Large Scale 3D Printing

CNC router manufacturer Thermwood has launched a programme to develop a 3D additive manufacturing system capable of making large carbon graphite reinforced composite thermoplastic components. The systems utilise a “near net shape” approach where a custom-built vertical, integrated extruder deposits or “prints” carbon graphite filled thermoplastic material to quickly create a structure that is close to the final shape. Once it cools and hardens, it is then five-axis machined to the final shape.

Developed with extrusion specialist American Kuhne, the process minimises three challenges of conventional 3D printing, particularly for large parts: uneven cooling, material waste and extensive post-print processing. The systems will be based on Thermwood’s “Model 77”, semi-enclosed, high wall gantry machine structures, which are currently offered in sizes up to 18 m in length.

The initial development machine, which is nearing completion, can make parts up to around 3 m x 3 m x 2.5 m high. It is equipped with an integrated, vertical 4.5 cm diameter extruder and support equipment capable of processing over 45 kg/h. Despite the relatively heavy weight of the extrusion system and head, which are both mounted on and move with the machine, the machine generates impressive performance with high acceleration rates and high feed rate capability, the companies said.


Polk State Now Offering Classes in 3D Modeling and Printing

Polk State College is now offering a series of classes in 3D modeling and printing that will allow students to earn an industry-recognized credential.

“Thanks to the Polk County Board of County Commissioners, we have this amazing 3D printing lab,” said Chris Knapik, a program manager at the Polk State Corporate College.

“We have the ability to print virtually any three-dimensional object you can imagine. But Polk State College isn’t in the business of just making ‘stuff.’ We’re in the business of building the county’s workforce. Through the 3D printing classes, students are going to print the ‘stuff’ in their heads, but they’re also going to gain a credential that can lead to employment in this exciting, cutting-edge field.”

Late last year, the Polk County Board of County Commissioners granted more than $250,000 to Polk State College for the creation of a 3D printing lab that would support local economic development. With the money, the College purchased four commercial-grade printers and a high-resolution 3D scanner.

The equipment is housed at Polk State’s 3D Printing Center, located within the Polk State Clear Springs Advanced Technology Center in Bartow.

So far in its brief history, the 3D Printing Center has been used by entrepreneurs in need of a convenient, inexpensive option for rapid prototype production. Businesses owners curious to see how the technology might apply to their operations have come through for tours, as have students in the College’s TALON Robotics summer program.

With the new slate of classes, however, the 3D printing lab is evolving from experimentation to formal education, from curiosity to certification.

“We’re giving the public the opportunity to learn about 3D printing from conception to final product,” said Charles Nixon, print shop supervisor.

The College’s 3D modeling and printing classes include:

  • Introduction to 3D Modeling with Inventor 2014 software
  • Introduction to 3D Modeling with SolidWorks 2014 software
  • Up & Running with 3D Printers

During the introductory classes, students will complete self-paced online tutorials to learn the Inventor or SolidWorks computer-aided design software. Nixon will be on-site to provide one-on-one assistance. Each of the introductory classes lasts three weeks.

The Up & Running with 3D Printers class requires experience and training in 3D modeling — ideally obtained through Polk State’s introductory classes. Up & Running combines online learning with six hours of hands-on experience using Polk State’s 3D printing equipment. The Up & Running class lasts one week.

The cost for each of the above listed classes is $250. The cost to take one introductory class and Up & Running is $400.

For those intent on using their 3D knowhow for professional purposes, the College is also offering the Certified Solidworks Associate test. Students may take the exam for $100.

“The certification says you have a foundational knowledge of 3D modeling by SolidWorks,” Knapik said.

Additional printing time can also be purchased.

Echoing Knapik, Nixon said the classes are more than just learning how to print 3D “stuff.” They are a quick and cost-effective way to potentially start a career in fields that utilize 3D printing.

“You don’t have to have a high-school diploma or a college degree. You can start you career just by walking through the door,” he said.

Where might a student trained in 3D printing find work? Nixon has plenty of examples.

“Manufacturers, product designers, animation companies, video game designers, architects, medical equipment makers — they’re all using 3D technology, and they’re all paying really well,” he said.

Knapik and Nixon provided data from that showed the average salary of SolidWorks designers is $58,000.

Salaries are going to vary, of course, by employer, geographic location, and an individual’s personal experience, but the point is, Nixon said, that with minimal education, students can begin careers in 3D printing.

Whether they do it professionally, or just for fun, students who learn 3D modeling and printing will find they are limited by only their imaginations. Nixon, for instance, is using 3D printing to make the parts he needs to build a 3D printer large enough to print a prosthetic leg for a wounded veteran.

“If you can dream it, you can print it,” he said.


3D Systems Expands Presence in Japan With Canon Marketing Japan


3D Systems DDD -0.87% announced today that it is expanding its partnership with Canon Marketing Japan to include 3DS’ complete ProJet professional series of 3D printers, desktop prototyping CubeX 3D printer and Geomagic scan-to-CAD software solutions. Canon Marketing Japan began selling 3D Systems’ advanced manufacturing products in October 2013.

Masahiro Sakata, Director and Senior Vice President of Canon Marketing Japan said, “3DS’ leading products positions Canon Marketing Japan in the best possible position to establish its offerings as the go-to-source and leading provider of 3D printing in Japan. We believe that the combination of Canon’s mixed reality technology with 3D printing brings a new paradigm to 3D business solutions.”

“We are thrilled with the success that Canon Marketing Japan has already had with our advanced manufacturing 3D printers and are excited to bring the rest of our portfolio to Canon,” said Michele Marchesan, Chief Opportunity Officer, 3DS. “We believe that the addition of our entire portfolio will be meaningful and impactful to our professional Japanese users.”

3DS’ ProJet series of printers cover a range of 3D printing technologies including ColorJet Printing (CJP), MultiJet Printing (MJP) and stereolithography (SLA) and includes the best-selling ProJet 3500 series for functional prototyping, dental and jewelry applications.

3DS’ Geomagic Solutions software includes scan and design offerings for reverse engineering, product design, medical modelling and more. It is the only software available today with a focus on design-for-3D printing.

3DS’ CubeX 3D printer is an affordable, entry-level desktop machine ideal for early and quick prototyping, small businesses and independent entrepreneurs.


SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual Hits the Market, But Does It Hit the Mark?

April 10th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

With surprisingly relatively little fanfare, DS SOLIDWORKS last week announced the availability of its long-awaited new product, Mechanical Conceptual (MC for short). Dassault Systemes says that MC is the first SOLIDWORKS application on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform — “that embraces the new realities of today’s world of design in the age of experience: it is more social and conceptual and delivers on the promise of ease-of-collaboration among key contributors.” All of this is something I’m still unclear exactly what it is, what it does, and what it means.

I contacted Kishore Boyalakuntla, Director, Product Management, SOLIDWORKS, who is in charge of managing Mechanical Conceptual for some clarification on what the press release announcing the launch lacked.

Mechanical Conceptual was formally introduced a few months ago at SOLIDWORKS World with the following four basic tenets — conceptual, social (collaboration), connected, and instinctive. The conceptual part I understand, because that’s the primary purpose of MC. It also lends itself to collaborative methods because it’s a cloud-based application, as well as instinctive, because it has direct modeling/editing capabilities. The connected part, though, especially to SOLIDWORKS is still a bit of a mystery.

Although SWMC is initially being aimed at SOLIDWORKS’ traditional strongest industry segment, industrial/production machinery, the demonstration that was presented at SOLIDWORKS World with some simple mechanical assemblies and a plant layout design.

As we had been told before, he said that Mechanical Conceptual has been installed and used in production environments at several customer sites, including Polyrack, Weisser, Karl Schmidt & Associates, and Kennedy Hygiene. Video testimonials from these customers are available here.

Mechanical Conceptual can be purchased through select SOLIDWORKS reseller partners, including GoEngineer and Javelin (who has posted videos of Mechanical Conceptual here). According to Boyalakuntla, the goal is for all SOLIDWORKS resellers to sell Mechanical Conceptual. He said that many resellers have already signed up to sell the product. Resellers like GoEngineer and

From the beginning the company has said that MC would be complementary to SOLIDWORKS software. Boyalakuntla reinforced this statement by saying, “Mechanical Conceptual is complementary in the workflow where conceptual designs are done in SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual and detail design in SOLIDWORKS. SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual opens native SOLIDWORKS data. SOLIDWORKS opens native SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual data, as well, today. Since this is our first release, we have not addressed all the interoperability scenarios. We plan to have the majority of them addressed in the R2015x release by the end of the year. This will be a multi-release effort and since we own both products, we will have the best-in-class interoperability, as well.”

The interoperability statement is interesting because SOLIDWORKS is based on the Parasolid modeling kernel (licensed from competitor, Siemens PLM Software) and MC is based on Dassault’s CATIA modeling kernel. What this means is that there is no native/direct translation between the two applications and, therefore, no associativity between SOLIDWORKS and MC. Previous to the interoperability statement above, I was under the impression that working natively would involve a an additional SOLIDWORKS/Mechanical Conceptual translator that is (or will be) available. I’ll have to check further if the translator is still required.

The native incompatibility of SOLIDWORKS and CATIA has always confounded me, since several competing CAD products have the ability to import and export CATIA modeling data.

Previously, I had been told that the export mechanism and file format back and forth between SOLIDWORKS and MC is 3D XML. What this means is that you export a “dumb” solid from MC and will have to literally recreate it in SOLIDWORKS. This is something else I’ll have clarified and report back.

The company has been careful to position Mechanical Conceptual as a complementary app to SOLIDWORKS, and not competing with or replacing it. DS has also quietly stressed that SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional, and Premium would continue to be developed and enhanced. Good news to long-time SOLIDWORKS users.

As we have known for some time, Mechanical Conceptual is priced at $249/user/month. That translates to $2,988.00/user/year. Imagine the following scenario. Say you bought the SOLIDWORKS core modeling product for $3,995 and maintenance for $1,295 per year; that’s $5,290. Add to that $2,988/user/year for Mechanical Conceptual and your total is $8,278. Add to that the cost of a SOLIDWORKS/Mechanical Conceptual translator and the cost could potentially top $10,000. The cost alone may give many prospective customers pause on making a purchasing decision.

The formal launch of Mechanical Conceptual finally put to rest and clarified the confusion of the meaning of “conceptual” in the new offering’s name. It is intended for conceptual design of things that move, such as mechanisms and machines, and not concept design in the context of industrial design. Not to worry, though, DS will be introducing a true industrial design product later this year called Industrial Conceptual to address that need. Industrial Conceptual will allow simultaneous surface and solid design, and also will be complementary to SOLIDWORKS. The interoperability issue with SOLIDWORKS remains to be seen.

The cloud-based architecture is a concept that many vendors are embracing and customers are accepting, but not everyone yet has access to Internet bandwidth necessary for using MC effectively, efficiently, or at all, but that alone shouldn’t be a huge hindrance.

Although we have not yet had any hands-on exposure or experience with SWMC because Dassault Systemes, we have requested a license. We hope to give SWMC a test drive with SOLIDWORKS 2014 if and when it becomes available to us.

Admittedly, MC has been a long time coming. Was it worth the wait? Time will tell and it will be interesting to see how Mechanical Conceptual is received, embraced, and adopted by the SOLIDWORKS user community.