The OpenRP Initiative…

What is OpenRP?
The STL (Stereolithography) file format is, and for the foreseeable future, will be the standard mode of data exchange in the Rapid Prototyping industry.  It is a known fact that the STL file format does not employ efficient methods of data storage and lacks security.  Over the years, attempts have been made to replace the STL file format with a better, efficient and secure alternative.  Most of these attempts have been made by major RP software developers who, in one way or the other, have tried to derive financial benefit in the bargain.

OpenRP is not another attempt to replace the STL file format.  OpenRP is a non-profit initiative by Deelip Menezes which aims at offering the RP industry an alternative mode of data exchange while maintaining perfect compatibility with the STL file format and without any loss of data whatsoever.  OpenRP offers the RP industry a new RP file format and free software to read and write RP files.  All software at this web site is and will always remain free.  None of the applications, plug-ins or libraries will ever expire.  You are urged to freely use the software for as long as you like.

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Tunnel Into Some Trivia

Thanks for joining me on my undersea adventure through the Channel Tunnel.  If you didn’t get a chance to read my latest In the Queue email, you can catch it here.

Let’s have a big round of applause for this month’s winner: S. Ranta from Washington.  That $250 Stereolithography (SLA) credit at will really come in handy for an upcoming project.

Here are the correct answers to this month’s challenge:

1. The Channel Tunnel between England and France is actually the second longest railway tunnel in the world.  What is the world’s longest railway tunnel?:  Seikan Tunnel, Japan

2. At 85 miles long and 13.5 feet wide, what is the world’s longest continuous underground tunnel?:  Delaware Aqueduct, New York 

3. Opened in 1950, which vehicle tunnel connecting Manhattan with Long Island and New Jersey is still the longest continuous underwater vehicular tunnel in the world?:  Brooklyn Battery Tunnel

4. In the prison movie, The Shawshank Redemption, what does lead character Andy Dufresne use to slowly tunnel his escape route from his prison cell?:  A rock hammer

5. What fast burrowing animal can dig a 300 foot tunnel overnight?:  Mole

6. What city is considered to have the world’s oldest subway tunnel, built in 1844?:  New York

7. As a follow up to his record breaking album Born in the USA from 1984, Bruce Springsteen released his 8th album in 1987.  What was the name of this album?:  Tunnel of Love

Thanks for playing.

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Design Tips from the Pros :: Creating Small Part Features

Have you ever been frustrated with those critical features that other quick turn injection molding companies told you were too small to produce?  While Quickparts cannot produce everything, their injection molding expertise and leading-edge manufacturing equipment gives them the ability to meet your needs where others fail. Quickparts utilizes the EDM process to produce the small features and sharp corners desired for many injection molded parts.

What is EDM?
Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) is a machining method primarily used for hard metals or those features that would be impossible to machine with traditional techniques. EDM is especially well-suited for cutting intricate contours or delicate cavities that would be difficult to produce with a grinder, end mill, or other cutting tools. EDM functions by removing very small amounts of metal by producing a rapid series of electrical discharges. These electrical discharges are passed between an electrode and the metal being machined, and create a set of successively deeper craters until the final shape is produced.

Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM)

Click Here to learn more about EDM.

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Everything Bridges Trivia & Answers

I hope you enjoyed the thrilling video in this month’s challenge. If you didn’t get a chance to read my latest In the Queue email, you can catch it here.

Let’s have a big round of applause for this month’s winner: M. Christopher from Georgia. That $250 Stereolithography credit at will really come in handy for an upcoming project.

Here are the correct answers to this month’s challenge:

1. The name of the double-decked suspension bridge that serves as the starting point of the New York City Marathon is: Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

2. The following is not believed to be a possible meaning behind the nusery rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down”: The bridge is an analogy for English rule during the reign of King Henry VIII

3. The origin of the tire company Bridgestone’s name is:  It was an English translation of the surname of the company’s founder

4. The bridge coined “the most dramatic failure in bridge engineering history” is: Tacoma Narrows Bridge

5.  Jeff Bridges’ first Academy Award nomination was for:  The Last Picture Show

6. The bridge that is the site of the most suicides is: Golden Gate Bridge, California

7.  The average age of an American Contract Bridge League member is: 67

Thanks for playing. Please stay tuned as I tunnel my way through my next adventure!

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#3D Printing Our Way to Better Health

:: How 3D Printing And Augmented Reality Can Help Design Better Drugs

This rapidly evolving industry is now tasked with improving the medicines we so heavily relay on.  At Arthur Olson’s Molecular Graphics Lab, pathbreaking work is being achieved in the complex world of desiging cleaner and more effective drugs.  He uses 3D printers to spit out physical models of drugs and enzymes, and attaches augmented-reality tags to them so that computer vision can help his researchers find the optimal fit.  The reason this approach is worth exploring is that designing drugs comes down to piecing together the molecular structure of their chemical parts in the best possible way, so that they literally latch onto the surface of their targets like a magnetic Tetris piece.  Tactile feedback is a very powerful tool for this kind of puzzle-solving, which is where Olson’s 3D-printed models come in – think of it like playing with a Rubik’s cube, except the solution may help cure HIV.

One day we will all look back at companies like 3D Systems, Quickparts, Stratasys & Objet and thank them for their contributions to the advancement of 3D Printing (a.k.a Additive Manufacturing).


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3D Systems Launches Alibre Design 2012

This week 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) released Alibre Design 2012, a low-cost  productivity software suite that offers professional-grade CAD design and simulation.  Check out this awesome review of the new user interface from Randall Newton at GraphicSpeak.

One of the first things you notice in Alibre Design 2012 is the new ribbon interface. The regular toolbars are still present which can now be resized. For those who want to use the old menu all you need to do is press the Alt key and the good old menu temporarily shows up between the ribbon and the toolbars.

Alibre Design 2012

If you want to permanently turn the ribbon off and use the menu only the you can choose to do so by unchecking the “Use Ribbon” and “Hide Menu” boxes in System Options -> Display.

Alibre Design 2012

A closer look at the files in the Alibre Design installation folder suggests that the folks at Alibre implemented the ribbon user interface by licensing a third party UI library called Elegant Ribbon from Professional UI Solutions, which is actually quite a nice implementation of Microsoft’s ribbon. The advantage of using these professional UI libraries as opposed to developing your own is that they come with all kinds nice stuff like themes.

Alibre Design 2012

Alibre had greatly improved sketching in their previous version. In 2012 they have added a new UI feature called In Place Editing for the Part and Sheet Metal workspaces and is available only while you are sketching. In select mode if you left click the mouse anywhere on the graphics screen a small toolbar pops up showing the commands that you can initiate.

Alibre Design 2012

This is better then right clicking and searching for the command in the context menu that pops up. The buttons in this toolbar can even expand to expose more commands (see figure above). This toolbar can be also invoked by pressing the space bar or middle mouse button. If the toolbar comes in the way it can be dragged around the screen and placed somewhere else. If you move the mouse away from the toolbar to do something else, the software understands that you don’t want to use the toolbar and automatically closes it.

For people new to this concept, clicking the arrow toward the right of the toolbar expands it and the buttons are expanded to make place for descriptive text.

Alibre Design 2012

While all these UI enhancements in Alibre Design are nice and very welcome, my pet peeve about the product is the lack of Direct Modeling capabilities. Especially since the software is being promoted to people in the DIY and Maker space who may not be as “CAD oriented” as we would like them to be. I believe that a traditional history based parametric modeling system may not be the best tool to serve people in that segment. That is where a product like Autodesk’s 123D could be very successful.

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International Space Station Challenge Answers & Winners

I hope you learned a few things about space travel and observation from this month’s challenge. If you didn’t get a chance to read my latest In the Queue email, you can catch it here.

Let’s have a big round of applause for this month’s winner: V. Coleman from Alabama. That $250 Stereolithography credit at will go a long way — not to outer space, but you know what I mean.

Here are the correct answers to this month’s challenge:

1. The number of individuals that have visited the Internation Space Station (ISS) since the year 2000 is about: 200

2. The person who has spent the most time in space is: Sergei Krikalev

3. The famous person whose last name is also the acronym for an exercise machine used in the ISS is:  Stephen Colbert

4. The approximate cost of the ISS is: $100 Billion

5.  Spock from the original Star Trek series was famous for the slogan:  “Live Long and Prosper”

6. The cartoon character that is the personal safety mascot of U.S. astronauts is: Snoopy

7.  In the United Sates, to be in the running to be an astonaut, one must: All of the Above

Thanks for playing. Please stay tuned for my next adventure when I visit a bridge that’s practically in the clouds!

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:: Salute to CAD

Computer Aided Design (CAD)

The future of CAD is starting to look pretty cool. Experts suggest that someday we will be able to design our products with the tips of our fingers through the use of specialized gloves and goggles. I would love to be more “hands-on” with my designs! But before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at how CAD and 3D modeling have come to play such a crucial role in our world.

CAD stands for computer-aided design, and this design form can be traced back to the 1950s. It was at that time that Dr. Patrick Hanratty developed PRONTO, the first commercial numerical-control programming system. Using this system, CAD was represented in the form of 2D wireframe drawings. This first system, and others directly following it, only provided marginal improvements over drawing and editing by hand. 3D capabilities were integrated in the 1960s with the release of MAGI, the first commercially available solid modeling program.

In 1989, NURBS (mathematical representations of freeform surfaces) made their first appearance. Shortly following, MCAD systems introduced the concept of “constraints” which allow you to relate parts in an assembly. This paved the way for the CAD systems that are so widely accepted and used throughout the engineering industry today. CAD has even moved beyond the product development realm to include applications such as Google Maps, home furnishing, and garden planning.


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Three Gorges Dam Challenge Winners & Answers

I hope you had fun answering all of the Dam trivia we could throw at you this month. I know I learned a thing or two about how awe-inspiring and painstakingly hard it is to construct one of these momentous structures. If you didn’t get a chance to read my latest In the Queue email, you can catch it here.

Let’s have a big round of applause for this month’s winner: W. Williams from South Carolina. He will surely enjoy bringing along his NEW Digital SLR Camera for his next Dam outing and beyond.

Here are the correct answers to this month’s challenge:

1. Of the choices given, the one that is NOT a type of dam is a: Suspension Dam

2. The oldest remains of dams have been found in the country of: Jordan

3. Currently, the highest dam in the United States is:  Oroville Dam

4. The state in the USA that is credited with having the highest registered number of dams is: Texas

5. Hoover Dam did NOT make a cameo appearance in the movie: The Fugitive

6. The structure that allows fish to bypass dams on their travel to their spawning grounds is called a: Fish Ladder

7.  The oldest dam in the US national inventory is: Mill Pond Dam

8.  The largest beaver dam ever recorded was approximately: 2,800 Feet Long

9.  The number of construction workers believed to be tragically buried forever in the concrete at Hoover Dam is: Zero

10.  The dam that generates the highest amount of electricity annually is: Itaipu Dam

Thanks for playing. Please stay tuned for my next adventure when I float off on my first Space mission!

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Kingda Ka Challenge Answers

This month’s trivia sure did ”throw me for a loop”! Hope you all had fun answering the roller coaster trivia. If you didn’t get a chance to read my latest In the Queue email, you can catch it here.

Congratulations to this month’s winners, especially Duncan Burns for his humorous account of a childhood memory!

Here are the correct answers to this month’s challenge:

1. The name of the roller coaster which opened on Coney Island in 1927 was the: Cyclone

2. A mechanism that is NOT used by engineers to set a roller coaster in motion is a: Turbine Engine

3. The Las Vegas casino that boasts its own in-house roller coaster is:  New York New York

4. The country that is home to the longest steel roller coaster in the world is: Japan

5. The amusement park that has the fastest roller coaster on Earth is: Ferrari World

6. The Flip Flap roller coaster was closed in the 19th century because: It snapped people’s necks

7.  The term NOT used by a foreign country to refer to the word “roller coaster” is: People launcher

For those of you who completed the extra credit portion of this month’s challenge, thank you for all of the very entertaining responses. To view our top picks, check out my facebook NOTE here. You may have to befriend me to view the note. Stay tuned for my next adventure when I take notes from my friendly neighborhood beaver and learn what it takes to construct a proper dam!

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