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FreshFiber launch 3D printed iPhone cases

Published 04 November 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: rapid prototyping, direct manufacturing, iphone, iphone cases, mass customisation, freshfiber, freedom of creation, fabber

I picked this up from the folks at Freedom of Creation (or FOC for short). A Dutch outfit called Fresh Fiber has just started producing iPhone cases using 3D printing technology. There’s no information about what process they’re using as yet, but I’ll be investigating and get back to you.

Truly fascinating. The ability to create customised products, either by the consumer or to create limited edition runs (Freedom of Creation’s Janne Kyttanen designed the one shown above) is something that the rapid prototyping/direct manufacturing/fabber community has talked about for many years - and it’s finally starting to happen. Looking at the forms there are decorative models, but the one that captured my imagination was Kyttanen’s design, which features a dual layer of shock absorption using forms that would be very difficult to mould in a single peice.

Here’s a short interview with FreshFiber founder Christian Dijkhof, courtesy of

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European HyperWorks Tech Forum: Day 1 continued: A quick peek at solidThinking Inspired

Published 04 November 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: altair engineering, solidthinking inspired, biomimicry, solidthinking, wolffs law, optistruct

This is another key area of focus for this 8.0 release, the launch of solidThinking Inspired. To set the scene, since Altair acquired the company, the two development teams have been looking at each other’s technology stacks and finding areas of cross-over - something that might seem at odds between teams responsible for a concept development tool and those working on hardcore simulation tools.

The first fruits of that cross pollination is solidThinking Inspired. To give you the background, this takes a technology from Altair developed for simulating the laws that apply to bone growth. While I’m not going to go into the detail, bone structure is developed by having a complex organic algorithm that build material to act and support the forces that occur within the structure of those bones. Essentially, nature takes on the role of optimisation and gives you a complex structure that’s typically perfectly suited to its operating parameters. The scientific theory that defines this is Wolff’s Law and implemented in a product called medical simulation product called OptiStruct. This is a field referred to as biomimicry, where technology is used to mimic the processes that occur in nature.

What the solidThinking team has done is taking this underlying tech and build a product (referred to as solidThinking Inspired) that gives the designer tools with which to run simulation on basic work envelopes and have the algorithm remove material where it’s not needed, giving you an optimised reference for further design work.

Base solid model defining working envelope and required geometric features

You start with a single solid model built within solidThinking that describes your rough work envelope. Most products conform to a basic size and form. In the case of a chair, you have supports (legs), a back and a seat. With a bridge, you have a span to cover, a platform for transfer and a spatial envelope for structural work, either above or below that platform. Once this is quickly sketched and modelled up, it’s transferred to the Inspire environment.

solidThinking Inspire has very little in the way of user interface, but does stack up multiplecommands into single icons nicely

This is a separate application and there’s very little in the way of user interface and the small smattering of icons is used to define the forces and constraints that act on that design envelope. You give it basic controls for where pressures and forces are expected to act on that design envelope, where it’s expected to be fixed and such.

Loads, restraints and such are added. you can give precise values or rough estimates - experiementation and inspiration is the name of the game here.

When you’ve defined the operating conditions, you then send the job off to calculate with an expectation in terms of percentage material removal. You choose say 25%, 30% and 50% and set it on its way. The system chunks through the work and presents back an optimised structure that enables material to be removed where stress are not present and retaining material where they’re needed to reach its performance goals in terms of structural stability.

You then have a number of tools available which allow you to explore the design, to vary material removal, trade off weight against strength and inspect the results in 3D. The results are a decimated polygon mesh which represents what the system calculates to be the optimum structure given your defined loads and constraints.

The Final result set- you can see that the system has removed material where possible and gives you back intriguing results.

That form can then be transferred back into solidThinking to be used as reference for more traditional design exploration.

The concept is that this gives you inspiration for new structures and new designers, which can then be used as the basis for further work in solidThinking. One thing that came up, considering the nature of the event we’re at and its heavy focus on simulation technologies, that people involved with simulation ask questions about mesh density, about how the results are generated. And for me, this misses the point entirely.

What solidThinking Inspired is about is giving the design community a new tool that, while it’s based on robust proven technology (as used by the likes of Airbus for optimising wing spans or leading architects, SOM, for designing high-rise buildings) its delivered in a manner that enables its use for creativity, rather than simulation. This is a tool that’s intended for finding new design alternatives, for providing, as the name suggests, inspiration, when working on new products. By bringing this type of technology, removing the complexity, but retaining the robustness, designers have the ability to research new structures for any given performance requirement and experiment further.

The fact that it’s based on OptiStruct gives you the reassurance that the structural forms it suggests are a better match to the functional requirements - you then have all of the power of solidThinking to assist with taking that form as the basis and developing a more refined product form. There is a download coming online very soon and it’s worth playing with. From having access to the beta for a few weeks now, it’s clear that there’s huge potential in this system and the results it gives you don’t always conform to how you might imagine they would. That for me is a benefit. it makes you think about what you’re designing in new and interesting ways. But to realise that, you can then push your creativity, design and engineering skills to see how that can be taken advantage of.

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European HyperWorks Technology Conference 2009: solidThinking Product Day

Published 02 November 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: industrial design, altair engineering, concept design, solidthinking, hyperworks technology forum

After a hellishly early start from Birmingham out to Stuttgart and a couple of quick train rides on the ever efficient German train network, I arrived in Ludwigsburg to attend the first couple of days on Altair Engineering‘s European HyperWorks Technology Conference yesterday. For those that aren’t familiar with the company, it has a huge range of simulation products, of which HyperWorks is probably the most well known. Alongside it’s simulation tools (which we’ll talk about tomorrow), it has recently acquired a company that doesn’t initially fit into it’s engineering focus - namely, solidThinking.

solidThinking is a hybrid modelling product that’s been on the market for a good long while and while it’s been well received in Europe but has yet to find it’s feet outside of it’s core market. With a heavy focus towards the creation of complex shapes, solidTHinking offers a range of tools that you’d expect. curve and surface quality are key, but there’s rendering, animation and all the things the industrial and product design community would expect. The solution has also gained much interest over the years because of its dual platform for both Windows and Apple Mac.

There’s been a huge focus on display quality and visualisation. On the display quality side, both in terms of speed (particularly when using openGL), but also allowing you to use environment maps (very handy for first pass renderings or to evaluate form) and better presentation of entities on screen (driving curves are anti-aliased and presented thicker than isoparms and such - making it easy to manipulate a design). In terms of visualisation, there’s also been a huge concentration on bringing this area up to speed. The 8.0 release introduces not only progressive rendering (a la HyperShot and Modo), but also real-time rendering, where lighting and material changes are instantaneous.

Another focus is the addition of manipulators - for editing geometry position using translation, rotation and scaling using axes and workplaces graphically handles. WHen you’re experimenting with form and position of geometry, it’s key that you’re able to manipulate geometry as you wish, quickly and efficiently. Construction planes are automatically switched, based on your view, which is particularly handy when you’re working in the perspective view - it’ll switch to the most likely plane for sketching geometry, but you can also click the plane and lock it in position. Also there’s some nifty new tools to allow the precise editing of curves, using not only the familiar control points, but also more ad-hoc curve manipulation tools that give you control over tangency, curvature, radius at any selected point, without having to create a heavy curve with additional control points.

But while updates that the team showed today are enhancements, the really big news is the stuff that solidThinking has done for years. The system is history based and retains a record of exactly what operations and features you create, the parameters you set and the tools you use to create complex geometry. There’s been a debate raging on a recent post about Inventor Fusion (link) with a reader questioning why you would want a history tree when working with complex surface forms. In short, seeing solidThinking in action answers those questions. by maintaining a fully featured history, by linking the seemingly simple curve forms you use to create surfaces, then the maintaining an intelligent history of the edits that you make (such as moving control points, pushing and pulling geometry), you have a toolset that’s perfectly linked for creating multiple design iterations, new concepts and new models in a very short space of time.

There’s much talk in the world of 3D CAD about mainstream products supporting the design workflow, but few actually support the work that an industrial or product designer does with traditional tools. The tactile response of pencil and marker sketching, the modelling of Stryofoam, are all still key ingredients during the formative stages of form and function exploration - at the point where product form is fluid and unfixed. solidThinking focuses on giving the user tools that are similar in their flexibility to play with form (in this instance, geometry). Yes, there’s the obvious digitalisation barrier that removes the use from a tactile process such as sketching, but the benefits you can, from using a 3d-based concept modelling tool can give you similar results in terms of output - rapidly generated concepts, ideas and forms. These can be created, played with an worked in a fraction of the time you’d take to do it in a general purpose modelling systems (such as SolidWorks, Solid Edge or Inventor). And the reason you can do that is because you’re using an intelligent modelling system tuned for the process, rather than a generic surface modelling tool.

But enough of my yacking - want a look? Yet another sketchy video showing how the history is used to great effect when carrying out some structural packaging work, where the design of the final features, those that truly challenge any geometry modelling system. What’s interesting is that here, the complex geometry is created first - then the rest falls into place.

There’s more from yesterday shortly.

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Geomagic debuts parametric exchange for NX on labs website

Published 02 November 2009

Posted by Greg Corke

Article tagged with: nx, geomagic, reverse engineering, point cloud

At DEVELOP3D we love the increasing use of Labs websites to let users try out new tech in development - and this latest development from Geomagic is sure to interest users of NX. Geomagic has launched Parametric Exchange for NX which provides an intelligent connection between Geomagic Studio and NX. The tool is designed to take point cloud data and reconstruct it in NX as a parametric CAD model, complete with model tree. We’d love to hear from any NX users out there that try it out.

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