-established status quo of CAD companies. New companies are appearing on the horizon.

Jon Peddie Research believes we will look back on 2015 as the start of significant industry shifts in CAD.

For more updates from Jon Peddie Research, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.

Categories: Workstations Tags:

Designer Vows to Spend One Year Using Only Open Source

February 14, 2015 Leave a comment

On August 1, 2012, Sam Muirhead embarked on a life that most people can’t even fathom. This native New Zealander who now lives and works in Berlin started an entire lifestyle of using only open source products, designs, entertainment, transportation, and more. Though most people think of open source as related to computer code, Muirhead expanded this concept to include anything that did not come with the restraints of copyrights or patents.

In other words, if it was proprietary, Muirhead didn’t use it, buy it, watch it, listen to it, work with it, or wear it. He learned a lot about 3-D printing and digital manufacturing, as well as software programming, clothing design, making beer, and riding a bicycle in Berlin’s unforgiving wintertime.

What Living a Year of “Open Source” Meant


Open source

Muirhead even went open source regarding his food, drinks, and clothing.


The project began as Muirhead, a videographer, was doing online research. It occurred to him how the collaboration among so many people (for free) had produced such a wealth of free online resources for all to benefit from. One of his first projects was abandoning his Mac operating system for Linux, taking advantage of open source software like LibreOffice, and developing his own when the available software was inadequate.

Everything Muirhead developed and created during this project then became open source, available to others to use, modify, and distribute themselves. It didn’t take long for him to realize that he needed a lot of products that would require a 3D printer. Not all of his projects, of course, were viable at first. It took a lot of trial and error, but Muirhead maintains he didn’t cheat. In fact, the project continues even now, after his one-year mark passed on August 1, 2013. He still strives to live as open source as possible, though he’s less strict about it now.


Open source

If he couldn’t get it for free, modify it as he wished, and pass it along to others, he didn’t get it.


What Muirhead Learned

What Muirhead learned was that nobody needs special skills or a background to begin doing things for themselves. When using open source, you never have to start from scratch. By taking advantage of all of the successes and failures that came before you, you have a starting point for making it better, developing things that are better suited to your personal needs, and further the creation for those who come after you. As the work of newcomers compounds upon what has come before, new things get developed faster and the end result is a better, more usable product.

How Muirhead’s Story Relates to CAD Design

Currently, the database of common CAD designs is relatively small. Much of the work done in the field of digital manufacturing is proprietary, or at least experimental and unshared. Is it time to further the cause by making more designs, both successes and failures, available to the masses? After all, it’s often a better learning experiment to see how and why a particular project failed, because this gives others the opportunity to correct mistakes and forward the design. More sharing leads to more collaboration, which ends up a win-win for all.

For CAD users, Cadalyst is the brand of CAD information provider that offers the most complete and up-to-date information about CAD. Would you like to read more stories about innovators like Sam Muirhead and see what’s going on in the world of CAD, digital manufacturing, and design? Visit Cadalyst today.

Categories: Workstations Tags: ,

3D Print ‘Farm’ Launching in Texas

February 12, 2015 Leave a comment

What is a 3D printing farm? For now, nobody is completely sure. It does involve growing plants, but it is yet unclear how. It also involves a lot of 3D printers. So far, the farm has a FlashForge and Type A Machines printers, with an Ultimaker 2 and Lulzbot Mini (just released) to follow soon. Farm owner Mike Adams, who calls himself the Health Ranger, plans to choose which of these printers works best and then invest in more of those to complete his farm. He fully expects that he will not be able to generate enough of the parts he’s developing at his Austin, Texas farm to meet demands, and will make the object files available via free download on the website,

What the Farm Promises


3D Print

The 3D printing farm promises that people can grow their own plant-based medicines.


The best guess is that “farm” refers to both the fact that it is set up to manufacture food (or at least parts to help people grow their own food), as well as the fact that it’s stocked with a farm of 3D printers. The actual methods are still a mystery. The website’s creator promises that with this new method, using mostly parts that are 3D printable, people can grow their own food, plant-based medicines and mineral supplements. The parts not 3D printable will be inexpensive and readily available, such as paper clips and pencil erasers.

The promises include that the method will allow people all over the world to grow food without soil, electricity, or other technologies, using one-twentieth the amount of water normally required to grow foods. Adams claims that 200 percent more food can be grown in a given space, making it cheap and easy to produce food in inner city apartments, third world countries where no power or clean water is available, and other places that typically can’t produce adequate amounts of food. Shockingly, Adams states that this food will feature 500 percent of the nutritional value of traditionally grown foods.

The Health Ranger has publicized his mission statement: “empower consumers with factual information about the synthetic chemicals, heavy metals, hormone disruptors and other chemicals found in foods, medicines, personal care products, children’s toys and other items.”

What’s in It for You


3D Print claims that food grown by this method can be produced for pennies on the dollar compared to normal grocery prices.


If Adams’ promises prove true, he is working out all of the kinks in his process so that those who choose to take advantage of his methods won’t take long to begin producing their own foods and medicines. He is honing details like what filaments work best, which bed adhesion materials are most effective, the right print speeds and temperatures, etc.

Adams plans to share all of this information, along with the object files, online. For those who do not own their own 3D printers, Adams will be selling the parts needed to produce foods with his method on the website. However, since the point of the endeavor is to empower others to do it themselves, he encourages more people to download and print their own parts.

How and When to Get More Information

Initially, was scheduled to be up and running by mid-February. Now the rollout has been delayed until the end of the month. For those involved in digital manufacturing, 3D printing, and CAD systems, it will be interesting to see what develops on this farm. Ingenious new development? Another probable marketing disaster? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.

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 for more exciting news in the fields of digital manufacturing, CAD, 3D printing and more.

Categories: Printers Tags:

Expert Interview with Ron Brys About Optimal Workflows

February 8, 2015 Leave a comment

Ron Brys of EnvisionCAD understands what it takes for IT professionals to make the most out of their CAD workstations.

Here, Brys talks about how Envision CAD works with clients on consulting, custom programming, software solutions and everything else in between.

How can those in CAD IT maintain optimal workflows? 

Solutions to optimize workflows starts with understanding the current hardware and software configurations, workflows and procedures, and range of user experience levels. CAD IT professionals empowered with industry best-practices can then plan and implement workflow optimization strategies.

Standard CAD configurations with appropriate hardware upgrades help get the most out of the software. Training users to a similar experience level will help optimize workflows when introducing new standards. Procedures and/or automated software scripts can provide additional improvements.

Best-practice CAD standards and workflows streamline repetitive or complex tasks and reduce errors. Custom training for new standards and workflows helps ensure uniformity. Open communication between CAD managers and CAD users facilitates proactive adaptation of productivity improvement opportunities. Last but not least, quality and timely user support is very important.

What are some of the biggest tips EnvisionCAD can offer CAD users?

Train. Train. Train. Continuous learning is needed, given the increasing complexity of CAD software. You should access online resources, attend classes and use custom training materials. Stay current on new software versions. Learn from others by talking to other CAD users and CAD managers.

Configure your implementation. While CAD software will work out-of-the box, it’s not how the most successful organizations utilize it. Based on various client, department or utilization needs, custom environments can be implemented to streamline the user experience and present the correct standards, workflows and tools to the users; thereby reducing errors and reworks and increasing productivity

When it comes to CAD workstations, what aspects make the most user-friendly experiences? Please describe how CAD software/workstations impact what CAD users can accomplish. 

Workstation hardware configurations should be at or above the software’s recommended requirements. Utilizing multi-monitor setups makes work much easier. It’s also important to remain flexible to accommodate different user requirements, and also implement upgrades when practical; users are only limited by their training, software configuration and hardware.

How does EnvisionCAD help change the scope of the CAD landscape?

EnvisionCAD unlocks the unrealized productivity gains in a CAD enterprise. Our custom Best-Practice Solutions add value in resource configuration, targeted learning, process improvement, user/system support, CAD management strategies and more. We develop training materials and provide services for users in North America and internationally. We also work directly with software vendors and provide feedback to improve their products.

What makes EnvisionCAD different from similar websites or businesses?

First of all, I’d say the fact that EnvisionCAD is an independent firm makes us unique. We are not a reseller or otherwise tied to a particular software vendor, which allows us to provide unbiased solutions. Additionally, our professional CAD managers have hands-on experience with over 400 different CAD enterprises. From this extensive experience, EnvisionCAD can customize productivity improvements, CAD related tools, learning, and technologies. Being experts in both Bentley and Autodesk platforms gives us a huge advantage in the marketplace, as most organizations utilize both vendors. We provide a full range of CAD management support services.

Our services range from consulting on specific issues to planning, implementation, custom programming, live and online training, help desk support, and more.

How does Autodesk and Bentley software benefit CAD users? What makes it different from other software solutions?

CAD software has evolved from being a one-function tool. Autodesk and Bentley offer complete packages and software suites tailored for many different disciplines. Both companies develop quality software that is used worldwide. A large user-base and industry specific solutions are what make these companies stand out.

What trends do you see happening in the CAD industry? How does EnvisionCAD approach these trends?

CAD software is not just a drafting and publishing tool anymore. 3D modeling capability, visualization and engineering analysis are now built into most CAD software packages. EnvisionCAD staff are published professionals that keep current with new software products. We develop our own training materials to educate users about these ever-expanding functionalities.

We develop productivity-focused workflows to utilize new functionality. We invest in research and development to create exclusive productivity tools and technologies. EnvisionCAD has a strong network with other professionals for continued idea sharing.

Please share anything additional you would like readers to know about EnvisionCAD. 

Since 1996, EnvisionCAD has been a nationally recognized leader in the configuration, customization, and implementation of CAD software solutions. Our individualized approach has benefited private engineering firms, utilities, municipalities, DOTs, federal agencies and others. Basic or advanced, we help others get the most from their CAD enterprises.

Follow EnvisionCAD on Facebook and Twitter.

Categories: Workstations Tags: ,

Expert Interview with Josh Mings on CAD Workstations

February 6, 2015 Leave a comment

CAD workstations

Josh Mings of SolidSmack understands the ins and outs of technology, especially when it comes to CAD. He says his site is dedicated to helping those in the industry – no matter if they’re just starting out or have been in the game for years – get the most out of their technology process.

Mings shares more of what SolidSmack offers engineers, designers, and everyone else in between in this interview.

SolidSmack offers a wealth of information about 3D CAD, technology, design and more. What does the SolidSmack team strive for to keep current with the latest in CAD technology?

We’re dedicated to covering the process, whether that’s how tech is used, ninja-like fab skills, or the blood, sweat, paper cuts and aluminum shavings it takes to bring about their idea. There’s news, of course – tech and design that affects the process for engineers and designers – so we mix that in with general interest topics, occasional arts and crafts, apps, robots or ninjas, and there you have your SolidSmack.

What elements go into creating the ideal CAD workstation?

Well, there are two routes you can go: building your own or buying from an OEM. But most will rely on their company to choose, so it’s important to woo the decision maker and bend them to your will. You have to consider what software you’re running, whether it’s CPU or GPU intensive, if it’s dedicated to only CAD software or running other programs which may require more RAM, and if you’re going to be mobile or not – which limits some factors and increases price, but you will have more options with mobile workstations here in the future.

Describe some of the courses cadjunkie offers. How do these benefit those using CAD no matter what their skill level may be?

Cadjunkie offers cad-ninja honing beginner to advanced courses, primarily for SolidWorks and modo. It’s the fastest way to get up to speed on either. Adam O’Hern provides the instruction based on real world experience with different products, and also has a voice that isn’t annoying.

How does SolidSmack help those using CAD to better their skill in 3D modeling?

Butter, lots of butter. It’s our hope that the stories and courses we publish provide more insight into technologies and using the software, while staying up to date on how the design and engineering landscape is changing.

How have CAD workstations changed over the years? How has SolidSmack addressed these changes?

I don’t think anyone would argue that they are now smaller and more powerful. I remember using “Lunchbox” computers and hauling around desktop monitors to demo SolidWorks. Now, people run 3D software on tablets with more power in mobile workstations than ever before. We’ll review these workstations occasionally to show how capabilities are improving.

What are the top three aspects of SolidSmack that make it stand out?

The content, the depth, the attitude.

How do all of the aspects of SolidSmack integrate with each other to facilitate a complete experience for CAD users?

They provide deeper insight, across a broader range of content, with any additionally necessary hyperbole, sarcasm or wit to make it just slightly more palatable than stale bread.

How big of a role does design play in the lives of everyday people?

They cannot escape it. The design affects them more than gingivitis or a bad hair day could ever hope to. Now, if you’re referring to the design process, most are only involved with that indirectly with the designers WHO WATCH THEIR EVERY MOVE.

Please share anything additional you would like readers to know about SolidSmack.

We’re always interested to hear from people about what they would like to see more of, story suggestions, if they’re interested in writing for us or have a favorite dessert recipe.

Follow SolidSmack on Facebook and Twitter.