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).
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 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.
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?
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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, FoodRising.org.
What the Farm Promises
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
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, FoodRising.org 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.
We asked Chris McAndrew what innovations he’s most excited about today in the world of CAD.
“The explosion of cloud computing and user interfaces are on the cusp of breaking the CAD world into a new time,” replied the owner and editor of 3DEngr.com.
And it’s a good thing, too.
CAD is ripe for change since the major players in CAD software, including ProE, Solidworks and AutoCAD, are still rooted in clunky engineering principles, Chris says. Even newer programs like Sketchup, Rhino and Blender are resource intensive and tough to figure out.
“As a new class of developers starts to develop tools that are made for the masses, using things like virtual reality and a backend that is powerful enough to render and update a design instantly, it’ll be cool to see what sort of fun platforms are created!” he adds.
Here, Chris talks about 3DEngr.com, the buzz surrounding 3D printing and what you need to know about buying your next CAD workstation. Read on:
Tell us about 3DEngr.com. When and why did you start your site?
3DEngr was started as a place to capture information on 3D design, CAD work and engineering. Initially, 3DEngr.com was created as a study tool for the Solidworks Certification exam, and it still is a great resource for the 50,000+ designers and engineers worldwide who have their certification and are looking to further their expertise. It also has become an outlet to cover the intersection of Engineering CAD design with practical implications of manufacturing. This has led to looking into 3D printing in a big way as it has increased in popularity and become the new hot topic in the world of manufacturing.
Who should be reading it?
Doers! Those people who understand that 3D printing is not going to revolutionize the world by itself, that it will need an educated mass of designers and engineers who understand the nuances of 3D printing and are able to incorporate traditional engineering principles with the amazing new abilities for design that 3D printing provides. In short, engineers, designers, and consumers who are excited by design and engineering.
3D printers have been around since the mid-1980s. So why is there so much buzz surrounding 3D printing right now?
There are lots of reasons, but basically the whole world has changed since the mid-80s. Materials, computing power and access are the three reasons that come to mind.
When 3D printing was first introduced, there was a very limited material list; but now, prints can be created using standard paper (the kind an inkjet printer uses), titanium and living cells. That’s an incredible increase in potential from low-grade plastics.
Computing power is the next most important development. 3D Printers still need software to tell them what they are printing. Learning to design a three-dimensional part file used to be reserved for engineers at multinational companies that had thousands of dollars to spend on software licenses. These days, there are free and open source design programs which are so easy that kids can use them (and do!). Couple that design potential with web-based sharing platforms where you can download existing designs, and all of a sudden the accessibility of 3D printing is transformed in a revolutionary way.
What excites you about the possibilities of 3D printing?
The ideation and iteration process it opens up. The ease of creating a sample or prototype with 3D printing is remarkable. So many great inventions and developments were created through painstaking trial and error, and today the effort required to undertake that process is dropping rapidly. Developments in 3D printing of living cells means that what would have required decades of research can now be packed into days and weeks. The same holds true for other industries. There will be a massive amount of failure with new designs coming off of 3D printers, which means we’ll be able to learn so much more quickly.
What trends do you think those who work with CAD should be following?
Storage costs and IP control. For those looking to build companies and products they want to monetize, it will be critical to understand how their designs are saved and shared. As long as value is still being created, someone will find a way to capture that value for their profit. Hopefully, that profit will be shared with the designers and not middlemen.
How have CAD workstations evolved in recent years?
CAD stations have slowly started to become less relevant. And that’s a very good thing. The first time I tried to buy a laptop that could run CAD software, it weighed a ton and was clunky. Though it rendered quickly, I literally couldn’t fit anything else in my carry-on bag if I flew with it. Thankfully, computing power has continued to evolve and lighter software has made it possible to run sufficient products on all sorts of devices.
What do you think are workstation must-haves for every CAD pro?
Comfort and portability. Why be tied to a physical work station when you can access computing power remotely? Not all CAD workstations make this easy, but planning your station this way will make it easier to keep the touch point that you work with and upgrade that back end as things get better.
What considerations should CAD pros make when updating their workstations today?
Whether or not you care that the key feature you want is going to be outdated in a matter of months. I’ve been sold a number of times on graphics cards that were way too powerful for me to ever use, boot up times that I never reaped the benefits of, and storage space that I simply did not use. Learn to customize your software and hardware. No two CAD pros work the same way. Find a workstation that is easy to personalize, and the benefits will greatly outweigh the incremental feature improvements that can be purchased.
Connect with Chris on Twitter.
People say that the best way to learn something is to teach somebody else. In the process of describing it, you break the subject down into its components andu begin to see the limits of your own understanding.
Jeff Mirisola has taught countless visitors to his site, Jeff’s Tool Shed, the ins and outs of the SOLIDWORKS environment. Mirisola started the website to explore the limits of his own knowledge and get more involved in the community – all while sharing his knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm along the way.
Jeff Mirisola took a moment to share some of that wisdom with us.
How did you get started writing Jeff’s Tool Shed? What were your initial goals for the blog, and have you reached or surpassed those goals?
I started writing Jeff’s Tool Shed at the suggestion of Richard Doyle, Senior User Advocacy & SOLIDWORKS User Groups. We met at a SOLIDWORKS Summit in Seattle, and I expressed an interest in becoming more involved. He suggested writing a blog about SOLIDWORKS Partner products; hence the name Jeff’s Tool Shed. It’s morphed over the years into something more than just partner products, but the name remains.
How has writing Jeff’s Tool Shed impacted your own design work?
Of all the products I’ve been able to mess around with over the years, my two favorite are 3DConnexion and DriveWorks – both of which I get to use on a daily basis now. Both of them go a long way to speeding up the design process for me, especially my 3DConnexion device.
One of the reasons you started Jeff’s Tool Shed was to get more involved with the SOLIDWORKS community. What is the SOLIDWORKS community?
The SOLIDWORKS community is exactly what it sounds like: a community of users and employees all working together to help each other. On a large scale, you have the SOLIDWORKS forums as a place to ask and answer questions. Then still on a large scale, you have SOLIDWORKS World. That’s the annual user convention where thousands of SOLIDWORKS users, resellers, partners and employees descend upon some unsuspecting city for a week to learn and share. Then there’s the SOLIDWORKS User Group Network, a network of hundreds of user groups throughout the world that provide localized meetings for users to, again, share and learn.
You’re also a SOLIDWORKS certified instructor, so you’re obviously quite well-trained with the software. In your opinion, what differentiates SOLIDWORKS from other 3D CAD software? Why do you like it so much?
I’ve only ever used SOLIDWORKS, so I can’t speak to the pros/cons of other 3D CAD software. What I can tell you is that SOLIDWORKS is easy to learn and use. When I started using it, I had zero CAD experience. I’d recently moved into a role as a technical writer, but had to wait for the illustrator to do his work. His work entailed taking what was designed in SOLIDWORKS and recreating it in AutoCAD so that it could be brought into PageMaker. I thought that was ridiculous, but was told that you couldn’t derive a true Isometric view from SOLIDWORKS. Challenge accepted! I started with the tutorials, then started taking the 2D drawings of the machine I was creating the parts manual for and recreated the components. While a bit redundant, it was excellent practice that taught me a lot about modeling. When all was said and done, AutoCAD was dropped as part of the illustration process.
What are some specific challenges that face 3D CAD Engineers?
I think that one of the biggest challenges is that 3D CAD software will allow you to design something that can’t actually be manufactured. That’s something that you need to keep tucked away somewhere – unless you enjoy having a machinist tear you a new one.
Do you use a CAD Workstation in your office? If so, which one, and what made you select that one?
Yes, I use a workstation. Three, actually. For work, I have a Dell T1700 and a Surface Pro3. The Dell is my daily work horse. The Surface is what I use when I’m traveling. I chose the Dell because that’s what is used at the company. While I was able to spec it out, I had no say on the brand. That being said, I’ve used Dells for years with few problems, so I had no qualms about the lack of choice. The Surface was my choice, however, because I didn’t want to have to lug around a heavy mobile workstation; and they aren’t all that easy to use on a crowded plane. The Surface, however, is much lighter, just as powerful, and fits nicely on the food tray.
At home, I have a Dell M4600 that’s about 2 years old. It’s the middle of the road option, but works well for me.
What are the advantages of using a CAD workstation?
A CAD workstation, whether it’s a desktop/tower or mobile, simply gives you peace of mind when it comes to performance. I’d say for every one story you hear about someone being able to run SOLIDWORKS on their just fine ‘home’ PC, there’s probably 10 that have nothing but problems. For me, it would be like buying a Corvette with a 4 cylinder engine. It may look good, but it’s not going to deliver the performance you’d want or expect.
With the business climate being what it is, why is it so important for CAD Engineers and Managers to be optimally efficient and organized? What are the risks of not being unorganized?
Business is about making money, and being efficient is just one way to meet that goal. If you have a manager who doesn’t know what his team is doing, chances are they don’t know what they’re doing either. You then end up with duplication of effort, files overwriting files, dogs and cats living together, complete anarchy. Having a cohesive effort is a much better way to go, no?
There’s more though. You need a manager who doesn’t just sit in his office doling out duties. He needs to understand what goes into creating models and drawings. He needs to understand that, as with so many other things, training is important. So is providing the proper tools (read: workstations). Showing your CAD jockeys that you’re committed to both will help them be committed to more than just the paycheck.
In the ‘Consulting’ section of Jeff’s Tool Shed, you state, “Capable of seeing the big picture regarding 3D model use across an organization.” What is the big picture regarding 3D modeling across an organization?
Ah, the BIG PICTURE. Here’s my thoughts based off of what I’ve seen: too many managers simply see 3D Modeling as a design tool. Nothing more, nothing less. Even at this most basic thought level, they still don’t manage it correctly. Files get saved willy-nilly. File naming is no more thought out than where they’re being saved to. Models are created haphazardly, which create problems downstream when someone else tries to edit them.
Honestly, there’s a lot to ‘the big picture’. File naming conventions, part numbering conventions, PDM vs. no PDM, how to utilize the data that is within your models, how to utilize the models for more than just engineering purposes and so on and so forth.
For more info and updates from Jeff’s Tool Shed, follow him on Twitter.
When 3D printing was first reported, the promises were endless. We’d all be making our own clothing, building our own vehicles, and generally running manufactures out of business worldwide. The realities have been a bit different — technologies are still in rudimentary stages, and finding materials that lend well to printing certain items, like electronics and clothing, haven’t quite been honed to perfection.
Still, the past year has seen remarkable innovation in several arenas. The quality of 3D printers is on the rise, and the quality of printer you can score for a reasonable sum of cash has also improved. Additionally, new materials have been developed that lend well to particular printing endeavors. Here are the most remarkable achievements in 3D printing as of late.
3D Printed Human Organs
Perhaps the most promising innovation is in the medical sciences. Scientists have successfully 3D printed human liver tissues, which have proven far better at detecting toxins than those previously generated by 2D printers. These liver cells were able to detect hidden toxins in drugs that had been approved by the FDA. The drugs were later pulled off the market. What does this bode for the future? One day liver cells such as this could help pharmaceutical companies get needed medications to the market faster. Controversial drug testing on animals could be eliminated. Most promising, scientists could 3D print human organs, saving thousands of people who die waiting on suitable organs to become available.
3D Printing in Space
Amid a whirlwind of publicity, an astronaut was recently able to print his own wrench in space. NASA emailed him the specs, and he created the tool on the zero-gravity 3D printer installed at the International Space Station where he works. Zero-gravity 3D printing has not been without its challenges, but could one day significantly reduce the amount of weight and space taken up on space missions. Astronauts could simply manufacture what they needed while on board the spacecraft.
3D Printed Cars
The first 3D printed (well, mostly 3D printed) car has finally been introduced. Reviewers expected a low-powered, poor handling machine, but were pleasantly surprised at the vitality of the car. The Strati is the first such vehicle introduced to the public, but you can bet your sweet gearshift it won’t be the last.
3D Printed Houses
Actually, more people have publically unveiled houses they built using 3D printers than vehicles. Among these adventurers is Andrey Rudenko, an engineer and architect who lives in Minnesota. Rudenko produced a mini castle in his backyard using 3D printing, and hopes to soon embark on building a full-size home. A Chinese company showed off its ability to produce no fewer than 10 homes within a 24-hour period, though architects and engineers question the quality and integrity of those productions. Still, the promise of 3D printed homes means that builders could one day make homes to capitalize on a particular need within a given environment, such as the ability to effectively capture heat from the sun or collect rainwater for use within the home.
3D Printed Clothing
Until recently, clothing manufactured on a 3D printer was rigid and uncomfortable, definitely not something anyone would want to don to work or a party. That changed when the company Nervous System produced the Kinematics Dress, a soft, fluid gown generated from a single piece of nylon fabric. Most intriguing is that the dress was made using a body scan of the model who would wear it. Essentially, the dress was constructed as a perfect fit just for her. This would be invaluable to those people who don’t fit into a stereotypical size 10, 12, or 14. The possibilities for uncommonly tall, short, or shaped people is promising indeed.
Perhaps the realization of what 3D printing can actually do for society is on the brink of making itself known. 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 for more news, information, tips, and tricks for CAD design, 3D printing, computer-aided manufacturing, and much more today.