MCAD Tech News (#241)

4 Jun, 2008

Next Wave of Product Development?

RAPID 2008 showcases the future of rapid manufacturing and reverse engineering technologies.

By Jeffrey Rowe

Jeffrey Rowe photoI just returned from the RAPID 2008 Conference & Exposition. Presented by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), it's the largest event of its type for rapid prototyping (RP), rapid manufacturing (RM), and reverse engineering (RE). It's also one of the technical events I look forward to each year, because so much in this arena is changing so quickly. For me, it was a good chance to get away from 30-degree temperatures in Colorado to 90-degree temperatures in Orlando, Florida.

Conference sessions are divided into rapid prototyping/manufacturing (translating digital CAD data into a physical object) and reverse engineering (converting a physical object into digital data for use with CAD). Here's a look at what I saw and heard.

Digital to Physical
One of the most significant trends I noted this year was the definite shift in the area of additive fabrication technologies (manufacturing processes that build up material layer by layer, as opposed to traditional machining, which is subtractive). We're moving from short-run rapid prototyping to longer run rapid manufacturing.

This trend was affirmed by our friend Terry Wohlers in his conference keynote speech, "The Future of the Industry." Wohlers, author of the Wohlers Report 2008, said RP has exhibited impressive growth of 116% from 2004-2007 in terms of the installed base and unit sales. However, he considers that RM has tremendous untapped growth potential, especially in using RM to produce end-use parts. As a matter of fact, Wohlers expects RM to become the largest future application of additive fabrication technologies. Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor Jeffrey Rowe is the principal of Cairowest Group, an independent industrial design, mechanical engineering, and technical communication consulting firm with offices in Colorado and Michigan. You can reach him by e-mail at or by phone at 719.221.1867.


MCAD Modeling:
Rational vs. Irrational Decisions

By Mike Hudspeth, IDSA

Let me lay out a very common but always-dreaded scenario: You have a problem. You know you need some direction, but the only place you can go is to your pointy-haired boss. You know he's going to say or do something you're not going to like.

You knock on the door and enter his lair. After you've obtained the dubious honor of his attention, you explain your problem in as few words as possible so as not to confuse him. You finish. He opens his mouth to speak. You cringe. You try to give him the benefit of the doubt, but you just know you're not going to like what comes out of his mouth. He speaks. You can tell from the combination of buzzwords and trite phrases that he has no clue about what you just said. Did he even listen? Read more »


Mark Your Calendar: MCAD Events

Webinar: Engineering Analysis, Simulation, and Virtual Test Software in the Design of Heavy Machinery
June 17, 2008
10:30 a.m. EDT
This Webinar, hosted by Noran Engineering for manufacturers of heavy equipment and machinery, will introduce the ease-of-use capabilities of creating digital prototypes with the FEMAP pre/post processor and NEi Nastran robust solvers. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on