Evaluating 3D printed parts – if you can, show off the part

Like all GrabCAD Challenges, the Oxygen Valve Splitter Challenge presented a difficult problem: create an oxygen valve splitter that allows for independently controlled flow rates. As the valve splitter is meant for “low-resource environments,” participants had to design their part with certain considerations in mind (speed, minimal post-processing, and printability on a basic FDM machine). In addition to earning the top prize, the winning part has the potential of saving lives. With over 130 designs submitted, our large panel of judges worked hard to determine the winning entries. While in the ideal world all Challenge participants would have been able to test their designs by printing them out, it is understandable that not everyone has access to a 3D FDM Printer just yet. Luckily, some of the judges including Victoria Au  (3D4MD) and Adam Arabian (Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Seattle Pacific University) were able to print out the finalist entries to test the devices. Here, Andrzej Stewart at the Hi-SEAS IV mission, explains the methodology his team used to evaluate entries. Read more

APIs, GPUs, and drivers: CAD graphical conspiracy?

Graphics performance is no doubt key to CAD productivity. Common recommendations involve running up the bill with professional level GPUs in certified hardware configurations. But is such a setup a wise investment? Hardware and software vendors tout how certified professional graphics cards are all that, and throw down the benchmarks to prove it. Many CAD hardware enthusiasts, however, contend that pro cards are perhaps an alien conspiracy designed to empty your pockets, and that consumer-grade gaming GPUs are up to the task at a fraction of the cost. The truth in the bewildering world of CAD graphics is complicated. But it’s out there. You see a pattern emerging here, Scully? Read more

Will the next CAD be a game?

Shall we play a game? Aside from global thermonuclear war, that is. Regardless of your particular opinion on cloud delivery, subscription models, and military supercomputers named after Burger King sandwiches, CAD is becoming widely accessible to both classically trained engineers and non-engineers alike. With such newfound exposure, an interesting challenge arises. Is there a potential to further harness the creativity of everyone into engineering design? And how does that affect what we know as engineering? Might the next evolution of CAD evolve into a game? It's not quite as ridiculous as it might sound. Read more

Metal powder bed design guide

Recently I’ve gotten a notable uptick in emails from engineers asking whether it’ll be cost effective to use metal powder bed fusion to make an existing (but conventionally manufactured) part. The answer is that it’s complicated, and depends largely on whether or not the part fits into the design requirements for powder bed fusion. Nine times out of ten it doesn’t, but in some cases it’s possible to adapt a design to fit - or redesign from the ground up with additive in mind. In order to help other engineers begin this process, let’s review some of the part characteristics and design guidelines for powder bed fusion. Read more

The end of part numbers

A new year is a time for renewal, opportunity, and new beginnings. For engineers, however, it's a chance to argue about part numbers some more. I love the smell of part numbers in the morning. Whether your allegiance lies with the Generic Numbering Coalition (GNC) or the Confederacy of Intelligent Numbers (CIN), valid arguments worth defending exist on both sides. We've covered both factions and spaces in-between. The pursuit of part number perfection, however, may lie in mutually assured destruction. The part number is a lie. For one day, perhaps sooner than you think, part numbers will be no more. Read more

What’s the root of ethics in engineering?

In all the fireworks debating whether software engineering is somehow a subversive underling of "real" engineering, we've only touched on the underlying core issue: engineering ethics. In the Twitterverse, many were quick to invoke the Calling of the Engineer ceremony, specifically citing a symbolic iron ring as indicative of the higher standard for which software engineers are not invited. Here's the problem: costume jewelry doesn't magically impart ethics, unless perhaps you graduated from Hogwarts. I might as well have fabulous secret powers revealed to me, hold aloft my magic sword, and say "By the power of engineering!" Fantastic magical crap aside, what then is the root of ethics in engineering? Read more