Installing a Metal 3D Printer: Part 3B (Safety Risks – Prevention & Mitigation)

Download all 5 parts of this series as a single PDF here.

How can you minimize safety risks in powder-based metal 3D printing?

This is the second half of my third post in a 5-part series discussing things we learned installing a metal 3D printer (specifically, a laser powder bed fusion machine). If you haven’t already done so, please read the previous posts using the links below, in particular, part 3A which is a prequel to this post. I also recommend reading my post on the difference between reactive and non-reactive alloys in the context of this process.

In the previous post, I identified four main risks associated with operating a laser-based powder bed fusion metal 3D printer such as the one we use at PADT, a Concept Laser MLab Cusing R. In this post, I address three of these risks in turn and first discuss how the risk can be prevented from manifesting as a hazard (prevention) and then address how it can be mitigated in case it does result in an incident (mitigation). I will deal with the fourth risk (environmental damage) in the next post. As with the previous post, my intent is to inform someone who is considering getting a metal 3D printer and not be comprehensive in addressing all safety aspects – the full list of disclaimers is at the end of this post.

If you prefer, you can register for a webinar to be held on July 26 @ 2pm EDT (US) where I will be summarizing all 5 parts of this blog series. Register by clicking on the image below:

Risk 1: Fire and Explosion

1.1 Prevention:

Fig 1. ESD wrist-strap

The key to preventing a fire is to remember that it needs three things (“the fire triangle”): fuel (metal powder or soot), an ignition source (laser or spark) and oxygen. While certified equipment is designed to operate in a safe manner when bringing the laser and the metal powder in contact by doing so in an inert gas environment, you as the operator, are responsible for avoiding any ignition sources when handling powder or soot outside of the inert environment. This is because two of the three aspects have been met: fuel (powder or soot) and oxygen (in the ambient). As long as basic risks are eliminated (sparking equipment, smoking etc.), the primary risk that remains is Electro Static Discharge (ESD) and thus the main piece of preventive equipment is an ESD wrist-strap, as shown in Figure 1, or equivalent ESD management methods.

It helps to appreciate the life cycle of the powder, as it goes from purchased jar to ending up returned as recycled powder (the majority of the powder), or in the wet or dry waste streams. This is shown in Figure 2. While this looks quite complex, coming out of the machine, the powder and soot only have 4 streams that you have to follow: the powder trapped in the part, the powder that you will recycle, the soot and powder trapped in the filter and finally, what will be cleaned with wipes and accumulate on gloves. While this is not comprehensive (internal hoses and shafts can also accumulate powder), these are the ones operators will deal with on a regular basis.

Fig 2. Metal powder life-cycle

1.2 Mitigation:

In addition to doing everything we can to prevent fire, we also need to be prepared in case it does happen. There are (at least) four aspects that need to be considered, dealt with in turn below:

1.2.1 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Fig 3. Extended PPE

PPE is your self-defense in case of a fire and it is thus a critical element of the safety procedures you need to pay attention to and remember. Tasks are of varying risks, and our supplier recommends PPE for this process in three categories:

  • Protective Clothing: A lab-coat that covers your arms, protective gloves, ESD strap if working with reactive metals
  • Standard PPE: Respirator, nitrile gloves, face mask (if not integrated with respirator), ESD strap
  • Extended PPE: Standard PPE PLUS
    fire-rated bunny suit, fire-rated gloves (see Figure 3)

Below is a list of all activities that involve some risk of ignition (or inhalation, to be discussed in the next section) and the associated level of PPE recommended.

Table 1. PPE recommendations for different tasks (Courtesy: Concept Laser, Inc.)

PPE can be tricky to implement consistently since as seen above, there are several tasks of varying risk levels that require different PPE. The conservative approach is to prepare for the worst case and wear Extended PPE at all times, but this can make you uncomfortable for long periods of time, reduce your mobility for some tasks, and introduce human error. Instead, here is the 3-step logic I use for remembering what to wear:

  • Always wear gloves, goggles and protective clothing (lab-coat) when you work with the machine – make this a rule even for the simplest of tasks like using the keyboard and mouse
  • If you are directly handling (i.e. not through a glove box) virgin or recycled non-reactive metal alloy powder (i.e. no reactive powders or combustion products), standard PPE is adequate
  • For everything else, you need extended PPE

1.2.2 Fire Extinguishing

Fig 4. Class D Fire Extinguisher (must be mounted or on a trolley, NOT as shown here on the floor)

There are several recommendations for how to manage fire extinguishing. This is an area where you need to get your fire marshal to weigh in. What is clear is that water and CO2 are not safe choices for metal fires [NFPA 484]. For extinguishing fires, the consensus is to use Class D fire extinguishers, such as the one shown in Figure 4. The fire extinguisher needs to be a Class D since this is the one rated for metal fires. The main training aspect is to ensure it is pointed down at the base of the fire rather than at it, followed by sweeping.

What to do with Water Sprinklers?: Water can be dangerous for metal fires, but the risk of not having any sprinklers may outweigh the risk of water exacerbating the fire. This is a function of how much risk you are introducing (amount of powder, proximity to other flammable sources, area surrounding the printer etc.) and is a decision best made together with your fire marshal.

1.2.3 Powder Storage

Fig 5. Flammables Cabinet

Powder storage will involve powder in unopened jars, opened jars as well as in the overflow collector which is on the machine. It is best to store opened and unopened jars in a flammable cabinet as shown in the adjacent figure. This is not essential for non-reactive alloys, but necessary for reactive metal alloys. For large quantities of reactive alloys, blast proof walls may be necessary – this is again something your city officials and fire marshal can guide you on, but do not neglect the importance of getting their buy-in early. Finally, most cities will require you to fill in some paperwork and show on a plan (map) where you are storing your powders, and what their composition is. This is to help inform the fire-fighters that there are metal powders onsite, and where they are located, in case of a building fire. If you do plan on working with reactive alloys in particular, you must involve your fire marshal sooner rather than later.


Risk 2: Powder Inhalation and Contact

2.1 Prevention

The main method of minimizing risk of powder inhalation is through the use of a respirator. These come in many forms, but the two most recommended ones for this process are respirators with built-in face-masks (as shown in Figure 3), and more preferable, the PAPR respirator, which delivers a positive pressure of air (for more information, read OSHA’s guide on respirators). N95 and higher respirator filters are recommended, though N100 are ideal.

Contact with powder is avoided by wearing gloves at all times when handling the machine. It is also useful to minimize risk of carrying powder outside the metal 3D printer area:

  • Before starting work, put away watches, wrist jewelry and cell phones.
  • Once done with the work, take off your protective coat and wash your hands and arms up to elbows before handling anything else.
  • Consider installing an adhesive floor mat for you to step on as you walk out of the room.

2.2 Mitigation

Fig 7. SDS binder

What to do in case of exposure is typically documented in the SDS (Safety Data Sheets), which is specific to the material in question, as shown in Figure 6 below. Ensure you have an SDS from your powder supplier for all powders you order, and collect them in a folder that is stored close to the entrance for easy retrieval, as shown in Figure 7.

Fig 6. Example of SDS information on responding to exposure


Risk 3: Inert Gas Asphyxiation

3.1 Prevention

Fig 7. O2 Sensor

Inert gas (Nitrogen or Argon) is used for every build and is either stored in cylinders (argon) or piped from a generator (Nitrogen). Proper, leak-free facilities setup and equipment performance is essential, as is following recommended supplier maintenance on the equipment itself. An inability to drop to required oxygen PPM levels in the build chamber, or large fluctuations in maintaining them may be associated with a leak and should be addressed with the supplier before proceeding. Users of the equipment must know where the shut-off valves for the gases are, in case they need to turn it off for any reason.

3.2 Mitigation

The main mitigation device is an Oxygen sensor such as the one in Figure 7. This is an important sensor to have especially in confined spaces around any equipment that relies on inert gases, including the 3D printer and furnace. If oxygen levels fall below safe values, an alarm is triggered and immediate evacuation is required.

4. References

  1. National Fire Protection Association’s standard for combustible metals, NFPA 484
  2. OSHA on Oxygen Deficiency
  3. OSHA’s Guidance on Dust Explosions
  4. OSHA Respirator guide
  5. J.M. Benson, “Safety considerations when handling metal powders,” Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, 2012
  6. R. G. Goldich, “Fundamentals of Particle Technology,” Chapter 15, Midland IT and Publishing, UK, 2002


  • This is intended to supplement the supplier training you must receive before using the equipment and not meant to replace it – in case of conflicting information, your supplier’s training and equipment requirements override any discussion here. PADT and the author assume no legal responsibilities for any decisions or actions taken by the readers of this document.
  • My personal experience derives specifically from the use of Laser-based metal 3D printing tools, specifically Concept Laser’s MLab Cusing R equipment. I expect majority of this information to be of use to users of other laser based powder bed fusion metal systems and to a lesser extent to Electron Beam systems, but have no personal experience to vouch for this.
  • Local, state and federal regulations vary, and are important – partner with your local fire marshal (or equivalent authority) as a starting point and take them along with you every step of the way. If in the US, familiarize yourself in particular with OSHA’s guidance on dust explosions and NFPA 484, the National Fire Protection Association’s standard for combustible metals (links above).


Any other tips or ideas I have not covered, please let me know by messaging me on LinkedIn or by sending an email to, citing this blog post. I will be happy to include them in this post with due credit. My aim is only to add to the discussion, not be the last word on it – and I look forward to suggestions that can make operating this technology safer for all of us and the ones that rely on us coming home every day.

Please find the 4th part of the series here.

PADT Open House 2017, image courtesy James Barker

Overset Meshing in ANSYS Fluent 18.0

One of the tough challenges in creating meshes for CFD simulations is the requirement to create a mesh that works with very different geometry. With Overset meshing you can create the ideal mesh for each piece of geometry in your model, and let them overlap where they touch and the program handles the calculations at those boundaries. All of this is handled simply in the ANSYS Workbench interface and then combined in ANSYS FLUENT.


Towards Self-Supporting Design for Additive Manufacturing: Part 1 (Standard Guidelines)

1. Background:

When it comes to Additive Manufacturing (AM), there is a lot to consider before hitting the print button. One of the biggest constraints in most AM processes is the need for supports for overhangs, which are aspects of the design that will not print properly without supports either due to the force of gravity acting on the material (natural free-falling state of the material with no support forcing it into position), or the thermomechanical effects associated with printing with no underlying thermally conductive and warpage-constraining material.

The solution is to either redesign any of the problem areas or reorient the whole piece to avoid any overhangs that need these supports. During my internship at PADT Inc., I will be focusing on strategies to minimize the need for supports, towards the ideal goal of manufacturing only self-supporting structures, because it’s never a bad idea to decrease waste, both in terms of additional material used and the labor involved in removing the support materials after the print. This post (part 1) of this blog series is going to be about evaluating the most basic guidelines of printing a self-supporting structure to extract some insight.

2. Methodology:

Using inspiration from some machine accuracy tests found online, I designed my own prints to evaluate the Makerbot Replicator 5th generation’s ability to print overhangs using angles, upright holes, bridges, arched bridges, and 90 degree overhangs—and I present each one of these standard guidelines below. My process parameters for almost all of the tests with, of course, supports OFF were as follows:

  • Extruder Temp: 212 C
  • Travel Speed: 70 mm/s
  • Infill Density: 10%
  • Layer Height: 0.20 mm
  • Number of Shells: 2



3. Observations:

3.1 Angles

For testing overhangs with angles, I printed out two different sets of trapezoids. The first was a set of six ranging from 25-75 degrees (or 65-15 degrees from the leveled plane).



As shown by the photos above, the prints were of good quality and only started to show visibly poor quality on the 65 and 75 degree samples. The thinnest edge on the 65 degree sample curled up due to the heat of the extruder. The same issues were present on the 75 degree piece, but this is more exaggerated because of how harsh the angle is.


My hope of printing self-supporting pieces was shattered when I printed out an 85 degree trapezoid. To save material, I only printed out a section of the trapezoid, but the angled edge did not print smoothly at all. Not only that, but it did not print at a true 85 degree angle. With these tests, it is safe to say that a machine can handle up to a 65 degree angle with light finishing needed, but further experimentation can be done to see if these angles can be improved.

3.2 Upright Holes


For these, I did 2 quick tests. The first was printed with the settings listed above, and the second was printed with only one shell (contour). The numbers next to the circles (1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10) represent the radii in millimeters. The double-shelled print came out a lot better than the single-shell replica on the edges of the piece, but the single-shelled piece had slightly cleaner holes due to less weight on the overhang. However, both pieces had defects that can easily be sanded down.

3.3 “H” Overhangs/Bridges


Bridges are sometimes referred to as an “H” overhang due to the overhang having two sides to support it. When testing bridges with 90 degree overhangs of 0.25, 0.75, 1.25, 1.75, and 2.25 inches, the results showed increasing stringing with length for all but the 0.25 inch sample.

3.4 Arched Bridges


The inspiration for these came from the shape of an egg. That’s because I learned during an egg drop lab that an egg is stronger when weight is being put on it length-wise than if the sides are pinched. As expected, the pieces where the curves are less steep (like an egg laying so the shorter distance is perpendicular to the ground) have more defects, and the steepest curve (as if the top of an egg was the mold for this piece) was almost perfect. The wider the curve becomes, the less it can support itself and the more the piece is unrecoverable.

3.5 “T” Overhangs/Cantilevers


The final test for this section is the “T” overhang, which only has a support on one side. This happened to be the only test that completely failed, as none of these pieces are usable – it’s safe to say that pieces should not be made without supports on both side of the overhang.

4. Insight

A rule-of-thumb “overhang rule” used in the industry is that a piece can be self-supporting as long as the overhang does not exceed the angle to the horizontal by more than 45 degrees. A back-of-the-envelope (literally) calculation shows that if we approximate an angular edge with stair-steps of thickness t, the overhang length l equals t/tan(Θ). According to this equation, this means that to increase the allowable angle, the layer thickness can be increased or the unsupported length should be reduced.

This observation is confirmed by a previous investigation into the angles of self-support for ULTEM-9085 on Stratasys Fortus systems showed how the maximum angle that can be self-supported is indeed a function of layer thickness, but also a function of the contour width (see graph below). In the graph, the lower the angle, the lesser the support needed, since everything above that angle will need to be supported. Thus, thicker layers result in lesser support. Due to the nature of contouring in the FDM processes, a thin contour that forms the edge of the overhang is likely to droop off. But as it gets thicker, it maintains greater contact with the supported portion.

The fact that thicker layers and contour widths may yield larger support angles is counter intuitive since we generally assume thinner layers improve print quality – and this is in general true. But if the aim is to design parts without supports, both these variables can push the limits of the process.

5. Conclusions

Basic design guidelines for overhangs can be, to a first order, simplified to one design rule: the angle below which material needs to be supported. This angle in turn, for the Fused Deposition Modeling process on a given machine and material, can be optimized by manipulating layer thickness and contour width.

In my next post, I will look for inspiration for self-supporting strategies from other disciplines. Stay tuned.

Secant or Instantaneous CTE? Understanding Thermal Expansion Modeling ANSYS Mechanical

One of the more common questions we get on thermal expansion simulations in tech support for ANSYS Mechanical and ANSYS Mechanical APDL revolve around how the Coefficient of Thermal Expansion, or CTE. This comes in to play if the CTE of the material you are modeling is set up to change with the temperature of that material.

This detailed presentation goes in to explaining what the differences are between the Secant and Instantaneous methods, how to convert between them, and dealing with extrapolating coeficients beyond temperatures for which you have data.


You can download a PDF of the presentation here.

Phoenix Business Journal: It’s time to take control of your newsfeed, leverage RSS feeds

It is hard to keep up with all the news you need to know, and easy to fall into the trap of picking one online news source. But there is an answer, subscribing to RSS feeds is how I get the headlines from a dozen different sources, all in one place.  I go over the ins and outs of this technology in “It’s time to take control of your newsfeed, leverage RSS feeds

Phoenix Business Journal: Five 3-D printing breakthroughs everyone needs to know about

The world of 3-D printing is changing fast. New materials are announced and new systems are proposed almost every month. And as with any fast-growing technology, there is a lot of hype. When something is announced it will get a lot of press and attention, but what do you really need to know to follow the industry? In “Five 3-D printing breakthroughs everyone needs to know about” I take a look at the changes that should have the most impact on product development.

PADT makes 100th Microloan through Kiva over 10 years

Today PADT hit a bit of a milestone, we gave out our 100th microloan over the past 10 years, to a guy named Roger Yester who makes adobe bricks in Peru.  Microloans are small loans, created by pooling bite-sized amounts of money from many people, given to individuals or small groups to help them with their business. It may be to buy raw materials to fulfil an order, as is the case with our 100th loan, or to buy inventory for a small store they operate out of stall in the local village.  The movement started as an alternative to high interest rate loans from predatory lenders and has grown as a way to fund people all over the world from every economic level.

We put $1000 into Kiva back in June of 2007, ten years ago.  (I like round numbers).  We added another $500 a few years later and have been reinvesting that same capital over and over again since.  This re-use of funds has lead to $7,900 lent across 100 loans. We have only had two defaults and have donated $935 to Kiva to cover overhead during that time.

The loans have gone to 50 different types of enterprises, mostly agricultural. We have helped buy breeding pigs and chickens in several countries, funded a new motorcycle for a taxi service in Cambodia, and backed a furniture maker in Mongolia.  Over the years PADT’s investments have supported 5 different beauty salons in Vietnam, Tanzania, Nigeria, Peru, and Jordan.  Our most common investment is in clothing sales with 8 different entrepreneurs backed for that industry.

We have even given loans to help families send their daughters to secondary school.

You can see some of our key loans and more statistics

If you think this sounds like something you, your family, or your company might like to do, sign up through this link and they add $25 to our loan pool when you make your first loan: 



Getting to Know PADT: Flownex Sales and Support

This is the second installment in our review of all the different products and services PADT offers our customers. As we add more, they will be available here.  As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to or give us a call at 1-800-293-PADT.

The PADT sales and support team focused on simulation solutions is best known for our work with the full ANSYS product suite.  What a lot of people don’t know is that we also represent a fantastic simulation tool called Flownex. Flownex is a system level 1-D program that is designed from the ground up to model thermal-fluid systems.

What does Flownex Do?

Flownex Simulation Environment is an interactive software program that allows users to model systems to understand how fluids (gas and/or liquid) flow and how heat is transferred in that same system due to that flow.  the way it works is you create a network of components that are connected together as a system.  The heat and fluid transfer within and between each node is calculated over time, giving a very accurate, and fast,  representation of the system’s behavior.

As a system simulation tool, it is fast, it is easy to build and change, and it runs in real time or even faster.  This allows users to drive the design of their entire system through simulation.

Need to know what size pump you need, use Flownex.  Want to know if you heat exchanger is exchanging enough heat for every situation, use Flownex.  Tasked with making sure your nuclear reactor will stay cool in all operating conditions, use Flownex.   Making sure you have optimized the performance of your combustion nozzles, use Flownex.  Time to design your turbine engine cooling network, use Flownex. Required to verify that your mine ventilation and fire suppression system will work, use Flownex. The applications go on and on.

Why is Flownex so Much Better than other System Thermal-Fluid Modeling Solutions?

There are a lot of solutions for modeling thermal-fluid systems. We have found that the vast majority of companies use simple spreadsheets or home-grown tools. There are also a lot of commercial solutions out there. Flownex stands out for five key reasons:

  1. Breadth and depth of capability
    Flownex boasts components, the objects you link together in your network, that spread across physics and applications.  Whereas most tools will focus on one industry, Flownex is a general purpose tool that supports far more situations.  For depth they have taken the time over the years to not just have simple models.  Each component has sophisticated equations that govern its behavior and user defined parameters that allow for very accurate modeling.
  2. Developed by hard core users
    Flownex started life as an internal code to support consulting engineers. Experienced engineering software programmers worked with those consultants day-in and day-out to develop the tools that were needed to solve real world problems.  This is the reason why when users ask “What I really need to do to solve my problem is such-and-such, can Flownex do that?” we can usually answer “Yes, and here are the options to make it even more accurate.”
  3. Customization and Integration
    As powerful and in-depth as Flownex is, there is no way to capture every situation for every user.  Nor does the program do everything. That is why it is so open and so easy to customize and integrate. As an example, may customers have very specific thermal-pressure-velocity models that they use for their specific components. Models that they developed after years if not decades of testing. Not a problem, that behavior can be easily added to Flownex.  If a customer even has their own software or a 3rd party tool they need to use, it is pretty easy to integrate it right into your Flownex system model.Very common tools are already integrated. The most common connection is Matlab/Simulink.  At PADT we often connect Excel models from customers into our Systems  for consulting.  It is also integrated into ANSYS Mechanical.
  4. Nuclear Quality Standards
    Flownex came in to its own as a tool used to model the fluid system in and around Nuclear Reactors.  So it had to meet very rigorous quality standards, if not the most stringent they are pretty close. This forced to tool to be very robust, accurate, and well documented. And the rest of us can take advantage of that intense quality requirement to meet and exceed the needs of pretty much every industry.  We can tell you after using it for our own consulting projects and after talking to other users, this code is solid.
  5. Ease of Use
    Some people will read the advantages above and think that this is fantastic, but that much capability and flexibility must make it difficult to use. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Maybe its because the most demanding users are down the hallway and can come and harangue the developers. Or it could be that their initial development goal of keeping ease of use without giving up on functionality was actually followed.  Regardless of why, this simulation tool is amazingly simple and intuitive.  From building the model to reviewing results to customization, everything is easy to learn, remember, and user.  To be honest, it is actually fun to use. Not something a lot of simulation engineers say.

Why does buying and getting support from PADT for Flownex make a Difference?

The answer to this question is fairly simple: PADT’ simulation team is made up of very experienced users who have to apply this technology to our own internal projects as well as to consulting jobs.  We know this tool and we also work closely with the developers at Flownex.  As with our ANSYS products, we don’t just work on knowing how to use the tool, we put time in to understand the theory behind everything as well as the practical real world industry application.

When you call for support, odds are the engineer who answers is actually suing Flownex on a customer’s system.  We also have the infrastructure and size in place to make sure we have the resources to provide that support.  Investing in a new simulation tool can generate needs for training, customization, and integration; not to mention traditional technical support. PADT partners with our customers to make sure they get the greatest value form their simulation software investment.


Reach out to Give it a Try or Learn More

Our team is ready and waiting to answer your questi or provide you with a demonstration of this fantastic tool. .  You can email us at or give us a call at 480.813.4884 or 1-800-293-PADT.

Still want to learn more? Here are some links to more information:



Aerospace Summit, Additive Manufacturing Peer Group, and Industry-Education Partnership – A Three Event, Three State Hat Trick

Sometimes everything happens at once.  This June 22nd was one of those days.  Three key events were scheduled for the same time in three different states and we needed to be at all of them. So everyone stepped up and pulled it off, and hopefully some of you reading this were at one of these fantastic events.  Combined they are a great example of PADT’s commitment to the local technology ecosystem, showing how we create true win-win partnerships across organizations and geographies.   Since the beginning we wanted to be more than just a re-seller or just consultants, and this Thursday was a chance to show our commitment to doing just that.

Albuquerque: New Mexico Technology Council 3D Printing Peer Group Kickoff

Everyone talks about how they thing we should all work together, but there never seems to be someone who is willing to pull it all together. That is how the additive manufacturing committee in New Mexico was until the New Mexico Technology Council (NMTC) stepped up to host a peer group around 3D Printing.  Even though it was a record 103f in Albuquerque, 35 brave 3D Printing enthusiasts ventured out into the heat and joined us at Rio Bravo Brewing to get the ball rolling on creating a cooperative community.  We started with an introduction from NMTC, followed by an overview of what we want to achieve with the group. Our goals are:

  1. Create stronger cooperation between companies, schools, and individuals involved in 3D Printing in New Mexico
  2. Foster cooperation between organizations to increase the benefits of 3D Printing to New Mexico
  3. Make a contribution to New Mexico STEM education in the area of 3D Printing

To make this happen we will meet once a quarter, be guided by a steering committee, and grow our broad membership.  Anyone with any involvement in Additive Manufacturing in the state is welcome to join in person or just be part of the on-line discussion.

Then came the best part, where we went around the room and shared our names, orginization, and what we did in the world of 3D Printing.  What a fantastic group.  From a K-12 educator to key researchers at the labs, we had every industry and interest representing. What a great start.

Here are the slides from that part of the presentation:


Once that was done PADT’s Rey Chu gave a presentation where it went over the most important developments in Additive Manufacturing over the last year or so.  He talked about the three new technologies that are making an impact, new materials, and what is happening business wise.  Check out his slides to learn more:


After a question and answer period we had some great conversations in small groups, which was the most valuable part.

If you want to learn more, please reach out to and we will add you to the email list where we will plan and execute future activities.  We are also looking for people to be on the steering committee and locations for our next couple of meetings. Share this with as many people as you can in New Mexico so that next event can be even better!

Denver: MSU Advance Manufacturing & Engineering Sciences Building Opening

Meanwhile, in Denver it was raining.  In spite of that,  supporters of educating the next generation of manufacturers and engineers gathered for the opening of the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Sciences Building at Metropolitan State University.  This 142,000 sqft multi-disciplinary facility is located in the heart of downtown Denver and will house classes, labs, and local companies.  PADT was there to not only celebrate the whole facility, but we were especially excited about the new 3D Printing lab that is being funded by a $1 million gift from Lockheed Martin.  A nice new Stratasys Fortus 900 is the centerpiece of the facility.  It will be a while before the lab itself is done, so watch for an invite to the grand opening.  While we wait we are working with MSU, Lockheed Martin, Stratasys, and others to put a plan together to develop the curriculum for future classes and making sure that the engineers needed for this technology are available for the expected explosion of use of this technology.

Stratasys and PADT are proud to be partners of this fantastic effort along with many key companies in Colorado.  If you want to learn more about how we can help you build partnerships between industry and academia, please reach out to or give us a call.

Phoenix:  2017 Aerospace, Aviation, Defense + Manufacturing Conference

The 113f high in Phoenix really didn’t stop anyone from coming to the AADM conference. This annual event was at ASU SkySong in Phoenix and is sponsored by the AZ Tech Council, AZ Commerce Authority, and RevAZ.  PADT was proud to not only be a sponsor, but also have a booth, participate in the advanced manufacturing panel discussion, and do a short partner presentation about what we do for our Aerospace and Defense Customers.

Here is Rob’s presentation on PADT:


We had great conversations at our booth with existing customers, partners, and a few people that were new to us.  This is always one of the best events of the summer, and we look forward to next year.

If you want to know more about how PADT can help you in your Aerospace, Defense, and Manufacturing efforts, reach out and contact us.

Celebrating the Impact and Innovation of CEI, PADT’s Startup Home

In Phoenix, just North of the airport on a record hot day of 119f, about 30 people gathered into a conference room to celebrate a place that has become a bright success in the region’s startup community. The Center For Entrepreneurial Innovations, or CEI, held their first ever Innovation and Impact Celebration.  This gathering of sponsors, clients, mentors, and staff of CEI highlighted the success that this outstanding incubator has enjoyed since its grand opening in 2013.

Some of the key numbers shared were:

  • 247 high paying jobs created by CEI clients
  • $28,000,000 raised by CEI clients in investments, grants, and awards
  • $69,000,000 in revenue generating by CEI clients
  • 3,240 hours given in mentoring and consulting to CEI clients

To celebrate this success, four awards were given out.  PADT was honored to design and 3D Print these awards (read more in a separate post here) and be there to hear the great stories from the winners about how CEI has been such a great resource.

  • Paraffin International won for Graduate of the Year
  • Beacon Biomedical was awarded Client of the Year
  • Tom Lagerhausen & Tommy Andrews were recognized as Mentors of the Year
  • The City of Phoenix received Sponsor of the Year

As a tenant at CEI, PADT gets to see the inner workings that produce such fantastic numbers.  In fact, we decided to put our focus on startups at CEI because of the quality of people, programs, and support that they offer.  Back in April of 2015, we opened PADT StartUpLabs as a place to host our outreach to the community and as a way to offer affordable 3D Printing to startups. We also host seminars and meetings there because it is just a great facility.

The primary reason that we partnered with them was a little more blunt. We saw that the companies they incubated succeeded.  When many others talk the talk of startup support, CEI has been busy walking the walk.  We see it almost every day, and it is pretty unique how well they do.  Huge fans, and great to see the key success stories and contributors being recognized!

Check out this recent video to learn a bit more about how they do it:

Check it out, and get involved.  If you are a startup, look at becoming a client.  Or maybe you can volunteer to help in some way.  But what they need the most if strong partners and sponsors.   PADT has never regretted our partnership and it has  been a great win-win experience.  Stop talking about making the Phoenix area startup ecosystem better, and step up and join CEI in making it happen.




3D Printing Example: CEI Awards – Using color, multiple methods, and clever CAD

One of the fun things I get to do is design and print cool things to share what you can do with 3D Printing.  This has extended to making awards for organizations that PADT supports like the Arizona Technology Council, The Arizona SciTech Festival, and AZBio.  Recently our favorite incubator asked us to design a custom award for their first Impact and Innovation Celebration. The request was to incorporate the CEI logo:

Taking a 2D image and making it 3D can be a lot of fun, and in this case it showcased some cool things you can do with 3D CAD and then 3D Printing.  There were some special steps needed to get this one done so I thought I’d share them.

The basic concept was to take the initials, CEI, and create a block that can serve as base. Then extrude the orange line-circle geometry as the key visual object.  But the thing that sets the logo apart from most, is the use of the succulent plant, an agave I think, in the logo.  So we definitely need a 3D agave on there.  The last element needed was the actual award part, where the name and award being given could be listed.

To get started I needed to get the logo into the CAD system I use, SolidEdge. Usually I convert a PDF into DXF in Adobe Illustrator. I then imported this into sketch planes. But in this case I only had a bitmap (PNG)  Fortunately you can paste that into a sketch plan as well, then just draw on top of it.  So I made three planes: Front facing and one rotated 45 deg and another -45 about the Z axis.  I then pasted the logo on to each of these centering the bottom center of the E on the global axis. This allows me to extrude and cut on each plan while keeping everything aligned

The base was made by extruding the initials from the +45/-56 planes and doing a Boolean intersect, This gives the letters from two views while creating a “3D-ness” That stands out.  The circle-line was then extruded on the front plane to cover the block created by the intersection.  It needed a “foundation” as well as a way to hold the letters together, so I just made a simple base.

That left the agave.  I thought about modeling it but nah… too much work.  So I went online and found a bunch of plants that people have made for video games and rendering.  Cool except the format was not STL, what we need for 3D Printing. So I downloaded some crazy rendering format.  Then I used a free online tool (thank you google, sorry I didn’t write down the one I used) that converts between 3D graphics files.  That took it to STL where I could read it into Meshlab, the open source tool for playing with this type of data. As usually with models made for graphics ,there was a lot of extra data and coordinate systems didn’t really translate right.  No problem, Meshlab makes it easy to select and delete objects.  I also scaled it from gigantic to the size I needed for the award.  Next step was to save that as STL and import that into SolidEdge so I could view it and position it properly on the award.

Last was the award part itself.  I played with a couple of ideas and just came up with a simple plaque that we could 3D print words on. i made it white and the “holder” blue to stand out. Then printed the award name and winner in bright colors using the text extrusion feature in SolidEdge.  When I need to get fancy, I’ll do the words and often a logo in Illustrator, export as DXF, then import as a sketch for extrusion. But in this case a nice simple Bold Arial font worked great.

So it was done, and I have to say looked pretty good.  So I asked our experts on 3D Printing if they had any suggestions.  Their one comment was “this is really cool, but its going to be expensive to print as one part.” Duh, I should have paid more attention in my own seminar on design for 3D Printing.  I had tall thin objects and bulky objects and they were all combined.  Lots of unneeded supports and flat surfaces at non-vertical or horizontal angles in the printer.  Bad stuff.

The solution was to design the parts so they could be printed separately and easily assembled.  The resulted in an STL for the base, for the circle-line, the frame, the agave, and the award plaque with simple features that would allow us to quickly glue it all together.  We also decided to print the base on FDM because it needed to be white and used the bulk of the material, and therefore cost. The rest was printed on a Stratasys Polyjet printer in color.

One more change worth noting was how to connect the crazy shapes of the agave needed some simple interface to the circle-line part.  So I created a simple cylinder that intersected the base of the agave.  In the printer we were able to combine the STL of the cylinder and the agave with two different colors.  A cylindrical cut in the orange part made assembly easy.

The results came out pretty nice, and the winners seemed to really like them.

The great thing about 3D Printing is the restraints it removes on making things.  You still have to plan it out to align with what the printers do well, but that doesn’t take a lot of effort and the results are great



Phoenix Business Journal: ​3000 connections on LinkedIn: Celebrate or so what?

Reaching a high number of contacts on social media is one of those modern accomplishments that is not as simple as it appears. In “​3000 connections on LinkedIn: Celebrate or so what?” I talk about my reaching such a threshold, and then what that really means for business.  The connection you make, although superficial and weak, have impact.  In my opinion, it’s a good thing. Read it and see what you think.

The ANSYS Academic Program – The World’s Best Simulation Tools for Free or Discounted

Researchers and students at universities around the world are tackling difficult engineering and science problems, and they are turning to simulation more and more to get to understanding and solutions faster. Just like industry. And just like industry they are finding that ANSYS provides the most comprehensive and powerful solution for simulation. The ANSYS suite of tools deliver breadth and depth along with ease of use for every level of expertise, from Freshman to world-leading research professors. The problem in the past was that academia operates differently from industry, so getting to the right tools was a bit difficult from a lot of perspectives.

Now, with the ANSYS Academic program, barriers of price, licensing, and access are gone and ANSYS tools can provide the same benefits to college campuses that they do to businesses around the world.  And these are not stripped down tools, all of the functionality is there.

Students – Free

Yes, free.  Students can download ANSYS AIM Student or ANSYS Student under a twelve month license.  The only limitation is on problem size.  To make it easy, you can go here and download the package you need.  ANSYS AIM is a new user interface for structural, thermal, electromagnetic, and fluid flow simulation oriented towards the new or occasional user.  ANSYS Student is a size limited bundle of the full ANSYS Mechanical, ANSYS CFD, ANSYS Autodyn, ANSYS SpaceClaim, and ANSYS DesignXplorer packages.

You can learn more by downloading this PDF.

That is pretty much it. If you need ANSYS for a class or just to learn how to use the most common simulation package in industry, download it for free.

Academic Institutions – Discounted Packages

If you need access to full problem sizes or you want to use ANSYS products for your research, there are several Academic Packages that offer multiple seats of full products at discounted prices. These products are grouped by application:

  • Structural-Fluid Dynamics Academic Products — Bundles that offer structural mechanics, explicit dynamics, fluid dynamics and thermal simulation capabilities. These bundles also include ANSYS Workbench, relevant CAD import tools, solid modeling and meshing, and High Performance Computing (HPC) capability.
  • Electronics Academic Products — Bundles that offer high-frequency, signal integrity, RF, microwave, millimeter-wave device and other electronic engineering simulation capabilities. These bundles include product such as ANSYS HFSS, ANSYS Q3D Extractor,ANSYS SIwave, ANSYS Maxwell, ANSYS Simplorer Advanced. The bundles also include HPC and import/connectivity to many common MCAD and ECAD tools.
  • Embedded Software Academic Products — Bundles of our SCADE products that offer a model-based development environment for embedded software.
  • Multiphysics Campus Solutions— Large task count bundles of Research & Teaching products from all three of the above categories intended for larger-scale deployment across a campus, or multiple campuses.

You can see what capabilities are included in each package by downloading the product feature table.  These are fully functional products with no limits on size.  What is different is how you are authorized to use the tool. The Academic licence restricts use to teaching and research. Because of this, ANSYS is able to provide academic product licenses at significantly reduced cost compared to the commercial licenses — which helps organizations around the globe to meet their academic budget requirements. Support is also included through the online academic resources like training as well as access to the ANSYS Customer Portal.

There are many options on price and bundling based upon need and other variables, so you will need to contact PADT or ANSYS to help sort it all out and find the right fit for your organization.

What does all this mean?  It means that every engineer graduating from their school of choice should enter the workforce knowing how to use ANSYS Products, something that employers value. It also means that researchers can now produce more valuable information in less time for less money because they leverage the power of ANSYS simulation.The barriers are down, as students and institutions, you just need to take advantage of it.

Silicon Desert Insider: 5 ways to implement sustainable tech to save your business money

Technology has a huge impact on many things, including making your business more profitable by reducing the energy you use.  In “5 ways to implement sustainable tech to save your business money” I give some suggestions on new, but proven technology that can do just that.

Figure it Out: Guest spot on podcast – 3D Printing, automation, AI, and the comming robot wars

I was honored to be asked to join Santari Minor and George Grombacher for episode 31 of their podcast: Figure it Out.  It was wide ranging and fun conversation that flowed across so many different and interesting topics, it was hard to stop.  We covered 3D printing, automation, artificial intelligence and the future of work. Made me think. Take a listen and maybe it will make you think.

You can listen at most podcast services, here are two locations:

Podbean  –


Google Play: 

Enjoy and hopefully it will start your own conversation.