MCAD Tech News (#263)

8 Apr, 2009

Mastenbroek Unearths Secret
to Optimized 3D Modeling

Heavy equipment maker combines ATI FirePro graphics card with Autodesk Inventor to improve design process and support sales.

By John Marchant

Mastenbroek serves the cable and pipe-laying industries for utility, offshore, and agricultural applications around the world.  In addition to the range of standard and custom-built trenchers and plows it manufactures, the family-owned British company also supplies cable and pipe-laying systems, trench backfill machines, tracked gravel trucks, tractor-pulled gravel trailers, and a range of custom-built special machinery.

Mark Taylor, design manager at Mastenbroek for more than 30 years, puts it this way: "Currently, it's all about drainage. Our machines are helping bring previously unviable farmland into production in India, Croatia, Holland, and other nearby European countries."  He adds, "Our machines are designed for specific jobs and to do those jobs a better, more environmentally friendly way. In reality, we are selling the ability to drain this field, put that pipe in, dig this trench."

Mastenbroek’s designs are composed of thousands of parts – as many as 35,000 in some cases, and the company has always relied on Autodesk Inventor to manage the enormous assemblies. Recently, however, designers discovered that upgrading to professional graphics cards took their productivity, design quality -- and the company’s sales potential -- to a new level.

Inventor: Not Just for Productivity

Mastenbroek has been using Autodesk Inventor since revision 4 of the software. Taylor says, "Over the years, this has been of major benefit and not just on staffing levels. With Inventor, you can do a lot more with fewer people, but we don't use Inventor to shorten design times.  Instead, we invest as much time as we can to produce high-quality designs to save a huge amount of man hours in the manufacturing process. It is very rare that we build two machines the same, so the more work we can do to make the design complete before we hand it over to make, the less nonproductive workshop hours there are.

"We are always busy, and if we are not working on machines in the workshops, we are working on new designs and on prototypes,” Taylor continues. “We really are pushing Inventor very hard and have always been up there with our use of large models and complex assemblies."

Taylor says the company's largest machines comprise around 35,000 parts, and even the smallest machines will have between 6,000 and 8,000 parts, from washers to mainframe.  "We need them all there on screen so we can simulate machine operation using driven constraints -- rotating and lifting things up and down, exercising the moving parts. It is no good doing that on partial models or in wireframe."  He adds, "However, it's not just the sheer number of parts that count.  The physically larger parts in our machines can be quite complex in themselves with complex curves, etc., which means that there is more data required to describe those parts."  Read more »

HP's New Z Line: Breakthrough Workstation Technology

By Robert Green

Last week, HP held a joint press event with Intel to announce the new series of HP Z workstations, which are based on Intel’s new Xeon 5500 (formerly code-named Nehalem) architecture. A lot of buzz surrounded this new processor architecture but details were scarce, so I was curious to see what we’d be shown by HP and Intel executives.

The event was held in the Los Angeles area at the headquarters of BMW Group’s DesignworksUSA. The venue choice showcased the role of the BMW team in the design of the sleek new HP workstations – the studio’s projects extend far beyond vehicles – and it facilitated travel for press representatives who attended from around the world. I spoke with journalists from Asia, Europe, Australia, and South America.

New Z Workstation Family

The first order of business was announcing the new line of workstations, dubbed the Z family. Composed of the Z400 on the low end, the Z600 in the midrange, and the Z800 on the uncompromising high end, the new line offers a performance/price point for anyone who needs serious computing power. HP claims it has “reinvented the workstation,” and indeed, this new line introduces breakthroughs in system design and engineering, aesthetics, sustainability, and more.  Read more »


Mark Your Calendar: MCAD Events

COFES 2009: Slipstreaming Innovation into the Mainstream
April 16-19, 2009 
Scottsdale, Arizona
The gathering brings together a community of engineering software vendors, developers, resellers, analysts, and software users for an open discussion about the future of the industry. Read more »

IDSA Western District Conference
April 24-26, 2009
Santa Monica, California
Under current economic conditions, designers are forced to better plan for their survival. What must designers do to survive today? Read more »

Greener by Design 2009
May 19-20, 2009
San Francisco, California
Greener by Design 2009 gives you the tools, insight, and inspiration to improve your company's bottom line through product innovation and green design techniques that work even during tough economic times. Read more »

2009 FLOW-3D World Users Conference
September 17-18, 2009
Seattle, Washington
The conference is open to FLOW-3D users as well as scientists, engineers, and other professionals interested in CFD modeling. Read more »

COMSOL Conference 2009
October 8-10, 2009
Boston, Massachusetts
This event gathers engineers from a broad spectrum of industries to unveil state-of-the-art achievements in multiphysics simulation. Read more »

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


What’s New at

NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 (First Look Review)
High-end performance and support for new 30-bit color monitors make this graphics card an excellent professional choice. Read more

Tutorial: Convert Traditional Solid Edge Models to Synchronous
The Solid Edge Convert option allows users to convert traditional history-based models to Synchronous Technology. Read more  All Cadalyst Tutorials

Autodesk ImageModeler 2009 (First Look Review)
Generate 3D models from 2D digital images in a flash. Read more

Looking for "Hot Tip Harry?"
Hot Tip Harry's latest AutoCAD customization tips are now posted online at Cadalyst's CAD Tips site. Harry's posting tips all the time now, and you can find the latest ones by checking the Recently Posted list, along with the latest tips from Tips & Tools Weekly. You can also find out about the latest tips from Harry himself (aka Cadalyst's Bill Kramer) by hanging out on Harry's Tip Jar Discussion Forum. Look for the posts labeled "Hot Tips!" for regular updates.

Brand new, Cadalyst and Hot Tip Harry also introduce his new Programming Concepts Discussion Forum. Keep tabs and chime in to exchange AutoCAD programming expertise and advice.