Thursday, May 21, 2015

3D Printing Helping Lead the Way in Battle Field Armor Development

When out on patrol, members of the armed forces and law enforcement teams count on each other and their training to keep themselves safe. Just as important to safety as making smart decisions, however, is what type of personal protection is available to individuals. The goal is to ensure that, when under attack, soldiers and law enforcement members have the best chance of avoiding injury. Currently, Kevlar body armor is the standard in protecting vital organs, but through the utilization of 3D printing, researchers are finding new ways to make improvements.

Using Stratasys PolyJet technology, a team comprised of members of MIT and the Technion Research & Development Foundation have been working to develop a new type of body armor design funded by the US Army. This project aims to more fully understand how a fish scale design could provide better coverage and protection. Researchers determining how to best alter the shape and design of the scales is key to providing premium coverage and improving on range of movement.

By utilizing PolyJet capabilities - specifically the Objet500Connex model 3D printer - the research team has been able to print multiple materials in the same build. By doing this, they have the flexibility to experiment with altering the density of the scales until they find the best possible combination. Through this experimentation and material adjustments, the team was able to increase the resistance to penetration by a factor of 40, with a reduction in flexibility of only a factor of five.

The US Army plans on continuing this project of testing new prototypes based on the 3D printed designs. The hope is that in the future, police and military personnel will be able to obtain body armor that is custom built for each individual and their specific needs.

You can learn more about 3D printing at our website - click here.

You can read more about this project in Soft Matter journal - click here.

Friday, May 15, 2015

SOLIDWORKS TECH TIP: Accounting for Coatings and Determining Pre-plate Dimensions

For certain precision machining operations, the application of coatings will necessitate machining to a slightly different dimension than the one on the final print. While there is no direct feature in SOLIDWORKS to just remove the coating thickness, this type of operation can be completed in about three steps using a few of the lesser-known SOLIDWORKS features.

The basic idea is to create a model of the coating thickness and subtract it from the completed part. It's actually simpler than it sounds.

To start the process, we will make a copy of the body. To be perfectly clear, I am not introducing any new part files. This is a multibody technique where one part file will have two bodies (temporarily). The feature called Move/Copy body is how we'll do it. The duplicate body and the original will need to be in the exact same location, so we're not actually going to move it at all. To start we go to InsertFeaturesMove/Copy. There are two versions of this property manager and for this we will need this version.

If you are looking at what appears to be assembly Mates, click on the button at the bottom that says Translate/Rotate and you will get the property manager above. In this property manager, all you have to do is click on the body and select the Copy option. Leave all the other inputs as zero and hit OK. SOLIDWORKS will prompt you with this message, since it thinks you forgot to do something

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Building a Case for a 3D Printer Purchase

If you have been in the manufacturing industry long enough, you have probably found yourself making requests to upper management for new equipment to do your job more efficiently. Sometimes you make a compelling enough case and get what you ask for, and other times there may not be room in the budget, or management decides they are not interested in buying new tools. Purchasing a 3D printer is no different.

As most in the manufacturing industry are already aware, 3D printing has become the latest and greatest new technology for manufacturing. However, many engineers are still looking for advice on how to justify the purchase of a new or upgraded printer. What many seem to find is that it's difficult to establish the cause and effect of new technology implementation and put it into tangible numbers. It's not easy to quantify things like higher satisfaction, increased idea flow, and better communication between departments. Also, depending on the applications you are looking to use a 3D printer for, the cost to buy can be a pretty big hit to a company's budget.

To build a case for the purchase of any technology, you must show how this new purchase is going to improve operations within the company. Whether your employers are more driven by finding ways to reduce cost or increase profits, be sure to tailor your message in a clear and compelling manner. Be sure to not add fluff or tangential information about which your management can say "that really doesn't apply to us anyway." In a short business case, it's helpful to detail your current challenges, your solution to these challenges, and the costs associated with these challenges. Once you have established the need for change, you can then begin to build a case for your new 3D printer purchase. 

One hypothetical scenario is where you currently have a service bureau making your prototype parts, but you feel printing in-house will give you more control over making changes and speed up production; when building your case, detail how that helps the company. Will this new machine mean increased cost-efficiency by not using the service bureau as much, or possibly faster approvals for build designs so you can move on to other projects sooner? If you can put hard numbers down in your report for the ROI a 3D printer will provide, do it. It will look good to management and it's more difficult to argue with math.

Remember when pitching your idea for a 3D printer to stay on point with what your audience wants to hear. When management invests in new equipment, generally it is either because something is broken, the investment will reduce costs, or it will increase profits. Make sure you understand what management is looking for before you begin your proposal. 

When other departments are competing for budget, it's good to try and build an argument of "this won't only help me; it will help the whole company." If a 3D printer will save you time in one aspect of a project, then you have more time to direct your attention to other issues or ways to help other departments.

To learn more about 3D printers, visit our site.

If you'd like to build your case but need some help, please feel free to contact our sales team for assistance.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

SOLIDWORKS TECH TIP: Model Visualization - Part 3: Camera

If you missed parts 1 or 2...
Part 1: Orientation
Part 2: Perspective

Now that we know the camera, and not the model, moves around for our orientation, and the illusion of depth we create with perspective, let's dive even deeper to combine these with cameras and camera views.

I've given you both a video and text based version of the blog for however you'd prefer to consume it.

To add a camera to your model, Go to the Display Manager Tab > Right-Click Camera > Add Camera.

A quick guide for the camera settings is below, but I encourage you to watch the video, as the on-screen controls can be easier if you're a visual person.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

SOLIDWORKS TECH TIP: Meshing Tips and Tools for Better Results (Part 8 - Final)

Since I am always being asked what makes a good mesh, I decided once again to blog about a list I put together a while ago. This was a general list, in no particular order, of things you can do, things you can use, and things you can look for in creating a mesh; knowing you have a good mesh, you can feel better about the results you are getting. This is the final part in this series. Here, I will talk about some final tips in meshing your parts and assemblies.

Geometry Preparation
CAD geometry contains all the features necessary to make a part, but many of those features can be considered insignificant for analysis and should, therefore, be suppressed. With every benchmark I do, or any support case I work on, the first thing I will typically do is create a SOLIDWORKS Configuration and call it "FOR FEA." In this configuration, I will suppress the features and the parts that I believe will be irrelevant to the analysis and to the results that are being sought. For imported geometry, or parts with "artifacts" (those small sliver faces created when applying our standard SOLIDWORKS features), I will use the Delete Face command (Insert, Face, Delete). With the Delete and Patch option, a lot of times I can remove these small faces/artifacts and quickly simplify the model for meshing.

Mesh Control
If you are meshing an assembly, and one of the parts fails to mesh, open the part in its own window. Once you are able to mesh the part here, apply these mesh settings as Mesh Control in the assembly. Another, simpler method than the one just described is to apply mesh control to the failed component. In the Mesh Control property manager, you will find an option called "Use Per Part Size." This option will apply an appropriate mesh size as if the part was opened in its own window and meshed.

When All Else Fails
When all else fails, you'll be happy to know, Fisher Unitech will be here to support you. Contact our support team at (800) 816-8314 option #5,, or via support chat at

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.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Stratasys Announcements Bring Objet1000 Plus to Market and Expand Fortus Material Options

The design and manufacturing industry has a new 3D printing option when it comes to producing
large PolyJet parts. On Monday, April 13, 2015, Stratasys announced the release of the new Objet 1000 Plus 3D Production System. This new unit features a large build tray of 1000 x 800 x 500 mm, the widest combination of PolyJet materials, and increased build speeds. 

One of the truly unique features of this new 3D printer is the movement of the print head. Most other 3D printers of its kind will make a full pass when distributing material, much like a traditional laser ink jet printer; however, the Objet 1000 Plus will make a pass only as far as the part on the build tray before making another pass. In other words, it doesn't waste time passing over empty space. Due to its increased efficiency, this process can dramatically speed up build times. It is this combination of size and speed that makes the Objet 1000 Plus ideal for large car parts, aerospace components, or build service companies.

For both new and seasoned Stratasys Fortus Production Series users, the new Xtend500 system makes operation of your machine much more efficient. The Xtend upgrade allows you to pull filament directly from a specially-wound container, which holds more than five times the filament of traditional metal containers. 

With this new setup, a Fortus machine might run for more than 400 hours unattended and use up to 1,000 cubic inches of material. It has material compatibility for ABS-M30 in ivory and black, PC, and their associated support materials, so Fortus 360mc, 400mc, 450mc and 900mc 3D Production system users will be able to produce parts with less user supervision. 

Stratasys says this latest material system is aimed at manufacturers with prototyping needs and service bureaus producing large parts to help them cut back on the number of material changeovers.

And finally, Stratasys announced that Fortus customers who are using both older and newer Fortus 3D printers no longer need to use two different material canisters. After the release of the new Fortus 380mc and 450mc machines, which had their own advanced canister technologies that differed from older Fortus models, anyone using both types of Fortus 3D printers had to use different material canisters for the two different generations of machines. With the new Fortus Plus Upgrade, customers can use the same material canisters for all machines. This allows for the convenience of loading a wide range of Fortus materials from a shared inventory and helps streamline work processes.

Got questions? Our 3D printing team is ready to answer them. Contact us and let us know what you think, or request a quote on any of the above systems.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

SOLIDWORKS TECH TIP: Easy Template Storage

I have a template for everything. Problem is, every time I go to upgrade, I've got a long list of folders to point SOLIDWORKS to in Tools > Options > System Options > File Locations > Document Templates. I learned an awesome trick I want to share with you that makes this super easy.

First and foremost, store your templates away from your installation. Anything you customize should be saved outside of the default folders - and this location should be backed up regularly (I had to say it).

Keep all templates under a single top level folder, then categorize them by adding a sub-folder.

For example, my top level folder is called Templates 2015. Inside that folder, I have sub-folder for each of the classes I teach: Advanced Part, Assembly Modeling, and so on.

In Tools > Options > System Options > File Locations > Document Templates, I point only at the Templates 2015 folder.

The sub-folders will organize your templates and become the names of the tabs you'll see in SOLIDWORKS under the File > New Advanced Dialog:

Stay organized and thanks for reading!

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.

Friday, March 27, 2015

3D Printing Thermoplastics in Color with ASA

One of the things some 3D printing users like about using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology is that they get to use common, industry-grade materials to print their parts, and a very
popular material Stratasys offers to its FDM users is ASA Thermoplastic. This tough, durable plastic is ideal for making functional prototypes and, in some cases, even end-use parts. 

There used to be a drawback, however: ASA had a very limited number of color options available, so unless you wanted beige or black, there would still be prepping and painting to do after printing the part in order to get the desired color.

In order to address this drawback, Stratasys recently launched a new color palette for their ASA thermoplastic, which now includes red, orange, yellow, green, dark blue, white, dark gray, and light gray. This new range of color options give users a better grasp of color effectiveness, particularly for end-use parts. 

ASA Thermoplastic is one of the most popular all-purpose prototyping material mainly because it’s very durable and is UV resistant, making it ideal for end- use outdoor parts. Now, due to the new range of colors which are available for use in all Fortus professional printers, including the 360, 380, 400, 450, and 900 3D production systems, ASA thermoplastic desirability has been further enhanced.

I will be covering this new addition to the ASA family, along with the entire 2015 Stratasys portfolio, in a webcast next week. Click here to register and join me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

EMSWUG (Eastern Michigan SW Users Group) Meeting - April 16 in Rochester Hills

Mark your calendars for a daytime EMSWUG meeting, coming up on April 16th. Our very own Esteban Gaytan will be there with all kinds of great SOLIDWORKS tips and tricks!

Look over the information below and then be sure to RSVP using the link at the bottom of this post.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fanuc Robotics America
3900 W Hamlin Rd
Rochester Hills, MI 48309-3253

*       Free meeting, free lunch & giveaways.
*       Improve your SOLIDWORKS Skills
*       Help EMSWUG to celebrate its 10th Anniversary.

11:30                    Doors open
11:30 - 12:15        Lunch & Networking
12:15 - 1:45          "SOLIDWORKS Tips and Tricks" Esteban Gaytan
  1:45 - 2:00          Break & Networking
  2:00 - 3:30          "Use of the Alt key and other things" by Darin Grosser
  3:30 - 3:45         Giveaways & Wrap up

Both presenters will show you some useful tips and tricks for SOLIDWORKS.

Add your name to the Google List if you can make it to the meeting: (this helps us purchase the right amount of food.)


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

FLOW SIMULATION TECH TIP: "Geometry Check Tool," the Key to Flow Happiness

I find that new Flow Simulation users can get frustrated when they try to apply a boundary condition and they get an error such as "The face is not on the boundary of fluid and a solid." This is a very literal error and can be easily fixed by learning how to use the Geometry Check tool. This Flow Simulation tool can be used to show were Flow thinks the fluid is, and if there are any bad geometric relations or gaps in the model.

You can find this by clicking on the Flow Simulation "Tools" menu or on the left-hand side of the Command Manager. The left side meaning it is one of the first commands you should use, since our command managers are laid out in a left to right fashion!

Flow Simulation uses your existing geometry to figure out the fluid in the model rather than forcing you, like many CFD codes, to manually create your fluid volume. This workflow is going to be much faster once you realize how to use the tools that we have at our disposal to automatically figure out this fluid volume.

Take a Look at this video example:

Happy Simulating!

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.