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DMLS: 3 Reasons Why You Should Jump in Now

Recently, we discussed the history and processes associated with Direct Metal Laser Sintering. Maturity in the technology of 3D printed metal, and Carl Dekard’s SLS patent expiration have spurred a new surge of research. I want to point out 3 reasons why you should get involved with this technology now…or really soon:

  • The Materials
  • The Innovation
  • The Ground Floor Opportunity

EOS Sintered Part in Metal Powder Residue

Stainless steel powder residue being removed from EOS DMLS “3D Printed” part (Courtesy of Solid Concepts).

Reason 1: The Materials

In the last 8 years I have witnessed the expansion of materials being offered by SLS machine vendors. The following is the list of metals that EOS machines are prepared to use commercially:

  • Aluminum AlSi10Mg – Light weight
  • CobaltChrome MP1 & SP2 – High heat and Strength
  • MaragingSteel MS1 – Hardness
  • NickelAlloy HX – High heat and strength
  • NickelAlloy IN625 & In718 (Inconel) – Moderately high strength and heat
  • StainlessSteel GP1 & PH1 – Corrosion resistant steel applications
  • Titanium Ti64 & Ti64ELI – High strength and light weight

These materials are robust and in some cases can take temperatures as high as 1200 °C. EOS’ thinner powder application has increased sintered densities to ~100% in almost all cases.

A materials comparison chart is available in our Engineering Notes section for your benefit, sourced directly from EOS and Solid Concepts.

Morris Technologies Swirler Printed from SLM

Morris Technologies’ combustor swirler (Courtesy of EOS GmbH)

Reason 2: Innovation

General Electric and NASA are spending a lot of money and time innovating the additive metal processes including DMLS, and how ‘3D printed’ parts can be used. GE made a brilliant move by acquiring not only the DMLS and EBM technologies in 2012, but also by purchasing Morris Technologies, one of the most experienced service providers.

“Our ability to develop state of the art manufacturing processes for emerging materials and complex design geometry is critical to our future”

Said Colleen Athans, vice president and general manager of the Supply Chain Division at GE Aviation in a press release.

To further reinforce the point about the fitness of the additive manufacturing of metals, I offer this statement, taken from one of GE’s Leap program announcements:

“Fuel nozzles additively manufactured from direct metal laser melting are 5X stronger that previous nozzles with 5X fewer brazes and welds”. Applications such as these will push engineers and manufacturers to be competitive by either developing better alternatives, or jumping headlong into additive manufacturing.

GE SLM Printed Fuel Nozzle

General Electric’s DMLS printed fuel nozzle (courtesy of GE)

Competition Breeds Innovation and Cost Reduction

Expanding adoption of this technology is spurring materials and machine technology improvements. The choice is becoming which tool fits my needs better instead of which tool is cheaper.

My discussions with Solid Concepts indicated that cost was tied to production speed, rather than mass. The cost of a 400 – 1000 Watt laser running adds up. Morris Technologies provided a comparison of DMLS and EBM wherein they compared EOS’ M270 and M280 DMLS machines with Arcam’s A2 EBM machine, and the run-time cost relationships thereof:

  • EBM and DMLS appear to be mostly tied to run-time
  • Newer A2 and M280 machine runtimes and costs were almost identical
  • Older M 270 was 2X slower at almost 2X cost.

Morris Tech’s paper is being mirrored on D&M Engineering Notes, as website is gone.

Additive Manufacturing Providers

The following list was compiled during my web based research, as well as discussions with vendors and service providers; it is by no means complete or exhaustive.

Machine Manufacturers

DMLS – Hands down EOS GmbH.

EBM – Arcam is the provider (and to the extent of my knowledge the originator) of the EBM technology. They hold multiple global patents on the process.

SLM – SLM Solutions is the lead dog in this industry, and seems to have been the initiator of the manufacturing solutions in this process.

Experienced Providers

Solid Concepts, a Stratasys company in Texas – SLS, DMLS, machining, molds, and more.

Their experience and assistance with information relating to the DMLS materials and high temperature applications was invaluable and is referenced in this article. Kent Firestone, a former project manager at DTM is the company’s Vice-President of Additive Manufacturing.

Solid Concepts 3D Printed Metal 1911 Gun Components

Solid Concepts manufactures world’s first functional ‘printed’ steel 1911 .45 caliber handgun.

Morris Technologies in Ohio – SLS, DMLS, & EBM

Note: Morris Technologies may be out of commercial business after the GE purchase

Directed MFG in Texas – SLS & DMLS

TurboCAM Aero in New Hampshire – DMLS and just about everything!

New Blood

After the recent expiration of the SLS patent in January of this year, various DMLS start-ups and initiatives have begun. People are bringing new ideas together to reduce the size and expense of the DMLS process, and bring the technology to the forefront and make it more accessible.

Reason 3: Ground Floor Opportunity

One of my favorite speakers, Simon Sinek discussed the “Law of Diffusion of Innovation”, where he noted “the early majority will not try something until someone has tried it first”; we all get that. If you listened to that discussion, you know he went on to define the gap that lies between those ‘early adopters’ that want to be on the cutting edge, and the ‘early majority’.

We stand in that gap right now.

The ‘Innovators’, people like Carl Deckard and companies like EOS, have laid the additive manufacturing of metal ground work. The ‘Early Adopters’, such as Morris Technologies and GE, have paved the way to successful adoption of the technologies.

Now it’s your turn.

Innovation and cost stabilization will increase alongside adoption. As the technology advances, new thoughts and applied sciences will evolve better processes, far beyond DMLS. The main factor driving adoption at this time will be light-weighting of components due to previously impossible part geometries. DMLS (and other additive processes) will be the way to go. Those companies that become entrenched (and more importantly, experienced) now will be the ones that engineers will turn to for expertise in the upcoming years.

As you move to invest in this process, whether as an end consumer of components or a service provider, it would be wise to develop a good relationship with a DMLS provider experienced in developing applications for your industry. Consider their advice before completing your designs or buying equipment, it will help you avoid many pitfalls and save you a lot of heartache.

Note: Beware of which machines a company is using. If they are using older machines, your bill might look similar to having a taxi driver taking the long way to your destination.

My Closing Thoughts

We believe that successes in design and manufacturing are provided through passion and imagination. Additive manufacturing is the next step in the evolution of metals manufacturing, and a very powerful one at that.

D&M Early Concept Combustor

Our R&D turbine and combustor’s upper target temperature is >1000 °C. DMLS’ high temperature Inconel and Cobalt have been essential in making the design possible, by providing a realistic safety margin as we work through the fluid dynamics involved in reducing those wall temperatures. (Early prototype of combustor at right is an example where additive manufacturing is the only method of production)

We can build components far closer to ideal design parameters than was ever possible before; and at reduced scales that are impossible to mill and turn. The other really cool and truly inspiring part of the equation, is so many components that needed to be manufactured separately and assembled, can now be ‘printed’ as a single unit. Cooling channels and fuel systems can be integrated in truly creative ways.

DMLS, SLS, EMB, and SLM are only the beginning. Now that certain patents have expired, we should see some incredible advancements in cost reduction and new ways to build safer, lighter, and cheaper components… without the waste we associate with manufacturing in the past.

If you want to be on the cutting edge of component engineering, and are looking for the opportunity, here’s your sign.

Pacific Thunder 2012 gets jump start at Osan

(Courtesy of SSgt. Sara Csurilla)


Eos GmbH and Solid Concepts have been quite helpful in numerous areas of my DMLS research. I want to extend this as a personal note of appreciation to their respective companies, and all the resources that they provided, as well as their research and professionalism in the field of metals manufacturing technology.

Additional sources include:

Carl Deckard’s key SLS patent

Arcam Electron Beam Melting website

Renger’s (Morris Tech) EBM vs. DMLS comparison pdf

University of Texas at Austin article “Selective Laser Sintering, Birth of an Industry”

Selective Laser Melting on Wikipedia article “Direct Additive Fabrication of Metal Parts and Injection Molds”

General Electric acquisition of Morris technologies news release

3D Printing Industry ( “Many 3D Printing Patents Are Expiring Soon: Here’s A Round Up & Overview of Them

Ft. Walton Machining: Company Profile

Ft. Walton Machining – a company profile

I had the opportunity a few years ago to visit Ft. Walton Machining and to meet its owner, Mr. Tim McDonald Sr., a great business man with some amazing toys: One amazing machine facility, and one really cool WWII-era T-6 Texan training aircraft. Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to spend more time with him before his passing in 2010.

I decided to return to Ft. Walton Machining, for a better look at the equipment and teamwork that makes company so successful. It really is an amazing company and has built an incredible reputation that has landed them some of the best contracts in multiple industries. Timothy McDonald Jr., runs the operations center, and agreed to see me and show me around.

Ft Walton Machining Front View

General Profile

Ft. Walton Machining was founded by Mr. McDonald in 1997. Since then it has been housed at 2 locations, and has increased from 35 employees to more than 210 team members at this time. The company houses more than 50 machine spindles, including fifteen 5-axis milling stations. They supply major corporations regularly with various components, including names such as Boeing, Gulfstream, Locheed-Martin, NASA, various military units, oil production companies, and more. The most exciting contract that I was permitted to mention was that Ft. Walton Machining is the largest supplier of F-35 airframe components in the world. Awesome!

The 65,000 SF Manufacturing facility is divided by process as follows:

  • CNC Milling
  • CNC Lathe
  • Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM)
  • Engineering
  • Fabrication
  • Finishing
  • Lean Manufacturing
  • Quality Assurance
  • Waterjet
  • Welding

One thing I learned since my last visit was that the company has purchased another facility in order to expand its materials finishing division. Now that location handles 100% of the finishing, giving more room to the machining facility, and streamlining their overall process.

The 42,000 SF Material Finishing Division facility is composed of process divisions as follows:

  • Anodizing
  • Assemblies
  • Chem-Film
  • Passivation
  • Prime & Paint
  • NonDestructive Testing (NDT)

This new addition includes a conveyor drying paint line, a gas curing oven, paint booths, and a PLC controlled custom chemical finishing line.

Manufacturing Walk Through

After I hefted out from under the enormous non-disclosure agreement the company’s kind receptionist ‘encouraged’ me to sign, I was issued a guest pass, and reacquainted with Timothy McDonald, Jr., who took the time to chat with me about this article, and to furnish some background on the company that I didn’t know. McDonald is the Program Manager, as well as the company’s Secretary/Treasurer.

It is difficult to get a grasp of the scope of the facility without a map; it’s huge. It’s not to the magnitude of say the Lockheed facility in Marietta, with cars on roads with named streets inside the oversized building, but you could spend a week at Ft. Walton Machining trying to figure out where everything is. A fun question to ask is, “what’s beyond that wall over there?”  The answer was usually “more!”

Immediately I happened upon these beautiful oil well drill drive shafts. 4’ long and 8” in diameter, with the finest looking bearing journals. I asked about the processes involved and was surprised to find that while the entire part was turned, the journals were not ground. McDonald went on to explain that they are roller burnished, using a peening-like process that rolls the journals into submission under great pressure [30,000 psi], delivering superior bearing strength and trueness. McDonald noted “As you can image, being a mile down a hole, the components will experience a great deal of vibration. That ultimately converts into fatigue stress and cracks, and this process extends the life of these shafts significantly.” I was however not permitted to take one home. That’s my kind of art!

Ft Walton Machining Oil Well Drill Shafts

The precision on the drill shaft turning and burnishing is held to 0.0005 in.

McDonald continued “If something goes wrong down in that hole, it costs $4 million an hour to pull that drill. That’s when feelings start to really get hurt, so you have to make sure your product is spot-on correct.”

As we moved, what I could observe was numerous aircraft parts including flight critical components for C-17’s aircraft and CH-47 helicopters. I was escorted through all the departments and given time to chat with the team members. We discussed everything from manufacturing processes to strategies, most of which could not be mentioned in this article. One topic that was approved was the oil drilling components, which turned out to be really interesting as well. The team explained, in detail, the ingenious strategies used in oil well drilling, as well as the processes used to manufacturing these tools. It was pretty awesome.

I found a dedicated team of individuals that know their machinery and products. When engaged about different approaches to specific components and techniques, everyone was eager to share their experiences and methods used to successfully get the components out the door. Everything from their adoption of High-Speed Machining to advanced materials was discussed; where things worked and where they didn’t. When I’d ask about the tolerances of a component feature, the technician’s would stop to explain what these were, and various strategies that paid off in maintaining them.

Ft Walton Machining Haas CNC Mill  Ft Walton Machining Milling

The two silver boring bars in the turret are 2 in. solid carbide DeVi bars. These are tuned to bore chatter free at extended depths. I just priced them out at over $2000 USD each, plus inserts. Pricey; I’ve never used one, but the industry swears by them. “We had Iscar make us a 4 in. slam drill that will chew metal like you would not believe. It took us 4 months to get it. It will pop a 4 in. hole, 5 in. deep in about 5 minutes. That’s a massive insert.” McDonald said. The technician pulled the turret down for me to inspect. “The savings were instantaneous.”

Ft Walton Machining Iscar Drill on Lathe

Ft Walton Machining CNC Water-Jet  Ft Walton Machining Inspection

While discussing the merits and problems with waterjet, McDonald mentions, “we used it once to cut 8 in.-thick titanium. We called the manufacturer and asked how it could be done. They said you couldn’t do it; that presented a challenge. It took 28 hours, but when talking titanium at 80 bucks a pound, it was worth it in the end.”

I was able to inspect some beautifully crafted components. High precision, small components and very large scale multi-process assemblies. Unfortunately I was only permitted to show a small sample for the sake of security.

Ft Walton Machining Multiple Processes

This Navy ship exhaust duct was one component that was extremely tedious to manufacture. The processes involved include sheet metal fabrication, water jet, welding, and finish machining. The mating flange surfaces have to be flat within 0.005 in. The team welds the processed components first, and then after substantial blocking, the custom jigs are removed, and the flanges are surface milled within tolerance.

Another really nifty gizmo was the Iscar Matrix tool vending machine. Sounds funny, right. Instead of Twinkies, this cool cabinet dispenses inserts. The team members enter their employee password, and then scan the scan bar on the job order. The Matrix is tied in with the ERP system, and after the scan is made and the insert is selected, the cost of the insert is automatically applied to the project for cost analyses. The vending machine then unlocks and opens the appropriate drawer. “It’s like a giant Pez dispenser”, one technician said. McDonald added “When the last insert is removed, an email is sent to the tool crib notifying them that the drawer needs to be restocked. We never run out of inserts this way. These are used throughout the industry in various ways, we use them for inserts… and subsequently the occurrences of having ‘missing’ cutters has dropped dramatically.”

Ft Walton Machining Medical Parts  Ft Walton Machining Medical More Parts

McDonald escorted me through every area of the shop. As we passed by their Blue Streak department, I pointed to the sign and asked about it. He told me that department is comprised of machines that are ready to work with low volume to handle their client’s emergency needs. This way when a problem arises, they don’t have to shut down an operation to accommodate the need.

As we were wrapping up the tour, Glenn Larson, Ft. Walton Machining’s software guru caught up with us and we began discussing some CAM issues and strategies in parts as McDonald took us by components and tooling. We looked at their R&D changes to the AccuView contact lens palettes (my wife wears those!), and the intricate detail required to accomplish their needs.  Moving along we passed by a FARO portable CMM unit and the discussion turned to inspections, and how they use it when they can’t check the parts in the QA Lab. They mentioned that a laser scanner can be attached to the unit and McDonald added “We are quite interested in light scanning, it’s the next wave and the direction we are going”.

I wanted to give their Haimer Power Clamp a try. The unit heat expands the milling collets in order to fit the tooling inside, and then cools the collets back down which clamps the tolling down tight. No screws, no clamps. McDonald said it absolutely kills the runout associated with collets. They showed me one application where they needed a small diameter tool in this arrangement. They had a tool, heat shrunk into a collet, heat shrunk into another, and into another.

After making it to the QA lab where all the components are inspected, the pair noted that the part being inspected had a variable radii developed in Autodesk Inventor with some special love from Glenn Larson’s team added in. McDonald noted, “Once we’re done welding, we verify the positions before adding that bottom fillet radii in the mill. The top surface has a 0.002 in. tolerance and is a bit tight to hold throughout on a mill. What we’re going to do is make a special arbor on the lathe; we’ll mount two of them to it to counterbalance, and turn the top profile. This part is very complex in the sequencing we had to go through, but I’m happy with it thus far.” The two were confident [if not a wee bit squeamish], as they reflected on the prospects of the final surface turning process. That’s a lot of time and money invested in a process that only gets more difficult and precise. By the time of this article, they should have completed that process. I’d love to hear how it went.

One thing I found odd but didn’t inquire about was that the company doesn’t do any plasma spray buildups. They outsource the process to favored companies when needed.

My thoughts

I always enjoy hearing about the progress of this company ever since I first met them and toured the facility years ago. Their continued expansion and successes have stemmed from staying on top of the technology, knowing the trade, thinking far beyond the norm, and building exceptional relationships. I never think twice about referring companies to them to handle any component manufacturing needs.

It’s an awesome team and facility, and I’m going back as soon as they get over my excitement during this past visit.

Check back in soon for the follow-up interview article with Tim McDonald and Glenn Larson, and their discussion about the company’s successful transition to CATIA.

Small Business Design Management Needs

Creativity and CollaborationWe have been reviewing our options for collaborative space and data management needs for business, design, and simulation. I wanted to take a look at how the cloud is enabling the lightweight collaborative design data management needs of some SMBs, and later, try to point out what to watch for in the near future.

Summary of the SMB Design Management Review

SMB Design Management at Autodesk

SMB Design Management Vendors and 2015

Why Collaborative Design Data Management?

Product Lifecycle Management – PLM

Product Design Management – PDM

Enterprise Resource Planning – ERP

Customer Relations Management – CRM

Document Management System – DMS

…and on and on.

The list is endless and quite likely you need some form of most of these in your day to day work. The problem is that the really useful tools are part of very large expensive systems developed by only a handful of vendors, who by virtue of their vast market share, have defined the way we are expected to behave around design data.

New collaborative needs and incredible cost have forced many small businesses to rely on less capable systems, terrible data workflows, and limited features.

Which Features are Important?

That is the crux of the entire issue, and being asked by the wrong people, namely you. In this market it should be the other way around.

Data management software is typically either too vague about how it organizes data, or too specific to one particular industry or another, and all of them require some tuning and programming to get the software to match the way you work.

…and no one wants to do all the customization.

If you are still playing ‘Hansel and Gretel’ data discovery with MS Office and Windows Explorer you are not alone. So why don’t we all just jump out and get some data management?

One important factor is the short period between the emergence and focus on SMB PLM needs, and the sudden upswing in collaborative possibilities. “I need some PLM and PDM, but how do I include collaboration?”

Team Lift, Design, Collaboration

Let’s take a moment and completely jumble everything up. Growing trends in collaboration and market globalization, fueled by accessibility of the internet are pouring in data from all angles and unthought-of workflows. We don’t quite know how to deal with it all yet, and neither do the data management vendors.

I need to catalogue…:

  • Information, instructions, correspondence, and specifications for clients, subcontractors and manufacturers
  • Proposals, agreements, and correspondence
  • Design and non-design data, including iterations, versions, and revisions
  • Industry / company standards and compliance
  • Visualization data
  • The almighty BOM(s)
  • Subcontractor orders, inspections, and correspondence
  • Deliverables
  • Municipal and organizational review comments
  • Supplies
  • Analysis data and reports


This scenario represents the least common denominator of many company’s needs, regardless of size. All of this information must be tied together in a project type relevance, but also permitted to associate with other data inherently. This information needs to be discoverable in a myriad of ways, and it needs to be accessible, and easy to use.

The trick is that we also need this data to be compiled between multiple collaborators that are all part of the common design process, on a globally accessible, but relatively light-weight framework.

So, which software serves SMB design firms best? 

Take a look at how Autodesk is changing their management and collaboration software solutions.

We’d love to hear from everyone about what has been going right for you, and what has not. Are there holes in your data management setup, or do you have the magic balance of management and collaboration? Leave a comment and let us know what you’ve discovered.

Image Credit: Norman Lear Center – Flickr


Small Business Design Management Vendors and 2015

In recent articles, we’ve been discussing the design data management needs of design firms in the SMB space (Small-to-Medium Sized Businesses). I touched on what Autodesk has been planning as well. Now I’d like to go beyond Autodesk, and look at some other options that we have been reviewing, and how all of the factors I’ve discussed may affect your future.

Management Software Vendors Offer More Flexibility


GrabCAD started off as a great place to showcase your designs, developed by Hardi Meybaum and Indrek Narusk. It began to change into a collaborative workspace and enabler, ultimately becoming their recent launch of GrabCAD Workbench.

GrabCAD WorkBench Project File Version

The funny thing is that while many have discounted the new service as a novelty, the company is very aggressively developing far more robust capabilities to fill the needs of exactly who we are talking about, the SMB design companies. GrabCAD has already licensed the Parasolid model in order to better develop their viewing and inspection capabilities. Now they are adding useful Bill of Materials (BOM) features, engineering workflows, and much more. Have you checked it out recently? Their CAD viewer is off the hook. It’s worth a look to see just how useful the storage and collaborative space is at this point before all the changes begin to form.

GrabCAD CAD Viewer exploded in section

CADAC Organice

Cadac Group specializes in providing IT solutions to create, manage and share digital design information. That sounds pretty close to what we are talking about.

This team has been aggregating CAD storage and data for some time on SharePoint, and are leveraging that on their hosted SharePoint Cloud. They have vast knowledge and experience in dealing with CAD model data management and have already been involved in Inventor upload add-ins. I am very much hoping for a design and manufacturing specific SharePoint app release for Office 365 Small and Medium business in the near future.

SharePoint and Office 365

SharePoint as part of Office 365 is emerging as a real contender for the small design market. How is that? SharePoint sucks right?

Well, yes and no.

The SharePoint interface itself is clunky, not really design component or process related, and it is still a collection of poorly joined resources, but let’s look at it as a Platform instead.

SharePoint Site Image with Database

Every purchase of Office 365 Small and Medium Business gets you a SharePoint cloud site and a large amount of storage. The current version is 2013 and has been substantially cleaned up which makes it reasonably functional.

* Easy to use and pre-configured collaborative and project management spaces

* Document versioning and control

* Smooth Outlook and Office integration are valuable tools as well

* Pre-configured, streamlined Exchange servers on Microsoft’s Azure server

* Tons of storage with triple redundancy backups

…at no additional cost to your Office licenses. That means that almost every licensed user will have access to a SharePoint cloud site, all their collaboration and records, and their versioned data files in a controlled and secured environment.

Get this: as one Microsoft engineer told me, you can license only the in-house seats you need, but invite the entire world to collaborate with no additional cost. This is hugely significant considering that other services require each invited collaborator to occupy one of your paid seats. Microsoft is pushing collaboration on SharePoint hard.

Also Microsoft is heavily investing in the SharePoint App approach, where companies can develop custom apps that run inside the SharePoint team-site envelope. This means that 3rd-party vendors van develop well-customized data, forms UI, and workflows that can leverage the existing data structures, managed storage, and collaborative spaces, and provide design firms with a powerful well rounded solution.

All the SMB design industry needs is a solid 3rd-3rd party SharePoint application and it’ll be on like Donkey-Kong.

Why is 2015 Significant?

I believe that 2015 will be the baseline for the SMB data management service. Companies are racing to develop useful tools that are reasonably CAD Agnostic, and meets the collaborative, aggregate, storage, discoverability, and accessibility needs that have become so evident in the last few years.

What is more important is that the company that delivers a complete, easy to use, extremely configurable deep-search tool that stores, catalogues, aggregates, and secures design models and data, with customizable form UI, and accessible storage and delivery pipeline by the end of 2015 will set the stage for how small companies will collaborate, and will shape the way we work in the near future.

Will GrabCAD with its beautiful collaborative and viewing interface bring enough management tools to the party? Will Autodesk 360’s integration with Autodesk PLM really tie together all the parts we need in a useful, non-frustrating way? Will one of the fledgling data management vendors put together a comprehensive SharePoint Cloud app that better aggregates data and offers CAD model viewing?

If any of these things occur, D&M will likely be the first company to purchase seats.

Autodesk Inventor 2014 | Modify curvature display UI bug

Autodesk Inventor’s curvature analysis display graphs are a vital tool in creating and maintaining curvature continuity in your complex part models.

Autodesk Inventor 2014 Display Curvature Marking menu

Occasionally the display of the curvature graph can be so weenie it doesn’t help at all, or so HUGE that it looks like an explosion in a spaghetti factory.

To tweak the size of the curvature graph you’ll need access to the ‘Modify curvature’ settings, if you are using Autodesk Inventor 2014 you may have noticed a frustrating problem.


There is no option to modify the display of 2D curvature graphs (Porcupine spine display) in Autodesk Inventor 2014.


1. Go to Tools > Customize > Marking menu tab.

 Autodesk Inventor 2014 Tools Customize

2. Select Environment = 2D Sketch

3. Select Sub-Environment = Spline

4. Select the blank entry at between Delete & Construction (or wherever you want the function to appear)

5. In the Search Command box start typing ‘modi…’ to find ‘Modify Curvature’.

6. Select ‘Modify Curvature’ and it appears in your chosen spot.

 Autodesk Inventor 2014 add Modify Curvature to Marking Menu

Thanks very much to Peter Crawley for posting this solution on the Autodesk forums.

 Autodesk Inventor 2014 Interpolation spline with curvature graph Autodesk Inventor 2014 Setup Curvature Display  Autodesk Inventor 2014 Modify Curvature settings

We hear that this has been fixed in Inventor 2014 SP1. Let us know if it works for you.


What Makes A Maker?

The “Maker Movement,” I’m sure you’ve all heard of it, but what exactly is it? I don’t know if there’s actually an official definition, but I think of it as the tinkerers and hobbyists of the past, with access to a whole lot more knowledge and technology thanks to the internet. Now even this is a very broad definition, but I guess you could split it up again into a couple of big categories. Those that make for themselves, and those that make for, or with others.

Maker Faire Image - Pixel ArtCredit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

It has always blown me away at just how many people are happy to selflessly contribute a huge proportion of their free time to sharing things they’ve learnt with others, for free, using the internet. I consider myself to fit into the “maker” persona, but I often feel the guilt of just how lazy I am when it comes to sharing my knowledge with others. I owe a lot of what I know, to the internet and the people who contribute their knowledge, but yet I give so little back. I made a conscious decision earlier this year, to try to rectify that, and that’s when I started writing articles for Design and Motion. My wife and I live a pretty busy lifestyle, so while the fortnightly posts can occasionally become a bit of a chore, the sense of satisfaction I get when I finally hit the “publish” button is a magical thing. Kind of like that one shot you hit in your last terrible round of golf, which felt so good that you know you’ll be back to play again. This to me, is the essence of what fuels the maker community. People get satisfaction from sharing what they have made with others.

Now there is a dilemma that often arises here, when you want to move from making for fun, to making for money. Many have battled with the balance of how much to give away, versus what they should protect and sell. Creative Commons and the open-source movement had, and still has many scratching their heads, wondering how on earth a business can give something away for nothing, and still make money.

One topic that I often think about, is the future of makers. If we go back in history, humans went from being fairly self-sufficient makers, to fairly dependent non-makers. We outsourced our making to mass-production. If the futurists of today are correct in their predictions, self-making on a massive scale will return to the mainstream and the industrial revolution will effectively be reversed at some point. So my question is this:

What should traditional manufacturers do, to future-proof their businesses?

I don’t have an answer for this, so I thought I’d put it to the maker community from Autodesk, along with some of my other questions.

When I was a student, my visions of my future self always placed me in someone else’s company, designing things to be made for someone else. It turned out, that I have ended up spending a fair chunk of my career so far in self-employment. I often wonder how things would be different if I had focused my energy as a student, on working towards being my own boss. The reason I say this, is with today’s channels for dissemination of information and knowledge, along with incredible accessibility to technology (you can buy just about anything online), small scale manufacturing for a large market is a very real option to make a living. The internet allows people that have “the knack” to learn more about anything they want to, purchase just about anything they need, and sell their ideas, products or services to a potentially huge number of people.

So another question:

What should we be doing to equip today’s students, to go down the path of being a maker, regardless of what sort of scale it ends up being on?

I believe that teaching students to digest and assess information critically, regardless of source, is just as important as sharing knowledge of particular topics. Ask just about any ex-student how much of what they learned in their studies, they actually use in their jobs. Most will say very little. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that all knowledge is valuable, whether you use it or not. With increasing variety and specialization though, the most valuable skills are being able to learn new things quickly, whilst maintaining rational thought and critical reasoning.

I spoke above, about the satisfaction that can be gained from sharing knowledge with others, which comes naturally for many makers who are proud to show off their creations. The other big maker satisfaction though, is simply just the satisfaction in creating something. Typically, when making something for one’s self, the end result is often a prototype of sorts. Something which was made with the materials that were readily available, using methods that were not necessarily very efficient, but which got the job done eventually. Even though the end result was not arrived at in the most efficient way possible, the satisfaction was still gained. When moving from making for one’s self, to making for others, efficiency quickly moves to the forefront. In my experience, a lot of tinkerer types don’t have a natural ability to find efficiency, or a desire to replicate their making in any kind of volume. Bear with me here, I do have a point, and I’ll get to it eventually.

A few years ago, I was discussing entrepreneurship with my uncle in a broad sense, and various examples of companies came up. We discussed how they differed and what we liked and disliked about each. He told me of a theory he had about a formula for a successful business. He mentioned “the 3 guys (or girls)” that need to be involved. Here they are:

“Ideas Guy”

Ideas Guy never settles for status quo, he is always finding better ways to do things, and constantly frustrating his friends with his practical solutions to everything. “How has no one thought of that before!?” is a common statement from his friends. While he is always asking why something can’t be done a better way, he doesn’t often know exactly his solution will be achieved.

The Ideas GuyThe Ideas Guy (Credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg)

“The Geek”

The Geek is a detail guy. He agonises over technicalities and details and is sometimes mistakenly perceived to be negative or a party pooper, by finding technical problems with proposed solutions. Having said that, he’ll expend a huge amount of energy overcoming the challenges to make an idea work.

“The Other Guy”

The other guy is a very flexible persona who can sell sand to a Saharan, but also has a good feel for legal matters.

Now obviously this is a rather flexible arrangement that could have different numbers or types of people with different strengths. The key however, is that to commercialize a product, you really need a team.

So how do you go about finding this team?

Makers are an interesting bunch, some of them manage to play both the Ideas Guy and The Geek. These guys are off to a head start and often manage to get themselves started using a crowd-funding platform like kickstarter or Indiegogo to get their product off the ground.

For others, they may naturally have the team in a group of people they know, and can quickly get to work turning their elegant solution for a problem they had, into a solution for others who are willing to pay for it, in similar ways.

The vast majority however, are the lonely makers, who make for themselves, quietly share their knowledge/recipes/instructions fairly inconspicuously through blogs and forums, and only dream of one day being able to sell their product. It’s this group that I believe we need to help the most, as students, to find their team.

This brings me onto an idea that I had which would somehow combine the various aspects of commercialization of an idea. We already have great resources for makers, in a number of areas:


You can learn about just about anything online. Whether you’re browsing a maker website like Instructables to learn how to replicate someone else’s idea, or studying towards a degree in a classical subject like physics through an online university, there is no shortage of knowledge that is accessible for free. logoInstructables – a website dedicated to makers


Autodesk are blazing trails when it comes to giving away design software for free, to allow anyone to explore their ideas in an almost limitless number of ways. While all Autodesk software is available to students at no charge, others are even free to anyone. Products like Fusion360 (free for enthusiasts), let people create 3D digital models of their ideas, simulate them, and even run machine tools to create the physical end result. GrabCAD is another company that has provided an amazing free platform, which allows people to share their digital models with others. Why design a certain sub-component yourself, if someone else has done it for you?


If you can’t get access to machines to bring your ideas to life, why not build a machine yourself? Many websites have are dedicated to open-source designs for machines which can be used to make just about anything. Components for making things are also readily available through a huge number of maker-focused websites. An example of this is BuildYourCNC.


Turning prototypes into saleable products requires money, and borrowed money for unproven ideas can be hard to come by through traditional channels. Online crowd-funding platforms like Indiegogo make fundraising for commercializing good ideas relatively easy. Potential customers effectively fund the development of products they like the idea of themselves.

So what’s missing?

“The Team” of course. While sites like allow companies to quickly find freelancers for contract work, I’m yet to see a site whose primary focus is in getting The “Ideas Guy”, “Geek”, and “Other Guy” together to commercialize a great idea. I’m not usually the Ideas Guy, but there’s my idea. Can someone please make it happen already….?


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