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SolidWorks World 2013

February 1, 2013

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,event — Terry Wohlers @ 09:07

I attended SolidWorks World 2013 last week in Orlando, Florida, and it was another excellent event. About 4,500 people were in attendance. For me, two of the highlights were presentations by Vijay Kumar, an engineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Elias Knubben, head of Corporate Bionic Projects at Festo.

Kumar shared the impressive work by him and his students. They have designed flying robots that are equipped with sensors and other devices that give them some intelligence. The aircraft, which can fit in the palm of a hand, can fly into buildings and tight places and gather information using small cameras. A likely application is search and rescue after a natural disaster. Another is going into areas where enemies and other threats may exist. Swarms of robots can fly in formation and avoid collision with one another—something I found particularly interesting.

Knubben of Festo showed some extraordinary parts and products, such as robot grippers made by laser sintering, a popular method of additive manufacturing. The gripper itself does not look all that interesting, until it is used. When instructed, the gripper flexes and wraps itself around an object, such as a piece of fruit, before picking it up. Knubben was kind enough to give the gripper to me and I found the design surprisingly simple, but effective.

Knubben’s team at Festo also designed a large bionic bird, called SmartBird, and it flies by flapping its wings. Knubben had the bird with him on stage. When it started to flap its wings, he gently flung it into the air and it began to fly. SmartBird circled the ballroom a couple times before landing in Knubben’s hands. I had never seen anything like it. Similar to Kumar’s small aircraft, many parts of the bird were designed with SolidWorks and produced by laser sintering.

Attending SolidWorks World was again worthwhile. If you want to get an update on the latest in SolidWorks software, applications, and company, it is the event to attend. The morning speakers are usually very good, although no celebrities made appearances this year. The exhibits are also worth some time. SolidWorks World 2014 is January 26-29 in San Diego, California.