3D Printing brings history to life

640px-Vincent_van_Gogh_-_National_Gallery_of_ArtDid you hear that they have 3D printed Vincent van Gogh’s ear? How about the 3D printed spine of King Richard III?  This week alone 3D printing has given us two amazing examples of how this technology can be used to look at history in amazing new ways.

In the case of van Gogh, researchers used real living cells from his great-grandson to bioprint the cells to resemble van Gogh’s severed ear.  The ear is being kept technically alive in a nutrient solution and is said to be able to actually “hear”.  You can read more about this amazing application here.

Richard_III_earliest_surviving_portraitKing Richard III has been famously written as having a hunched back by William Shakespeare.  Anthropologists at the University of Cambridge wanted to determine if the description was accurate or exaggerated. Utilizing CT scans to create a model of the spine they were able to create 3D printed replica of his spine based on the models.  It turns out that while he did have terrible scoliosis, there was no evidence that he had a hunch as described by Shakespeare.  You can read more about this research here.

Just two of many new and innovative ways to integrate 3D printing into just about anything!

3D Printing…….Pancakes

It seems like people are using 3D printing for just about anything these days…….and that is a very good thing.  From art to dentistry and all things in-between, 3D printing has allowed people without engineering expertise or special equipment to be truly innovative in their fields.

main_pancakebot
Just the other day we ran across a really unique and creative use of 3D printing……..The Pancakebot! As the name suggests, it lets you 3D print custom-shaped pancakes.  Fun and delicious!  Pancakebot started as a project that Miguel Valenzuela tinkered with for his young daughters using LEGO Mindstorms. There is a great video on the website that shows Pancakebot in action!model

All fun aside though, this is just one example of how 3D printing and the Maker movement as a whole is innovating how we think about making anything.  The idea of printing pancakes may seem simple and silly, but it just takes small ideas like that to get people excited about what is really possible.  Besides, can you just imagine sitting down to breakfast at Disneyland and having a Pancakebot roll up to your table to custom print any character you can imagine?  Even if Pancakebot doesn’t become a mainstream kitchen staple, it is still an amazing use of the technology, and also one that can engage and inspire kids toward STEM and STEAM education.  If that’s all something like Pancakebot does, then I would consider that a big win.

If you want to make your own, the instructions are here.pbot2

PADT Colorado Presents: Scanning & 3D Printing That Works

When:   June 12, 2014
                4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Where:  PADT Colorado
                2009 W. Littleton Blvd
                Suite 200
                Littleton, CO 80120

Click Here to Register

In today’s digitally driven environment there is an increasing need to 3D Print parts from CAD data and Scan data. With the right software and hardware combination this can either be a seamless process or a tremendous obstacle.  Geomagic, Solidworks and Stratasys have solved this problem to provide a very efficient solution for your design, scanning and printing requirements.

Capture_Design (1)

 For this event, PADT is teaming up with Alignex and Geomagic to provide a live demonstration of 3D scanning into CAD resulting in a 3D printed part. Our technical staff will be available, along with representatives from our vendors, to not just show you these tools in action, but to answer questions about how to apply these technologies to meet your design, prototyping, manufacturing, and scanning needs. 

solidworkalignex-banner400
These events are a fantastic opportunity to catch up on the latest technical advances in these three critical areas.  We will be covering:

  • Demonstration of the Geomagic Capture 3D Scanner 
  • Solving the most difficult part of part scanning, getting a useful computer model, using Solidworks software
  • How to effectively combine these three technologies with each other, CAD, quality systems, soft tooling, injection molding, and other manufacturing processes.
  • Demonstration of 3D printing on a Stratasys printer
  • Anything that any of our guests want to discuss and share

Stratasys

This informal open house will start at 4:00 PM and will continue till around 6:00 PM.  Snacks and beverages will be available. Anyone, novice to seasoned expert, is invited and encouraged to attend and share their knowledge and questions. 

Registration is required as space is limited.

If you have any questions, please contact Kathryn Pesta at kathryn.pesta@padtinc.com or 480.813.4884.

 

 

Color 3D Printing ANSYS ANSYS Mechanical and Mechanical APDL Results

[updated on 6/18/14 with images of an optimized bracket]

When we announced that Stratasys had released a color 3D Printer, I promised that I would figure out a way to get an ANSYS Mechanical or Mechanical APDL solution printed in 3D as soon as possible. Here it is:
3D-Color-FEA-Plot
Pretty cool.  I posted this picture on our social media and it got more retweets-shares-comments-likes-social media at’a boys than anything we have ever posted.  So there is definitely some interest in this. Now that the initial “WOW!” factor is gone, it is time to talk technical details and share how to get a plot made.

Stratasys Objet500 Connex3

There have been some machine around for some time that can print colors. Unfortunately they used a process that deposited a binding agent (fancy name for glue) into a bed of powder. The glue could be died different colors, allowing you to mix three base colors to get a color part. The problem with that technology is that the parts were faded and very fragile. On top of that the machines were messy and hard to run.  

With the Objet500 Connex3 from Stratasys, we now have a machine that makes robust and usable prototypes, that can be printed in color. The device uses inkjet print heads to deposit a photopolymer (a resin that hardens when you shine ultraviolet light on it) one layer at a time. This machine has four print heads: one for support, one for a base material, and two for colored material.   The base material can be black, white, or clear.  Then you can mix two colors in to get a 46 color pallet on a given run.  Download the brochure here for more details on the device, or shoot us an email.

As an example of how to use this technology, we took the results from a modal analysis on a simple low-pressure turbine blade (from a jet engine) and plotted out the deflection results for the 1st, 3rd, and 7th mode. The 7th mode also includes the exaggerated deflected shape.

Turbine-Blade-Modal-s

[Added 6/18/14]  

We recently combined ANSYS and Stratasys products for an optimization test case for a customer. We used Toplogoical optimization to remove chunks of material from an aerospace mounting bracket.  Then we 3D plotted the results to share with the international team looking at using this process to design parts that are lighter because they are not constrained by traditional manufacturing requirements. Here is what the first pass on the part looked like:
TopoOptMount_7

Getting a Printable File 

Almost every Additive Manufacturing machine, from 3D Printers to Manufacturing Systems, use an STL file as the way to define a part to be made.  The file contains triangular facets (a mesh) on the surface. The problem is that this file does not have a standard for defining colors.  The way that we get around this is you make an STL file for each color you want, sort of an STL assembly. Then when you load the files into the machine, you assign colors to each STL object.  That is great if you are printing an assembly and each solid object in you Model is a different color, but gets a bit dicey for a results contour.

So, we need a way to get an STL file for each color contour in your plot.  Right now non of the ANSYS products output an STL file.  Needless to say we have been talking with development about this and we hope there will be a built in solution at the next release.  In the interim, we have developed two methods.

Method 0: Have PADT Print your Part

Before we go over the two methods, we should mention that we offer almost every RP technology as a service to customers, including the new Objet500 Connex3. We have written a tool that converts ANSYS MAPDL models into STL’s that represent color bands.  It comes in two parts, a macro that you run to get the data, and a program we have that turns the data into STL files.

  So the easiest way to get a Color 3D Plot of your results is to:

  1. Download the macro ans2vtk.mac and run it. Instructions are in the header.
  2. Upload the resulting *.vtk file to PADT. Find instructions here.
  3. Email rp@padtinc.com and let us know the name of the file, that you want a Color 3D Print, and what units your part is and scale factor, if any, to apply to your part.  
  4. We will generate a quote.  
  5. You give us a PO or a credit card
  6. We pre-process the part and show you the resulting contours, making sure it is what you want
  7. We print it, then ship it to you.

This is a screen shot of the model in our internal tool:

3d-printing-ansys-results-valve-vtk

Method 0.5: Use the PADT Script

If you own a Connex3 and are not a service provider, we would be happy to share the internal script that we use with you.  You would follow the same process as above, but would run the script yourself to make the STL files. You will need to install some opensource tools as well. Email me to discuss.

Method 1: RST to CFD-Post to Magics 

This is how we did the first sample models, because it works out of the box and required no coding.  To use it you need to have a licence of  ANSYS CFD-Post and Magics from Materialise.  CFD Post outputs a color facet file in the VRML2 format, and Magics can convert that into a bunch of STL file.

NOTE: For this to work you need Magics and your contours need to be pretty simple. A complex part won’t work  because Magics won’t be able to figure out the STL volumes. 

We start by attaching a CFD Post object to our model:

project-page

Open up CFD Post and make a plot you like. If you don’t know ANSYS CFD Post, here is an article we did a while back on how to use it to post ANSYS Mechanical and Mechanical APDL results. 

Set the number of contours to a smaller number. You can have up to 46 colors, but that means you have to make 46 separate STL files by hand. I picked 7 contours, which gives me 6 colors:

plot_in_cfdpost

Now simply go to File > Save Picture and select VRML as your format. Note, it will bury the plot way down in your project directories, so I like to change the path to save it at the top level of the directory:

save-wrl

The next step is to read the file in to Magics.

WRL File in Magics_Color Code

In Magics, you can select facets by color and write each one out as a separate STL file.

Once you have done that, go in to the Objet Studio Software that came with your printer and assign colors to each STL file. We just kind of eyeball the closest color to the original plot:

FEA Objet studio

You can see here that we actually printed 3 at a time, just made copies and we only had to define colors on the original.  Then Print.

Here is what it looks like in the printer when it finished. We ran some other parts next to the three valves:
printing

You’ll notice it looks all yellow. That is the support material. It is water soluble and we just wash it off when the part is done. 

Method 2: Macro for Element Based Contours

That method kind of was a pain, so we decided it would be a good idea to write a little macro in APDL that does the following:

  1. Specify number of colors and value to plot.  (It uses the current selected nodes/elements.)
  2. Select elements by contour range
  3. Create surface elements on those elements
  4. Convert those surface elements in to an STL file for each contour.

The advantage of this approach is that ANSYS MAPDL directly creates the STL files and all you have to do is read that into Objet Studio and assign colors.  The disadvantage is that it is plotting element faces, so if a contour changes across a face, it doesn’t capture it. The way it works now is that the face color is represents the contour color for the lowest value on that face.  Not ideal, but I only had about 3 hours to write something from scratch and that is as far as I got.

This is what it looks like in Objet Studio:

macro-1-in-studio

Here is the macro: mkcolstl_mac.zip

Just run in in MAPDL or put it in ANSYS Mechanical as a post processing command snippet.

3D-plots-table

PADT in the Press: AZ Republic Article on 3D Printing

Peter Corbett, from the Arizona Republic published a story last week on 3d Printing called: “3D PRINTERS: TURNING SCIENCE FICTION INTO REALITY

Near the end of the article, there is a section called “Tempe Firm a 3-D Leader” where they talk a lot about PADT, what we do here, and the history of 3D Printing.  Always great to get this technology and our company recognized.  

PADT-AZ-Republic-2014_05_10

http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/tech/2014/05/10/3d-printing-touching-layer/8956075/

3D Printing a Building – An Important Example of the Real Value of 3D Printing

We have recently been asked to present 3D Printing at a variety of events, many not in our traditional mechanical engineering space, and a common theme is emerging.  Once people see through the hype and really understand what the technology can and can’t do, they want to understand what the real long term value is.

I’ve been mulling it for a while, then a Facebook friend of mine sent me the video below of a company in China that has a working 3D Printer for buildings.  It is basically an FDM machine that uses concrete. It is still early days and much work is still needed. But it shows the one key value of 3D printing to the general public:

3D Printing gives people without special training or equipment the ability to make stuff.

Here is the video:


3dprint examplesIf I want to build a sturdy house, I need to know how to lay brick/frame/hang sheetrock/prefab concrete.   I also need all the various tools required to do that.  If I have a 3D house printer, I just need the raw materials and a model of the house I want. Imagine volunteers showing up in a remote village with a 3D Printer on the back of a flatbed.  Those volunteers don’t need to be trained on how to build a house. Just how to run the printer.  If you have ever volunteered for a Habitat for Humanity or a mission that involves house building, you know what I’m talking about. The two real construction workers on the crew do 90% of the work and the rest of you try not to put a nail through your hand.  

There are other applications. Take a military unit that needs to quickly build a shelter at a forward operating base. Instead of requiring experienced combat engineers, hit print.  Or even in your own backyard. Want a small cabana for Grandma to live in.  Hire a contractor and wait six months through delays and cost overruns, or rent a 3D printer – my guess is the 3D printer will show up on time.

Take this thought and apply it to the traditional use of 3D Printers, prototyping in mechanical product development, and it still applies. I ordered that first SLA model of a fan blade way back in 1990 or so because we needed to make sure the turbine engine fan blade shape we redesigned (using ANSYS, of course) was manufacturerable, had no unexpected bumps (trust, me it happened before), and could be assembled into the existing disk. Instead of going to a machine shop and having an expert machine, broach and grind it, we went straight from the solid model to a printed part. No need for experts or the 5 or 6 pieces of special equipment required to machine and broach that blade.

Just a few examples where 3D printing enables end-users of a physical item to make it without expertise, skills, or special equipment: dental implants, jewelry, art work, fixtures or tooling for a manufacturing process, scaffolds for growing new body parts, and even fancy chocolates.  All of these examples show how 3D printing lets the person who needs an object, create that object themselves. This reduces time and distractions from the true focus of their effort.

This is what is really exciting. Not making a replacement part for your washing machine or “bringing manufacturing back to the US (automation and good old fashioned market forces will do that, not 3D printing) but being able to make whatever you really want.  I will sit here and print out my mechanical parts and assemblies, happily avoiding the need to use a machine shop to build a prototype.  And while I do that, I’ll keep get great joy from scanning the interweb to see what new and truly novel applications people will come up with. 

Color 3D Printer Added to PADT’s Rapid Prototyping Product and Services Offering

PADT’s new Objet500 Connex3 is up and running, just in time for our 20th Anniversary party tonight.  The latest machine from Stratasys is the first true 3D Color Printer that allows users to print accurate and durable parts in whatever combination of color they want, including tinted transparent material. The machine is comfortably nestled between our FORTUS 400 and FORTUS 250MC.  

connex3-new-machine-padt
We are especially pleased to have several executives and support people from Stratasys, the manufacturer of this machine, here for our party tonight.  They will be around to answer questions and will be offering a brief presentation on their technology as well.

Yesterday we successfully ran the standard “wrench” demo models:
connex3-wrench-test-modelsAnd overnight we ran some more sample parts along with a printout of a 3D FEA result on a valve model:connex3-sample-fea-results
The parts are still inside the support material, so you can’t see all the colors. Have no fear, we will be blogging about the FEA model very shortly.

PADT has been offering this machine for sale since its introduction in February and we have already sold one and have several other users about to purchase.  The advantages of having a color part without having to paint on are significant.  With our own machine we can now build benchmark parts for potential buyers and we can also offer color printing as part of our Rapid Prototyping services

We will be showing off this machine, along with everything else PADT does, at our party tonight.  But if you can’t make it and would like to learn more, just reach out to our sales team at sales@padtinc.com, our prototyping services team at rp@padtinc.com or just give us a call at 480.813.4884.

UPDATE:

Here is the cleaned valve displacement 3D Plot:
color-valve-deflection-1

 

Reblog: Terry Wohlers Predictions at Inside 3D Printing Conference & Expo

If you are interested in 3D Printing and you don’t follow Terry Wohlers, you should. He has been following this industry since it started and he is one of the best at separating hype from reality.

Here is a link to a blog post on 3dprinter.net on his predictions at this years Inside 3D Printing Conference & Expo.

He brings up some very good points on where the technology is being used today and where growth may occur.  Also some thoughts on the global growth of additive manufacturing, and the obstacles and challenges the industry faces. 

My favorite take-away from the posting is Terry’s that “more and more effort is needed to not just take a traditional design and 3D Print it, but rather to re-think the entire part design to take into account the capabilities and limitations of AM.”

PADT to Present 3D Printing at Digital Printing Presses Conference in Scottsdale

The merger of modern 2D printing and 3D printing is getting closer and stronger.  As a sign of the convergence, this years Digital Printing Presses Conference has invited PADT to give a presentation to the digital printing press community on 3D Printing.  The conference runs from April 30th through May 2nd in Scottsdale, Arizona. PADT will be presenting during the opening session on April 30th.

Learn more about the event here.

If you happen to be one of those people at the crossroads of 2D and 3D printing, this would be a great event to attend and see how both industries are progressing.

Here is the official press release with more details:

PRLog (Press Release) – Apr. 4, 2014 – SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies (PADT) is honored to announce that they have been invited to speak on the opening day of the 5th Digital Printing Presses Conference.   The event sponsors, the Information Management Institute, recognize that the growth of 3D Printing is having a major impact on digital printing, and they asked PADT to explain the technology and how it impacts the industry. If you are needing some digital printings visit xerocopy. The presentation: “3D Printing: What it is Now and How it is Changing the Way Things are Made” will be given by one of PADT’s co-owners, Eric Miller.

The talk will focus on how the technology works, applications and how it is changing manufacturing. In addition he will discuss strengths and weaknesses of the technology, the business climate, and future directions for the technology. Additive Manufacturing technology encompasses a wide range of processes that can be used to directly create physical objects from a computer model.

3D Printing refers to a subset of Additive Manufacturing that allows the creation of parts without any special training or expertise, the users simply prints a part just as they would a document on a traditional digital printer.  As the technology evolves the differences between Digital Printing and 3D Printing are disappearing. Because of this, many providers of Digital Printing services are investigation, or adding, 3D Printing as a service that they can offer their customers.  This presentation will focus on exploring this new synergy.

Mr. Miller points out that “3D printing is on everyone’s mind, especially how it will impact their particular industry. Our goal is for everyone who attends to get a firm grasp on what the technology can and can’t do, and know enough to make decisions on how they can use it in their area of digital printing.” The event is being held on April 30th through May 2nd of 2014, at the Saguaro Scottsdale Resort in downtown Scottsdale, Arizona.  Mr. Miller will be presenting during the first session from 1:00 to 6:30 on April 30th.  To learn more about the event, visit: http://www.imiconf.com To learn more about PADT and 3D printing, visit: http://www.padtinc.com

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.