A Cloud-Based Future for 3D CAD

3D CAD Design software is increasingly moving to cloud-based models, greatly benefitting product developers and manufacturers alike.

The tools available to designers have changed mightily over the last few decades. Long gone are drafting boards, replaced by progressively more intelligent software and cloud-based collaboration platforms. This new and improved design landscape offers designers, engineers, and OEMs lower development costs and faster time to market, and is an integral part of any digital manufacturing environment.

What’s new in computer-aided design (CAD)? Plenty. Pick any leading CAD software on the market today: Aside from greater intelligence, usability, mobility, and a plethora of cool features that were unavailable even a few years ago, virtually all providers offer or will soon offer cloud-based deployment for their customers.

Case in Point
One of these is PTC Inc., developers of the Creo design suite, WindChill PLM, and a range of other manufacturing software solutions. Paul Sagar, PTC’s vice president of product management, said his company will be offering cloud versions of many of its products by year end, and that moving to the cloud is a logical step for companies struggling with routine maintenance of large software deployments, or needing to invest in new hardware every few years. “High-end cloud solutions eliminate all that effort and expense, while still providing the power associated with on premise CAD installations,” he explained. That power is about to get much stronger as PTC and other CAD providers tighten their embrace of digital manufacturing. For example, ThingWorx, PTC’s industrial internet of things (IIoT) development platform, has been adopted by General Electric and others as part of an industry-wide push toward smarter shop floors, more connected CAD systems, and greater transparency throughout the supply chain.

“From a design perspective, the IIoT and digital manufacturing are going to significantly change the way we do things,” Sagar said. Currently, “we design products in a vacuum. We start with a basic set of requirements, collate whatever historical knowledge is available, and then make assumptions. Those assumptions might cost the business a lot of money.” Continue reading

Webinar: Designing for Selective Laser Sintering

This is the final part in our series of “Designing for 3D Printing” webinars. Just as we’ve looked at stereolithography and direct metal laser sintering in previous webinar, this presentation will provide insights into how to design for selective laser sintering (SLS), a discussion on material options, and recommended applications for SLS.

Post build

The presentation will include the following:

  • Comparison of SLS materials
  • Design guidelines for functional prototypes and production parts
  • Moldability considerations for effective development
  • Open Q&A session

TITLE: Designing for 3D Printing: Selective Laser Sintering
PRESENTER: Eric Van Roekel, SLS production manager
DATE: Thursday, October 27 at 1 p.m. CDT
REGISTER: Click here to sign up  

Can’t make it that day? You can still register and we’ll send you an on-demand version to watch when convenient. Also, feel free to forward this invite to your colleagues.

On-Demand Webinar: Improving Manufacturability with ProtoQuote

Last week we hosted a quick webinar that explored how designers can use ProtoQuote to improve the manufacturability of their design. It’s available on-demand here.

Key Takeaways

  • How to get free design for manufacturability feedback for your part
  • Improving manufacturability by adding draft, adjusting wall thickness and incorporating radii
  • How to navigate ProtoQuote for each of our processes: 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding

Top Questions Asked

Will Proto Labs help simplify my CAD file?
Yes, along with our automated DFM feedback, we have a full staff of engineers that will work with you on simplifying your design. Once you upload a 3D CAD file, they will look at it and explore ways of improving overall manufacturability and provide guidance based on your part’s requirements and intended application.

Are there any general design tips to avoid parts having side-pulls or side-actions?
Our free design cube shows the different side-actions that we use to produce parts. And, if you have snap features on your part that might require side-actions, you can cut away that geometry and use a pass-through core to alleviate the need for a side-pull or cam.

We also have resources that discuss implementing side-actions, as well as eliminating the need for them:

What are the material options for opaque materials for lighting applications?
We offer polycarbonate materials that provide transparent options for lighting and other applications requiring transparent materials. We provide multiple PC colors: amber, green, blue, transparent and even infrared.

Stay Tuned
Look for additional technical webinars throughout the year on various 3D printing, CNC machining or injection molding topics. The next webinar will be part one in a series of 3D printing webinars and we’ll discuss designing for stereolithography.

TIPS WITH TONY: Behind the Scenes with File Formats

Why can’t you read my CAD file? Wrong file format? What formats do you accept? In our latest tip, I’ll cover what file formats work best with each manufacturing service at Proto Labs and discuss common questions that occur.

Simply put, we accept several different file formats, but some work better than others. To begin, here’s our list of formats that can be uploaded to our website:

CAD Programs:

  • Solidworks (.sldprt)
  • Autodesk Inventor (.ipt)
  • AutoCad (3D .dwg)
  • PTC ProE/Creo (.prt)
  • CATIA (.catpart)
  • SpaceClaim (.scdoc)
  • SketchUp (.skp)

Neutral File Formats:

  • IGES
  • STEP
  • ASIS (.sat)
  • Stereolithography (.stl) — only available for additive and machining

Proprietary Software
We use proprietary software that is able to read or translate the file formats above. If you submit a format not listed, you’ll receive a no-quote and will need to upload a new file from the list of approved file formats in order to receive a quote. But if you submit a file from the list and you still receive a no-quote, there is a good possibility that the file was either corrupt or unable to be translated properly. In this case, we would suggest trying another file format, or multiple file formats, so we have options for translation. Or, reach out to one of our customer service engineers at customerservice@protolabs.com or 877.479.3680 to discuss a solution.

Continue reading

Seamless Manufacturing Quotes Coming to Autodesk Fusion 360

We’ve teamed up with Autodesk to provide easy access to online quoting directly within Autodesk’s Fusion 360 CAD program.

By clicking the Proto Labs logo within Fusion 360, users will be able to get an interactive quote within a few hours that contains free design for manufacturability (DFM) analysis for injection molding or CNC machining. The analysis highlights potential manufacturability issues allowing design modifications to be made early before any actual production begins.

In addition to molding and machining, plans are underway to implement similar quoting functionality for parts that will be manufactured through our additive manufacturing (3D printing) service.

This software integration will go live with a late-July release of the Fusion 360 application update. Read our full press release here.