Comprehensive Online Course on 3D Printing Added to Lynda.com

The other day I got an email from Brenda Newhouse, the very talented owner of Newhouse Studios who helped us design and build the PADT website, on a link she had found on Lynda.com for a course on 3D Printing. Our to-do list always contained “produce comprehensive 3D printing online course” but we never got around to it. Now we don’t have to. (yay!)
up-and-running-with-3d-printing
The people at Lynda.com have created a really nice course that shocked us in its detail and accuracy, at least the parts we could look at for free. The listing of topics backs this up.  With the recent hype around 3D Printing, we often see postings that are mostly hyperbole or just wrong. Kacie Hultgren, the creator of this course, really knows what she is doing and covers all of the bases.  The production looks very professional as well… certainly not someone holding a phone while their buddy talks. 

You can get an overview here:

http://www.lynda.com/3D-Animation-Prototyping-tutorials/Up-Running-3D-Printing/151814-2.html 

It looks like Lynda.com charges $25/month, which is very reasonable.  If you are new to 3D Printing and want to learn more, this looks to be a great place to start.

Another Job Opening at PADT: Sales Support Specialist, 3D Printing

PADt-20-Logo-Rect-500wPADT had a record year in 2013 reselling and supporting Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) systems from Stratasys.  So good, that our team was swamped with all of the activity, especially as Stratasys continues to add new systems and materials.  In order to make 2014 another fantastic year in this area, we have opened a new position: Sales Support Specialist, 3D Printing.  This person will work with sales management, the salespeople, our suppliers, and our admin staff to make the whole process more efficient, and to allow us to be more responsive to our customers needs.  Here is the description for the position:

Sales Support Specialist, 3D Printing

PADT, the Southwest’s leading provider of engineering products and services, has an immediate opening within our 3D Printer sales team for the position of Sales Support Specialist.  This position will report to the manager of the team and has three roles focused on helping the sales team run effectively, efficiently, and exceed business objectives. The first role is to maintain the relationship between PADT and the hardware suppliers that PADT resells for by managing and coordinating the flow of information between parties. The second role includes planning and organizing marketing activities for the products being sold.  This includes providing assistance to the sales team across four states by scheduling and managing technical and administrative resources.  The final role is to work as an inside salesperson, frequently contacting existing customers to sell 3D printing material, maintenance contracts, and other services.  Time will be spent evenly working within these three responsibilities. 

Requirements:

  • BS or equivalent degree
  • Inside sales experience
  • Self-directed, proactive, and very organized
  • Able to communicate quickly and effectively both verbally and in writing
  • Enjoys and is good at multitasking
  • Strong Microsoft Office skills
  • Comfortable making a large number of phone calls
  • Experience coordinating marketing activities such as: trade shows, mailing campaigns, seminars, etc…
  • Enjoys being involved in new, leading edge technology

Preferred but not required

  • Outside sales experience

This position is located at PADT’s Tempe, AZ facility and all applicants must be US Citizens or Legal Residents.

You can also see the position, along with our other open postings and how to apply, on our career page.

Our current openings are:

3D Color Printing: Stratasys Publishes Nice White Paper on Maximizing Multi-Material and Color 3D Printing

connex3-machine
Stratasys just released a nice white paper on the uses of their new color technology in the Objet500 Connex3 system.  This machine is more than just a way to print parts in a variety of colors, it allows you to load three different materials, including colors. 
3D-Color-Printing-Colors-1The paper goes in to some detail on how the technology works, what the advantages are, and offers some use cases where beta testers in industry were able to apply the technology on their projects.  If you are interested in 3D Printing in general, and printing color parts in particular, you should download the white paper.

 3D-Color-Printing-Pressure-Contour-1As always, if you can contact PADT at 480.813.4884 or sales@padtinc.com. Or visit our website.

Triplex-Helmet_960x350

ANSYS & 3D Printing: Converting your ANSYS Mechanical or MAPDL Model into an STL File

image3D printing is all the rage these days.  PADT has been involved in what should be called Additive Manufacturing since our founding twenty years ago.  So people in the ANSYS world often come to us for advice on things 3D Printer’ish.  And last week we got an email asking if we had a way to convert a deformed mesh into a STL file that can be used to print that deformed geometry.  This email caused neurons to fire that had not fired in some time. I remembered writing something but it was a long time ago.

Fortunately I have Google Desktop on my computer so I searched for ans2stl, knowing that I always called my translators ans2nnn of some kind. There it was.  Last updated in 2001, written in maybe 1995. C.  I guess I shouldn’t complain, it could have been FORTRAN. The notes say that the program has been successfully tested on Windows NT. That was a long time ago.

So I dusted it off and present it here as a way to get results from your ANSYS Mechanical or ANSYS Mechanical APDL model as a deformed STL file.

UPDATE – 7/8/2014

Since this article was written, we have done some more work with STL files. This Macro works fine on a tetrahedral mesh, but if you have hex elements, it won’t work – it assumes triangles on the face.  It also requires a macro and some ‘C’ code, which is an extra pain. So we wrote a more generic macro that works with Hex or Tet meshes, and writes the file directly. It can be a bit slow but no annoyingly slow.  We recommend you use this method instead of the ones outlined below.

Here is the macro:  writstl.zip

The Process

An STL file is basically a faceted representation of geometry. Triangles on the surface of your model. So to get an STL file of an FEA model, you simply need to generate triangles on your mesh face, write them out to a file, and convert them to an STL format.  If you want deformed geometry, simply use the UPGEOM command to move your nodes to the deformed position.

The Program

Here is the source code for the windows version of the program:

/*
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

 PADT--------------------------------------------------- Phoenix Analysis &
                                                        Design Technologies

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                             www.padtinc.com
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

       Package: ans2stl

          File: ans2stl.c
          Args: rootname
        Author: Eric Miller, PADT
		(480) 813-4884 
		eric.miller@padtinc.com

	Simple program that takes the nodes and elements from the
	surface of an ANSYS FE model and converts it to a binary
	STL file.

	USAGE:
		Create and ANSYS surface mesh one of two ways:
			1: amesh the surface with triangles
			2: esurf an existing mesh with triangles
         	Write the triangle surface mesh out with nwrite/ewrite
		Run ans2stl with the rootname of the *.node and *.elem files
		   as the only argument
		This should create a binary STL file

	ASSUMPTIONS:
		The ANSYS elements are 4 noded shells (MESH200 is suggested)
		in triangular format (nodes 3 and 4 the same)

		This code has been succesfully compiled and tested
		on WindowsNT

		NOTE: There is a known issue on UNIX with byte order
				Please contact me if you need a UNIX version

	COMPILE:
		gcc -o ans2stl_win ans2stl_win.c

       10/31/01:       Cleaned up for release to XANSYS and such
       1/13/2014:	Yikes, its been 12+ years. A little update 
       			and publish on The Focus blog
			Checked it to see if it works with Windows 7. 
			It still compiles with GCC just fine.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
PADT, Inc. provides this software to the general public as a curtesy.
Neither the company or its employees are responsible for the use or
accuracy of this software.  In short, it is free, and you get what
you pay for.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
*/
/*======================================================

   SAMPLE ANSYS INPUT DECK THAT SHOWS USAGE

finish
/clear
/file,a2stest
/PREP7  
!----------
! Build silly geometry
BLC4,-0.6,0.35,1,-0.75,0.55 
SPH4,-0.8,-0.4,0.45 
CON4,-0.15,-0.55,0.05,0.35,0.55 
VADD,all
!------------------------
! Mesh surface with non-solved (MESH200) triangles
et,1,200,4
MSHAPE,1,2D   ! Use triangles for Areas
MSHKEY,0      ! Free mesh
SMRTSIZE,,,,,5
AMESH,all
!----------------------
! Write out nodes and elements
nwrite,a2stest,node
ewrite,a2stest,elem
!--------------------
! Execute the ans2stl program
/sys,ans2stl_win.exe a2stest

======================================================= */

#include 
#include 
#include 

typedef struct vertStruct *vert;
typedef struct facetStruct *facets;
typedef struct facetListStruct *facetList;

        int     ie[8][999999];
        float   coord[3][999999];
        int	np[999999];

struct vertStruct {
  float	x,y,z;
  float	nx,ny,nz;
  int  ivrt;
  facetList	firstFacet;
};

struct facetListStruct {
  facets	facet;
  facetList	next;
};

struct facetStruct {
  float	xn,yn,zn;
  vert	v1,v2,v3;
};

facets	theFacets;
vert	theVerts;

char	stlInpFile[80];
float	xmin,xmax,ymin,ymax,zmin,zmax;
float   ftrAngle;
int	nf,nv;  

void swapit();
void readBin();
void getnorm();
long readnodes();
long readelems();

/*--------------------------------*/
main(argc,argv)
     int argc;
     char *argv[];
{
  char nfname[255];
  char efname[255];
  char sfname[255];
  char s4[4];
  FILE	*sfile;
  int	nnode,nelem,i,i1,i2,i3;
  float	xn,yn,zn;

  if(argc <= 1){
        puts("Usage:  ans2stl file_root");
        exit(1);
  }
  sprintf(nfname,"%s.node",argv[1]);
  sprintf(efname,"%s.elem",argv[1]);
  sprintf(sfname,"%s.stl",argv[1]);

  nnode = readnodes(nfname);
  nelem = readelems(efname);
  nf = nelem;

  sfile = fopen(sfname,"wb");
  fwrite("PADT STL File, Solid Binary",80,1,sfile);
  swapit(&nelem,s4);    fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);

  for(i=0;i<nelem;i++){ 
      i1 = np[ie[0][i]];
      i2 = np[ie[1][i]];
      i3 = np[ie[2][i]];
      getnorm(&xn,&yn,&zn,i1,i2,i3);

      swapit(&xn,s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&yn,s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&zn,s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);

      swapit(&coord[0][i1],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&coord[1][i1],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&coord[2][i1],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);

      swapit(&coord[0][i2],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&coord[1][i2],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&coord[2][i2],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);

      swapit(&coord[0][i3],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&coord[1][i3],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&coord[2][i3],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      fwrite(s4,2,1,sfile);
  }
  fclose(sfile);
    puts(" ");
  printf("  STL Data Written to %s.stl \n",argv[1]);
    puts("  Done!!!!!!!!!");
  exit(0);
}

void  getnorm(xn,yn,zn,i1,i2,i3)
	float	*xn,*yn,*zn;
	int	i1,i2,i3;
{
	float	v1[3],v2[3];
	int	i;

        for(i=0;i<3;i++){
	  v1[i] = coord[i][i3] - coord[i][i2];
	  v2[i] = coord[i][i1] - coord[i][i2];
	}

	*xn = (v1[1]*v2[2]) - (v1[2]*v2[1]);
	*yn = (v1[2]*v2[0]) - (v1[0]*v2[2]);
	*zn = (v1[0]*v2[1]) - (v1[1]*v2[0]);
}
long readelems(fname)
        char    *fname;
{
        long num,i;
        FILE *nfile;
        char    string[256],s1[7];

        num = 0;
        nfile = fopen(fname,"r");
		if(!nfile){
			puts(" error on element file open, bye!");
			exit(1);
		}
        while(fgets(string,86,nfile)){
          for(i=0;i<8;i++){
            strncpy(s1,&string[6*i],6);
            s1[6] = '\0';
            sscanf(s1,"%d",&ie[i][num]);
          }
          num++;
        }

        printf("Number of element read: %d\n",num);
        return(num);
}

long readnodes(fname)
        char	*fname;
{
        FILE    *nfile;
        long     num,typeflag,nval,ifoo;
        char    string[256];

        num = 0;
        nfile = fopen(fname,"r");
		if(!nfile){
			puts(" error on node file open, bye!");
			exit(1);

		}
        while(fgets(string,100,nfile)){
          sscanf(string,"%d ",&nval);
          switch(nval){
            case(-888):
                typeflag = 1;
            break;
            case(-999):
                typeflag = 0;
            break;
            default:
                np[nval] = num;
                if(typeflag){
                        sscanf(string,"%d %g %g %g",
                           &ifoo,&coord[0][num],&coord[1][num],&coord[2][num]);
                }else{
                        sscanf(string,"%d %g %g %g",
                           &ifoo,&coord[0][num],&coord[1][num],&coord[2][num]);
                        fgets(string,81,nfile);
                }
num++;
            break;
        }

        }
        printf("Number of nodes read %d\n",num);
        return(num);

}

/* A Little ditty to swap the byte order, STL files are for DOS */
void swapit(s1,s2)
     char s1[4],s2[4];
{
  s2[0] = s1[0];
  s2[1] = s1[1];
  s2[2] = s1[2];
  s2[3] = s1[3];
}

ans2stl_win_2014_01_28.zip

Creating the Nodes and Elements

I’ve created a little example macro that can be used to make an STL of deformed geometry.  If you do not want the deformed geometry, simply remove or comment out the UPGEOM command.  This macro is good for MAPDL or ANSYS Mechanical, just comment out the last line  to use it with MAPDL:

et,999,200,4

type,999

esurf,all

finish ! exit whatever preprocessor your in

! move the RST file to a temp file for the UPCOORD. Comment out if you want

! the original geometry

/copy,file,rst,,stl_temp,rst

/prep7 ! Go in to PREP7

et,999,200,4 ! Create a dummy triangle element type, non-solved (200)

type,999 ! Make it the active type

esurf,all ! Surface mesh your model

!

! Update the geometry to the deformed shape

! The first argument is the scale factor, adjust to the appropriate level

! Comment this line out if you don’t want deformed geometry

upgeom,1000,,,stl_temp,rst

!

esel,type,999 ! Select those new elements

nelem ! Select the nodes associated with them

nwrite,stl_temp,node ! write the node file

ewrite,stl_temp,elem ! Write the element file

! Run the program to convert

! This assumes your executable in in c:\temp. If not, change to the proper

! location

/sys,c:\temp\ans2stl_win.exe stl_temp

! If this is a ANSYS Mechanical code snippet, then copy the resulting STL file up to

! the root directory for the project

! For MAPDL, Comment this line out.

/copy,stl_temp,stl,,stl_temp,stl,..\..

An Example

To prove this out using modern computing technology (remember, last time I used this was in 2001) I brought up my trusty valve body model and slammed 5000 lbs on one end, holding it on the top flange.  I then inserted the Commands object into the post processing branch:

image

When the model is solved, that command object will get executed after ANSYS is done doing all of its post processing, creating an STL of the deformed geometry. Here is what it looks like in the output file. You can see what it looks like when APDL executes the various commands:

/COPY FILE FROM FILE= file.rst

TO FILE= stl_temp.rst

FILE file.rst COPIED TO stl_temp.rst

1

***** ANSYS – ENGINEERING ANALYSIS SYSTEM RELEASE 15.0 *****

ANSYS Multiphysics

65420042 VERSION=WINDOWS x64 08:39:44 JAN 14, 2014 CP= 22.074

valve_stl–Static Structural (A5)

Note – This ANSYS version was linked by Licensee

***** ANSYS ANALYSIS DEFINITION (PREP7) *****

ELEMENT TYPE 999 IS MESH200 3-NODE TRIA MESHING FACET

KEYOPT( 1- 6)= 4 0 0 0 0 0

KEYOPT( 7-12)= 0 0 0 0 0 0

KEYOPT(13-18)= 0 0 0 0 0 0

CURRENT NODAL DOF SET IS UX UY UZ

THREE-DIMENSIONAL MODEL

ELEMENT TYPE SET TO 999

GENERATE ELEMENTS ON SURFACE DEFINED BY SELECTED NODES

TYPE= 999 REAL= 1 MATERIAL= 1 ESYS= 0

NUMBER OF ELEMENTS GENERATED= 13648

USING FILE stl_temp.rst

THE SCALE FACTOR HAS BEEN SET TO 1000.0

USING FILE stl_temp.rst

ESEL FOR LABEL= TYPE FROM 999 TO 999 BY 1

13648 ELEMENTS (OF 43707 DEFINED) SELECTED BY ESEL COMMAND.

SELECT ALL NODES HAVING ANY ELEMENT IN ELEMENT SET.

6814 NODES (OF 53895 DEFINED) SELECTED FROM

13648 SELECTED ELEMENTS BY NELE COMMAND.

WRITE ALL SELECTED NODES TO THE NODES FILE.

START WRITING AT THE BEGINNING OF FILE stl_temp.node

6814 NODES WERE WRITTEN TO FILE= stl_temp.node

WRITE ALL SELECTED ELEMENTS TO THE ELEMENT FILE.

START WRITTING AT THE BEGINNING OF FILE stl_temp.elem

Using Format = 14(I6)

13648 ELEMENTS WERE WRITTEN TO FILE= stl_temp.elem

SYSTEM=

c:\temp\ans2stl_win.exe stl_temp

Number of nodes read 6814

Number of element read: 13648

STL Data Written to stl_temp.stl

Done!!!!!!!!!

/COPY FILE FROM FILE= stl_temp.stl

TO FILE= ..\..\stl_temp.stl

FILE stl_temp.stl COPIED TO ..\..\stl_temp.stl

image

The resulting STL file looks great:

image

I use MeshLab to view my STL files because… well it is free.  Do note that the mesh looks coarser.  This is because the ANSYS mesh uses TETS with midside nodes.  When those faces get converted to triangles those midside nodes are removed, so you do get a coarser looking model.

And after getting bumped from the queue a couple of times by “paying” jobs, our RP group printed up a nice FDM version for me on one of our Stratasys uPrint Plus machines:

image

It’s kind of hard to see, so I went out to the parking lot and recorded a short video of the part, twisting it around a bit:

Here is the ANSYS Mechanical project archive if you want to play with it yourself.

Other Things to Consider

Using FE Modeler

You can use FE Modeler in a couple of different ways with STL files. First off, you can read an STL file made using the method above. If you don’t have an STL preview tool, it is an easy way to check your distorted mesh.  Just chose STL as the input file format:

image

You get this:

image

If you look back up at the open dialog you will notice that it reads a bunch of mesh formats. So one thing you could do instead of using my little program, is use FE Modeler to make your STL.  Instead of executing the program with a /SYS command, simply use a CDWRITE,DB command and then read the resulting *.CDB file into FE Modeler.  To write out the STL, just set the “Target System” to STL and then click “Write Solver File”

image

You may know, or may have noticed in the image above, that FE Modeler can read other FEA meshes.  So if you are using some other FEA package, which you should not, then you can make an STL file in FE Modeler as well.

Color Contours

The next obvious question is how do I get my color contours on the plot. Right now we don’t have that type of printer here at PADT, but I believe that the dominant 3D Color printer out, the former Z-Corp and now 3D Systems machines, will read ANSYS results files. Stratasys JUST announced a new color 3D Printer that makes usable parts. Right now they don’t have a way to do contours, but as soon as they do we will publish something.

Another option is to use a /SHOW,vrml option and then convert that to STL with the color information.

Scaling

Scaling is something you should think about. Not only the scaling on your deformed geometry, but the scaling on your model for printing.  Units can be tricky with STL files so make sure you check your model size before you print.

Smoother STL Surfaces

Your FEA mesh may be kind of coarse and the resulting STL file is even coarser because of the whole midside node thing.  Most of the smoothing tools out there will also get rid of sharp edges, so you don’t want those. Your best best is to refine your mesh or using a tool like Geomagic.

Making a CAD Model from my Deformed Mesh

Perhaps you stumbled on this posting not wanting to print your model. Maybe you want a CAD model of your deformed geometry.  You would use the same process, and then use Geomagic Studio.  It actually works very well and give you a usable CAD model when you are done.

Usable Color 3D Printed Parts Now Available with Stratasys Objet500 Connex3

We have been waiting for this day for a long time.  There have been 3D Printers out there that do multiple colors, but let’s be frank, the parts were not very strong.  Nice to look at, but not much else.

This weekend Stratasys announced the Objet500 Connex3 machine.  Based on the proven Object500 Connex this multi-material platform allows the user to use three materials, giving you a choice of 46 colors for each build.  That includes transparent material with color tinting!  You can also still mix rubber and ABS like materials.

Objet 500 machine with man and multi material 3D printed shoes

We will have more to report on this in the coming weeks, but we just wanted to get the word out: Usable Color Prototyping is here and it is bright.

If you have an immediate need, or just want to learn more, contact PADT at 480.813.4884 or shoot an email to sales@padtinc.com.

Blue glasses with tinted lenses and black rubber parts Untitled-1

PADT’s team was able to see parts made on the new device at a recent Stratasys gathering. Then they had to keep their mouths shut for two weeks.  That was hard. These parts are high-quality prototypes like you would expect from the Objet technology. But now in color.  Bright brilliant color on strong parts.  This is what many of us have been waiting for.

Here are some links to get your appetite whetted:

(Yes to our ANSYS readers. We are working on a way to get this to print results)

Wohlers Associates Lists Top 3D Printing News of 2013

Wohlers Associates just blogged their list of the top news stories for 2013 in 3D Printing.  It is worth a read to look beyond the hype we have seen this year and focus on the stories that will be having an impact in the future:

http://wohlersassociates.com/blog/2014/01/top-3d-printing-developments-in-2013/

As a Stratasys distributor and provider of additive manufacturing services, PADT can attest to the importance of the stories listed.  The first one, the GE Fuel Nozzle, had an especially significant impact on the world of commercial additive manufacturing, especially with the Aerospace customers we work with.  In many ways, GE’s move was the tipping point for metal additive manufacturing and for companies to really look at AM as an end part manufacturing solution.

2014 is already shaping up to be a big year.  We expect to see consolidation and a weeding out in the consumer and prosumer 3D printer market, better material options across all of the technologies, and more adoption of the technology in new industries and applications.

Wholers Associates has been consulting in additive manufacturing for over 27 years and is PADT’s go-to resource for what is really going on in the AM world.

Presentation: Realizing Your Invention in Plastic, 3D Printing to Production

plastics-cover-1

PADT was honored to be invited to present to the Inventors Association of Arizona on September 4th, 2013. This well attended event focused on giving an overview on plastic parts, their design, and there manufacture including a quick look at additive manufacturing.

Here is a link to a PDF of the presentation:
IAA-Realizing-Invention-Plastic-2013_09_04-1

Also, during the presentation some animations showing the various additive manufacturing (3D Printing) processes didn’t play. You can find them here on an previous blog posting.

 

Polyjet 3D Printers Up and Running in Denver and Albuquerque Offices

PADT-Polyjet-Albuquerque PADT-Polyjet-Denver

With all the opening and moving of offices we failed to notice that our crack sales team sold all of our demonstration 3D Printing and rapid manufacturing machines out from underneath us.  This made it easier to move, but hard on customers who wanted to see these systems in action.  So we took the opportunity to not only replace the FDM systems in our offices, but to also add Objet30 Pro desktop printers in our New Mexico and Colorado offices.  In the past we only had Polyjet systems in our Tempe facility.

If you are not familiar with the advantages of Polyjet 3D Printing when compared to FDM or other technologies, contact us to arrange a visit to our Littleton, Albuquerque, or Tempe offices to not only see these machines in action, but to also see sample parts we have made on them.

 

 

 

PADT Talks about 3D Printing on Channel 8’s Arizona Horizon

PADT-Horizon-PBS-PicOur latest journey into mass media was a real pleasure.  We were invited to come on to the local Phoenix PBS station to talk about 3D Printing.  The team of students from the Walter Cronkite School of Mass Communications at ASU that do most of the behind the scenes work were great. The host and producer were true professionals who asked some of the best questions we have ever been asked on this topic.

You can the full program here:

http://www.azpbs.org/arizonahorizon/play.php?vidId=6037

Eric’s interview is the second half.

Those of you who know 3D Printing know that they showed a CNC mill instead of one of our 3D printers.  We gave them a bunch of background video to use (from another interview) and they kind of picked the wrong one. But hey, Bob and Luis got on TV!  And all that really matters is that they spelled our name right.

A great opportunity and we look forward to evangelizing the promise of additive manufacturing in the future. You can learn more about the whole world of 3D Printing on our website by starting on our prototyping support page.

Watch PADT on Chanel 8’s Horizon Arizona this Wednesday at 5:30

arizona_horizon

 

PADT will be on the local Phoenix PBS station this Wednesday, July 10th at 5:30 PM talking about 3D Printing and PADT.  Here is the teaser from their website:

3D printing has been around for a while, but it is just starting to make a big impact on mainstream society. Tempe-based Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies is a 3D printing company that was started in 1994 and offers a variety of services, including product simulation, design prototyping and medical devices. The company is also the largest distributor of 3D printing and manufacturing systems in the Southwest. Eric Miller of PADT will talk about his company and 3D printing.

Set your DVR or check watch our news feed to a link for the interview when it hits the web.

Arizona Horizon is the local news show where they talk about local events and activities, and also focus on community news. One recurring segment is their discussion of AZ Technology & Innovation, and PADT has been asked to contribute.  It is in HD… better comb my hair and iron my shirt.

PADT In the News: Piece on 3D Printing Presentation in Southern New Mexico

PADT-Las-Cruces-3D-PrintingPADT and 3D printing got a great write up in the Las Cruces Bulletin last month.  Renee Palacios and John Wright were speaking at the High Tech Council of Southern New Mexico on May 17th and a local reporter attended and did a great interview.

With all the media attention focused on 3D Printing we have been bombarded with requests from the media to talk about the technology. This was one of the better articles that does a very good job explaining the technology and its applications.  Yes, it does lead off with the whole “printing a plastic gun” story, but that is the price of getting people’s attention these days.

We love sharing our experience and knowledge on this technology.  And Renee even got her picture in the paper:

Richard Majestic of the High Tech Council of Southern New Mexico and guest speaker Renee Palacios of PADT Inc. visit during lunch at the HTC meeting.

Learn more about the 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing systems from Stratasys that PADT sells here. Learn about how PADT can make a 3D prototype for you here. And find useful information about 3D printing in general here.

PADT Interviewed on Local TV on 3D Printing

cbs5-vanThose of us that have been doing rapid prototyping for over 20 years are a bit taken aback by the sudden interest by the mainstream public in 3D printing, but in  good way. We have been amazed by this technology for decades and have been evangelizing about its uses even before we bought our first Stereolithography machine in 1994.

Two recent news stories have really brought the technology out into open where producers in news rooms are starting to take notice.  The first is the video of some guy who built a single shot gun on FDM machine. The second is the fact that Staples will start selling “hobby” 3D Printers in their stores.  So those same producers googled Phoenix and 3D Printing and they got PADT.  We were more than happy to help set the record straight on additive manufacturing, where it is, and where it is going. Here are stills of all of our soon to be discovered stars:

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The first interview was a nice one on Channel 12, but it never got put on the internet so you will just have to take our word for it, we were fabulous.

The next video was on the local ABC affiliate, channel 15 and we talked about 3D Printing and also made a copy of the reporters head:

The List: The Futurist: 3D Printing a beak, a break and something in vain

Next came another story on the same channel, really focused on the whole printed gun thing.  John here at PADT did a great job staying focusing on the technology and what it could do.  They even got a shot of our building sign, which made us very happy:

Channel 15 News: 3D Printed Gun Story

Up to that point everything was recorded and edited. Then the local CBS station, Channel 5 asked us to do a live segment where we scanned the news anchors head then talked about the technology while we built it.  It was a lot of fun and Mario was great. Here is the final segment from that show:

Part 1:

CBS 5 – KPHO

 

Part 2:

CBS 5 – KPHO

We look forward to doing more in the future. And maybe one day soon, the general public will get just as excited about numerical simulation, now there is some compelling TV.

 

Lighted Speakers show Off Power of 3D Printing

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We came across this very cool application that uses a Stratasys Connex 500 spreading like wildfire across the blog-sphere.  We thought we would put our own technical spin on it since we have that same system.  Evan Atherton from Autodesk did the model working with a company called LumiGeek to do the lighting.
Here is a  good video that explains the project:

As you can see, Evan built a very cool 3D model of the speakers then printed them on the Connex 500. That particular system uses an inkjet technology called polyjet to print out a photocurable resin (a plastic that hardens when you expose it to ultraviolet light) in layers. What is special about this application of the polyjet technology is that the machine can print two different materials at the same time. So you can mix those materials as you build a part to change properties. This allowed him to get a mixture of rubber-like and semi-transparent plastic parts to fit into his design.

Once printed they assembled the parts with a programmable LED strip from LumiGeek. And presto – they now have their own custom speakers that blink and shimmy in time with the music they are playing.

Endgadget has a pretty good slide show and a video that shows some of the details.

So What?

As most of the blogers/vlogers point out this is not a way to mass produce speakers.  The material and labor costs are extensive. But it does show how a truly unique idea for a whole new type of product can be quickly and easily visualized using 3D Printing technology. Within a week a full working prototype of a complex product can be produced.

It also shows the power of custom product development. There is a significant market out there for custom applications where people need a unique application like this.  Although the cost of producing these was not small, it is much less than any traditional manufacturing process when you only need one or two copies.  This is another example of how someone can create a new service around taking peoples unique design requirements and creating a stand-out solution in relatively little time.

Plus, they just look cool. That is “what” enough for us.

If you have an idea you want to realize using 3D Printing, contact PADT.  We have the skill, the experience, and the equipment to make it happen.

PADT on Local TV Talking About 3D Printing

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The general public’s interest in 3D Printing has taken us all a bit by surprise. We know it is a popular topic but we were shocked when a local TV station (ABC15 – KNXV) called us up and wanted to do some filming of 3D printers in action, answer some questions they had about the technology so they could make sure they got it right in the story,  and talk to someone about 3D Printing.  Tey ended up getting a copy of the reporters head as well. Here is the result:

The List: The Futurist: 3D Printing a beak, a break and something in vain

It is not the first time that PADT has been on TV, but the first time we have made it on beyond background shots or public access.  They edited out all of the brilliant and insightful comments, which is expected.  What was nice is they really did not get anything wrong in the story and they spelled our name right!

Six Things to Do when Shopping for a 3D Printer

Stratasy-Mojo-3D-Printer-in-Shopping-CartPADT 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.

Thing 1:  Understand What you will use your Parts For

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.

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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:

  • 35% Mockups for design reviews
  • 25% Models for the machine shop and vendors to help them plan machining
  • 15% Fixtures for testing
  • 10% Consumer testing and marketing mockups for ad campaigns
  • 10% Fit models to build
  •   5% Other

Thing 2: Benchmark the Machines on your Geometry

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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.

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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.

Thing 3: Ignore Hype or the Herd

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.

Thing 4: Calculate the Total, Long Term Cost

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:

  • System
  • Cleaning system
  • Facility modification costs
  • Build and support material
  • Cleaning materials
  • Maintenance fees
  • Labor to prepare jobs
  • Labor to post process jobs
  • Facility square footage for machines, cleaning equipment, material storage, etc…
  • Scrap rate cost (some systems have a higher scrap rate, you need to include the cost of lost time and material because of that)

Thing 5: Honestly Prioritize the Features you Want and Need

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.

Thing 6: Figure Out what is Good Enough, then Ask for More

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.

Doing the Six Things and Getting that 3D Printer

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.

Stratasys Objet Polyjet Systems