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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Value of Engineering...

Over the years I have heard engineering referred to as the necessary evil many times. I don't know all of the reasons it is referred to that way but the main one I can think of is the cost of engineering. But think of this. Let's say you are designing a product that will marketed and sold to potentially millions. Let's say it is some electronic device that all the kids will want. :-)

Now that we have the situation set up lets think about this, let's say because we designed this thing as quick as possible to save on engineering costs we have one of two things happen. First we made a bad design decision that didn't get caught until production (Very Costly). Second is we didn't take the time to route electrical wires, or possibly think of the best way to machine the enclosure for whatever this device is, resulting in wasted material. The wasted material might even be more costly than the first scenario of a design flaw that didn't get caught until production.

The reason I use these examples is if we were to take a little more time up front in the engineering stages we could save so much money either in mistakes that get caught during engineering or in material costs. Let's use Autodesk Inventor Professional as an example for the wire routing. Here is a tool that the engineers can use after they have made the mechanical design of their new product that all the kids want. They can then pick the start and end of the wire and group wires together for the harness. Let's say they are only able to save a couple of inches of wire in the design. Assuming there are maybe 12 wires that is 24 inches of wire in total. Lets make an assumption that the wire is only $.03 per foot. They would save 6 cents per unit, if you are talking millions of units it is a $60,000 savings per million units. That is a lot of money and in some cases that might be a persons salary for the entire year however it was only a hour or two of extra work.

What about all the other opportunities to save a few bucks by better engineering. Think about it, Yeah we can get carried away in engineering but if we can quantify the savings on the back end it is totally worth it. We end up with a better product and save money. The product also has lest waste which then makes it potentially better for the environment.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours. email me at stein.rob@gmail.com

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Change is Coming...

I have been thinking a lot lately about my blogging and what technology I want I really want to do with it. I have decided to make some changes. The main change is that I will be transitioning over to a new web address. I will be working diligently to transfer all of my archived posts so that everything is in one central location.



During the transition I plan to try to post the same post to both sites. This will help ease the transition. I apologize for any inconvenience during this time. I chose to do this to make things slightly more easier for me to post more often and there is much more technology with the blogger sites. Some things such as a rating system for posts, I can also do polls when i come across topics that I would like feedback on.

Please feel free to subscribe to my new site and join me in the transition. Also feel free to join my linked in network. (This is a professional networking site that allows you to meet people in your industry and others all across the country.) Here is the link to my public profile. Robert Stein (Linked In)

Thanks for your support over the past 3 years.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Everyone.

I hope everyon'es Christmas was great. I got to spend it with my family so mine was great. I will be back to normal posting tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Buying American

This morning I went to Meijer (like I do almost every Christmas Eve Morning). Today I decided to take my twin boys to look at last minute gifts for my wife. Anyway when we were loading up our groceries and other items to get in the car, I heard a voice calling out "Sir". Of course I lifted my head and said yes sir. The gentlemen in the car parked next to us asked me "Is that a Saturn" I of course said "Yes it is, I really Like it." Assuming he was asking like so many other people have about my Saturn Aura. He simply said "Thanks for buying American". 


I assumed he was one of the many Americans that have already lost their job, or is in fear of losing his job. I just want to wish him a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I also wanted to thank him for brightening my day.

Merry Christmas Eve EVERYONE.

On the 12th day of CAD...

On the 11th Day of CAD I give to you..... Free Autodesk Inventor 2009 (LT).

So far most of my 12 days of CAD have been on AutoCAD and AutoCAD based vertical products such as AutoCAD Electrical. Today I give to you the world of 3D. How can I do that, well I can't take credit for giving you 3D, or giving you Autodesk Inventor either. However I can guide you in the right direction. A while back Autodesk introduced Inventor LT Technology Preview. (I think it was Release 2008). What this means for us is we can download Autodesk Inventor LT for FREE and use it. Here is a brief list of what it does not contain compared to Inventor Suite 2009:

  • 3D Assembly Modeling
  • Sheet Metal Design
  • Content Center
  • AutoCAD Mechanical
  • Autodesk Vault
  • Customization and Third Party Add In Compatibility
  • Click Here to see Product Comparison (Autodesk Inventor LT Preview, Autodesk Inventor Suite, Autodesk Inventor Professional)

Some might say that the 3D assembly design and Sheet metal might be a show stopper for them. My thought is, come on guys it's a free product "preview". There has to be some limitations. The nice thing is you can get a feel for the part modeling before purchasing the product.

Here is information about the preview:

There is so much more information available on Autodesk Labs including System req's, links to forums etc..

Note: On the Autodesk Labs page, it states that "Once activated, Autodesk Inventor LT Technology Preview 2009 will run until May 1, 2009. Which still gives us just over 5 months to play with the software for free.

One other thing to note is that in the FAQ it states that Autodesk Inventor LT is not available for purchase. However it does state in there about "Should it become available for purchase".

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the 11th day of CAD...

On the 11th Day of CAD I give to you..... Free Visual Basic and some information on connecting to AutoCAD.

Well Santa Bill (Bill Gates and Microsoft) gives us free programming tools. This is great news considering I remember back in the day when I first started doing VB stuff it was roughly $900 or more which stopped me from buying my own version. This meant I only had VBA tools, or the version at the office. Well with Santa giving us the Express Version of VB, C++, C# we can now do some coding at home and learn some really cool things. There are some limitations with this however for most of our needs I think it will work. Enough talk about how cool this is, lets give you some links to where you can get it.

One of the main things I noticed with the express editions is that you can't set an application to run when debugging. What this means to us for AutoCAD programming is one of two things, You either have to write the code to start up AutoCAD in your VStudio project to allow you to debug, or not be able to step through your code. Not a huge deal but I like to be able to step through my code when coding for AutoCAD. Now keep in mind, this doesn't mean you can't debug for projects that aren't being written to connect to AutoCAD or any other application for that matter.

One other note, is that you can get a discounted price on Visual Studio with this promotion. I found out about this at Kean Walmsley's blog. (www.through-the-interface.typepad.com) This is a great resource for AutoCAD programming using Visual Studio.

It is probably also worth mentioning that you can get some templates that help you connect to AutoCAD and pre-build some of the information you need into your VS project. See this post from Kean for more information.

I hope this helps.

Monday, December 22, 2008

On the 10th day of CAD...

On the 10th Day of CAD I give to you..... an easy way to create scripts for a specific list of drawings.

In AutoCAD There are so many times you can save yourself quite a bit of time by cutting out the repetative tasks. For example when completing a project and preparing to send your final documentation one might want to zoom extents on all of the drawings. Possibly even do more things to the drawings before sending them to your customers. In the video below I outline this on a few drawings. I hope this helps.

Note: You will probably want to turn your SDI to 1 in AutoCAD. This will automatically close each drawing after it is processed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Camera Lenses

As many of you might know, I have a photography hobby. A couple of years ago I purchased my first Digital SLR (The Canon Digital Rebel XTi). This camera is great and does most of what I need it to do. Combine that with some great lenses and you can really take some amazing photo's. The problem is the lenses often times can be almost as much, if not more than the camera body. The other problem is that depending on what type of things you are taking photographs of you often times need several different lenses to really capture that image you want.


For example you may be doing portraits & landscapes, then on your next vacation you might be on an African Safari (well maybe not all of us, I know I want to, but can't afford it.) where you would need a nice telephoto lens to get those shots from a safe distance away from the angry lion. :-) I guess what I am getting at is there is a lot of money to be spent in Glass for your photography hobby. That brings me finally to my point. A friend pointed this site out to me, and he has used it, for renting lenses and other photography/video needs. Lens Rentals has a ton of different lenses, flashes, bodies, tripods and much more to rent. You can rent them ranging from 1 week to 30 days I believe. The nice thing about this is for example, the next lens I would like to buy is about $1,100. I can rent this for 7 days insured for roughly $70 to $80. This lens isn't one that I would typically want to carry with me for an "Every Day" lens so renting it for less than $100 a couple of times a year is a better value. Hell even if I rent it one time to see if I really like it is smarter than spending the $1,100, + any taxes and shipping then make the decision after I determine if I like it.

If anyone else has used this site, let me know if you have had good experiences. I am looking to make my first rental from this site probably in February and would like to get some other opinions.

On the 9th day of CAD...

On the 9th day of CAD I give to you... AutoCAD Electrical Language Conversion.

In this global industry with machines being designed here, shipped there and vice versa there is a strong need to provide documentation in different languages. AutoCAD Electrical comes with a language conversion tool and some typical terms already pre-defined. You can completely modify this to accomidate your terms and your language needs. Check out the video below.

In the video I point out the ability to add languages, delete languages, add, copy and delete phrases as well as how to run the tool on a drawing. Keep in mind you can do this project wide.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On the 8th day of CAD

On the 8th day of CAD I give to you...  The gift of Ribbons.

Alright, now that AutoCAD 2009 has been out for quite some time we have probably formed either a good opinion or a bad one about the ribbons. I personally like them and plan to continue to use them. I think the main reason I adapted quickly is I had been using Microsoft Office 2007 for quite some time. I think the most common reason people tell me they don't like ribbons is because it takes up too much screen space. Well in the video below I show a couple of different ways you can modify the ribbons to save screen space but still benefit from the task based ribbon design. Enjoy.

Also notice that I used the pre-defined workspaces to change between different environments.

I hope this helps.