Expert Interview with Pam Broviak on CAD and Public Works Departments

March 18, 2015 1 comment

Like plenty of other job sectors today, public works departments are being challenged to deliver a wider range of services faster and more efficiently with fewer available dollars and staff, says Pam Broviak, manager of Public Works Group, a portal for public works professionals. “This is why we are most interested in headlines and issues related to anything that offers potential to help us perform within these parameters,” she adds.

These include innovations like driverless vehicles; tools that allow them to better capture, analyze and maintain data and information such as GIS/CAD/LIDAR and other 3D technologies; and hardware that leverages these tools such as headsets and smart screens, phones, and tablets and even smart construction equipment.

Broviak recently checked in with Cadalyst to share more about the technology her audience is most excited about, as well as developments they hope to see in CAD in the coming years. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us about Public Works Group.

Public Works Group was launched in February 2007 as an online resource for public works professionals because we had started to realize online tools and technology in our field had advanced significantly in a very short amount of time. And we knew this was only the beginning. Today, we face continued and rapid change while still trying to catch up with an aging infrastructure and keep up with a new and dynamic workforce. So we wanted to find a way to explore these tools and help ourselves and others keep up with the changes. And we wanted to figure out how all of this fits into everything else we do.

By creating a group and offering online resources, we were able to begin documenting what we found and offer this information to others in our field. Our focus over the last eight years has been on 3D technologies, social media, e-learning and online education, interactions with and support of industry vendors, and promotion and support of industry organizations and communities.

Who should be following your site?

Primarily anyone working in the engineering and public works field or who work in government or delivery of any public service, including those who are interested in or whose work is related to these fields. Also, people who are interested in 3D technology and social media and who want to learn how to leverage these tools to enhance the delivery of information and services.

What technological innovations do you think your readers are most excited about these days?

While I would again mention the innovations above and specifically point out those in the following list, I would also add that while these might be exciting, we are part of a very conservative field that at times can be slow to change. So most professionals are very cautious about getting too excited about any of these and are not ready to embrace them just yet.

  • The Google car
  • Google Streetview and Google Earth (these have been around a while but are still viewed in the industry as new and amazingly helpful innovations we regularly use and for which we are very thankful to have. One of the biggest reasons they are so beneficial is because they are free to use and save us a lot of time.)
  • Oculus Rift and other headsets
  • Smart phones/tablets and the availability of apps
  • Smart boards
  • Collaborative tools such as Dropbox and Doodle, and even Google apps and other cloud applications
  • GIS, LIDAR, and other spatial technologies and the open data movement
  • 3D printing on a large and small scale
  • 3D Design and Modeling/Visualizations and automated machine guidance (This is a federal initiative, so there are many resources/info on this topic here.)

How is Public Works Group using CAD today?

The Public Works Group is primarily using CAD to develop online resources to use in 3D or virtual settings and in our educational offerings and courses.

What do you think is the future for how public works departments use CAD?

As engineers and public works professionals, we are most familiar right now with CAD and prefer to develop in that environment. So for preparing plans and traditional deliverables, we will most likely continue to work in that environment for some time.

However, as the other tools mentioned above advance, there could be a turning point as we face an increasing need to integrate our plans and designs with those tools. If CAD companies begin to realize the need to and benefit of integrating their technology with these tools, the use of CAD could increase significantly because it would open up new and more advanced uses of the software. But at least one CAD company has indicated to me they are not interested in pursuing this use of their software. So if that is the case, we will eventually end up only being able to use CAD software from companies that have built this integration into their product, or we will have to look to other tools that are usually not thought of in the industry as traditional CAD such as Blender; or do what some companies are doing now and use yet another software service to produce programs to take CAD plans and translate them into something that can be used by these other tools.

What do you think are the must-haves for CAD workstations for those in public works?

Multiple monitors, wireless hardware such as a keyboard and mouse, a computer set up to meet and sustain high-end graphics and CPU demands (as a side note, the most deficient item I’ve seen on this is having a power supply that can’t keep up), and a network designed to deliver, archive, and back up files and software.

What do you think are the biggest frustrations that those in public works have with their current CAD workstations?

  • Single monitors – some organizations do not allow multiple monitors, which can greatly reduce production and performance
  • Not having input on hardware specifications – many organizations do not consult the users before purchasing hardware, so many workstations cannot deliver the graphics and meet the CPU demands. This results in greatly reducing production because the user has to wait a significant amount of time for graphics to load when using CAD or GIS
  • Not taking into account speed of broadband services when working through a network that is located off-site – this also greatly reduces speed of performance
  • Not having an efficient backup and archiving system designed for easy access to users who need to share the files – this can take up a lot of staff time when files cannot easily be found and retrieved or shared

Connect with Pam Broviak on Twitter and LinkedIn.

A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 8: Something Old, Something New

March 17, 2015 2 comments

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!

Dynamic UCS, Dynamic Input, and Dynamic Blocks At some point, the AutoCAD programmers decided to add dynamic functionality to some AutoCAD features. Dynamic UCS, Dynamic Input, and Dynamic Blocks to name a few! When you typed in DYN at the command prompt, you’d see 13 system variables appear! You would think that the word dynamic would appeal to this dino and, to be honest, it does have a nice ring to it.

While I’m trying to like how these features work, I am struggling with dynamic UCS. I’m still trying to understand how it affects some of my customizations. For instance, one function restricts movement to a specific axis. If I want to move objects only in the Y-axis from picked points, it’s supposed to only move on the Y-axis. Sometimes things go wacky and the objects move unexpectedly and the value that is echoed back to the command line shows X or Z values. Perhaps there are other factors, such as Osnaps affecting it. I suppose that I’ll eventually figure it out, but for now I’ll just think of it as a ghost in the machine.

Lost, But Not Forgotten

An old friend of mine is the Blipmode command. As it is now in AutoCAD 2015, it’s a zombie command — it exists, but it’s not as easy to just turn it on. I dug around and discovered that I could redefine it in my ACADDOC.LSP by adding (command “redefine” “blipmode”) to get it working again. I use the little blips as a visual confirmation for pick points, often as a clue to where on the screen I picked for a selection window. If I mistakenly selected a location, I know not to select the same spot again. Now AutoCAD displays a colored window as you begin your selection, blue for contained selection, green for crossing, and a new cool colored Poly Drag mode. Along with enabling selection preview, these can make it easier to select objects. The blips do still come in handy to see that I correctly picked the endpoint of a line or the quadrant of a circle, etc.

 

T (that’s me) loves blips — they can make it easier to select objects.

T (that’s me) loves blips — they can make it easier to select objects.

Another old friend is the Aerial View command. Not many users were familiar with this little tool and I suspect that’s why it was discontinued. Like Blipmode, you can redefine it, but when I did, the viewer did not display the screen graphics in the viewer window. On the other hand, now that I’ve gotten used to AutoCAD 2015, I don’t miss it like I thought I would. Believe it or not, Release 14 did not let you zoom in and out with the mouse wheel. For the most part, that’s how I’m now navigating large drawings. In fact, you should see how muscular my stubby dino finger is.

Side note: Did you notice that the Explode ribbon icon with a stick of dynamite has been replaced with an image of a broken apart cube. Really? Bring back the dynamite image!

New Awesome Tools

So, enough reminiscing of old dead things, what’s new that’s exciting to this old Dinosaur? For one, the right-click menu that pops up when you select an object. My number one favorite tool is the ability to hide objects (Isolate / Hide Objects) which initiates the Hideobjects command (introduced in AutoCAD 2011). Or, you can select to isolate selected objects. If I need to see hidden objects again, it’s just another right click away. Additionally, there are commands that are available from the menu; a list of recently used commands and input, clipboard functions, filters, properties, a powerful integrated calculator. I find the calculator especially useful.

One of my favorite new tools is the menu that comes up when you right-click on an object.

One of my favorite new tools is the menu that comes up when you right-click on an object.

This little brain of mine gets so easily distracted! I was talking about all things dynamic and I planned on talking about another new-to-me AutoCAD feature, dynamic blocks, and how I plan to put them to use. Alas, my time is running out for now, so I must leave that subject for another date.

Rawrrr!

In closing, old habits can be hard to break away from. Although some may still hold value, I continue to be surprised at how much more efficient the new environment can be. In the past, I’ve always thought that customization was key to delivering greater efficiency, but I’m discovering that AutoCAD 2015 has many of the tools I need right at my fingertips — just the ticket someone with tiny arms!

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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 Look at Vectorworks 2015

March 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Is it CAD or BIM? Vectorworks 2015 combines enough of both to satisfy a variety of design and development needs. In all, reviewers and users have been pleased with what they’ve seen from this new product. It seems to be an improvement over previous versions in several ways (more discussion on this below), and offers some neat new features that can be helpful in a multitude of situations. Here is what you need to know before investing in this version of Vectorworks.

One of the biggest improvements in the 2015 version is 64-bit capabilities across all of the products. The product description states, “We do not consider remote login environments (such as remote desktops, terminal services, or virtual machine environments, such as Parallels and VMware) to be appropriate for regular work, so Vectorworks performance in these situations is not of primary concern to us.”

This was concerning to some users who planned to use the product in remote situations or in a cloud environment. However, numerous users have had good success operating Vectorworks 2015 with both the cloud and via remote workstations. The primary concern is connectivity and bandwidth, not any known issues with the product itself. This version is compatible with all of the common modern processors.

The interface will be familiar to most users, a sort of mash up of Photoshop, SketchUp, and MicroStation. Though it was originally designed for use on Apple computers, Vectorworks 2015 looks and acts exactly the same on Windows systems as it does on the Mac. This makes it easy for users to  switch between systems and collaborate with others who rely on different systems.

The open GL mode is becoming more common in software developed for CAD workstations, and is well received by users for its easy fly around mode, simplicity in changing viewing modes, seamless virtual walk through mode, and speed in switching between modes and features.

Users are also having fun with the Deform Tool, which allows you to bend solid geometric shapes into user-defined shapes. Though this is more practical for users like furniture designers, it’s fun to play around with.

Vectorworks 2015 also features the ability to set text style by class, which allows you to provide more consistency within the documentation. It also allows for the modification of PDF files. You can now import a PDF file and crop it. This is helpful when using only part of a PDF file as a reference, and for including a picture of the product within the design.

Rectangle Wall Mode is another significant improvement which allows you to select a type of wall and create it by simply drawing a rectangle. You can draw curtain walls automatically, without having to input vertical or horizontal mullions. Better yet, if you decide to change the design halfway through, you don’t have to begin the entire process over again.

For photorealistic renderings, users can import 3DS and SKI files, such as those found on 3D Warehouse and Turbosquid, or use images provided with Vectorworks, which are somewhat improved over previous versions and render quickly.

 

Vectorworks

The stock images are better, and version 2015 allows you to easily import more images from other sources.

Vectorworks 2015 continues to require large amounts of memory and a fast processor to run. Users who lack a sufficiently equipped workstation have reported problems running out of memory, having to shut down the program, and even sometimes having to reboot the computer.

How Much Does It Cost and What’s in the Box?

Expect to pay just under $3,500 for Vectorworks 2015 from most outlets. The Vectorworks 2015 installation DVD, “Let’s Get Started” pamphlet, and “Getting Started” DVD come in the box. The all-inclusive product features:

• Vectorworks Architect
• Vectorworks Landmark
• Vectorworks Spotlight
• Vectorworks Machine Design

 

 

Categories: CAD Software Tags:

A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 7: Get A Grip! (Editing Solids Made Easy)

March 13, 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!

AutoCAD SolidsAs you know by now I’m a dinosaur. We T-Rexes like to eat meat and I’ve been anxious to sink my teeth into the REAL meat of AutoCAD 2015. I knew there would be plenty of meaty stuff in 2015. I was right, and it’s tasty too.

Lately I’ve been gnawing on AutoCAD’s solid modeling tools and it’s been a treat. Since the early 1990’s, I’ve used AutoCAD for my machine design work using simple wireframes — I preferred to not even use polylines. After a while, I finally committed to solids and began to appreciate the benefits of doing so. I can’t say it was easy. Early versions of AutoCAD right out of the box tended to be a little cumbersome and required some nimble AutoLISP programming.

AutoCAD 2015 comes with two Workspaces for working in 3D: 3D Basics and 3D Modeling. Both 3D Workspaces present a plethora of tools on the ribbon to help you get your work done. Because there are so many new (to this crusty old beast) 3D tools, what I find especially useful are the popup Help topics with graphics that appear whenever you hover over a tool for a slightly extended amount of time (introduced in AutoCAD 2010). These pop-up tool tips are pleasing to this dino’s eyes!

The popups make it easy to learn what AutoCAD can do and they make it easy to start using these new tools.

The popups make it easy to learn what AutoCAD can do and they make it easy to start using these new tools.

One of my first discoveries when I began using AutoCAD 2015 is that I can now edit solids, for instance I can easily size or stretch a solid using grips.

The arrow grips let you stretch the solid in the given direction.  The arrow grips let you stretch the solid in the given direction.

The arrow grips let you stretch the solid in the given direction. In the case of the cylinder, you can easily resize the diameter. In AutoCAD Release 14 these operations could get tedious and often it was more efficient to reconstruct the solid.

Change is Constant

Once a solid has been unioned with other solids to form a compound solid body, these stretch grips disappear.

Once a solid has been unioned with other solids to form a compound solid body, these stretch grips disappear.

That made for a very sad dino. That is until I discovered Presspull. After issuing the Presspull command, you can select a face of the solid and stretch it further than my tiny arms will ever reach. Here’s the operation in process.

After issuing the Presspull command, you can select a face of the solid and stretch it.

Oh, but wait! There’s more! What if I need to slope one of these sides? No sweat off of these brows (wait, do dinos even have sweating brows? Hmmm….). In any case, just select Taper Faces from the ribbon, click a few times, enter an angle, and the job is done.

select Taper Faces from the ribbon, click a few times, enter an angle, and the job is done.

What’s that you say? You want to rotate that face along the sloped edge? Here you go, Start Solidedit, select Face, enter Rotate, pick the axis of rotation, and enter the rotation angle.

Start Solidedit, select Face, enter Rotate, pick the axis of rotation, and enter the rotation angle.

I’m telling you, I could have fun doing this all day. Back in Release 14 days, stretching a solid involved making a copy of the solid, moving it to the desired position, and then either subtracting or unioning the copy, depending on the desired results. Tapering a face often involved setting a UCS, slicing the solid — often keeping both sides of the resulting slice (just in case you needed to stitch things back together), and deleting the side you didn’t want. I’m glad those days are over.

These tools couldn’t have come at a better time. Historically most of the machine design work I perform consists of rather simple shapes. A new job I’ve been assigned involves creating a few molded plastic parts. Now, I know what a molded plastic part is and how they’re made. I know the die requires draft angles and fillets, and the shape itself can be complex with curved surfaces and all sorts of other considerations. I’m finding AutoCAD 2015 gives me the means to create a design that while I could have eventually done in Release 14, I doubt these arms could have done it nearly as easily.

Rawrrr!

In closing, I’m discovering new design capabilities on a near daily basis. Even better, I’m able to apply them to my work as I get acquainted with them, creating parts and components in ways I haven’t previously thought of. You might say I’m becoming quite the modern dino.

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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.

How to Catch Design Problems Quicker With Geometric DFX

March 13, 2015 Leave a comment

If DFX sounds like a new product to you, it isn’t. For some time, it has been offered as an add-on product called DFMPro, which has been integrated into a number of high-profile CAD software solutions, including SolidWorks, Creo, and NX. DFX is the stand-alone product now offered by Geometric. While DMFPro works within a specific MCAD software package, DFX works with native models and assemblies in almost all CAD software programs. The cool thing about DFX is how easy it makes finding design flaws in the early design stages, helping to eliminate engineering change orders (ECOs).

What’s Useful About DFX?

ECOs are wasteful and expensive. It is estimated that ECOs are responsible for eating up some 20 to 50 percent of the total cost of designing and producing a product, and about 30 to 50 percent of the cost of engineering and research and development capacities. Some design flaws aren’t evident until much later in the development process, such as when the product hits the production line, during product testing, or when the end customer begins to complain.

DFX helps eliminate this waste of time and resources in a simple, user-friendly way. It automatically recognizes areas of the design that need special attention, such as the placement of holes and bends, how wide ribs and slots are, and the height of bosses. DFX as a stand-alone product can help eliminate cost overruns, and speed the time to market.

DFX combines the in-house knowledge base with industry best practices and automatically applies the design rules with just a few clicks of the mouse. It is also customizable for specific industry needs, as well as particular company or user needs and preferences.

How Does DFX Work?

It isn’t necessary to be an experienced CAD designer to leverage this product. DFX requires only basic CAD software knowledge to operate, such as how to rotate, zoom, etc. It combines a number of knowledge bases, including technical documentation, data from testing and analysis on previous projects, and known ways to improve efficiency and lower costs with designs.

Once the knowledge is added to the system and the program is configured according to needs and preferences, it looks for issues that might be found in production or during product use. This includes identifying issues like mold release when manufacturing plastic parts and pieces, bending issues often seen in sheet metals, and service access problems associated with making parts. It helps users identify design flaws at the earliest possible stage of development, when these issues are quick, easy, and cheap to resolve.

DFX Compatibility

Geometric DFX works in most CAD formats, including:

• SolidWorks
• CATIA
• Creo
• Inventor
• NX
• Solid Edge

It is also compatible with most neutral formats, including:

• IGES
• STEP
• Parasolid

DFX is useful for injection molding, sheet metal, machining, castings, and assembly. A free trial of the product, as well as demos and videos, are available at the Geometric DFMPro website.

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For CAD users, Cadalyst is the brand of CAD information provider that offers the most complete and up-to-date information about CAD. Read up on the latest product reviews, news, information, announcements, and more today at the Cadalyst website.

 

Categories: AutoCAD, Backup System Tags: ,

A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 6: Take Me to Your Mleader!

March 10, 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!

In my last post I discussed Mleaders. I’ll make good use of them, but to my dismay I’ve run into a little stumbling block. Nothing insurmountable mind you, but forewarned is forearmed as they say. Perhaps my problems started when I first established my standards. Rather than load my drawings with custom styles, I simply modified the Standard styles. I set my standard dimensions to display dimension and extension lines to one color and dimension text to another color. These standards applied to leaders as well.

It became complicated when I began to work with the thousands of legacy drawings I’ve accumulated over the years. Now when I work in a legacy drawing and execute Mleader, the resulting object doesn’t conform to my standard. And, yes, I have updated Mleader’s standard style in my template files. This should solve it, right? Unfortunately, it proved cumbersome getting the revised standard style into the working drawing.

An Eon Ago

Long ago I wrote a simple AutoLISP routine, Reset, that resets all system variables and other working environments back to a known state. This is handy if a macro or other tool cancels a command and doesn’t reset certain sysvars and settings such as running OSnaps, UCSIcon display, Pickbox size, and the like. When AutoCAD added the Dimassoc variable, I solved the problem by adding that to my Reset command. Things were different with the MLeader standard style because that object type was not in my legacy drawings resulting in a variable search being none. Furthermore, there isn’t a command line alternative to the MLeader Style Manager.

One of AutoCAD’s shining strengths is numerous ways you can automate tasks, including its simplest form, the Script command. Before going in that direction, I tried the Action Recorder (introduced in AutoCAD 2009) that would hopefully allow a one-click solution. Unfortunately, the input into the Mleader Style Manager failed to be recorded — the recording merely displayed the dialog box and did not record my interactions within the dialog box. While this was disappointing, I do see some potential with the Action Recorder.

I also tried Design Center, another new tool, but that also proved fruitless.

Batch processing to the rescue!

Batch Processing

I chose batch processing to overcome my dilemma. I briefly looked into using ScriptPro, however ScriptPro would have to open and close an AutoCAD session for each drawing. That would not be good. There may be a solution available in the Autodesk App Store, but I grabbed my own CadTempo batch processor that I’ve wanted to put to the test. Again, I felt it was going to be problematic to import the Standard Mleader style.

Many years ago, a chief engineer I worked for advised me on a problem solving technique that I’ve put to the test on many occasions. Essentially it involves inverting an unsuccessful attempt at a solution. In philosophical terms, if you cannot bring Mohammad to the mountain, bring the mountain to Mohammad. In dinosaur speak it goes something like: Grrr gnash gnash, Riiip, tear… Rwar.

So, I created a script template that issued the following command sequence:

New

acad

-Insert

Filename

0,0,0

1

1

0

Zoom

All

Explode

Last

-Wblock

Filename

Y

*

close

y

My first attempt replaced the FileName with the selected drawing names and then created final scripts with all the files to be processed. Unfortunately, the resulting drawings didn’t contain the correct Mleader style. I revised using a SaveAs sequence. The resulting script template is as follows:

New

acad

-Insert

Filename

0,0,0

1

1

0

Zoom

All

Explode

Last

SaveAs

2013

Filename

Y

Close

Finally, success!

Rawrrr!

In closing, AutoCAD offers an enormous amount of customization in how you work with the software, as well as how your drawing appears both on screen and plotted. You can’t expect a dinosaur with a brain the size of a walnut to see millions of years into the future and make the right decisions. But if he chooses badly, there thankfully is always a good workaround.

_________________

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.

Will HP Bring the Spark Back Into 3D Printing?

March 9, 2015 Leave a comment

It isn’t uncommon among new technologies. After the initial excitement lulls, sales slow and enthusiasm wanes. Sometimes innovations in the product can regenerate interest in the marketplace; sometimes those innovations don’t come or just don’t make a difference. It happened to fiber optic cables (everyone uses Ethernet for network connectivity instead), the Laserdisc (the predecessor to DVDs, which didn’t come along for another 20 years), and the QR code (developed in 1994, yet virtually unusable until the advent of social media just recently).

 

3D printing

3D printing was slated to revolutionize industries like medical science, construction, and manufacturing. What happened?

 

When 3D printing was first introduced, it was slated to entirely revolutionize manufacturing. No longer would design and production be centralized and reserved for the big companies; soon people would design and produce their own products at home or on the job site. Though the 3D printing industry saw gains during 2013-14, all of the gains were in a relatively small potential market: big business.

However, research completed by Gartner and Canalys points to a rapidly growing 3D printing industry in the very near future. Gartner expects the industry to double unit shipments in 2015, and again each of the next two years, culminating to a total of 2.3 million units by 2018, up from just 108,151 units sold during 2014. Canalys expects the market for printers, printing materials, and related services to expand from its current $2.5 billion to $16.2 billion by 2018.

One of the factors driving greater acceptance and adoption of 3D printing in the mass market is the introduction of a machine developed and marketed by 2D printing giant and legend, Hewlett-Packard. What is the industry lacking, and what can HP bring to the table?

What’s Hindering the Excitement Over 3D Printing?

 

3D printing

HP entering the 3D printing scene may mean that it isn’t scrapped like fiber optics and the Laserdisc player.

 

3D printers are expensive. These machines aren’t easy or intuitive to operate. The process is extremely slow, taking anywhere from a few hours to a few days to produce a useful product (if, indeed, the product is actually useful post-production). Some people even question the safety of these machines, given that many of the common materials used are potentially explosive, the printers run at dangerously high temperatures, and operation can possibly adversely affect indoor air quality. In all, consumer adoption of 3D printing has been significantly slower than anticipated.

What Does 3D Printing Need to Bring Back the Market Enthusiasm?

Though a few 3D printers are available for less than $1,000, it’s hard to get a feature-packed machine for reasonable money. Combining lower costs with higher-end features would definitely spark sales and regenerate excitement over the potential of 3D printers. Making the software more intuitive and user-friendly would also help. With the right software and features, computer aided design could be within the grasp of even casual users.

Another factor that could drive mass adoption is printer heads capable of working with more than a single group of materials. Currently, printer heads are limited to a single group, such as polymers. With printers capable of working with other materials, such as wood, metals, and glass, more people would be willing to invest in the technology.

Additionally, 3D printers need to get faster and more accurate. Few users are willing to wait days to produce an item that’s inevitably inferior to its mass-produced counterpart. Expiring and soon-to-be expiring patents are also driving the market for 3D printing. The open source future of 3D printing means costs will go down as speed and printing quality rises.

What Can HP Bring to the Equation?

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, HP showcased its new Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer, a joint venture with Intel. Intel provided the Core i7 processor, to which HP added the printer, a culmination of more than three decades of research and development on 2D printers. The result is a surprisingly fast 3D printer, which is also stunningly more affordable.

The Multi Jet Fusion demonstrated ten times the speed of 3D printers currently on the market, at a price half that of the competitors. A company which has consistently shown its ability to generate revenue growth of 60 percent year-over-year shouldn’t have any difficulty catapulting the acceptance and sales of a red-hot commodity like 3D printers.

What else can HP bring to the table? Its marketing skills have the potential to spread awareness and longing for 3D printers, since HP is already a household name. Competitors like Stratasys, 3D Systems, ExOne, and voxeljet are primarily known by CAD pros, not by the average consumer. However, as other mainstream companies such as General Electric (GE) and 3M enter the 3D printing landscape, product awareness and acceptance could finally become widespread.

For CAD users, Cadalyst is the brand of CAD information provider that offers the most complete and up-to-date information about CAD.

Categories: Printers Tags: ,
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