Author Archive

What I was surprised to learn at SolidWorks World 2014 about CAD data management

Well, it’s been almost two weeks since Solidworks World 2014, and after enough times of saying “At SolidWorks World I learned...”, or “I talked to a guy at SolidWorks World who said…”, I thought I should probably write a post about it. But be warned: this is not your typical SWW14 recap.

Photo from

Given that as Director for Products at GrabCAD I’ve been working pretty heads-down on our GrabCAD Workbench for the past two years, I spent a lot of time at #SWW14 attending sessions on data management and talking to other SolidWorks users about data management. What I learned may surprise you.

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Top Five CAD Collaboration Fails

What if the secret to success is actually failure? Failing is all about testing what you believe in the real world and then learning from the results. I've been able to learn so much about the failures experienced day to day by our community of engineers with our customer development process for GrabCAD Workbench of "Learn. Build. Repeat." I want to share some of our most commonly heard CAD collaboration fails so you can learn from their mistakes:

Fail? Try GrabCAD Workbench.

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Get to know the new GrabCAD measuring tools!

It's almost midnight, you just remembered your niece’s birthday (tomorrow) and you start to panic! There is no time to go to a store or rush an online gift.  As you try to come up with apologies in your head, you catch a glimpse of your 3D printer sitting in the corner, gathering dust. A 3D printed toy like Thomas the Tank Engine model by GrabCADr A. Ter Meer would be perfect. But, are the parts the right size to 3D print?

GrabCAD measure tool

This is one of many scenarios where you need to know the measurements or scale of a model before downloading. We want to help you with that! This post will walk you through each handy tool, so you can measure like a pro.
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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

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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?