Empire Robotics makes robot hands. Technically they make end-effectors, but let's not split hairs. If you're not particularly interested in learning about how people make robot hands, I'm not totally sure you're in the right place.
A few years ago, John Amend and Bill Culley felt like the world could use a disruptive robotic gripping and work holding tool provider in the industrial automation industry. Thus, Empire Robotics was born. We caught up with Samuel Naseef, Empire Robotics' product engineer (and GrabCAD Workbench customer), and asked him about how and why he uses Workbench. The commercial version of the VERSABALL Gripper comes out next month. So look for that, robot hand enthusiasts.
Tell us about Empire Robotics. What's your specialty?
Empire Robotics specializes in extremely flexible robotic end-effectors that leverage the jamming phase transition of granular materials. Founded in 2012, Empire’s team of soft robotics experts, materials scientists, and experienced automation engineers are serving diverse technology fields including agile manufacturing automation, and collaborative robotics. We are working to revolutionize the way robots interact with their environment by enabling plug-and-play solutions in a historically highly customized industry.
How about you? Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) as a double major from 2010-2014, earning my two B.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Robotics Engineering. I was hired as the Product Engineer at Empire Robotics right out of school and began my work for the small start-up company along with Patrick Dingle, the Director of Engineering at the time. During my design work at school, I would often use cloud apps like Google Drive or Dropbox to share data, and when I got to Empire Robotics I found that, since it was only Patrick doing product design work, they were doing the same.
What prompted you to try Workbench?
As I began doing more and more design work, Patrick and I decided that PDM software was the next step for Empire and I was put in charge of evaluating the options. I found that, while there were a number of PDM options available, most of them were either not very user friendly, didn't have some of the critical features we were interested in, or just too expensive and not practical for a start-up.
GrabCAD Workbench was extremely new at this point (Ed. Note: June 2014) and also didn't offer a number of features from our wishlist. But what set it apart from other software tools was that the people there were eager to know what we were looking for in a PDM solution. The GrabCAD team allowed us to try out Workbench and give feedback on what we liked and wanted to see next. After the trial, we sent our product evaluation to Andrew DiVincenzo, our contact at GrabCAD, and he said that we sent in "one of the most well thought out feedback responses [GrabCAD has] ever seen...This is also the response that most closely resembles [GrabCAD's] short-term product road map."
He forwarded our response to the product team and that started an ongoing dialog. From their responses, I knew that GrabCAD Workbench was the right choice for PDM because we could grow along with them. Our feedback would not only be heard, but implemented into the product in future versions.
How are you using it?
The main project that we use GrabCAD Workbench for is the design of the new commercial version of our VERSABALL Gripper, which will be released in early November.
I am the primary CAD user at Empire Robotics and don't often run into issues where multiple people will be working on the same files, but I still use all of the features that GrabCAD offers and as we grow it will be there to help manage everything. I have the desktop and integrated SolidWorks GrabCAD applications on my home and work computers, and also the app on my phone, so wherever I go I can access my files, share 3D models with both CAD and non-CAD users, and even show people files right on my phone. I use the online file viewer to get comments on designs, concepts, and features from the rest of the team at Empire, and everyone is able to use the markup and communication tools to make sure their points of view are both heard and seen.
The automatic version backup and restore features are also great, giving me the peace of mind that all my work is always saved and I can easily go back to previous versions if I need to. I am constantly working on a number of different projects, including things like the commercial version of our VERSABALL gripper, new prototypes or concepts, and grant work for organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). GrabCAD Workbench helps me manage all these project separately but together using the same software tool, and I am able to quickly shift from one project to the other when I need to.
How does Workbench help?
With multiple people working on the same CAD files, which we currently do not have, it helps make sure there are no conflicts, which will be more useful as we grow into a larger company. Also, it provides revision control and the ability for non-CAD user to see 3D representations of parts. Workbench also provides a cloud based backup of all of our CAD files to ensure none are lost.
Would you recommend Workbench?
I would definitely recommend Workbench for small companies who are looking for a management system for their CAD files, especially if they have multiple CAD users working on the same parts or projects, but also if they just need a better way to share their projects and ideas with their team.
Got questions for Samuel? Want to talk about robot hands?
Let us know in the comments!
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