Thursday, July 30, 2015

What sets a Professional 3D Printer Apart From a Hobby 3D Printer?

There is no question that 3D printing has been gaining enormous amounts of traction in pop culture and the mainstream media. According to a recent Wohlers Report on 3D printing revenue growth, 3D printing sales could grow to $21 billion by 2020. What may not be as well-known by 3D printing enthusiasts, however, is what differentiates a professional 3D printer from a hobbyist 3D printer. Companies like GE, Ford, Boeing, and Microsoft are usually using different printers than students working in design classes at local high schools. The needs and requirements of the design and manufacturing industry require professional printers to be bigger, faster, and have more precision and reliability than personal machines currently offer.

A hobbyist 3D printer, such as a MakerBot, is great for home users, students just learning about 3D printing, and sometimes users who are just looking to dip a toe into the waters. These machines' price points can range from $1,375 for the Replicator Mini to $6,499 for the Replicator Z18 and use Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) to layer plastic repeatedly to create a part. Hobbyist printers are limited in features such as build size, material options, resolution or precision, and heat controls. However, the needs of students and 3D printing enthusiasts may not be as particular as those of manufacturing professionals. What makes a MakerBot type of 3D printer great for students and home users is a more accessible starting price point that will still provide the user with a quality printed part and a fairly intuitive interface.

Professional 3D printers, on the other hand, bring a far wider range of features that manufacturers and designers not only want but need in order to create accurate prototypes or parts that will be brought to market. There are many different 3D printing technologies available, but the main features that set professional printers apart from their smaller counterparts include things like accuracy, repeatability, soluble supports, material options, warp reduction, and safety. 

For example, a Stratasys Fortus450mc printer uses the same basic FDM technologies as the Makerbot, but comes at a far higher price range. However, Fortus users get features including (but not limited to) a heated build chamber to reduce warping, a wide range of common industry compatible materials, higher resolution capabilities, and a build tray that is well over double the size of a MakerBot's. For a company like John Deere, printing a large tractor part that their design team is working on and quickly validating its shape, size, and functionality is crucial to making sure projects stay on time and budget. This kind of work simply can't be done on a hobbyist printer.

Are you trying to decide between a personal and professional 3D printer? Ask yourself what your particular needs are and what kind of return you're looking to get out of your 3D printer. Both hobbyist and professional printers are valuable tools, but they do have very different capabilities.

If you could use a hand deciding which 3D printer is your best fit, our team is always available. Contact us by clicking here and one of our team members will help you out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fisher Unitech to Host 3D Printing Workshops Throughout the Midwest

Want to come inside and cool off while learning about 3D printing? We will be hosting a series of professional 3D printing workshops throughout the Midwest this summer. Our hopes are to educate participants to the value 3D printing adds to the design and manufacturing industries and encourage discussion about specific questions attendees may have.

This event will showcase both Stratasys PolyJet and FDM 3D printing capabilities. Our machines will be up and running so participants can better understand how these printers work, and we will have a wide array of example parts on hand to show the many different applications 3D printing is being used for. We understand that no two manufacturing issues are exactly the same, so we will have our sales and applications engineers on hand and ready to discuss with you any specific questions you and your company may have.

These workshops run from 10:30am to 1:00pm local time

- Welcome/Overview for the Day
- 3D Printing Technology and Applications Overview
   Detailing the differences between PolyJet and FDM technologies
- Lunch
- Example Part Discussion
   Time to view sample parts, check out machines, and talk with experts about 3D solving your current design problems
- Q&A Wrap Up

Monday, July 20, 2015

Fisher Unitech Now Offering the Makerbot 3D Printer Series

Fisher Unitech, LLC, a leading reseller of 3D printing and engineering software and services, recently announced its expansion into the hobbyist 3D printing market with the addition of Makerbot to its product portfolio. Fisher Unitech has been one of the top Stratasys professional 3D printing resellers in the world for over 18 years, and the addition of Makerbot greatly expands the types of individuals they are able to assist.

"We are excited to start offering MakerBot printers," said Nick Licari, 3D Printing Services Manager at Fisher Unitech. "The addition of the MakerBot line really completes the range of 3D printing products we can provide and opens up an avenue for us to help those looking to break into 3D printing without breaking the bank."

MakerBot 3D printers are desktop accessible printers that utilize Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology to extrude plastic that builds layers upon layers of material until a part is complete. The MakerBot printer line provides excellent portability and is easy to use. For those reasons, these printers have been widely adopted in smaller office settings, in the classroom, and in consumers' homes. Fisher Unitech will be offering the MakerBot 3D printers themselves as well as the PLA filament that they utilize.

The Makerbots being offered can be found on Fisher Unitech's website at

About Fisher Unitech (
Fisher Unitech, established in 1993, provides advanced technology solutions to discrete manufacturing companies. The company's mission is to help companies manufacture innovations that will change the world. The technology applications offered focus on design, engineering, 3D Printing and additive manufacturing. Professional services are offered for design automation and data management which provides customers with a full service, one-stop source for complex PLM systems. The company offers advanced web-based delivery of education programs with its interactive, instructor-led 3DU. Please visit the company's website at ( or call 800-816-8314.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

SOLIDWORKS TECH TIP: Model Visualization - Part 4: Stereoscopic 3D, Augmented Reality, and The Future

If you missed the first three parts of this series, they can be found here:
Part 1: Orientation
Part 2: Perspective
Part 3: Camera

For the visualization of models, we've covered Orientation, Perspective, and SOLIDWORKS' Camera tools. After perspective and camera trickery, we start to get into newer technologies for visualization.

Leading the way for viewing technology in SOLIDWORKS is the viewer: eDrawings. eDrawings supports both Stereoscopic 3D viewing of models and Augmented Reality.

To utilize the stereoscopic 3D features in eDrawings, you must have a 3D monitor, 3D glasses (they usually come with the monitor), and a supported graphics card.

To find supported graphics cards, go to and look for graphics cards with the icon to the right next to them.

eDrawings supports both passive and active stereoscopic 3D. This just depends on the hardware you are using along with eDrawings.

Before opening a file, go to Tools > Options and turn on "3D Stereo Viewing." This is also the location where you can tweak the stereo separation (How far the left eye images and the right eye images are from each other).

(Click to Enlarge)

Early in 2013, SOLIDWORKS updated their mobile eDrawings application with the ability to use QR codes for augmented reality (iOS only). Augmented reality is the process of superimposing additional data into a user's view of the world. Usually an accelerometer or gyroscope is needed, as well as a camera, to get this effect. Luckily most smartphones and tables have all of these in one compact device.

Here's a quick tutorial to show you how to view your CAD models in a live, real world environment.

Now, let's look forward. If you've checked out new technology like Microsoft's Hololens, you saw how far design and our design tools can go. I have been semi-obsessed with this idea since seeing 2008's Iron Man, where Tony Stark interacts with repulsor design before a prototype is ever made.

(Click to Enlarge)

What tools and technologies do you think we'll be using to design in 3, 5, 10 years?

I hope you have enjoyed this four part blog on how we view the models we create and you are excited about how technology will change the way we design and the tools we use to do so.

For more training and tutorials on the many 3D CAD Modeling solutions in the SOLIDWORKS family of products and add-ons, please feel free to look through our Webcast Archive, register for an upcoming webcast or event, or look into our 3DU SOLIDWORKS Training and Certification courses.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

SOLIDWORKS TECH TIP: Wave Washers Using Equation Driven Curves in 3D

How model a Spring Washer using an Equation Driven 3D Curve

If you've ever tried to model a Spring Washer (aka Wave Washer) and thought, "There has to be an easier way!" then here is a technique you might enjoy. SOLIDWORKS has the capability to create a 3D Sketch that is controlled by an equation, and with the proper inputs, you can use that sketch entity to model a wave washer similar to the images you see to the right.

The basic idea is a loft between two equation driven curves. To add some more detail to that, we start as a surface loft because we have open profiles, Thicken to make it a solid, then mirror to create the full shape.

The feature tree will look like this:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

We're Giving Away a 3Dconnexion 3D Mouse EVERY QUARTER

Have you ever wanted to smooooooth out your zoom and rotate movements in SOLIDWORKS?
Have you ever wanted to speed up your modeling?
Have you ever tried a 3D mouse?

Now's your chance!  

-Take the survey at the end of the course
-You're entered to win a 3Dconnexion 3D mouse!

Fisher Unitech's Training Team is giving away a 3Dconnexion 3D mouse EVERY QUARTER!  Every time you take a training course, fill out the survey at the end of the course and you'll be entered into the drawing.

This quarter (Jul-Sep), we are giving away:
The 3Dconnexion SpacePilot Pro - a $399 value

Learn more about 3D mice on our website, check out the product guide, and follow the 3Dconnexion link on our page for more info:

Sign up for a Fisher Unitech training class here:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Stratasys to Host Kansas Roadshow Series

This July, our partners at Stratasys will be hosting a series of roadshow events designed to showcase their PolyJet and Fused Deposition Modeling 3D printers and 3D production systems. These events are scheduled to take place in Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, and will give those interested in 3D printing a great opportunity to see how the manufacturing and design industry is utilizing this fast-growing technology.

In previous roadshows hosted by Stratasys, participants were provided with presentations that addressed common manufacturing challenges and introduced how additive manufacturing is finding new ways to solve problems faster and with less expense. Those in attendance at this year's shows can expect to learn about the basic functionality of the FDM and PolyJet 3d printer series and how their technologies differ, along with specific applications that are revolutionizing how traditional manufacturing is done. 

With so many different industries that benefit from 3D printing technologies, few challenges are identical, and one-on-one time to discuss your own unique setup is invaluable. Stratasys and Fisher Unitech application engineers and sales representatives will be on hand at each roadshow to discuss any specific questions attendees have regarding their own applications.

To register to attend the July 20th Roadshow hosted at the Hotel Sorella Country Club in Kansas City, click here.

To register to attend the July 22nd Roadshow hosted at the Wichita Art Museum in Wichita, click here.

To see more Stratasys and Fisher Unitech 3D printing events coming up this summer near you, click here to see our 3D printing events page.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

SIMULATION TECH TIP: String Your Bow - Nonlinear Iterative Results

I was very excited to see this feature in Simulation 2015: viewing partial simulation results in nonlinear analysis. When debugging a study, it's extremely useful to watch the solution as it progresses and make changes. I was working on a fun model of a recurve bow that required some relatively complex choreographing of fixtures to properly set up the run.

In this example, I wanted to "string" the bow, add some pre-load and then release the arrow.  This nonlinear dynamic study was "driven" using fixtures. The string was emulated using a link connector to a puck. Then using fixtures:

1. Raise the box to string while holding the arrow in place.
2. Move the arrow back into the puck to "pull the arrow back," then release the fixture on the arrow using the "1e8" trick (see:

To enable the preview, just go to Study Properties and check the "View Iterative Results" checkbox.

This is one cool feature that you can look forward to if you haven't upgraded to 2015 yet! Check out my video of this process below:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

3D printing Company finds their way to ABC’s Shark Tank

Let's be honest: the majority of reality TV available to viewers is not the most educational of content. However, ABC's Shark Tank gives real-life entrepreneurs the opportunity of a lifetime to pitch their ideas and companies to some of the best business minds in the manufacturing, design, and technology industries. So it was only a matter of time until 3D printing company "You Kick Ass" came to Shark Tank looking for investors.

You Kick Ass was able to develop a technology that takes a 2D image of a face and turns it into a 3D model. This model can then be brought into a 3D printer, where the customers face is printed and attached to a superhero body, thus the name "You Kick Ass." 

By utilizing 3D printing You Kick Ass was able to capture all the details in a customer's face and take advantage of the benefits 3D printing brings to producing low-volume complex end-use parts. After providing an overview of the concept and their technology, Founders Alesia Glidewell and Keri Andrews looked for a cash investment and guidance from of one of the sharks. They found it in investor Mark Cuban. Cuban, having an extensive background in technology and seeing the value in both 3D printing and proprietary 3D printing software, agreed to a 10% for $100,000 stake in the company.

"We went with Mark because we felt he would be a great partner," explained Andrews. 

"He really seemed to understand that we were a technology company and he gave us what we asked for. I couldn't be more excited."

Want to learn more about 3D printers? Check out our website by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

SOLIDWORKS TECH TIP: Automating the Copy Settings Wizard with Task Scheduler

Problem: I want to backup my SOLIDWORKS settings regularly. Currently, I have an alarm set and once a month I run Copy Settings Wizard*, but I'd really like to just put it on a schedule and forget about it.

Solution: Write a simple batch file and run that through SOLIDWORKS Task Scheduler** as a Custom Task on a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule.

I know this sounds like a lot, but if I can do it, you can do it. I am not a programmer, I'm a Googler. I also had some help from a powerful Wizard friend of mine. Again, to ease your mind - learning, writing, and completing this task took me less than an hour. You've got this.

First, I needed to understand what the Copy Settings Wizard was actually doing for me so I knew what instructions to write. When you Save Settings to File, the Copy Settings Wizard is actually exporting a portion of your Windows Registry. What is the registry, you ask? The registry is a database in Windows that contains important information about your system hardware, installed programs and settings, and profiles of each of the user accounts on your computer. Windows continually refers to the information in the registry. You should not need to make manual changes to the registry because programs and applications typically make all of the necessary changes automatically.*** 

For example, when you check a box in SOLIDWORKS Tools > Options, or add a File Location for your templates, or customize your user interface, the registry is updated with that information and Windows refers back to it when you load SOLIDWORKS - this is the part of the registry we will be backing up. To access this information, you'll go to Start and search 'regedit' and open. The program is named regedt32.exe and is located on a default setup at C:\Windows\System32\regedt32.exe. The Copy Settings Wizard is essentially right-clicking HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Solidworks, choosing Export, and then saving that file at the location you specified.

What it looks like in Copy Settings Wizard: