Some great pictures of our guests and our fantastic employees.
View the slide show here.
We can’t wait to do it again next year.
PADT has been in this prototyping business for a while, even before we called the machines that make physical parts directly from computer models a 3D Printer. When we started it was rapid prototyping and we have purchased maybe a dozen machines for our own use, and sold several hundred to our customers. As the cost of these systems comes down and the number of people interested in having their own 3D Printer goes up, we thought it would be a good time to share our experience with choosing systems with the community.
Here are six things that every person should do when they are shopping for a 3D printer. We even recommend that you write these down and fill out a form before you contact the first vendor.
This seems obvious. You would not be looking for a 3D printer unless you knew you needed one and you knew what you needed it for. But in reality it is very easy to get caught up in how powerful and just plane cool this technology is and you start thinking about what you can do, and you forget what you need to do. The best way to approach this is to not think about which technology you may end up with, that will point you in one direction or another. Just assume you push a button and a prototype of your part comes out. What would you actually use it for?
The key here is to be honest. If the reality is that your receptionist really likes models of Japanese Anime characters, and you plan on making models of such in an attempt to get her attention, then be honest about that. You need a printer with the detail and perhaps color capability for that. But if you really think about it you probably need one to make patterns for doing custom composite layups, so your use will be very different and the so will the system you need. She probably will be just impressed with your layup tooling. Well, maybe not but your boss will.
Our experience tells us that customers often get hung up on features that they get excited about, but when you look at the end use of their prototypes, they really do not need some of those features. We have seen people buy a machine because it was the only one that did this one thing they got fixated on. But in the end, they only make two prototypes that need it a year and the other 137 prototypes they make are kind of sucky. Make a list of all the uses and put a guess next to them that shows the percentage of parts that fit into that use. A typical example would be:
When we run into someone that is unhappy with their 3D Printer, three out of four timeswe find out that it just does not perform like they thought it would. And if we dig deeper we find out that when they were shopping for a printer, they just looked at parts that the various vendors gave them. Demo parts. They never made a variety of their own typical parts. This is especially true if they ended up buying a lower cost machine.
Here is a secret of every person selling a 3D Printer, that probably is no secret to you. They pick the demo parts they show you because those parts look really good on their technology. And if you are not closely familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of each technology, there is no way for you to know that the parts they showed you may be the only parts that actually look good on that technology.
Get four or five parts that are typical parts that you would prototype, and have them made on each technology. Even if the vendor tells you they can only afford to make one sample part for you (with the cost coming down the margins on these machines is low so few in the business can do a bunch of free parts for every potential sale), go ahead and pay money to get your geometry made. You may be shocked by the results, especially on some of the newer low cost machines.
Any fast growing industry has a lot of hype, and a lot of mob pressure to go with one technology over another. 3D Printing is no different, and in fact it is worse because this technology is so cool and interesting. The problem with hype and herd mentality is that the company with the best public relations people or with the “hippest” story gets all the attention regardless of the technology. And it feeds on itself. They get more attention because they got more attention.
A case in point is the recent introduction of a hand-held fused deposition modeling system. Very cool, lots of hype and interest. But really, who could use that for real work? Even a hobbyist is going to struggle with making anything useful with a tool like that. But there is a lot of hype around it right now and a huge amount of interest. I’ve had a taxi driver mention it to me when he asked what I do.
It is human nature to want to be part of something big. So it is hard to push that aside and look at each 3D Printer you are evaluating on its own merit. Not what the press is saying, not what other people are touting, not what is the newest and flashiest. We are talking basic “make me a useable part” here. Look at it with basic and non-influenced eyes.
Of all the things listed here, this may be the hardest to do. There are so many costs that go into making prototypes. The initial cost of the machine is small compared to all the other costs. What we recommend you do is make a spreadsheet and list cost items in the first column, and create rows for each 3D Printer you are looking at, then fill it out. We like to put in the cost over three years.
Here are some cost items we recommend people include:
It is always a good idea to make a “want” and “need” list, regardless of what you are purchasing. When you are dealing with a set of technologies with so much buzz around it, we feel it is doubly important. Sitting down and making a list, then justifying it to someone else clarifies what you should be looking for more than anything.
We also recommend that you prioritize the list. Marking things as Want and Need is a first step, then every one of those should also be ranked in order of importance. You can use a point scheme or you can just put them in order from most to least. This will help you sort through the gee-whiz stuff and truly understand where the value of your investment in 3D Printing can be found.
Needless to say, it is critical that you finish Thing 1, and refer to it, when completing this step.
OK, maybe this one sounds like a sales pitch: “You know what you really want, but really, trust me, you need more.” Experience tells us that this is actually true. When you are talking 3D Printing we run into customer after customer that felt the system they purchased was “good enough” for their needs then they realize it does not do what they need. And in most cases it is because they really needed a bigger machine, or they needed a more robust material than they thought.
The last thing you want to do is invest in a 3D Printer then six months later try and turn it in to get one that is bigger, faster, more precise, or that runs a better material. Now you are still paying for the more expensive system and you wasted money on the less expensive one. Be honest, upgrade in the beginning to what you really need in the long run not what you think you can get by with in the short run. Because, in the end, you will save money and have better parts.
You know you want one. You actually probably need one. We have been doing this for a long time and almost every customer that has made an intelligent investment feels like the investment has been a positive one. And by intelligent investment, we do not want to imply that they bought a system from PADT (although statistically that may be true). What we have found is that these companies took their time, they used some variation of the steps listed above, and they treated their purchase as a long term investment.
You too can make a smart choice and make in-house 3D Printing part of your company, job, or even hobby. PADT is here ready to help you with that choice. We can show you the complete line of fused deposition and Polyjet 3D Printers from Stratasys. We can also provide some advice on what we think is a good fit for your needs, and help you capture data for the six things we have outlined here. And don’t forget, we have a full 3D Printing services offering, with all the major systems and materials. So we can show you the advantages of all of them by providing you with your outsourced parts while you look for an in-house solution.
How much does training cost for ANSYS, Fluent, CFX, Maxwell, ICEM CFD, Icepak, AQWA, etc.? This is a question many engineers and managers often ask when considering training in the ANSYS family of products. The answer is that it can cost anywhere from zero to several thousand dollars, depending on a variety of factors.
How can training be free? If you are a current customer you may find that you can download training files or view some videos on various ANSYS product simulation topics. This training really isn’t free, since you or your company is paying for maintenance of the ANSYS software which gives you access to the customer portal. We at PADT also provide free content, typically in the form of our webinars which can be viewed at http://padtincevents.webex.com. Click on, “PADT ANSYS Webinar Series.”
You might also find some free training out there on the internet. Alternatively, you might find that training is free or reduced but with a catch, such as the need to purchase more software.
That all being said, as I’m sure you are aware, you get what you pay for. Maybe what you find for free is good enough for what you are trying to do. However, you most likely won’t be able to find free training that’s tailored to your needs or your organization’s specific simulation applications. If you have a question about the training material or what the recorded instructor just said, you most likely will not be able to ask about it. You’ll either be left in the dark, or will have to expend extra effort to figure it out on your own. There are costs associated with both of those options.
So, what about the cost of paying for training? If you are attending a class by yourself, you can expect to pay a minimum of about US$500.00 per day for your training class. You may have travel expenses to consider in addition to that.
If you are part of a group that needs training, then group rates come into play which can significantly reduce the cost of training per student. A few thousand dollars to train a group of 8 or 10 engineers will typically be a small investment relative to the cost of the simulation software. Further, at PADT we often customize our training material for our training customers. This is a further benefit of group training.
At PADT group rates kick in at about the 4 students per class size. Using group rates can be a very effective way to get productive training into your organization, especially if travel is involved since only one instructor may need to travel vs. several students. Web-based training is another option. This was discussed by Eric Miller of PADT in a prior blog entry, http://www.padtinc.com/blog/the-focus/ansys-training-face-to-face.
Further, PADT’s customer feedback has consistently shown that our training classes pay for themselves. In other words, increases in productivity due to a quick jump up the learning curve can very quickly return the fees paid for training.
There are other factors to consider in training as well. What is the experience base of the organization providing the training? Do they have real-world experience in using the simulation tools for which they are providing training? What about location, flexibility, and scheduling? Will the provider cancel your class with short notice if there aren’t enough students? These are all things to consider when picking a training provider.
The bottom line is that consideration must be made for the relative benefits of training vs. the amount spent on the training. We at PADT would be glad to answer your questions about training in the ANSYS family of products. You can reach me at email@example.com. You can view our current training offerings at http://www.padtinc.com/support/software/training.html.
We always love to see PADT customers get mentioned in the media, so we were very happy to see that Orthosensor’s Knee Balancer making the news:
Although they do not get a shout out by name, we know that device very well because we have worked on it with Orthosensor and their Arizona team is actually located within PADT’s Tempe facility. You can learn more about this device by visiting here.
We hope to see more of this product as its use spreads.
We expect to see even more of this product as more and more doctors start adopting it in their pr
After working with the mining industry in Arizona for years, we have finally gotten around to joining the two professional groups that work with the industry: Arizona Mining & Industry Get our Support, better known as AMIGOS, and the Arizona Mining Association. We are excited about being able to contribute more to the Arizona mining community through these two groups.
Mining is still a dominant industry in the state, especially copper mining with the state providing 68% of the copper produced in the US in 2011. PADT has supplied software and hardware to both large multinational mining companies, equipment suppliers, and small consultants. We have also provide simulation of mining processes and airflow in mines to several companies. With the addition of Flownex to our product and services offering, our involvement with the industry has grown even more.
But, to be honest, by far and away the coolest part of being involved with mining in all of the states we work in is when we get to go visit a mine, or get to look up close at the huge equipment our customers make. This is some cool engineering. We plan on doing visiting new mines and exploring more equipment as we get more involved with these groups.
If you are interested in joining either group, click here.
Last night was the kickoff gathering for the Rocky Mountain region of the Cleantech Open at the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce. It was a great gathering where all of the fantastic volunteers who run the event and provide mentoring get some much deserved recognition.
Better yet, midnight was the official start for the 2013 Cleantech Open. If you are involved in a Cleantech startup of any kind, or know someone who is, we strongly recommend that you apply to participate in this years competition. PADT is involved in a lot of startup organizations, accelerators, and incubators, and we have never seen an activity that adds so much value for their participants, giving those that make it through the process with a huge head start on success.
Don’t know about the Cleantech Open? Here is a blurb from their website:
The Cleantech Open provides entrepreneurs and technologists the resources needed to launch and create successful and sustainable clean technology companies. We do this through our accelerator programs which provide participants with training, mentoring, infrastructure, relationships and funding opportunities to help grow them into world-class cleantech companies.
Since its inception in 2006, the Cleantech Open has awarded over $5 million in cash and services to support cleantech growth companies. The 727 participating companies in the Cleantech Open’s accelerator programs have raised more than $750 million in external capital.
They also have a great video from last years finals that explains the value of the whole competition:
PADT is very proud to be a regional sponsor and is looking forward to also volunteering throughout the year.
If you have any interest in joining those that are using technology and capitalism to solve the mound of energy and environmental problems that we face, consider getting involved in the Cleantech Open. You will not regret it.
PADT is proud to announce that we are officially certified to resell the full line of Stratasys products, including the newly added Polyjet 3D Printers from Objet. We were very pleased when Objet and Stratasys decided to merge to become the new Stratasys, and we have been waiting patiently for the legal merger to take place, and then for the two organizations to merge their businesses. Now that wait is over and PADT just completed our sales and support training for the Polyjet product line and we can offer it to customers in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada.
Here is a family photo of the line:
|There are two key characteristics that really sets these systems apart: The variety of materials available and the precision of the parts they make.Because the Polyjet systems use ink-jet printer heads, they lay down small droplets of photocurable material. So the resolution of each layer can be up to 600 dpi, and the layers themselves can be very thin, as thin as 16 microns.The same ink-jet technology also allows for the use of such a wide variety of material. Over 100 different materials can be made by mixing two different materials during the build. This allows materials the have the properties of ABS, Polypropylene, rubber, or transparent plastic. And materials can vary on a given layer or from layer to layer.Another set of ink-jet heads allow for the deposition of a water soluble support material, that is easily washed away to make the post processing of parts made on a Polyjet machine simple and fast.|
We cold go on and on about this technology, or you can see it for yourself. As we mentioned, this technology is not new to PADT, so we know a lot about it and are eager to share what we have learned over the years. If you want to learn more, simply contact us and we will be ready to answer your questions, show you some machines, and help determine if Polyjet technology is the right fit for you.
You can also check out our new Polyjet product pages, where you can find brochures and videos that give a lot more information.
And look for more information on this blog as we share stories, tips, and hints on the use of these systems.
View the official press release here.
We just finished the last group and we can say that tonight’s open house at PADT was a big success. We had over 100 visitors that came to see our facility and learn about simulation, product development, and rapid prototyping. Our favorite was all the little kids that made it out to learn about 3D Printing. They had the best questions and their enthusiasm was infectious.
There were so many visitors that we didn’t have time to take too many pictures, but hopefully the folks from the Scitech Festival will have lots to share. Here is one:
If you missed the event, have no fear, most of what we talked about is available on our website: www.padtinc.com.
Or if you have a group that would like a tour, just contact us and we will set it up.
To see other events that are part of the Arizona Scitech Festival visit: azscitechfest.org.
PADT is honored to be the sponsor for the Cleantech Startup Launch & Learn that is being held at the South Denver Chamber of Commerce.
Here are the details:
Come join us for refreshments and networking with the cleantech community at the South Denver Metro Chamber as we launch the Cleantech Open 2013 Business Accelerator in the Rocky Mountain Region.
This is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs, volunteers and sponsors to learn more about the organization and help lead the Cleantech revolution in the Rockies.
Overview of Evening:
5:00 – Networking, Food and Beverages
6:00 – Overview of 2013 Cleantech Open
– Hear from Past Alumni
– 2012 Accomplishments & Volunteer Appreciation
It is FREE, but please register so they can get a good count and have a name tag ready for you:
The next couple of weeks are going to be busy ones for our team as we shuttle equipment around the valley to take part in a couple of events.
Tonight we set up shop at Carl Hayden High School for their open house featuring their robotics efforts:
Tomorrow we will be at 48-West in Chandler talking about 3D Printing and also showing off the Mojo.
Then on the 26th we will be having an Open House as part of the SciTech Festival and “How it is Made, Arizona”.
We hope to see some of you at one of the events!
My mother in law is still getting used to the concept of a smart phone.
MIL: “Do you have a GPS so you know how to get there?”
Me: “There’s an App for that.”
MIL: “Do you have a flashlight?”
Me: “There’s an App for that.”
MIL: “Do you have a chromatic tuner?”
Me: “There’s an app for that.”
OK, maybe my mother-in-law didn’t ask about the tuner, but there is in fact an app for that.
In similar fashion, now that ACT (ANSYS Customization Toolkit) is a reality, we can start answering questions with, “There’s an Extension for that.” What is an extension? It’s a bit of customized software that you can integrate with ANSYS Workbench to have it do things that aren’t built in to the current menus.
We’ll leave the nuts and bolts of how Extensions work for another article, but please be aware that current ANSYS customers can now download several Extensions from the ANSYS Customer Portal. We’ll take a look at one of these in this blog entry.
To access the currently available extensions, you must have a login to the ANSYS Customer Portal and be current on maintenance (TECS). Within the customer portal, the Extensions are available by clicking on Downloads > Extension Library; then click on ACT Library.
As of this writing there are 12 extensions available for download. These vary from the sophisticated Acoustics Extension for 14.5 to simpler extensions such as the one we’ll look at here which allows you to change the material property numbers of entities in Workbench Mechanical.
Once you have downloaded the desired extension, you’ll need to install it. For use in the current project, you click on Extensions at the menu near the top of the Workbench Window and click on Install Extension.
After clicking on Install Extension, you browse to the folder in which you have saved the downloaded extension. The Extension file extension (I’m not making this up) is .wbex. Here is what it looks like when loading the material change extension:
Next you must click on Extensions again the Workbench window, and click on Manage Extensions. That will bring up this window.
Check the box next to any extensions you want to load, then click Close. If you have already launched the Mechanical editor, you will probably need to exit Workbench and get back in or at least click on File > New and reload for the new extension to show up.
When you open the Mechanical editor, the new extension should show up in the menus. Here is what the material change button looks like after the extension has been loaded:
Each time you open a new Workbench session, you’ll need to click on Extensions > Manage Extensions if you want an extension to be loaded into the Mechanical editor.
Alternatively, you can have an extension load every time by clicking on Tools > Options from the Workbench window, followed by a click on Extensions. Enter the name of the desired extension in the box, as shown here.
After clicking OK, any new Mechanical editor session will have the material change extension loaded.
So, what good is it? I will now show a simple example of implementation of the material change extension. The idea here is that we have a bolted connection and we want to look at two different conditions by changing the material properties of the washers to see what effect that has on the results. Using the material change extension, I can force the washers (and nuts and bolts too) to have a specific material number rather than the default value assigned by Workbench. The material number is used in the Mechanical APDL batch input file created by Workbench to identify which elements have which material properties.
Now before you APDL gurus get all riled up, yes, I know this can be done with the magic ‘matid’ parameter. That’s how we’ve been doing things like this for years. The material number extension is nicer since it’s an actual button built into the GUI. We’re really trying to show how extensions work here, not necessarily the best way to simulate a model with changing material properties.
That all being said, here is what it looks like. Clicking on the ‘matchange’ button in the menus inserts a new matchange object in the tree under the analysis type branch. In this example, the matchange button has been clicked three times, resulting in three matchange objects.
The matchange functionality requires that we create Named Selections for any entities for which we want to change material property numbers. How do I know that? When I downloaded the extension from the ANSYS Customer Portal, a nice read me .pdf file came along with it.
Here I have clicked on matchange 2 in the tree and identified the Named Selection for the entities I want to change, in this case the named selection Washers. I then entered my desired integer material number for these entities, 102.
Finally, in order to demonstrate that it works, I added on command snippet under the Static Structural branch, containing these APDL commands:
esel,s,mat,,102 ! select material 102 – washers.
Those commands select the washers by my user-defined material number (I could have also selected by named selection). The commands then define new material properties for material 102. Again, there are other ways to do this, but this shows the effect of the extension. Note that this command snippet is set in the details view to only be active for load step number 3. Load step one applies bolt pretension. Load step 2 solves for the operating load with the original material properties and load step 3 solves for the same loads but with the modified material properties for the washers.
This plot shows von Mises stress in the washers vs. loadstep/substep. As you can see in the graph below the stress plot, indeed the von Mises stress is changing due to the material change from step 2 to step 3. This was a nonlinear analysis with large deflection turned on.
So, this should give you a taste of what extensions are and what can be done with them. The next time you are asked to do something in Workbench for which there isn’t a built-in menu, you may be able to say, “There’s an extension for that!”
We received great news last night that the team PADT has been working with, HDR, has been chosen to do the feasibility study on developing the Front Range Airport into Spaceport Colorado. The Denver Post has a good summary of the effort.
Norman Stucker, our General Manager for Colorado Operations, has been a contributor to this effort to grow commercial space in Colorado. PADT has been very pleased with the support of the local business community, the governor’s office, and the legislature on this effort.
This is another important and successful step in a long but very exciting journey. Stay tuned for more!
PADT is very honored to have received the “Small Company of the Year Technical Contributions Award” from the Phoenix Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) at their annual award banquet held on February 9th, 2013.
Quoting the award, it was given: “In Recognition of Developing Outstanding Engineering Services and Technologies for Companies Throughout the Southwest.” It was a very special honor to receive this particular award because it is recognition from the local electronics business community, an important part of PADT’s customer base. As a company focused on providing products and services to customers that develop physical products, what most people consider mechanical engineering, being thanked for our contributions by a group of very hard core electrical engineers was truly touching.
The awards banquet was well attended, there are a lot of electrical engineers in Phoenix. Seven of PADT’s staff were able to attend, including three of the four owners. The networking before the dinner was an enjoyable time and we were able to talk with many customers and managers of groups that we have serviced for a long time, many for over 15 years. Some were even customers back in 1994 or 1995 when the company was just starting out.
It is always a privilege to be listed with other companies who are so successful and well known. Being a co-sponsor with Freescale, Intel, and On Semiconductor, who are all also customers, was icing on the evening’s cake.
It might be time to start looking for another shelf in the lobby for awards. We placed this one between our Governor’s Celebration of Innovation and ASU Innovation Awards. The shelves are getting so crowded that I had to move my FDM Kachina models to another shelf!
In all seriousness, we truly do appreciate the recognition that these awards signify. They are acknowledgement from our peers and the community that what we do here at PADT is different, that by doing a good job at something you really enjoy doing, you can make a difference.
There was time during the ceremony for a short acceptance speech. We missed filming the beginning which basically said “Thank you very much, this is an truly an honor, coming from a group made up of Electrical Engineers to a company that provides Mechanical Engineering products and services. Most of you here are customers of PADT, and what we…”
Here is the bulk of it:
We just added a new page to the “About” portion of our website: PADT By the Numbers.
I know this will be no surprise to anyone who knows engineers, but we like to quantify things. This page takes a bunch of numbers that describe PADT and summarizes them in one place:
To save you the effort of clicking on the link, here are the numbers:
Years in Business: 19
Number of Employees: 72
Count of Employees with PhD‘s: 6
Average Number of Years Employees have Worked for PADT: 6.76
Number of States with at Least One PADT Employee: 7
Average Years of Experience for Engineers: 17.7
Number of Employees with Masters Degrees: 12
Quantity of Named Customers Served: Over 1,500
Count of Companies that have Co-Located within PADT: 4
Number of Compute Cluster Cores: Over 600
Size of Terabyts of RAM for Compute Cluster: Over 2.5
Amount invested in Lab and Prototyping Equipment: $1,500,000
Count of Approved Vendors: 350
Quantity of Approved Medical Device Vendors: 60
Amount of Rapid Prototyping Models Delivered: Over 100,000
Number of Functional Prototypes Created: Over 500
Count of Product Development Projects Completed: Over 300
Amount of Numerical Simulation Models Run: Over 7,000
Quantity of Small Business Innovative Research Grants (SBIR) awarded: 13
Number of Companies PADT has Done an Angel Investment in: 9
Users of graphics-intensive software like the ANSYS family of products occasionally encounter problems caused by graphics or video drivers. It’s important to keep your drivers up to date. In this entry we will summarize some of the symptoms of driver problems and will let you know how to find and install the latest drivers if needed.
Recently I found two issues with my software tools that ended up getting fixed by simply updating the graphics driver. I first noticed the problem with ANSYS Maxwell. While Maxwell had displayed on my machine with no trouble in the past, I found after installing the latest version that it would not load past the initial splash screen. Older versions now had the same problem as well. Also possibly related, I noticed that certain plots in ANSYS DesignXplorer were showing up as big red X’s rather than the response surface plots I was expecting. Most software and plotting worked just fine. There were just a couple of things that were not working. With some input from the helpful staff at ANSYS, Inc., the Maxwell problem was diagnosed as a probable graphics driver issue. Sure enough, once I downloaded and installed the latest driver for my graphics card, goodness was restored and both Maxwell and DesignXplorer were back to normal on my computer.
How can you obtain the specs on your graphics card so you can determine if you have the latest driver or not? On Windows 7, one way to do it is to open up the Control Panel. In the View By setting at upper right, specify Small icons. Then click on Performance Information and Tools. Next click on the link labeled “View and print detailed performance and system information.” The resulting window will have a Graphics section which will list your display adapter type (graphics card manufacturer and model) along with the version number of the installed driver.
There are a couple of ways to check on whether the driver you have is the latest or not. One way is to use Windows Update, although keep reading to see why this is not recommended. On Windows 7 this can be done by right clicking on the desktop and selecting Screen Resolution, then Advanced Settings, then Properties on the Adapter tab, then Driver tab, Update Driver. However, as the helpful staff at ANSYS, Inc. has pointed out to me, Windows Update is not always aware of the absolute latest drivers available. I ended up learning that one the hard way.
Therefore, the recommended method of checking on your graphics driver version is to go to the manufacturer’s website. My graphics card happens to be an AMD FirePro V5900. A web search on AMD FirePro easily gets me to the AMD website page for FirePro professional graphics cards. There is a “Find a Driver” link at upper right. Using that link and knowing the model number of my card, I can easily find the latest driver version and download and install it if it’s newer than the version currently installed. Similarly, the nVidia website has a prominent “Drivers” link on their home page.
The bottom line: it’s always a good idea to make sure you have the latest driver installed for your graphics card. Certainly if you notice that your software is not displaying correctly or just hanging for no reason, one of the first and easiest things to check is whether or not you have the latest graphics driver installed.