CAD Tech News (#4)

30 Oct, 2014 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ User Profile: The Unstoppable Designer

Matt Rifenburg's career is proof that passion, determination, and the willingness to take on new challenges can overcome many obstacles.

By Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Designer and drafter Matt Rifenburg didn't let anything stand in the way of becoming a skilled user of Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD — not his early departure from high school, not his lack of a college education, not even a battle to overcome a brain tumor. And now, at the age of 52, he is pursuing his first degree.

Matt Rifenburg, pictured with various magnets in the Energy Recovery Linear Accelerator (ERL) space at Cornell University.
Matt Rifenburg, pictured with various magnets in the Energy Recovery Linear Accelerator (ERL) space at Cornell University.

Cadalyst: How did you become interested in engineering?

Matt Rifenburg: I had always been interested in how things work. I started working in a gas station at age 12, and quickly fell in love with cars. I eventually took a job as a painter to support my car habit, then got into building maintenance.

In 2000, I began working for BioSpectra, a small biotech company in Pennsylvania, as a maintenance technician. When the company brought all of its maintenance tasks in-house to save money — including electrical work and plumbing — I had to figure out how to keep the plant running, despite never having worked in any type of manufacturing environment before.

Over time I was able to design, build, and refurbish a variety of pharmaceutical processes and machines, including fluid bed dryers, screw conveyors, heating and cooling systems, and centrifuges. We used CAD to communicate and document ideas as we grew. Much of the equipment I created is still in use today. Read more »

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Cyrena Respini-Irwin is editor in chief of Cadalyst.

▶ Herrera on Hardware: Does Thunderbolt I/O Have a Place in CAD Workstations?

The input/output technology supports fast, expandable storage for big datasets — but what other value does it have for CAD users?

By Alex Herrera

It's a name that's not often on the tongues of IT managers searching out new hardware technologies for CAD. Thunderbolt input/output (I/O) technology has been gaining visibility, however, and working its way into Windows and Linux workstations. That emergence raises the obvious questions for CAD professionals: What does it offer? Do I want it? The answer to the former is clear, but the answer to the latter is more variable.

For mainstream applications, a PC's I/O functions might be limited to trivial-demand devices, such as keyboards and mice. But a workstation's I/O ports access higher-bandwidth external devices including hard drives and video capture equipment, making an emerging, high-performance standard like Thunderbolt worth a look. Thunderbolt's roots lie in an advanced development project at Intel called Light Peak, first unveiled in 2009. Employing optical I/O technology instead of traditional metal (i.e., copper) interconnect, Light Peak technology promised a huge jump in I/O bandwidth, pushing toward 100 Gigabits per second (Gb/s) over the next decade.

What made the technology compelling was not just its performance, but its ergonomics. Without the tight length restrictions mandated by signal attenuation over copper, each cable could get much longer (not to mention a lot thinner). And Light Peak supported daisy-chaining, meaning one cable could replace the multiple, disparate cables we have today.

A particularly valuable feather in Light Peak's cap was its ability to concurrently support PCI Express and DisplayPort connections over the same cable. That means one (or more) of those daisy-chained devices can be displays, further unifying I/O and streamlining the desktop. With lower cost, higher bandwidth, compatibility for multiple protocols, longer cables, and simpler connectors, Light Peak was looking like a game-changing advancement in I/O. Read more »

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Contributing editor Alex Herrera is a consultant focusing on high-performance graphics and workstations.

▶ Aconex Launches Connected BIM Product for Model-Based Collaboration

New release extends cloud-based platform to manage building information modeling (BIM) data.

By Cadalyst Staff

Aconex, provider of a cloud collaboration platform for the global construction industry, announced the launch of Aconex Connected BIM this week. The new product extends the Aconex platform to manage building information modeling (BIM) data and processes for project-wide collaboration.

"BIM and VDC are transforming the way that capital projects are delivered," said Rob Phillpot, senior vice-president of product and engineering and cofounder of Aconex, in a company release. "The industry is moving rapidly from 2D drawings and files to multidimensional models and data, as BIM adoption accelerates globally. On many projects today, its use is limited to designers with specialized modeling tools during the design phase of the project. While BIM improves design and constructability, the other 90% of the project team are disconnected from model data during the construction and handover phases. Read more »


Get the Right Offset Gap in AutoCAD
When offsetting a polyline to the outside, AutoCAD has three different techniques it can use to deliver the perfect offset. Join Lynn Allen as she takes you through the three different settings of the OFFSETGAPTYPE variable to make sure you get the exact offset you are after! Watch the video »

CAD Manager's Toolbox: Tighten Up Your Elevator Pitch
New book teaches readers how to condense communication. Read more »

Get Your Point Across to Management — Quickly
Use an elevator pitch to get your management team's attention and help your users. Read more »


Bentley's Year in Infrastructure 2014 Conference
November 4–6, 2014
London, UK
Leading executives in infrastructure design, construction, and operations will gather from around the world at Bentley's Year in Infrastructure 2014 Conference. Read more »

EuroMold 2014
November 25–28, 2014
Frankfurt, Germany
EuroMold 2014's theme is From Design to Prototyping to Series Production, with a focus on topics such as innovation and cost efficiency for latest development techniques and modern forms of production. Read more »

Annual Wohlers Conference — The Truth Behind the Additive Manufacturing Supply Chain
November 27, 2014
Frankfurt, Germany
The 16th Annual International Wohlers Conference will be held at EuroMold 2014 and will concentrate on the supply of AM machines, materials, and services worldwide. Read more »

Construction Technology Forecast: Harnessing Integration, Mobile, Sensors, and Augmented Reality
December 2, 2014
2 p.m. ET
Associated General Contractors (ACG) of America will present this webinar, the cost of which will be $99 for ACG members and $129 for nonmembers. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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