Right software can enhance, simplify printing

June 29, 2016

If 3-D printing is the car, software is the engine driving it, whether it is in the product-development phase for simulation or the software that the 3-D printer depends upon to print parts. Several new products and upgrades were announced during the Rapid 2016 Conference & Expo, held May 16-19 in Orlando.

Stratasys sees the future

GrabCAD Print is the name of the latest app from Stratasys, Eden Prairie, Minn., which was unveiled during Rapid. Paul Giaconia, VP of software products for Stratasys, gave a presentation, "Making 3-D printing more realistic, connected and accessible." Officials said the app is at the heart of a bold new software strategy by Stratasys that will unify 3-D printing systems, improving the 3-D printing workflow.

Stratasys and its GrabCAD business know that there are at least six steps to the 3-D printing workflow, creating a lot of opportunities for error. On its blog, GrabCAD outlines those steps: Creation of a 3-D model in CAD or other modeling software, then translation of that model into what is known as a mesh file, which can include STL or OBJ. That mesh file is then checked for errors and printability through a file-checking service; the mesh file is then put into a slicer software and that software translates the mesh file to a layer-by-layer tool path that provides specific machine settings and preferences that are referred to as gcode. That gcode or its equivalent runs on a machine and the model comes to life.

But in this process, a lot of things can go wrong, according to GrabCAD. Those STL files, for example, aren't ideal for the increasing complexity and uses of 3-D printing.

To address these issues, Stratasys has introduced GrabCAD Print, which is a CAD-to-print, cloud-based app. Users don't have to use STL. It's an option.

Jon Stevenson, senior VP, Global Software, GrabCAD, said it is a very robust platform that reads all major CAD formats. Users are able to connect through the cloud to access GrabCAD Print on the user's device of choice.

"You can see the status of your printer or printers from your device and monitor material usage," Stevenson said. Also, printers can be monitored remotely. If an operator is sitting in his or her office on the East Coast, he or she can easily check on printers operating in a facility on the West Coast, for example.

Users can print directly from CAD formats; in addition to STL, VRML and native 3-D CAD file formats can be directly printed. Any damaged files can be repaired automatically. This single app can be used to prepare print jobs across multiple printers as long as they're using fused-deposition modeling (FDM) or the company's PolyJet technology. Print queues can be organized based on machine availability, estimated print time and other factors.

GrabCAD Print has been in private beta testing since January. The software went into public beta testing last month on FDM printers and is scheduled to be available by the end of the year on PolyJet and MakerBot models.

Interested parties can register to be notified when GrabCAD Print goes live at www.grabcad.com/print.

     Artec introduces upgradedmodeling software

Artec 3D, Palo Alto, Calif., showcased its Studio 11, which is the latest version of its software used to create 3-D models. The software is for use with Artec's hand-held 3-D scanners. Artyom Yukhin, president and CEO, was on hand during Rapid providing demonstrations of the scanning technology, which now features autopilot. This means that the user answers some simple questions about the object that he or she has scanned and the software selects the most effective 3-D algorithms for the data to build a high-precision 3-D model that is ready to use in the professional application. This can include developing new product designs, taking measurements of objects with complex geometries or automating the workflow in manufacturing facilities. Scanning technologies can be used to gauge and modify any product to improve its design and performance or integrate it into a new production system, officials said.

"The autopilot mode is great for new or experienced users," Yukhin said. "Step by step, it drives you."

With controlled manual processing, there is automatic removal of the base on which the user may have scanned the object. For example, say the scanned object was sitting on a tabletop. There is no need to manually erase the table, Yukhin said.

The software has direct compatibility with CAD. It can directly export to SolidWorks and DesignX, making the scan-to-CAD process easier. Artec is offering a 30-day free trial version of Studio 11 for those who register online through https://my.artec3d.com.

Mac users now also can directly capture 3-D data by using Artec's new ScanApp along with an Artec Eva scanner, according to the company. Scans then can be exported to a Windows device for further processing through Studio 11 software. A beta version of Artec's ScanApp is available for free download until the end of September at www.artec3d.com/software/scanapp-for-mac.

SolidThinking announcesupgrades to Inspire

SolidThinking Inc., Troy, Mich., announced upgrades to Inspire, its simulation software for design and mechanical engineers. One of the key updates is PolyNURBS, a tool set that prepares a design for additive manufacturing. The company said the program allows for lighter, stronger parts without a learning curve. Other updates include results comparisons, new load types and surface optimizations. In the industry, the phrase, "load types," means several things, including the effect of temperature change on the heat shrink performance of one material that may have brackets bolted to it. Another load type is the effect of velocity on the performance of a flywheel. What is the expected deflection, for example? Engineers can consider new materials because Inspire comes with a large materials library.

The software quickly provides the most efficient shape for the given loads and operating conditions under which the part is expected to perform, and it interfaces with existing CAD tools. It can import files from SolidWorks, UG or NX, CATIA, Parasolid, STEP, IGES, ACIS, JT and STL. It works with operating systems Windows 10, 8.1 and 7, as well as Mac OS X 10.9 or later.

"Most of the time, we have seen that it comes up with a 20-30 percent lighter design compared to the existing one," said Jaideep Bangal, senior applications engineer, during a webinar.

The program is very easy to learn. New users will need, at most, a few hours of training, and many require none at all, according to SolidThinking.

One of the ways in which Bangal illustrated how Inspire simplifies an engineer's project is in the design process. Traditionally, the stages are product definition, development of the concept, detailed design, validation and prototyping in concert with documentation, and then production.

The process can be complicated between the detailed design and prototyping stages, when engineers often go back and make adjustments. Inspire shortens this process by optimizing the design.

Interested parties can request a trial license by visiting www.solidthinking.com.

Angie DeRosa, managing editor

[email protected]


Artec3D, 650-384-6061, www.artec3d.com 

GrabCAD, 617-825-0313, http://grabcad.com 

SolidThinking Inc., 248-526-1920, www.solidthinking.com