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Solid Edge Variables Spreadsheet Link

After I recently and erroneously mentioned the Solid Edge Variables to Spreadsheet Link along with ST8’s new features, I decided this would be a good time to learn how to do this myself, and find out just how well it works.

Solid Edge Variables Spreadsheet Link Process

  1. Open a spreadsheet, select a cell, and use the Copy command to copy the cell to the Clipboard.
  2. Open the Solid Edge Variables table
  3. Pick the variable value cell that you want to link.
  4. Pick Paste Link from the context menu.

The link will be applied, and the values adjusted, immediately. Refer to the following images.

Solid Edge Variables to Spreadsheet Link Copy

Basic Station offset spreadsheet: Pick, right-click, and copy.


Solid Edge Variables to Spreadsheet Link Paste

Solid Edge Variables table: Pick the cell, right-click, Paste Link.


Solid Edge Variables to Spreadsheet Link Cell Update

Solid Edge Variables Table again: note the link automatically populates in the Formula column.


Solid Edge Variables Spreadsheet Link Update

Spreadsheet update: as soon as the cell updates in the spreadsheet, Solid Edge responds accordingly.



Ok, that was freakin cool. I doubt that Siemens PLM could have made that easier, or more straight-forward. I like the instant update, and not having to save the spreadsheet first.

Massive task for Solid Edge Variables to Spreadsheet Link

Now all I have to do is stitch all this into Solid Edge.

Check out more Solid Edge CAD topics at D&M and the Solid Edge Blog.

The more things change, the more they stay the same?

Just before I went on vacation Jonathan Landeros (Inventor Tales) posted a great article about old technology vs. new technology – how new doesn’t always mean better. It should really be about picking the right tool for the job. On my vacation the family and I went away for 7-days to Prince Albert National Park (Waskesui) and I left my computer(s) at home. I still had my phone, so I wasn’t completely disconnected, but with no laptop at my disposal it left me lots of time to think and contemplate things.

What I ended up thinking the most about was my day job and the current technology at use. What I mean from this is that we are not adopting new technology and processes, we’re not even evaluating or considering most of them. Why is that? and is this ok? I also though about the current “rut” that I was starting to feel, from a technology standpoint. Which is odd as I never have considered myself bleeding edge, but I’ve always felt that I’ve had a good handle of what was going on….. but now? I’m starting to feel left behind.


So what “new” technologies am I thinking about? The Cloud [social, mobile, analytic, big data], Robotics / AI / Drones, Electric Power, 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing, New Materials, IoT (Internet of Things), Easier more integrated access to CAD / CAM / FEA / Visualization, and the the blurring of lines between BOM / PDM / PLM / ERP / MRP / CRM / add acronym here. There is also generative design and many other unbelievable things happening.

There is also the change in how business is being done… crowd sourcing, crowd design, open source new-shoring, …. and the blurring of what’s public and what’s private. What does Intellectual Property (IP) really even mean anymore?

Change happens, and hopefully when it happens its a good thing. At my day job what really changed things for us was the acquisition of an electrical vehicle manufacturer. This has made us look at how we do things differently, and how we can approve. The status quo is no longer the status quo, which is good as one never wants to become stagnant. The new mine being built in the province has mandated 80% electric use for machinery and equipment, with a clear goal to exceed this. What an opportunity for us!

As you can see I was thinking about a lot! But also note that not everything is new, some items have been around for years but are just now becoming mainstream.


I’m going to embark on a series of posts exploring each of these trends and the new technology. I am far from the expert which I think makes it great as there will be plenty of opportunity for feedback. What has worked? What are you looking at? How are you approaching it? I want to explore how to approach the new technology from an individual personal and professional aspect as well as why companies may or may not look at the new tech.

For this series we’ll use an example company “ACME Mining Equipment”, that I’ve made up, but I don’t think is that dissimilar to a lot of small to medium companies. Here’s their profile:

ACME Mining Equipment is a  company that primarily manufactures, repairs, and services underground mining equipment. The company started as a custom machine / fab shop over 35-years ago. They have one facility and around 150 employees. They have a very small, but very loyal customer base, many whom we’ve done business with for over 35-years. ACME (or AME) is classified as a small, engineered-to-order, manufacturer (at least as far as ERP companies classify things) as they customize just about everything that goes out the door to meet their customers requirements. The customization is what separates ACME from their bigger competition that just pushes “boxes” out the door.

  • ACME is an Autodesk shop – through-and-through – they use Inventor, AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD Mechanical, Vault Professional, Simulation Mechanical, and even have a few seats of PLM 360 floating about.
  • They make things from purchased items and steel (laser / plasma cut profiles & standard structural shapes). Welded or bolted together
  • Although they have some CNC capabilities, most of the programming is done by hand on their NC machines (for various reasons – I’ll explain more later)
  • Communication with the customer is done mainly via the phone and email. Outside of quotes, sales order confirmations, and manuals very little other types of documentation are exchanged.

Keep watching the site!

All imagery from GRATISOGRAPHY

Sheet Metal: Looking for Better Airframe Design

I have been perplexed by Sheet Metal solutions available in CAD software for, well, as long as I have been involved in the design side of things. I spent considerable amounts of time creating these structures in airframe applications and to be quite frank, I have seen little in the grand scheme of enabling sheet metal efficiency in airframe design. Why? Because airframe designers are all using Siemens NX and Dassault CATIA.

Extruded Piano Hinge Airframe

The problem is that the rest of the industry just seemed to stop short. If you are designing steel electrical boxes, you are set. Just about every vendor out there has you covered. Automotive applications, which are generally steel, are well covered by some vendors, excepting a few situations. Airframe on the other hand is largely aluminum (rapidly being overtaken by composites), and the semi-monocoque application creates some real challenges:

  • Aluminum in airframe design is quite unforgiving – it cracks while being stretched and it cracks in flight due to cyclic loading and vibration
  • The sheets are thin and in many applications, require countersunk rivets
  • Sheets have to overlap each other in certain areas then suddenly not

Sheet Metal Bad Corner Treatment Cracked

We deal with these limitations with some manipulations that are not employed in mainstream sheet metal design. Dimples and joggles are two that come to mind. We treat corner radii differently. Another example is that parts on the aircraft are rarely built from sheets that are measured in gauges. Sheet aluminum for aircraft are shipped and spec’d in thousandths of an inch: 0.040”, 0.050” 0.063”, etc.

Thin Sheet Metal Dimpled Nutplate

General design software does not provide much in these areas. There are little in the way of rivets, rivet sizing, or fastener dimples. Moreover no standardized solid and blind rivet libraries exist with grip sizing. I have never seen gang channel in any vendor’s software, although I did put some together for Inventor.  Joggles for the sake of lapping sheets I have only seen in one vendor’s application.

CherryMax Blind Rivets Countersunk CherryMax Blind Rivet Grip Gauge

We develop workarounds to help us get the most accurate looking parts, within the limitation of important design constraints. These workarounds rarely update well after changes, and a large part of it involve specific workflows handled by flat pattern detailing and notes applied in drawing specifications and leaders.


Software Vendors

My intent here was not to point out specific vendor applications. Each vendor does certain things extremely well, and this is why we stick with this one or another, taking the good, and working around the bad.

Some examples of automation we need is:

  • Applying a Hole Feature, select Blind Rivet, whereafter identifying the sheets that will be joined, the application stores the appropriate grip for the selected rivet in the hole. When it is time to apply fasteners in the assembly, the intelligence to fill the pattern appropriately is already there.
  • Corner Treatments and setbacks that ACTUALLY WORK, even in the simplest situations.

I started investigating software updates this year, and to my surprise found nice sheet metal enhancements in almost every platform I reviewed. I have not found a solution to many of these simple problems, but I’d like to take some time in the next few weeks looking at some of the improvements that do benefit airframe design, and explain these here for everyone’s benefit.


I’d really like to get some comments here from people in the industry. Things you need, want, software that has really helped, and equally important, why. It would help us to dig in the right places, ask the right questions, and tell vendors exactly what is needed by people that use the software.

Sheet Metal

Work Outside the Box: 3 Simple Ways to Boost Design Creativity

Is the traditional business world at war with creativity?

Your software, hardware and skills in CAD determine a large part of your design success—whether internally at your firm or during client-facing work. But another factor plays a huge—and undervalued—role in engineering, architecture and design achievement: creativity.

In Adobe’s State of Create report, 80% of 5,000 respondents said creativity was key to driving economic growth. But only one in four say they live up to their creative potential. And 75% say their employers prize productivity over creativity.

We clearly need to be more creative. But how? By using these three simple tips to boost your design creativity.

  1. Use Resources to Generate Better Ideas

Creativity doesn’t simply just happen. It’s motivated by your environment, the content you consume, and dozens of other inputs. Fire up the following tools regularly to generate more creative ideas, more often:

  • Inspiration Grid — This website provides inspiration via stories and photos from creatives in every industry.
  • Behance — Showcase your creative work and discover the work of others using this engaged online community.
  • Design Snack — Design Snack takes online inspiration to a whole new, customizable level. This tool gives you the power to create your own inspirational portfolio. Simply curate your favorite images and most inspiring work—the perfect way to jumpstart creativity when it flags.
  • SketchFab — SketchFab allows you to view inspiring models, and upload, embed and share your own.

What’s your favorite site or source of inspiration? Let us know in the comments!

  1. Adopt Tools to Manage Design Projects

When a project is poorly planned or disorganized, it’s extremely difficult to be more creative. Juggling overdue tasks or tracking down missing work doesn’t inspire your best work. However, using tools to better brainstorm and manage projects makes creativity much more likely to flourish. Try the following on for size:

  • XMind — Mind mapping tools help you brainstorm, communicate and capture creative ideas. XMind is available in three different versions: a free version, a plus version and a pro version.
  • Lucidchart — This tool makes it dead easy to develop mind maps and organizational charts that keep your creative ideas flowing.
  • TT, WeTransfer and Dropbox — These cloud file-sharing tools make collaborating on 3D files quick and easy. They offer numerous storage plans for larger files, and will save you a ton of time.
  • GrabCAD — Similar to GE.TT, WeTransfer and Dropbox, GrabCAD allows 3D professionals to collaborate with coworkers through an easy-to-use CAD file manager. This tool enables you to sync local files and collaborate on projects, revision rounds and brainstorming sessions.
  1. Hack Yourself to Improve Creativity

You can actually hack your brain and body to enhance creativity. It’s safe and easy, too. Seriously, science rules. Here are a few ways to do it:

What are your favorite creativity tools, tips and hacks? Let us know in the comments!

More Free Hacks, Tools and Habits to Boost Creativity

Over at 3Dconnexion, we’ve created a free guide specifically for 3D professionals who wish to improve their creativity. With 25+ pages of expert creativity advice, The Creativity Handbook for 3D Professionals is help you improve your creativity and career!

Download The Creativity Handbook for 3D Professionals today!

Feature image credit: opensourceway via photopin cc

Education and Inspiring Design Innovation at AU2014

Innovation is a common theme at Autodesk University each year. This year the company brought together presentations and displays of some wonderful examples of the company’s involvement with outreach and enablement of young people.

Autodesk Software Free to all in Education

Chris Bradshaw, Autodesk’s Chief Marketing Officer discussed our near future population and how their needs will not be diminishing. “We need to support 10 billion people on this planet with 2 times the energy production that we have now” he remarked. Autodesk is trying to help the world solve some staggering statistical possibilities like this one and many more.

The company has taken the position that the best way to solve these problems is to enable the next generation of thinkers, and one part of that solution is to put design software in every educational institution in every part of the world for free. Their intention is to remove the barriers stopping young people from exploring new ideas and new ways of solving problems that we face every day.

Autodesk software is in use by 192 million students in 82 thousand institutions around the world.  Access to those design tools is giving these students the ability to explore new ideas that they didn’t think were possible before, including capturing and reusing energy in innovative ways.

That accessibility is being delivered to more than simply educational institutions. Chris noted that Autodesk has 218 million consumer product accounts, with 1500 new accounts being added every 10 minutes.

Chris Bradshaw Autodesk University

Project H Design

One presentation that was truly inspiring and absolutely enjoyable was Project H Design. Emily Pilloton, its founder wanted to help the world reconnect with the joy of building things. Project H Design provided an amazing way of bringing design to students, with realistic impacts and goals.

Emily Pillonton founder of Project H Design

Emily discussed various projects including a new library challenge, where students were challenging what a library should be, and capturing modular design possibilities. Autodesk CEO, Carl Bass invited the participants to Pier 9 and use some of their tools in order to complete the student’s concept design requirements.

Her presentation went beyond that to show how Project H was reaching communities, and having a much larger impact, which inspires students to continue to solve their problems locally. She went on to say that Project H was capturing the capability of students that have been underestimated.

“Project H is more amazing than I can capture here; really exciting possibilities that are being developed” she said. Emily went on to say something that I thought was absolutely paramount:

“We are responsible to provide a pathway, not just an opportunity for these students.”

She closed out the discussion by highlighting a team of young ladies performing numerous tasks including welding. I remember how amazing it was to complete my first structural airframe class, and gain that understanding of manufacturing and fabrication processes. For every bit of education you give a person, you suddenly get substantially better solutions and results. That person sees the issues in a whole new light, and are no longer afraid to tackle them.

As Emily closed her presentation, she displayed a sign that contained an inspiring statement, a motto if you will:

“I am a 10 year old girl and I can weld. What can’t I do?”

You print that on a shirt and I’ll wear it. Men’s Large.

Project H Design Students

Image courtesy of Project H Design and Emily Pillonton

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

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