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Rhino and its STL Tools

February 21, 2005

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE,review — Terry Wohlers @ 09:09

Once in awhile, a product emerges and sets itself apart from others in its ratio of price to performance. One such product is Rhino, which sells for $895 in the U.S. ($195 for faculty and students). The designs that are possible with Rhino are striking. I got involved with the software when it first rolled out in prerelease form in late 1996. Around that time, I was assisting a manufacturer of footwear products in Brazil with its product development process. The company was about to purchase $30,000 worth of Alias software and hardware, but I persuaded the company to give Rhino a look. The designers in Brazil downloaded and installed a beta version of the software, began to work with it, and were producing sophisticated designs within one week. Alias Studio would have required expensive training and an estimated six months of practice before the company could have reached the same level of productivity. Needless-to-say, the client was ecstatic with the discovery of Rhino. 

Robert McNeel & Associates, the producer of Rhino, has constantly made improvements to the product since it was first introduced. Last year, the company published an STL repair white paper that explains the STL file repair tools that are free in Rhino 3.0 as a part of the Bonus Tools plug-ins. The 53-page paper provides tutorials that step you through what’s available. The tools permit you to display an STL model in wireframe, flat shaded, and smooth shaded views. Also, you can render the model with color, transparency, gloss, and texture, and add backlighting. The tools enable you to reverse surface normals, remove unwanted detail, fill unwanted holes and gaps, show and stitch naked edges, remove unwanted faces, and add thickness to a mesh. 

Don’t let Rhino’s low price fool you. It is a very serious product design tool that is used by thousands of organizations worldwide. If you use STL files for rapid prototyping, consider Rhino’s STL repair capabilities. If you’re unsure, download the fully functional software that allows you to save 25 times. This evaluation version also supports the plug-ins.

Super Sunday

February 6, 2005

Filed under: entertainment,life,money — Terry Wohlers @ 12:58

Super Bowl Sunday is a day in which consumers across the U.S. will burn through $5.6 billion. For those of you who do not follow some of the peculiar American traditions, the Super Bowl is arguably the single biggest sport event of the year. I love college football and I’ve been a season ticket holder for the Colorado State University Rams for years, but this is no college game. The top two teams in the National Football League meet at 16:25 today to determine who is the best. My family and I are looking forward to joining some friends for the big event. However, I’m more interested in the wild commercials seen for the first time and Paul McCartney’s halftime show than I am in seeing the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles. One exception is watching former Colorado State standout Dexter Winn return punts for the Eagles.

I like the game of football and it will be fun to see some good hits. Sadly, some of the players have tarnished the image of the pro version of the sport. (The same could be said about professional basketball, baseball, and hockey.) On and off the field, these in-the-spotlight athletes could and should serve as role models for our youth. Many do, but others do not. After big plays and touchdowns, some of them dance around like they’ve never been there before and it can be a real turnoff. Off the field, some of the same players are caught doing all types of shameful and unlawful acts. The obscenely large contracts that they negotiate leave you wondering how professional sports have gotten to this point. 

Later today, I will be at the television for the big game like 140 million others. But it won’t be for the purpose of intently watching each play or caring about who comes out on top. Instead, it will be to spend time with family and friends, enjoy some good food and drink, and have a laugh or two from some of the hilarious commercials that debut each year on this day.