Ted Harris captured this picture when going home last Friday. This is what you find at the end of a rainbow.
It is a long exposure to get the colors in the rainbow, so the sign is a bit bright. But not bad for holding an iPhone steady.
For our Christmas parties at PADT we generally have over 40 employees so a traditional secret Santa gift exchange takes to long. So a couple of years ago we downloaded a right-left gift exchange story from the internet and it was a big hit. We ran out of stories on the internet, so we started writing our own, usually in some sort of over-the-top style. This year it was sort of a romance story with an Italian lover, a green dress, swordplay, and an angry suitor. It takes place at Christmas time… so there is the rather weak tie to Christmas.
If you have never played this game before it is simple. Everyone gets their gift and forms a big circle in the middle of the room. Someone with a strong voice reads the story and every the world LEFT is read, everyone passes the package they have to the left. Every time the world RIGHT is read, everyone passes the package they have to their right. You should pause a bit at each LEFT/RIGHT to give people a chance to pass. Using funny voices for the dialog also helps.
We hope you get as many laughs out of it as we did.
Here is a list of all of our Left-Right Christmas Gift Exchange Stories:
– Vegas Christmas (2019)
– Hollywood Golden Age Christmas (2018)
– Elf Family Christmas (2017)
– Western Christmas (2016)
– Star Wars Christmas (2015)
– Fairy Tale Christmas (2014)
– Science Fiction Christmas (2013)
– Romance Christmas (2012)
– Film Noir Christmas (2011)
Silvia LEFTwater lounged in her chair and watched Sir Robert St. RIGHTman stride across the portico, from LEFT to RIGHT into the LEFT wing of the LEFTwater mansion. She fluttered her eyes and inhaled a deep breath that stretched the bodice of her deep green satin dress. She held it for a time till it LEFT her a little light headed. She then let out a long, sad sigh.
“RIGHT now, based upon the sigh that just LEFT your body, I am guessing that your heart is once again RIGHT where I… last enjoyed your embrace.
Hearing Alberto’s voice coming from the doorway startled Silvia RIGHT out of her deep contemplation. During the summer they had enjoyed a brief, deep and passionate romance, stolen moments together RIGHT here in her Writeing study, that had LEFT her wanting more. If she was honest with herself, it had LEFT her devastated. But he had… gone away without saying a word, only WRITEing her a single note that explained he would return RIGHT before Christmas. She had moved on, or so she thought. She didn’t want to think about the complications that Alberto LEFT in his wake; she wanted to focus on Sir Robert RIGHT now.
“Alberto, it is such a pleasure to see you standing RIGHT here, you LEFT in such a hurry this summer.” She presented her RIGHT hand to him, which he took in both his LEFT and RIGHT hands, brushing his lips RIGHT against the top of her knuckles. “I am so glad you could be here for Christmas, it would not be RIGHT to celebrate it without you.”
Alberto looked down on her, gazing into her eyes in a way that LEFT her a bit breathless. “My dearest Silvia, you must be angry with me, and RIGHTly so. But it is now Christmas time and I want nothing LEFT to chance. So I have returned to RIGHT here, RIGHT now, to make things RIGHT. ”
Silvia felt her heart leap RIGHT out of her chest. He had LEFT her depressed and forlorn and now he marched RIGHT in at Christmas to declare something. And RIGHT after Sir Robert had LEFT this very same room after making a proposal of marriage. In fact, she realized that Sir Robert had declared his love to her standing in the same place Alberto stood now.
“Silvia, my peach, my desire, when I , LEFT here this summer I feel I did it for the RIGHT reasons. I bought property on the LEFT bank of the seine and opened an art auction house. And I sold pictures that my aunt had LEFT in plain sight, RIGHT above the LEFTmost window of our country estate. They were rare examples of the REITenhouser school of portraiture, painted by REITenhouser himself and his students. I sold them for a fortune, which has LEFT me with enough money to do RIGHT by you.”
Just then, Silvia saw Sir Robert over Alberto’s LEFT shoulder, standing in the door that had been LEFT open. His RIGHT eye twitched as his RIGHT hand slowly moved to his RIGHT hip where his sword was secured to his belt. “Alberto!” he yelled with RIGHTeous indignation. “By all that these mad days have still LEFT holy in this world, you have given up your RIGHT to Silvia’s attention. I have stood RIGHT by her side when you LEFT her crying, RIGHT here on this couch. Draw your sword, and we shall see who is LEFT standing!”
Alberto stood at attention, he looked RIGHT into Sir Robert’s eyes and said “You have LEFT me with no choice, we shall set this RIGHT….” He paused and drew his sword with his LEFT hand, for Alberto was not only Italian, he was a LEFTy, “… here and now”
And then they battled, back and forth, parry and thrust, thrust and parry. Silvia stood speechless, clutching her hands to her LEFT chest against her pounding heart. As the men fought, she was LEFT with a feeling of exhilaration. She knew it was… wrong… and not RIGHT, to find pleasure in their struggle. But she could not help herself. He chest heaved, covered with dewdrops of sweat as she watched them struggle.
Without warning, when they stood RIGHT in front of Silvia, Alberto slashed across Roberts LEFT cheek, which LEFT a long red streak under his eye. It also splashed blood RIGHT on Slivias RIGHT hip, RIGHT above her hand tooled leather belt.
“STOP THIS RIGHT NOW!!!” she shouted. Her outburst LEFT both men stunned and they stood there in front of her, looking RIGHT at her. “It is Christmas and this is not RIGHT. Although I am honored by your gallantry and willingness to fight for my love, the decision shall be LEFT to be to decide what is RIGHT for me.”
She took a deep breath and both men admired her long auburn hair, tied into a braid that sat on her RIGHT shoulder. She looked fierce, and beautiful. Then the word leapt RIGHT out from her “I love you Alberto, I always will. I would have rather you not LEFT me, and what you did was not RIGHT. But I forgive you. I’m sorry Sir Robert, it would be best if you LEFT now.”
Sir Robert dropped his sword and turned to leave. He walked through the door he had LEFT open only minutes before when he had LEFT after he had proposed to her, and walked down the hallway and… across the courtyard to his waiting carriage.
Which LEFT Silvia once again alone with Alberto, and it felt RIGHT. “Oh Alberto!” She felt his LEFT and RIGHT arms tight around her, which LEFT her no option but to collapse into his warm body. “This will be the Best Christmas Ever!” she said. Alberto leaned back and said. ” My Dear, Silvia, my love, my desire, my passion. You are…….. correct”
This Wednesday we had our last PADT ANSYS Webinar Webinar of 2012 on the cool stuff in the just released 14.5 version of the ANSYS Mechanical products. As promised, here are links:
The recording can be found at:
And a PDF of the presentation can be found at:
This posting is the second installment for our series. The first posting was “If You Build It, They Will Not Come.”
We hope that you find it useful and we look forward to sharing our thoughts on this topic with you.
There is a reason why so many business books and presentations use a picture of a guy on a tightrope. Business is all about balancing. But if you dig deeper, you find that in order to balance you have to do two things that are often in conflict – you must stay very focused on what you are doing while being flexible in how you react to things. Getting the right balance between these two approaches is critical to success in any business, but especially for a technology startup.
To understand why focus and flexibility are so important it is a good idea to remember that doing a startup is a process that involves many steps, often executed at the same time. The execution of each step costs time and money, and a startup has a limited amount of both. Therefore it is critical that you only execute the steps that will lead you to your goals. Doing anything else will lead to a squandering of precious resources and will result in your startup running out of funding or not getting to market in time.
The path seems obvious: come up with a plan, then follow the plan. Easy.
The problem is that no one knows what steps are needed when they start, and even if you have a good idea, everything changes all the time. There are a host of external factors that impact what you are trying to achieve. Things like the economy, competition, changes in laws, shifting consumer trends, and new technologies. You can plan for some of this, but not all of it. When circumstances change, successful startups react in a controlled but effective manner. This requires focus, flexibility, and the effective setting of goals.
Being focused is not the same thing as making a plan and sticking to it. Focus is all about making sure you are paying attention to what is important, thinking about why it is important, and prioritizing your actions. It is about having an inner dialog with yourself and within your organization that directs your actions, allowing you to keep moving towards your goals as things change.
Sometimes it is easier to understand the importance of a concept by looking at its opposite. The opposite of focus, in this context, is distraction. In the world of startups distractions are often deadly. They sap resources and move your team away from what they should be doing. They can also lead to making the wrong decisions because you loose site of priorities.
By concentrating on your companies goals and relating decisions back to those goals, you can stay focused and avoid distractions. To do so we recommend the following steps:
In the end, you just need to have the discipline to keep your whole team focused on what needs to be done, why it needs to be done, and how you are going to do it.
Way back around 500 BCE, a Greek guy name Heraclitus said “Nothing endures but change.” It was true then, it is true now. When creating a startup there is only one thing that is a sure thing – that things will change. The unexpected will happen and things you predicted will not. Worst of all, there is no way to avoid change. You have to accept that it will happen, and when it does happen you have several choices on how to deal with it.
You can resist it, push back, fight the change.. But in doing so you can often loose your focus and create resource sapping resistance. Another option is to ignore it, which is often the easiest response. The problem with ignoring change is that your startup’s goals may actually change and you do not even know it. Lastly, you can meet change proactively, embrace change, and adjust your activities to make the best of it. The issue with this approach is that you may make the wrong adjustments and stop doing what you should be doing.
As with most things, the best answer is a combination of all three of these responses, controlled by each unique circumstance. That is why a startup needs to be flexible. When change happens you need to stretch your perceptions and maybe your knowledge till you truly understand the change and how it effects your startup. Once you understand it in the context of your business, you can devices a plan for dealing with the change, or decide you can ignore it.
The most important part of flexibility is being able to honestly look at your product and your organization and change your views, your activities, and maybe even your organization itself. Being flexible is all about using change to deal with change. It is about being open minded.
Having an open mind and being able to listen to other peoples ideas is a critical step towards being flexible. This is often difficult for those with the drive and passion to create a startup. The self-confidence and determination that keeps them moving forward makes it difficult for them to except that change needs to happen or to let others decide what that change needs to be. Entrepreneurs need to be open to the ideas of others and step up as leaders to modify their plans based on outside input.
For an organization to be flexible, it must constantly stretch and push its flexibility, just like with muscles in the body. If a company is rigid and then tries to make a big change out of the blue, pain will result. A startup that has flexibility as part of its standard way of doing things can bend and twist as needed, when needed, without stretching things beyond limits.
The key to staying flexible and focused at the same time is setting usable goals and effectively using them. Goals are the tool that a startup can use to find that balance between focus and flexibility. They give everyone in the organization a shared set of guidelines to evaluate decisions with. If you have clear goals, your team can look at change, assess its impact on goals, and make intelligent changes.
Easy to say, hard to do. Setting up a concise set of goals and objectives is hard enough, but sticking with them and adapting them as the world around you changes is even more difficult. Whole books have been written on the subject of business goals and objectives. If you have not done so, it is probably a good idea to read one or two or read some articles on the web. Inc. Magazine has a good article from 2010 on the subject.
Some of the rules we use for establishing goals are:
Whatever method you use, identify real world long-term and short-term goals that everyone in your organization can understand. Once established, make sure you review them and change your goals as you learn more and as things change. Then use your goals as a tool to help make decisions and guide your company through its growth towards success.
A common term in the world of startups these days is “pivot.” Do a search online for “business pivot” and you will be shocked at how many articles and blog entries are written on the topic. It is an idea that has come out of the observation many of today’s very successful software startups ended up being successful in areas they did not expect or initially go after. Fast Company has a good article on the whole “pivot” thing and where it came from.
Doing a pivot in a business is being flexible and making changes to address changing goals. That is good. However, what we see again and again is people justifying lack of focus or chasing after wild geese as a “pivot.” We know, YouTube started as a video dating site. Great for them. That does not excuse your shift from bio-contaminant detection to making custom dog collars.
If you pivot without control, without looking at what is going on around you, you will fall over. If you pivot away from your goals, then you will miss your target. The answer is to think and adapt to changing situations with control. Assess the change you are looking at, compare it to your goals, and if it make sense, plan the proper effort to implement the needed change. Make a conscious effort to thoughtfully work out your decisions.
The journey to success is a long one, with many distractions along the way. You can complete that journey if you stay focused, be flexible, and set and use goals.
The STL file is the linqua-franca of the prototyping world, the file format that all geometry creation tools write, and that all prototyping systems read. When you make a prototype it will be an exact copy of your STL file. If your file is not accurate, then your prototype will not be accurate. If there are errors in your file, you may not be able to get a prototype made. Therefore, a little bit of time understanding STL files and how to create a good one is a good investment that will pay off in the long run.
When additive manufacturing was just starting the manufacturers of machines faced a problem – they needed a way to get 3D solid models from a large number of CAD systems to their machines for processing. The common file format for geometry interchange, IGES, was not robust enough because of toleranceing issues. Writing a program to slice up each CAD format was also not practical. So they looked at the problem and realized they did not need exact mathematical models made up of NURB, Bezier, or analytical geometry. The algorithm that sliced up each layer just needed polygons on the surface. So the STL file just needed to have those polygons. And the STL file was born.
Lets talk about that slicing process. If you remember, almost all additive manufacturing processes work by creating stacked layers that are a cross section of the part you want. To build the part you must slice the geometry in software, calculating that cross section. Doing the intersection of a plane with a complex NURB surface is hard math, but the intersection with a triangle is very easy and results in a line segment. This makes creating the path for each layer much easier.
STL stands for STereoLithography, or Standard Tessellation Language, depending on which source you check. It was invented for 3D Systems by the Albert Consulting Group way back in 1987 to support the first Stereolithography machines. The format describes a collection of facets, or polygons. Each polygon is defined by a normal “outward” vector and the vertices that define it. Although the format supports more than three vertices per facet, in practice everyone uses three, defining a triangle. The file can be a text file (ASCII) or a binary file.
Users almost never have to worry about the file because the programs they use to create their geometry automatically generate STL files in the proper format. If you do need to write your own routine to output an STL file, it is fairly simple.
1: First it puts points on all of the shared edges of all the surfaces
2: Then it creates triangles on each surface
The algorithm used to create the facets varies from program to program, but most of them use the same routines they use to make facets for the 3D graphics you see on your monitor.
There are two things to note about faceting. The first is that each corner must be coincident with at least one other corner. No corners can touch the edge of another triangle. The second is that a triangle is flat and your surface can be curved. To make your curved surface look curved you need enough triangles to make it appear like a continuous surface.
The most common problem these days with STL files is leaky geometry. When your CAD tool creates the STL file your solid may not be a true solid in that you have holes in your topology. This can be caused by gaps, ill-defined curves and surface, or corners (vertices) not lining up. If you cut out the triangles and glued them together then filled the resulting object with water, the water would leak out.
You CAD package can make leaky STL files if it has loosened up the tolerances on the geometry modeling to the point where edges on its surface do not really line up. They trick themselves into accepting this through some hand waving inside their database, and it really is not a problem till you want to do something with the surfaces. Something like make an STL file.
One way to fix this problem is to clean up the original geometry. Run diagnostics on it and see where there are holes. You should do this anyway because in the end, a messy solid will cause problems when you make your drawings, calculate tool paths, or try and do simulation.
If that is not an option, you can use repair software. If you use an RP service provider, they should be able to repair most STL files. But if you constantly need them to do so, you should really look at changing your modeling practices or investing in some repair tools.
If you are doing your own prototyping, you have two good options. The first is free: Meshlab. It is an open source tool for working with faceted geometry and has repair and diagnostic capabilities. It does a lot so the interface can be a bit confusing, but it is free. If you want to save time and probably money in the long run, we recommend that you purchase a copy of SolidView. It is purpose built for repairing STL files and can really cut down on your repair time.
Even if your prototyping tool can read your geometry and make a valid part, it may come out looking all clunky because your geometry is to faceted. As discussed above, the STL file is made up of triangles. If you have too few triangles on a curved surface then it comes out looking all flat and ugly. Here is a simple example:
The key to controlling this is to set the options in your CAD package to create more facets.
This is such an important topic, we actually have a whole posting dedicated to it:
In the old days we tried to minimize the number of triangles in an STL file because that file had to be uploaded, often via a modem. But now we can email very large files, so you can make some pretty big STL files. Don’t go crazy, but don’t sacrifice surface quality either.
It is very rare for a CAD tool to create bad triangles, but it happens every once in a while. When trying to create a build from an STL file you might get a “Degenerate Triangle” or “Inverted Faces” error message. There is not much you can do with this other than try one of the repair tools mentioned above or try and fix your underlying geometry. If you get this type of error, there is something very wrong with your solid model.
Another problem that people often run across is that some of their small features do not show up on their prototype. This can be because their STL file is not refined enough and that can be solved by tightening up the tolerance on their STL file creation. If that does not work, the feature may just be too small for the technology. Take a look at what the true machine resolution is. Make sure that is is smaller than your smallest features.
Having a bad STL file can really slow down the rapid part of Rapid Prototyping. That is why PADT recommends that you take the time when you create your solid models to make good, robust, water tight solids that can be used down stream. If you have nasty geometry or a less than precise CAD tool (can anyone say CATIA) you may have to invest in a repair program like Meshlab or SolidView. Some up-front investment will pay in the long run, especially when you need that prototype first thing in the morning.
A quick note before I head out for a Chris Isaac concert (my wife is a fan, and I’m supportive… but let me note that she did not support me by going to see Rush) I wanted to let our readers know about printing on this new blog.
Long time The Focus readers are used to having a “Print” link that will make a nicely formatted printout of articles. Some people like to do that and then share them with others or keep them in a book for reference. On the new WordPress based blog there is no need for that. Simply go to the article itself by clicking on the title, then print it out using your browsers print function. WordPress takes care of the formatting.
Have a great weekend!
One day me ARG says, “ARG, go to ARG and get the ARG to ARG the mainsail.” I says to me ARG, “ARG went yesterday. The ARG is over yonder by the ARG and the rum! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ARG!!”
Yeah… pirate jokes don’t work so well when the same ARG is used in too many places. The same goes for command snippets.
Summary Note: This article got longer than I intended, so here is a summary of the important points.
1. When using multiple Command Objects in a single mechanical session, the ARG variables initialized in earlier scripts are still active in later snippets if the ARG values for that snippet are not filled in the details window. Don’t assume the ARG values are zero, unless you set them to zero.
2. Output arguments are evaluated at the end of the MAPDL run. If the same variable name is used in multiple command objects, all the snippets will show the same output value, which is the value of that variable at the end of the solution process.
Now you can keep reading if you’re bored, or curious, or just confused.
Up until a few days ago, I was under the impression that each command snippet that was added to a Workbench Mechanical had it’s own set of ‘ARG’ variables, like MAPDL does for macros, since each one has a details window with it’s own set of ARG Variables. Well, they don’t.
When you hit the ‘Solve’ button in Mechanical, it builds one large input file that it sends to MAPDL. This input file contains all the nodes and elements, loads and supports. It also contains any command snippets that you have in the model. All command snippets are run in the main namespace. ARGS from one snippet carry over to another.
As an example I set up a small command snippet with the details from the above picture. It uses two arguments, ARG1 and ARG2. Below shows exactly what get added to the overall input file.
The first two lines are added by Workbench to initialize the variables. All looks good and works fine, until I add another command snippet. This one is even simpler and just stores the ARG variable to defined variables that Workbench will then read back to the details window, which is discussed below.
As you can see below, the ARG1 and ARG2 variables are left blank, but the two output variables match what was set in the previous command snippet. This is because the*SET commands that Workbench adds, are only added when the details window has values given. So ARG1 and ARG2 are never overwritten from the previous command snippet. The way to avoid the overlapping of input variables is to fill in the Input Arguments with zeros whenever using multiple command snippets.
Which brings up another point, about output variables. As many of you know, but some may not, each command snippet has a “Parameter Search Prefix”, which is set to “my_” by default. This allows Mechanical to search through your snippet and find any variables that you define that start with “MY_”. In the example above, the output variables are MY_ARG1 and MY_ARG2. (Remember that MAPDL stores all variable in uppercase.) The values of these variables are then pulled out of the MAPDL database and shown in the details window for that command snippet. The values are taken at the end of the solution phase, and not at the time they are defined. So this means that if two or more command objects use the same output variable names, whatever value the last command object set for the variables, that is going to be the same value read back in and displayed for all of the command objects using that variable. The best way to avoid this is to use different output variable names in each command object.
Since I already gave you the good points in the summary, I won’t restate them here. I will just add that command objects are great for adding functionality to your Workbench Mechanical runs. Just be cautious ARGS when using multiple objects. (Or pirate jokes, for that matter.)
PADT’s very own Norman Stucker is leading efforts through the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce to grow the business community in Littleton. Norman is heading up a commitee charged with creating coordination and synergy between businesses, non-profits, and local government.
This morning was the first community meeting for the committee. Speakers included a small graphic arts company owner, the director of the local YMCA, and the Littleton city manager. The messaclearly the same from everyone, that Littleton is “open for business”
PADT is very proud to have one of our employees play such an important role in the community.
PADT is pleased to be an exhibitor at this years Colorado Space Roundup. This is a great event where everyone involved in space gets together and talks about what needs to be done to improve and grow the aerospace ecosystem in the state. We are pleased to see many of our customers here, and have already met some new friends.
The location is at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, a very cool facility with a nice view out front. It was also nice to see so many grcrust companies, many who are customers, listed with PADT on the sponsor page.
Veebow.com is not a typical technology investment for PADT. The company “was founded by Tom Vitale and Edward Loew to connect buyers with savvy companies through local, regional and national special deals using a free application on smart phones and mobile devices.” Why does PADT have an interest in a mobile phone coupon application? We will get to that below, but first a little bit about the company.
Based in the Phoenix area, with offices in Los Angeles, Veebow.com is a startup that was born out of a missing capability in the market place. No one provides a method for consumers and merchants to easily and affordably use coupons on a smart phone. There are plenty of discount applications out there, but non of them are free AND mobile oriented. They usually cost money for the consumer, or are web based systems moved to mobile. Veebow is mobile from the ground up, and costs the consumer nothing. In fact, you actually make some money when you use a coupon through the application, because users earn points that can be redeemed for gift cards.
The merchant side is also different. Instead of having to pay for deals to get published, or instead of using the deal company as a middleman to pre-sell things, Veebow only charges the merchant when a coupon is used. The merchant only pays when they get a customer. That is very attractive to merchants that are unhappy with most of the deal sites out there.
One other thing that makes Veebow different is where the idea for the company came from. Tom Vitale, one of the founders, is married to the actress Valarie Bertinelli. A life long coupon clipper, she was complaining about what a pain it is to use coupons, and that all of the online and mobile options are difficult to use or cost money. From that complaint came the idea and the name for Veebow – Tom’s nickname for his wife. Her involvement is a significant marketing advantage for the company.
The technology on for this startup is not bleeding edge. The mobile apps are written in native IOS and Android and use standard location services and communication to work. There is a backend tool that sits in the cloud which houses the database and does all of the heavy lifting as far as finding what the user is looking for. Nothing too special, but a lot of work to implement and something that needs to be done right. So the technology focus is really on executing correctly
Because of this, the real technology challenge for this product was taking the desired user experience and making it a reality. It is one thing to sit in a room and talk about how an application should work, and another to make it happen in the real world. Veebow just released their first major revision of the user application and you can tell they have really thought things out and put a lot of effort into making the experience special. As the product matures and they modify and improve the user experience, look for more sophistication and ease of use in the application.
We are interested in this company for three reasons. And no, one of them was not meeting Valarie Bertinelli. (although, that was pretty cool, and she is as nice and funny in person as you imagined. We did get a picture with yours truly during an event in Phoenix). As PADT grows our services and works with a wider range of companies, we have to continually learn more about other spaces and other processes used to get products to market and sold. Sometimes we make investments in companies because their products or services are directly related to what we do, and sometimes it is because they offer us the opportunity to learn about areas we want to understand better. The latter is why we invested in Veebow.
The first area of interest for us is the mobile application aspect. As products get smarter they are going to be moving towards monitoring and control through mobile applications. This is already showing itself to be true in medical devices, and we are seeing it with more customers in other industries every day. Our involvement with Veebow has already taught us a lot about mobile app development, connections to cloud based backend database applications, and user experience issues.
A unique challenge that Veebow faces is that they need to market to consumers and vendors at the same time. PADT has no direct experience with marketing to retail merchants or consumers, but many of our customers deal with this on a daily basis. We feel that by being involved with Veebow we will get an up close look at this very important dynamic, and give us insight that we can use when working with our customers.
The most important reason for our investment in Veebow is that we think it is a great idea, with a good team, and a workable plan. In short, we think it is a good investment that will make a nice return on our investment while growing jobs and the technology ecosystem in Arizona. This is the type of win-win situation we strive for.
The team at Veebow is very busy with a local test launch in the Phoenix area, closing out this round of funding, and finishing up some very nice tools for their merchants. They are starting to see some traction with consumers, as they get more merchants signed up. This is an effort where they need growth on both sides at the same time to be successful.
They are also adding to their team, making some great hires for key positions that will allow them to grow and be successful. We have already seen a positive impact on the software side and are seeing some very serious momentum on the customer acquisition side of things. Local restaurant company Fox Restaurant Concepts is an early participant as is the national hat chain Lids. Many others are in negotiations.
Best of all, the users seem to like it. The droid version has 4.5 stars out of 5 and the iPhone version has 4 out of 4. We feel that is pretty good considering how picky consumers are.
You can help PADT help our local tech startup community by downloading the application for your iPhone or Android device and using it. It works all around the country. What is the worst thing that will happen? You might save some money.
I know, this is bordering on advertising, but at the same time we would really like people to use it and spread the word. Growth of this company will provide PADT with experience and capital that we can use to provide you with better products and services.. Also, when this is the next big thing, you can tell your friends that you know someone who invested in the idea early.
PADT is a company focused on helping companies bring their physical products to market. As “We Make Innovation Work” for our customers, we learn a lot about what does and does not work in technology startup companies. In addition, we were once a startup ourselves and we now participate in Angel investing. All of this has taught us a lot of valuable lessons.
In this series we will share some of those lessons learned and explore the basic concepts and ideas that will help startups overcome the odds and become successful.
This posting is the first installment for our series. We hope that you find it useful and we look forward to sharing the the other nine articles.
We see it over and over again. Someone has a great idea. They borrow money from their friends and family, they max out their credit card, they get angel funding. They then build their product, putting every ounce of enthusiasm and drive they have into making the product perfect. All along they show it to people and get fantastic feedback like “I would buy that is a second” and “I wish I would have thought of that, it is a great idea.” They are dripping with passion. As soon as they can, they put their product out there…
And the product fails.
And they wonder why. They get frustrated and sometimes angry. What the majority of startups fail to recognize is that no mater how good an idea is, no matter how real and tangible the market need is, products do not sell themselves. This failure mode is different from failure caused by mistakes in execution, pricing, growth, or missing the market. What we are talking about here are perfectly good viable products that do not make it off the ground because the startup that created it felt that just building it was good enough.
“Building it” is just one step of many in getting a startup to success. You must also plan and implement everything that is required to build a business and launch a product. Those things do not come automatically. If you have a great idea with demand, then the implementation will be easier, but it is very rare for the idea or need alone to make a product a success.
There are many different areas that a startup must focus on beyond the product itself. Many a book and even a few text books have been written to talk in detail about how to plan and implement a entrepreneurial business plan. However, in our experience, there three critical parts of the business that every startup must carry out well to be successful.
The first is marketing – because if no one knows you have a product and what it does, you do not have the opportunity to acquire them as customers. You have to do it, and you have to do all of it: branding, messaging, social media, website, advertising, networking, trade shows, press, etc…. You do not have to do it big, and you can scale as you grow, but you must make sure that customers know your product exists and what it does.
We see many of our customers go to market with a name and maybe a basic website. When nothing happens they do not understand why the orders are not rolling in. A consistent and properly scaled marketing strategy with a concise message that conveys the products value is what is missing. Coming up with this is not easy and time and thought needs to be put into it. The good news is that this is one area where outside consultants can really help.
The critical partner to marketing is sales. The ease of direct to customer transactions through the internet gives many startups the false impression that they can simply put their product on the web and they will get orders. Even if no human interaction is involved, there is a sales cycle and you need to plan for it, manage it, and maximize the return on investment from the sales effort.
Sales is something that everyone in a company needs to be involved in to some extent. Success in this area usually comes when a sales process is developed that fits the product, and everyone sticks to it from the receptionist in the lobby to the CEO at the top. It is also a skill that most people do not have, or can not do over the long term. It is important to hire real sales professionals and if needed, managers, to head up the effort.
There is one more major step that needs to be taken for success, to get people to come and buy a product. You need an actual product, and not just an idea. This seems obvious, and not even worth noting. Many times we have been involved in projects or mentoring where, when you dig deep enough, you find out that the “product” is just an idea, or a half formed prototype, and all of the details have not been worked out. To them they have built something great, so money and customers should be coming. But money and customers need something real and finished before they will engage.
If you are thinking of doing a startup, or if you are in a startup now, take some time to look at your strategy and decide if you are counting too much on the power of your product’s appeal to make your successful. You probably are because most people make that mistake. Be honest about what you need to do, plan and execute, and you can defy the odds and be that technology startup that makes it.
It has been a long road but we have finally arrived. You can see it at www.PADTINC.com. Not only is the site new, but we have a new and expanded blog that covers the whole company and not just ANSYS related topics.
Jump right in and take a look, or hang here a bit as we share a little history of how we ended up with the site we have:
About three years ago we decided to redo our website. Several of us tried, but we were just too busy with other things. Or we found we lacked one or two critical skills to get it done. Plus our old site was still doing well with the search engines, bringing in business, and providing information to the community. No one was pushing us to get it done (OK, our sales team was getting pretty frustrated) and it was not easy, so it languished. Still no new website.
So about a year ago, we started looking for a website design company that would work with us the way we wanted to work. This was a more difficult task then we envisioned. We were not looking for someone to make us an online brochure. We were also not looking for someone to set up a content management system that we could upload short bits and pieces to. We also did not want someone that would create a site that we could not get into and mess with. We also ran into a problem with people really not understanding the kind of customer who comes to the PADT website and the type of content they expect. And we wanted it in Adobe Dreamweaver (I know, 2005 called and they want their web design tool back. At least we are not using ColdFusion.)
After looking for a while, we found Newhouse Studios, http://webstrategyaz.com/. They have worked with technical companies in the past, and actually still had people who could use Dreamweaver. They took us through a real design process where different designers (artists really) shot us different look and feel concepts:
We opted for the second one, and the real hard work began. After refining the colors and fonts, we started laying out the site. What a chore! PADT really can be represented on the web as 4 or 5 different companies, and the web needs of each area of the PADT is a bit different. But we did it, lots of multi-color post-it notes all over a big board with arrows going everywhere.
Then we slowed down because we had to write content. And lots of content. Over 90 pages of content. Some were short, some very long, some cut and paste. And each one had to be proofed, optimized for search engines and then formatted properly.
Somewhere in the middle of it all we found we needed some nice images, so we called on DM Photo to put on their commercial photography hat and shoot a bunch of stuff in and around the office. The results were better than we could have hoped for and upped the professional look of the site.
So we just kept on crunching out pages, adding images, and reorganizing as we went.
And in parallel, we launched a new blog hosting server using WordPress, and we expanded the topics for our blog from just ANSYS to all the area that PADT works in. It will also be where we post news, like this posting. So our blog now has: News, The Focus, Product Development, PADT Medical, The RP Resource, and Fun. It is our hope that The RP Resource will become as popular as The Focus. We also hope that the “Fun” page will be fun. That is yet to be proven.
And we worked, and we let other things get in the way, and we dropped a few balls. Nothing unusual for a new website. If you have tried to do this, you know what it is like. But we kept moving forward, and we eventually got there. We are done!
Thank you to everyone who helped out and all of our customers and vendors who put up with the old site. We are pleased with the results and hope you find it useful and entertaining.
PADT has been providing various forms of rapid prototyping since 1994, focused on providing high quality prototypes to engineers involved in product development. Over that time, we have learned a lot about what our customers need to know in order to get the most out of their rapid prototyping investment. As we launch our new The RP Resource, we think now is a good time to share some of the things we have learned.
This is the most important thing for any engineer to know when they are using rapid prototyping. A good understanding of how the prototype will be used is critical to making decisions on the technology applied, the material used, the build options set, and the post processing that is carried out. When we look into why a customer who is unhappy with their prototype, nine times out of ten we find out that they did not convey to us what their end use was, so we did not make them the prototype they actually needed.
The technology may vary from machine to machine, but in the end they all kind of work the same – they build a part one thin layer at a time. This is important because the part you end up getting will be made with layered manufacturing. The strength will be non-uniform, features that overhang may droop a bit if not properly supported, and the surface finish will not be smooth unless you chemically treat it or sand it after the build is done.
The prototype that you are making is a direct digital copy of the file you ask it to print. None of the processes improve on the geometry you send to them, so it is important that you provide a high quality model. If you are starting with an STL file, you need to make sure that you have enough facets on your model so that they are not visible on the prototype. We like the maximum deviation of the facet from the actual shape (chord height) to be less than 0.001 inches. We recently did a post on this very topic.
The same goes true for “bad” STL files. You may get errors, or the prototyping system may not even be able to build your part. Making sure you have a quality STL or CAD will save everyone a lot of time.
Remember that you are using a layered manufacturing process. The number of layers and their orientation relative to your part can make a bid difference on cost, the surface quality, and strength.
In the exaggerated illustration above, you can see the same shape will have different stepping, and a different number of layers depending on how it is oriented. The taller the part, the longer it takes to build. The lower the slope, the more “stair-stepy” the surface.
Something else to take into account is that the parts will be weaker when the layers are put under load that causes them to delaminate. Imagine your prototype was made up of a deck of stacked playing cards with a glue between each card. You want to load it in a way that will not cause those cards to want to pull apart.
One of the biggest drivers of the cost on a prototype is the amount of material used to build the part. This is especially true when you are using some of the more expensive materials. Take a look at using options in your machine software to more sparsely filled part. You can also shell your part on your CAD system. If you are working with a service provider, ask them to take a look at this on your prototypes.
Customers occasionally come to us with an existing part and ask us to make a CAD model of it so they can prototype it. In some cases, it may be easier to just make some soft tooling of the part, skip the prototyping process entirely. But if that does not work, you can use a variety of scanning technologies to get a faceted representation of the real part.
When you look at the published accuracy of a given machine what they show you is the accuracy of the process that traces an outline or sets the thickness of a layer. The accuracy of the mechanisms in the machine itself. Your part may have much less accuracy because most parts warp and shrink slightly during the manufacturing process. Overhangs may also droop if they are not supported correctly.
The key to solving this problem is to really know the machine you are using, or work with a service provider who knows how to plan for and adapt to this reality. Some technologies may just not be suited for your geometry, and you may need to go with a different machine type.
People who use prototyping effectively in their product development always budget for the proper amount to pay for prototyping. Too often this important tool is left out of the budget and when a prototype is needed, funding can not be found or shortcuts are taken that diminish the value of the prototypes. In order to do things right the first time, you should plan for the expense.
It is fairly easy and affordable to paint or dye most rapid prototyping parts. It does add time to the project because painting or dyeing takes time. Users should be aware that they can get almost any color they need on their part. A talented technician can also provide almost any surface finish that is needed.
If you need multiple copies of your part, it may be more affordable to only make one additive manufacturing part and then use soft tooling to make copies. This is also a way to get material properties that are not available with any of the additive manufacturing technologies. In some cases, you can even cast injection molding tooling from a prototype part.
When looking at cost it is important to calculate the total cost. When doing rapid prototyping you need to look at the quoted price of having a prototype made, internally or externally, as only one of many costs. Other activities that impact total cost are: cost of reworking prototypes; shipping/delivery costs; delay in schedule due to build, post processing, and shipping time; time and money spent modifying tests to fit the prototypes shortcomings, time and cost required to deal with prototype failures, etc…
Even if you have one particular technology any engineer who needs to do a significant amount of rapid prototyping should invest the time in understanding all of the available technologies. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and if you understand them and you understand what the usage of your prototype will be, you can save yourself and your company a lot of time and money by choosing the proper technology for each prototypes.
We hope to have some time in the coming months to provide some in depth information on all of the major prototyping technologies, so check this blog for more information.
PADT has been providing Rapid Prototyping Services since 1994 to companies around the world, and over that time we have been asked a lot of questions. The lists below present the most Frequently Asked Questions, our FAQ. The list starts with general Rapid Prototyping questions and is followed by questions that are specific to working with the experts at PADT to do your Rapid Prototyping.
If you do not see your specific question, please feel free to contact PADT and we will be happy to answer it directly.
What is Rapid Prototyping?
Rapid Prototyping is a manufacturing technology that quickly builds a prototype part. Many different technologies are available that are considered Rapid Prototyping, and many can also be used for production manufacturing. Although most Rapid Prototyping systems use a form of layered additive manufacturing, they can also use a variety of other methods such as high-speed machining, molding, casting, and extruding.
Rapid Prototyping, often called RP, is rapid prototyping when the entire process of going from a computer design to a physical model is faster than more traditional manufacturing technologies. Wikipedia has a good article on the subject.[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapid_prototyping]
What is Rapid Tooling and how is it Different from Rapid Prototyping?
The only difference between Rapid Tooling and Rapid Manufacturing is the end use of the parts produced with the process. Both use rapid prototyping technologies to quickly make a part. But for Rapid Tooling, the part is used in another manufacturing process as a tool.
What is 3D Printing and how is it Different from Rapid Prototyping?
3D Printing refers to a subset of rapid prototyping that goes directly from a 3D computer model to a prototype with very little user interaction other than defining some preferences. The process is designed to be as easy as printing from a computer to paper.
In many ways the name is a marketing label to clearly emphasize the affordability and ease of making prototypes using systems that are labeled as 3D Printers. It is also meant to appeal to a larger, less engineering and manufacturing oriented audience. PADT uses 3D Printing systems as well as Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing systems.
What are some of the other names for Rapid Prototyping?
3D Printing, layered manufacturing, additive manufacturing, direct digital manufacturing, digital prototyping, digital fabricator, desktop fabricator, desktop manufacturing, desktop prototyping.
People often use the names of various prototyping techniques to refer to rapid prototyping, and even more often the acronyms for those technologies. Examples are Stereolithography or SLA and Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM.
What is Layered Manufacturing and why do most Rapid Prototyping Technologies Use it?
Layered Manufacturing builds parts up, one thin layer at a time. Most traditional manufacturing methods start with a block and remove material, or shapes material using a tool of some kind. Layered manufacturing is often called Additive Manufacturing because it adds material rather than taking it away or molding it.
The best way to visualize layered manufacturing is to think of taking a real part and chopping it into very thin layers. Then stack those layers back up one on top of the other. Layered manufacturing does the chopping in a computer program, and tells a machine how to create each layer.
When and how is Rapid Prototyping used in Product Development?
Rapid prototyping can be used at almost every step in your product development process. At any point where you need a physical part you can benefit from Rapid Prototyping. Examples are:
Conceptualization: concept models, marketing mockups
Initial Design: form, fit, and function testing, visualization
Detail Design: testing, test fixtures, assembly testing, fit, form and function testing.
Production: tooling, mockups for process planning
What are the different types of Rapid Prototyping Technologies and their Advantages and Disadvantages?
Unfortunately there is no one technology that is perfect at everything. The following table is a basic listing of the main advantages and disadvantages.
|SLA||Smooth Accurate Detail||Temperature Sensitive, Brittle, Brittles over Time||Marketing Models Fit Checks|
|SLS||Durable, Speed on Large Projects||Rough Surface, Erratic Accuracy||Functional Models|
|FDM||Cost Effective Durable True Plastics||Lower Resolution Weak Layer-to-layer||Engineering Models Internal Reviews|
|POLYJET||Adjustable Material Properties Speed Fine Layers||Weak Material Properties Cost||Elastomeric Models Overmold Models|
|CNC MACHINING||Accurate True Materials||Long Lead Time Cost||Metal Models Precision Work|
What is a STL File?
The STL file is a file format developed in the early days of Rapid Prototyping by 3D Systems as a simple and portable format that could be used across CAD systems to define the solid geometry to be made in a Rapid Prototyping machine. It is a triangular facet representation, the surfaces of the solid are modeled as a collection of triangles that share vertices and edges with neighboring triangles. Most CAD tools can output an STL file.
You should also know that there are two types, ASCII (text) and binary. Binary tends to be more compact.
Learn more on Wikipedia. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STL_file]
My part is about “this” big, how much will it cost to make a prototype of it?
It is very difficult to estimate the cost of a prototype without knowing many different factors. These include the volume of the part, the height in the “up” direction, the process being used, the material being used, and the finishing that is required. The best way to find out the cost is to send a part to PADT for a quote. If you do not have a computer model yet, then sending the basic dimensions and calling our engineers should result in a ball park estimate.
How long does it take to make a Rapid Prototyping Part?
IT can take as little as five minutes and as long as 3 or 4 days depending on the size, the process, and the amount of finishing required. However, most parts can be made within a 24 hour period.
Can I use Rapid Prototyping to make tooling for Injection Molding?
Yes you can. A special process and special materials are required, as is a special mold base. But a low volume injection mold can be made using Rapid Prototyping. PADT can also help find a supplier that can use rapid machining to make molds almost as fast as rapid prototyping.
My buddy has a MakerBot/RepRap/Build-your-Own-3D-Printer. How is that different from these commercial Rapid Prototyping systems?
There has been an explosion of do it yourself RP systems at around 2010-2011. Most of these are based on the fact that the patent for Fused Deposition modeling ran out. The majority of homemade systems, or personal systems, are variations on the systems made for decades by Stratasys. They differ from commercial or industrial systems in two ways: lower cost, and fewer capabilities. In general, the parts made on these systems are not usable for engineering or even visualization models because the material is too soft, the material does not fully harden or bond, there is considerable shrinkage or warping, and the actual precision of the device is low.
What is the most commonly used Rapid Prototyping Technology?
For many years the most commonly used technology is Fused Deposition Modeling. Originally only available from Stratasys, many other providers have adopted the technology. The best way to see how the various technologies stack up is through the Wohlers Report, an annual summary of the industry. [http://wohlersassociates.com]
Is there free software out there that I can use to look at my model before I send it to you? Can I convert a file I made for animation or rendering to a file you can use?
Yes. Meshlab is a tool for dealing with all types of faced data and it works with STL files as well. It can be sued for translating, repair and visualization. [http://meshlab.sourceforge.net/]
MiniMagics is a free STL viewer from Materialise [http://software.materialise.com/minimagics].
I need a Quote, How do I get one?
Basically you need to send us a file containing the geometry you want prototyped and let us know what you need your prototype for, or if you already know, what technology you would like us to use. Detailed information can be found on our Rapid Prototyping support page [/support/rapid-prototyping.html]
What Rapid Prototyping Technologies does PADT have in House?
PADT currently has the following Rapid Prototyping technologies in house:
In addition, PADT offers the following related technologies that are often used with Rapid Prototyping:
Which Technology Should I use for my Prototype?
That depends greatly upon the use you have in mind for your prototype and your budget. Each technology has a variety of strengths and weaknesses as well as cost. What sets PADT apart from most Rapid Prototyping service providers is that our engineers have the experience and the expertise to work with you to determine the proper technology for your needs.
What does PADT need to Quote my Rapid Prototyping Job?
At a minimum, an STL or CAD file and a way to contact you. To speed along the process you can provide us with information about any preferred processes or the intended uses for your prototype.
What File Types (formats) does PADT Accept?
The best format to send to PADT is an STL file.
PADT currently has the ability to use the following Native CAD file formats:
PADT can also usually work with the following non-native formats:
What settings should I use when making an STL file for PADT?
The default settings are generally acceptable for us. We do recommend that you use a “finer” setting if your part is complicated. If we find that your file is not refined enough, our engineers will contact you and let you know how to increase the accuracy for the CAD system you are using.
How do I Send a File to PADT?
We provide multiple methods for sending files to PADT:
Email it to email@example.com with your contact information.
Put it into a dropbox or secure file sharing location and send us a link via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upload it to www.padtinc.com/upload
see www.padtinc.com/support/rapid-prototyping.htmlfor details.
I don’t have a CAD file, can you make me one?
Depending on what you need, PADT can quote solid modeling and design services or we can also recommend one of the local companies or individuals that we work with on a regular basis to help people create CAD models of their parts. Please speak with one of our engineers so we can better understand your needs and we will recommend the best course of action.
I don’t know what a CAD file is, or how to get one, what should I do?
Simply contact us at PADT and we will walk you through the whole process. You may also want to visit PADT’s The RP Resource, it contains a wealth of useful information for experienced users and those who are new to the technology.
My design is Confidential, how do I make sure it will stay that way?
PADT has provided prototyping services to over a thousand companies and individuals without a single confidentiality issue. We treat every customer’s part as confidential. If needed, we have a standard 2-way confidentiality agreement that we can sign to provide additional assurance that we will keep your ideas secure.
How precise are the Rapid Prototyping Technologies that PADT offers?
Precision and accuracy are very geometry dependent as well as machine dependent. Below are basic baselines to consider.
|SLA||+/-0.005″ plus 0.001″ per inch|
|SLS||+/-0.010″ plus 0.002″ per inch|
|FDM||+/-0.008″ plus 0.001″ per inch|
|POLYJET||+/-0.008″ plus 0.001″ per inch|
Why does PADT have so many different Rapid Prototyping Technologies?
Because each technology has advantages and disadvantages. By having each of the leading technologies, and multiple materials options for each, PADT can meet almost any rapid prototyping need.
The only common technology that PADT does not have is a ZPrinter. Why?
Frankly the parts are too fragile. Although the technology does allow you to print in color, the resulting parts are not robust enough for our customers.
What is the largest part you can make?
The largest part we can make in one run can fit in a 14 x 10 x 10 in volume. But PADT has made parts that are several over six feet long by simply building individual pieces together. We also partner with other service providers that have specialty very large machines.
How small of a part can you make? What is the smallest feature you can replicate?
Small features and thin walls are very geometry dependent as well as machine dependent. Below are basic baselines to consider.
|CNC MACHINING||Material dependent||Material dependent|
My part needs to look like the final production part, can you do that? Can you paint my part? Can you put a surface finish on it?
Yes, in fact that is a specialty of PADT. Our technicians are true artists that know how to prep, sand, and paint a part so that when they are done, it looks like a final product. We can apply your specified surface finish or paint color.
My product has hard and soft pieces, can you make a prototype with different stiffness? Can you make a flexible part? Can you make a rubber part?
Yes. PADT has multiple technologies available that allow us to make parts that mimic several different soft materials, including over molding on a more rigid part.
My part needs to operate at a high temperature | in water | outside | under pressure | with nasty chemicals | around clumsy people. Can you make me a prototype that will survive?
In most cases we can. Most of our machines have materials that work well with water and pressure. Please contact us with your specifications and we will go over your options with you. For higher temperatures and specific chemicals, we will have to do a little research.
Can I use a prototype as a production part?
Yes. Using parts made on “prototyping” equipment as production parts is becoming more and more common for low volume manufacturing and certain smaller parts that can only be made using an additive manufacturing process.
Can rapid prototyping parts be used for tooling and fixtures?
Yes. In fact, this is one of the fastest growing areas of rapid prototyping: rapid tooling. It is becoming mainstream for many different manufacturing processes because the parts can be made very quickly and, if the proper technology is used, they can be made very strong.
Can you make a part that is clear or a certain color?
Yes. Several of our technologies have a clear material. In addition, several solid material colors are available. And, if needed, PADT can always paint your part any color you need.
I need more than one part, can you make multiple parts? Is there a less expensive way to make copies of my part?
PADT uses soft tooling and prototype injection molding extensively to make multiple copies of a part. Our soft tooling technicians are very experienced and skilled and are able to compete effectively on speed and cost with many other options, including off-shore manufacturing.
Do you do machining, vacuum forming, traditional model making?
In addition to the Rapid Prototyping technologies that PADT has in house, our shop is also equipped with a CNC mill and lathe, a vacuum forming machine, and all of the tools needed to do traditional model making.
Can you make sheet metal prototypes?
This is one of the few prototyping options that PADT does not offer. But if you are looking for a sheet metal prototyping provider, we have several we can recommend.
Can you make metal parts?
We do not offer metal parts at this time unless we use our CNC machining center. But we do partner with several providers that can make metal parts using rapid prototyping technology.