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COFES 2009

April 26, 2009

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE,event,review — Terry Wohlers @ 09:37

I attended the 10th annual COFES event about a week ago in Scottsdale, Arizona. (COFES stands for the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software.) I enjoy attending because of the extraordinary mix of people who are there. Roughly half are managers and executives from the major CAD/PLM companies, including the “big four.” The other half are prominent consultants, analysts, and individuals from user companies, such as Boeing, Nike, and Parker Hannifin.

Unlike many industry events, COFES provides a very informal atmosphere (no coats or ties) and the meetings and sessions encourage a lot of open sharing. A popular format is the analyst briefing. Multiple briefings are held in parallel in the main living area of hotel suites and technical experts serve as hosts. The hosts open with comments focused on the subject of the briefing and then others jump in. Most of the people in attendance at COFES are outspoken and truly have something to say and share. I’ve found that it doesn’t take a lot to get a lively and interesting discussion going.

Keynote presentations are held two of the mornings and are often a thought-provoking and inspirational part of COFES. Consultants Joel Orr and Peter Marks, staples of the event, gave moving keynotes this year. I’ve heard Joel speak for more than 25 years and my jaw drops whenever I hear him. Peter also gave an outstanding presentation—it had to have been one of his best.

The informal meetings and chats are what makes COFES special and motivates me to attend. For example, I bumped into Mike Riddle of Evolution Computing, who showed me some interesting software that he’s been developing over the past eight years. Mike is known for developing the prototype that led to the first version of AutoCAD. I also had an intriguing conversation with Ping Fu, CEO of Geomagic and Inc. magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005. She shared with me ideas for two humanitarian projects that she’d like to pursue in the future. Both could have a dramatic and lasting impact.

I had conversations with other interesting individuals, such as Jon Hirschtick, founder of SolidWorks (and enthusiastic supporter of 3D printing) and Mike Ray, CEO of SolidWorks. I had meetings with Robert “Buzz” Kross, senior vice president of Manufacturing Solutions at Autodesk, and Brenda Discher, vice president of Industry Marketing within the Manufacturing Industry Group at Autodesk. As always, I enjoyed bumping into and talking with Bob McNeel of Robert McNeel & Associates. He and his company are responsible for the popular Rhino software.

COFES lands at the busiest time of year for me, yet I enjoy the opportunity of attending. If you want to “rub elbows” with many of the best minds in the CAD/PLM industry, I highly recommend that you attend this fine event. Kudos to Brad Holtz of Cyon Research Corp., the organizer of COFES, for delivering year after year.

3D Design Derby

April 11, 2009

Filed under: education,entertainment,event — Terry Wohlers @ 10:09

I was a Cub Scout many years ago, along with millions of other elementary-age boys. The Cub Scouts is a part of Boy Scouts of America, one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. My fondest memory of the Cub Scouts was the pinewood derby, a race of hand-crafted cars, usually from a kit. The cars measure up to 178 mm (7 inches) in length and are raced on a wood or aluminum track. The pinewood derby has been a part of the Cub Scouts program for more than 50 years and is still active.

A 21st century version of the pinewood derby is the 3D Design Derby at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. In May 2008, 137 high school students raced cars created with Autodesk Inventor or SolidWorks and a Dimension 3D printer. Next month, in conjunction with the Utah Valley University Technology Expo, 150-200 students from 20 high schools are expected to participate in the third annual 3D Design Derby. Any CAD software is allowed, as long as it can export an STL file.

Winners are determined by judging detail drawings, marketing illustrations, and the cars themselves. Some of the categories are the most creative, the fastest, and best in show. Prizes include gift certificates and electronic products such as iPods and flash drives. Trophies, which are also manufactured on a Dimension system, are presented to the top four places.

The 3D Design Derby is organized by the university’s Engineering Graphics & Design Technology Department. It hopes the event will gain radio and television coverage this year and I hope it does too. It is events like this that get kids jazzed about engineering and manufacturing.

Click here to see images of some of the cars from past races. For additional information on the 3D Design Derby, contact professor David Manning of Utah Valley University at