Author Archive

Personal Fabrication – Neil Gershenfeld introduces us to Fab Labs

An alarm clock that you have to wrestle to shut off? A web browser for parrots? By giving individuals the ability to be creative, design and fabricate whatever they want, Neil Gershenfeld (Director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms) is changing the way we think about personalization and customization of physical things.

In 2006, Neil Gershenfeld and his team realized they were able to are able to put together "Fab Labs" - small workshops with all the necessary tools to make (almost) anything- for only $20,000. Fast forward to 2012, and hundreds of these labs have sprung up all around the globe. Here's a list of all the Fab Labs on the planet! Is one near you?

These Fab Labs democratize building and allow people who previously lacked access to tools and materials to turn their dreams into reality. Gershenfeld explains that "the message coming from the Fab Labs is that the other five billion people on the planet aren't just technical sinks; they're sources."

Gershenfeld gave this presentation in 2006 at a TED conference. After 6 years of growth and incredible technological progress, most of what Gershenfeld says remains relevant today. You can add subtitles in 13 languages to this video (just check the video menu).


As Gershenfeld highlights, "The real opportunity is to harness the inventive power of the world to locally design and produce solutions to local problems."

We couldn't agree more. As we continue to build the tools that make mechanical engineering more open, fast and fun, we'll frequently think of and even re-watch Gershenfeld's great presentation on Fab Labs and the personalization and localization of engineering solutions.


No longer just a boring CAD repository, GrabCAD is now home for all of your living breathing CAD projects.

When you upload a model to GrabCAD, it becomes a public project. The Overview tab gives everyone the basic information about your model. The files tab can keep track of hundreds of parts and sub-assemblies, and the updates tab is your one stop shop for keeping track of changes to the model. With a brand new design and great added functionality, the revamped GrabCAD is seriously addicting.

Get the big picture*

In the Overview  tab, you will be able to download the entire list of files (we'll zip it for you in the background, and a red button appears above the View files button after a while), view the statistics, browse through associated renderings and videos and comment the whole thing in one place.

*No pun intended, but the pictures did get bigger

Read the rest of this entry »

MIT Students Design Robots to Learn Design and Manufacturing Techniques

Best practices for teaching design and manufacturing? MIT's department of mechanical engineering believes in hands-on learning. The top engineering undergraduates must sketch, model and manufacture a robot and then compete for prizes (and glory) at the end of the semester.

This year, Professor James Frey kicked off the class (called 2.007  and pronounced two-double-oh-seven and mandatory for all mechanical engineering students at MIT) by announcing the theme -- students were to design and build a robot to navigate a scaled-down country fair environment. "Robots will score points for dispensing tickets from a booth, ringing a bell on a high striker, inflating a balloon. Spinning a ferris wheel will multiply those earned points by up to 3x." Ripples of excitement spread throughout the lecture hall as young minds starting buzzing.

In one of the most popular classes at MIT, students are provided a copy of Solidworks and access to milling machines, 3D printers, CNC milles and lathes, and a water jet. In addition Read the rest of this entry »

Italics Trophy Award Challenge a WILD success with 68 entries in 4 days

Shaun Johnson of Boston Startup School approached Hardi, our CEO at GrabCAD, with a problem. "We need a trophy to present in less then a week, and we don't have a design yet." GrabCAD had never launched such a short challenge -- Was our community up for the challenge?

The answer: A resounding yes. With 68 submissions in just 4 days, the challenge results stunned everybody. After looking through the entries and selecting Onur Aytekin's i-Trophy design as the winner (earning Onur a cool $500), Shaun said:

I never expected that many people would contribute that many detailed designs in such a short period of time. It was very difficult to choose the best trophy among so many cool and unique designs... I wish we could have chosen more.

Here's Onur's challenge-winning design:

Onur Aytekin's 1st Place Design "i-Trophy"

Challenges on GrabCAD have ranged from more hardcore engineering challenges (like the Krimolte Sealant applicator challenge... read more about) to less technical but more creative design challenges like this trophy design challenge. If you work at an engineering or design company (or know someone who does), consider harnessing the power of the GrabCAD community by launching a challenge. Questions? Check the challenge FAQ page or ask them below in the comments section.

Hussam Kamel's 2nd place design

Congratulations to Sravish Sridhar, Caren Cioffii, Matt Lauzon, Jen Lum, Sean Lindsay, Chad Pytel, and Bettina Hei- winners of Boston Startup School's Italics Award for being outstanding innovator's in Boston's unique startup culture. GrabCAD was happy to be involved with your trophy's design- check out the challenge description, browse all 68 submissions, or skip to the top 5 trophies. What a challenge!

GrabCAD wants a 3D Printer – Help us Choose

A professional engineering community deserves a professional 3D printer. And sometimes, peering at a model via renders or our 3D viewer doesn't cut it - we want to have the physical model of it. So GrabCAD is setting out on a quest to find the best 3D printer out there! And we need your help.

Two weeks ago, we blogged about our MakerBot 3D printer and how great it was to have around the office. It is great, but, unfortunately, the MakerBot simply isn't intended or designed to handle the complex curves and intricate designs that many models on GrabCAD exhibit. There are a great deal of 3D printing technologies out there: Fused Deposition Modelling, Selective Laser Sinteration or Stereolitheography, to name a few. All sorts of materials are being used nowadays - stainless steel, nylon, ceramic, even stone!

In a perfect world, we'd like to have a printer that can accurately print any type of model from the GrabCAD library. A lot of users have seen 3D printers in their office or school and are familiar with the best ones, so we'd love to hear from all of you about which one we should choose. No suggestion is a bad one - just keep in mind we'd prefer a versatile machine but do have some budget restrictions.

3D printing blog as well as have 3D printing resource pages which list a lot of different printers. Take a look and tell us what stands out and why. If you were in our shoes, which printer would you order?


Announcing the Dirtbike Tire Changing Tool Challenge! $2200 up for grabs

GrabCAD and Generat, an innovative motorcycle design company, have partnered to bring our community an interesting challenge-- Design a tire changing tool that works flawlessly with dirtbike tires and you can have a piece of the $2200 up for grabs.

Changing tires with tire levers can be a difficult challenge for inexperienced dirtbike riders. Bruised knuckles, broken inner tubes and ejecting levers discourage attempts. Generat has turned to the GrabCAD community for a solution. The challenge begins today (June 1st) and ends on June 21, 2012.

Winners will be selected by representatives from Generat and GrabCAD as well as Giovanni Sala, an Italian enduro rider and a six-time World Enduro Champion.

If you have any questions, add them to the comments section on the challenge page and  Tõnu Kallast, a Generat representative, will answer them promptly (he's already answered one about the level of portability required). Rules and requirements are also detailed on the challenge page.

To see how avid riders change their tires now, check out this video. Oh, the agony!

We have no doubt the GrabCAD community can solve this challenge. Get creative and design a better solution!

Good luck,

The GrabCAD team

GrabCAD goes 3D! Experience CAD models in a new dimension… right in your browser

Share your models with anyone in 3 dimensions? Check. Pin annotations right on the surface of a model to share advice and ideas with other engineers? Check. GrabCAD's new in-browser 3D viewer is a huge step toward seamless collaboration and sharing for mechanical engineers and designers.

Announcing a CAD Game-changer: You can now rotate, translate, zoom in on and annotate all CAD models right in your browser without downloading anything! We'll show you how it works in this video:

Click the "View in 3D" button directly under the render viewer of any model with an associated STL file to pull up the 3D viewer:

It will take a few seconds to load the file into the 3D viewer, then you're ready to rock! We've included a few controls to make it easier to make the most of models:

holding 's' enables zoom mode

holding 'r' enables rotation mode

holding 't' enables translation

Use this new in-browser 3d viewer to:

  • Collaborate with engineers on projects you're working on by annotating pins right on the model
  • Share your models securely with clients, manufacturers, or anybody without CAD software
  • Check out all public models on GrabCAD without downloading them

The nitty-gritty:

  • STL file format is supported (we converted a bunch of models already! Over 15,000 of 'em...)
  • Only WebGL-enabled browsers (Chrome, Firefox, recent versions of Opera, and Safari with customization... view Safari instructions. Internet Explorer is not WebGL-enabled so it will not work)
  • 3D viewer load times vary depending on the STL file size and on your internet connection
  • Harnessing the power of 3D through your browser takes computer memory- powerful computers will work better

We have automagically converted tens of thousands of CAD models into STL format. Most models should look great, but in some cases we may have converted the wrong file. Feel free to convert the original format into STL yourselves if that is the case (but don't zip the STL file). As always, we're coding away to make this feature simpler, faster and more powerful. Offer your feedback by private messaging any staff member or leaving us a wish (at the bottom right of each page). We take feedback very seriously!

Enjoy this great new feature on all of these models!



Konica Minolta iPhone dock challenge results published! Winners chosen from over 160 unique design concepts

Konica Minolta 3D Scanning Labs launched an iPhone dock design challenge on GrabCAD a few weeks ago. With over 160 design concepts to choose from, it was a challenge for Michael Bernero of Konica Minolta labs to select winners. Nevertheless, the results are in!

Vincenzo, the first place winner, will be awarded $500 and have his model featured in episode 3 of Shape Lab 360. We'll share that episode with you as soon as it comes out (see episode 2 here). 2nd-10th place winners collect varying amounts of prize money as well as Shape Lab 360 shirts. Congratulations to all participating engineers!

1st Place Toyota iBat by Vincenzo

Comments (from Konica Minolta): We admire the form of this dock for both location and minimal usage of material. Very innovative design.

2nd Place iPhone Holder by Mike Enayah Read the rest of this entry »