Posts in category: ‘Tips of the Trade’

The model-based definition ski challenge

It’s the “high noon” of ski season, and I find myself comparing my challenges learning to ski with my work in model-based definition (MBD). Odd as it may sem, this confluence brings me to the conclusion that learning MBD is comparable to becoming a pretty good skier. It took me 20 years, two ski patrol sled trips, one knee surgery, and lots of strength training to become a proficient, confident skier. Similarly, adopting MBD has its challenges, but sticking with it for the long haul will prove fruitful. MBD is on its way to your organization whether you like it or not. Please give yourself some space to absorb the concepts, stay focused, and eventually you will become a master.

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CAD workstation build tips from the trenches

The sun rises; the small mountain of indistinct cardboard packages is illuminated by the morning sun as a glorious monument to technology and engineering. The deliveries have arrived in a steady procession over the last several days, solemnly and reverently brought to your doorstep by sentinels of commerce each demanding firmly that you sign here. With each new box containing carefully selected parts of your future DIY CAD workstation, the means to execute on your plan now lies before you. You've made some important decisions. Maybe you've followed some of our advice, or maybe you're rolled an infallible plan of your own. You're in the pipe, five by five. But now comes the moment of truth, and this machine's not going to assemble itself.

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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.

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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.

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Unsolicited advice for the new engineer: GD&T & design software

Learning GD&T is just as important as learning trigonometry.
After spending 20 years designing advanced hardware, I have some unsolicited advice for new engineers. Although you may be a most innovative thinker and may be able to create fantastic widgets, understanding how your part will be manufactured is just as important (perhaps moreso) than that new idea. Even if 2D drawings go away, you will still need to communicate key dimensions for inspection and allowable tolerances for manufacturing.

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Some of our favorite free engineering apps

Open and free sharing seems to be getting into the engineering field more and more, which is still quite late compared to other practices like programming, gaming and photo editing. When will the next free, sugary app for mechanical designers come out? We wouldn’t mind spending hours on it and level-up (if it was a freebie) – a treat to our minds and pockets.

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Igniting the 3D documentation revolution – 3D PDF for the model based enterprise

Revolution? What revolution?

In 2005, Adobe® made a bold move by adding support for interactive 3D graphics within PDF files, including Acrobat® Reader®, which continues to this day. More importantly, Adobe acquired a file format that enabled 3D PDF to be adopted throughout the manufacturing industry. How that format has ignited a revolution in 3D documentation is the topic of this post.

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How optimal is your CAD model?

I don’t know a designer or a CAD modeler who hasn’t been through a phase where he/she was speaking about his/her work in artistic terms rather than technical ones. I also don’t know anyone who hasn’t had to face someone criticising a design through an artsy tirade leaving them clueless as to what is exactly wrong with their model or how to improve it. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just keep two things in mind: 1) you have had this attitude at some point and 2) therefore should be understanding and patient. And in order to assess your CAD model, you should quantify or ask for it!

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