“FDM is the perfect fit for us. It allows us to easily change designs at any stage in the game without being penalized by cost or delays.”

— Jacob Rooney, Mechanical Designer, Nova Tech Engineering


Nova Tech 2Nova Tech Engineering (NTE), based in Willmar, Minnesota, produces automated machinery for use by poultry hatcheries worldwide. A key part of the company’s success has been its ability to customize its machines to manage numerous types, breeds and sizes of birds. However, as the business grew, the cost of machining numerous variations became increasingly inefficient, costly and growth-inhibiting.

“We were spending a lot of time and money machining low-volume components which was detrimental to our overall operational efficiency,” mechanical designer Jacob Rooney reflects. It is with these issues in mind that NTE turned to Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).


FDM is an additive manufacturing process that builds thermoplastic parts layer-by-layer from computer-aided design (CAD) files. Using FDM, businesses can create finished parts and products at a fraction of the time and cost associated with traditional manufacturing. This allows manufacturers to immediately realize improvements in productivity, efficiency and quality. Plus, it gives them the freedom to quickly and cost-effectively redesign parts and products as needed. Finally, FDM allows businesses like NTE to create custom or low- volume products for specialty customers, as well as manage products in different stages of their life cycles.


Nova Tech“We bought our first two Stratasys FDM printers mainly for prototyping. We later purchased another for pre-production and manufacturing,” said Rooney. “Today we use these printers for various applications such as rapid prototyping, creating casting molds, thermoforming, jigs and fixtures, and manufacturing finished parts.”

Another primary advantage for NTE is the design freedom that FDM Technology affords them.

“FDM is the perfect fit for us,” added Rooney. “It allows us to easily change designs to fit the parts to the equipment and the bird variety at any stage without being penalized by cost or delays,” says Rooney.

In the past, parts were injection molded, CNC machined or RTV molded. With FDM, a number of previously troublesome parts – plus those that were impossible to injection mold — can now be produced.

Today, thanks to FDM Technology, NTE can create the many specialized parts their customers require but at a fraction of the time and cost. One example is the time and money it took to create ten 12-piece carrier assemblies. Prior to FDM, these took four weeks to produce at a cost of nearly $45,000. Now, they take three days to produce at a cost of $1,500 — savings of 89 percent and 97 percent respectively.

Finally, Rooney notes other advantages like digital inventory of the CAD designs, reduced outsourcing, just-in-time manufacturing, eliminated tooling cost and the ability to combine components.

“Stratasys machines allow us to be very flexible in meeting industry needs,” Rooney said.

“We can make changes very quickly to the geometry of our products to meet the greatly varying needs of our customers. Injection molding was just too costly because of the number of unique designs needed.”

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Here at ModernTech, we are partial to SOLIDWORKS software. However, if you’re not ready to move to 3D CAD and work with older versions of 2D CAD or legacy 2D data, DraftSight may be a good solution.

draftsight-logo-300x300DraftSight is an open-source professional tool for your DWG files available as a free download through Dassault Systemes. With DraftSight, you can create, view, maintain and edit older 2D drawings easily. You can access all DWG/DXF files, regardless of which CAD software was originally used to create them.

DraftSight’s interface should seem familiar to most users. It looks and operates similarly to other 2D systems you may have used previously. It’s also platform independent. Whether you’re a Windows or Mac person, you can use DraftSight and get access to community support, upgrades and helpful resources.

DraftSight features a customizable toolbar for quick access to common commands and a ton of dimensioning functions. For instance, you can add layers to your drawing or hide layers you don’t need with the Layer Manager. Layers can be unhidden just as easily. You can rotate, stretch, trim, clone or entities with simple mouse gestures. And that’s just the short list.

This video has been very popular at our YouTube channel. It gives some quick examples of what DraftSight can do.

Check it out.


If you have questions about DraftSight or are ready to upgrade to a more robust 3D CAD system, contact our sales team with your questions.

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If you dabble in metalworking, you’ve probably had use for sheet metal hems.

Hems fold over the edges of sheet metal designs for added strength or to cover sharp edges. For this reason, hemming is commonly used to produce canned goods, vehicle parts and amusement park rides. In addition to safety concerns, hems make products more visually appealing in general.

In our Video Tech Tip, our excellent SOLIDWORKS Application Engineer, Stephen Petrock, takes you through each of the four hem types (open, closed, teardrop and rolled). You will see how hems can be applied to both straight and circular edges. You’ll also learn how to add materials inside and outside of a hem and the differences between each.

Check it out!

Sheet Metal Hems

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If you’re like most SOLIDWORKS users, performance is your primary concern when it comes to modeling. Luckily, SOLIDWORKS has made great strides over the years to improve software performance overall and add great new features.

So far there has been four features added to the SOLIDWORKS tool set. Perhaps SOLIDWORKS 2015 will see the addition of a fifth, but we’ll have to wait just a little longer to know for sure. Here’s a break down of those four features:

assembly enhancements timeline

assembly modesThese should be familiar since they represent the modes in which you’re allowed to open a SOLIDWORKS model from the open dialog. Obviously there are pros and cons to each of these features. In certain situations, one might be more beneficial and appropriate than another. But to truly understand how these features really affect your SOLIDWORKS performance, we’ll need to see what’s inside the SOLIDWORKS file itself.

With this better understanding of a SOLIDWORKS file, you’re about to make a more informed decision when choosing which special functionality to leverage. So let’s pop the hood and see what’s inside!

Every file, from the largest most complicated assemblies to the simplest blocks, are all made up of the same four ingredients. These are listed in the table below and you can see a visualization of them in the following image.

  1. Windows Header – Like all windows files this stores information about the file, but SOLIDWORKS also uses this to list any reference pointers as well.
  2. Parasolid Database – This holds all of the information used by the parasolid modeling kernel to define the geometry of your models. Think of this as a database containing the mathematical definition of your model’s topology such as trimmed surfaces, loops, edges or vertices.
  3. Tessellation Data - This is the visualization data or the triangle information used to generate what you see in the graphics area. Why triangles you ask? It’s because any 3D object can be approximated by fitting together triangles. You can learn more about this topic in this great YouTube video from Computerphile.
  4. Parameteric Data – This is the set of instructions SOLIDWORKS uses to combine both the parasolid and tessellation data to build your model. Think of this as a step by step instruction set used by SOLIDWORKS (aka the FeatureManager design tree).

ingredients of a solidworks file


Armed with this understanding of the inner workings of a SOLIDWORKS file, you can see exactly what each of those performance enhancing tools and features are really doing. All of the tools like Speedpak, Large Design Review and Lightweight Components are doing nothing more than loading specific chunks of data from the SOLIDWORKS file itself. Depending on what you wish to accomplish, each of these tools offers you a way to spend your resources on only what you need, which adds up to dramatic time savings. Here we see exactly what portion of data each function is loading. open modes

As you can see, each one of the modes loads just a specific chunk of data from the SOLIDWORKS file, and that’s why there are certain limitations associated with these modes. Obviously working with “Fully Resolved” components will hurt you the most in terms of performance, but it is the only mode that does not have any limitations on it like the others do.

So what it boils down to is choosing the right tool to help you best accomplish your immediate goal.

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Silicone mold with PolyJet 3D printed pattern

Silicone mold with PolyJet 3D printed pattern

PolyJet is one of two methods used to build prototypes on Stratasys 3D printers (for information on Fused Deposition Modeling, or FDM, click here).

The process isn’t as complicated as it seems. 3D printers interface with virtual drawings from computer aided design software (i.e. SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD). Using the CAD data, 3D models are built with layers of liquid, powder or sheet material.

PolyJet 3D printing is similar to inkjet printing, but instead of jetting drops of ink onto paper, the printer lays down layers of curable liquid photopolymer onto a build tray. The printer instantly UV-cures these tiny droplets of liquid photopolymer. Fine layers accumulate on the build tray to create a precise 3D prototype.

This process takes only a few hours. After the prototype is finished, any support material that was used can be removed. It should fall away easily with a gentle wash with water. The model is then ready to use with no post-curing needed.

Who is PolyJet best for?

PolyJet is perfect for business that require extremely realistic prototypes or models designed for end use. PolyJet printers create prototypes with smooth surfaces and intricate details. This method is more precise than FDM with the ability to build more complex models. It features 16-micron layers with accuracy as high as 0.1 mm.

Smooth surfaces and crisp details make PolyJet patterns mold-ready

Smooth surfaces and crisp details make PolyJet patterns mold-ready.

PolyJet is incredibly versatile. You can also incorporate color into the model or blend two or more materials together with some 3D printers (i.e rubber/rigid and transparent/opaque). In fact, Objet 3D Printers are the only additive manufacturing systems in the world that allow multi-material flexibility, enabling a wealth of applications such as over-molding, grayscale coloring and simultaneous prints in different materials.

How does PolyJet and silicone molding work hand-in-hand?

Silicone molding — also known as room temperature vulcanizing (RTV) molding — creates finished products for prototyping, functional testing and short-run production. Silicone molds are made by pouring silicone rubber over a pattern. Silicone molding is faster, less time intensive and more cost-effective than machining or injection molding.

After curing, the resulting mold can produce parts with extremely complex geometry, intricate detail and tight tolerances. The parts are cast from a silicone mold made with thermoset materials (commonly urethanes) that are available with a vast array of mechanical, thermal and electrical properties.

A silicone mold pattern and mold box are ready for pouring

A silicone mold pattern and mold box are ready for pouring

PolyJet is a great replacement for these old methods with a cost savings of anywhere from 30 to 85 percent. PolyJet patterns have smooth, nearly mold-ready surfaces. They have subtle details that can be transferred to the urethane castings. For high-gloss or clear finishes, a little polishing is all that is needed. As if that’s not benefit enough, silicone mold can be ready to make parts in as little as 24 hours using PolyJet.

For more information….

To learn more about PolyJet 3D printing and silicone molding, talk with our Sales Team. We also offer rapid prototyping services utilizing PolyJet technology. Click here to get a quote.

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New concept designs are the roots of the product development tree, but it requires a lot of communication between multiple parties. We all know how easy that can be.

SolidWorks-Mechanical-Conceptual-Connected-3Today’s competitive environment demands companies deliver their products to market faster, all while collaborating with tons of stakeholders with lots of different ideas.

On average, there are six conceptual and four design iterations in a typical project. If you’re not collaborating early in the conceptual design phase, you are missing the mark, big time.

Pen and paper has always been a great way to jot down new concepts, but there are limits to how you can share the design, save it and add functionality. SOLIDWORKS is great for when you have a clear design concept, but it doesn’t really allow you to showcase your creativity.

SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual allows you to capture your designs in a 3D platform, incorporating design and collaboration into a single environment. You never have to toss out a design and start over.

The design changes as you make changes. It even simulates real world effects so you can test your product before you spend too much time on detailed design. You can’t get that kind of feedback from a paper drawing!

Imagine having the ability to:

  • Focus on innovation as design goals, not your 3D CAD tool
  • Work simultaneously on the same design with multiple designers
  • Manage several design iterations created before the first prototype
  • Collaborate with who you want, when you want, wherever you are

SolidWorks-Mechanical-Conceptual-Connected-1Sounds nice, huh? You can see a quick breakdown of the program’s best features in our previous blog, “5 Best Features of SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual.”

Watch the video below to learn more about SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual, or contact our Sales Team to request a quote.


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With the release of SOLIDWORKS 2015 Beta 2, all active subscription customers now have limited time access to SOLIDWORKS MBD 2015 Beta and SOLIDWORKS Inspection Professional 2015 Beta. Pretty cool!
Join SOLIDWORKS 2015 Beta
SOLIDWORKS Inspection is a First Article Inspection (FAI) and in-process inspection software that uses existing CAD data, PDF or TIFF files create industry standard reports and inspection documents. This software automates the document development process to prevent transcription errors from manual data entry.

SOLIDWORKS MBD works to keep costs, rework and response time down by reducing the need for redundant 2D drawings. More info to come…..

Why participate in SOLIDWORKS 2015 Beta testing?

This is your chance to really impact the quality, performance and reliability of SOLIDWORKS 2015 before it’s released to the public. SOLIDWORKS wants to provide the best possible experience for its users. Your feedback helps them understand customer needs and emerging industry trends. Testing with Beta releases helps avoid migration problems that are specific to your environment, data and workflows.

As a bonus, you get exclusive access to new SOLIDWORKS features and give input about what you like and don’t like. Over the years, SOLIDWORKS has implemented many customer requested enhancements. If there’s something you want to see in 2015, now’s your chance to say so.

If there are features you want to see or glitches you find (crashes, UI issues, etc), you can give your feedback to the SOLIDWORKS development and Q&A teams in the Beta Forum.

As a thank you for your help, there are awards and prize available. The more service requests you submit, the more points you win towards these rewards.

How can I be a great SOLIDWORKS Beta tester?

SOLIDWORKS has a few recommendations, such as:

  1. Using SOLIDWORKS Beta just like you use SOLIDWORKS every day. (Your familiarity with certain functions allows you to find problems that may be overlooked by less experienced users)
  2. Reviewing the SOLIDWORKS Beta “What’s New” and “Help” resources (This will help you learn how to use new and unfamiliar tools)
  3. Participating in focus testing every week via the Beta Forum (You’ll win extra points for any service requests submitted in these weekly test focus areas)
  4. Give your suggestions on the Beta Forums (This is where you can ask questions and hear about new features)

For more information or to download, visit the SOLIDWORKS Beta site.

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PhotoView 360 Powered by HamachiIn every major release of SOLIDWORKS you will find hundreds of enhancements that will help boost your productivity and performance. Some of these performance gains happen behind the scenes without you even noticing, while others may require you know a trick or two to take full advantage of their capabilities. So here’s a trick that you can use to create photorealistic images in fractions of the time by using a free piece of software to create your very own render farm.

One of my favorite performance enhancers came in 2013 with the addition of the Network render functionality to PhotoView360. This tool offers subscription customers a way to dramatically cut down the time it takes to render an image or animation with PhotoView360 by combining the processing power of other computers on your network to share the rendering load.final render

But herein lies the problem- you are limited to the machines on your network. What if you’re a one man with a one machine operation? What if your office’s machines aren’t nearly as powerful as the ones your four best friends from college have?  If you want to take advantage of computer horse power that isn’t necessarily on your network, you can turn to Hamachi for help.

Hamachi is a free VPN softwhamachiare from LogMeIn that enables you to easily create your own LAN-like network. With the free version of Hamachi you can connect up to five machines to your network. However, there are paid versions which allow you to connect up to 256 machines. Coupling Hamachi with the PhotoView 360 enables you to very quickly set up your very own render farm, giving you brilliant photorealistic images or animations in fractions of the time.

The steps to get this up and running are very simple. There are two players involved, the coordinator and the client. Think of the coordinator as the quarterback of the operation. The coordinator machine needs to be running SolidWorks Professional 2013 or later, with the PhotView 360 add-in turned on. This is the only machine that needs to have SOLIDWORKS installed. All of the other machines- the clients, need just the PhotoView 360 Net Render Client which is less than 50mb in size.


With these pieces of software in place, you’re now ready to get to rendering! The client machines need to be made available for network rendering by pressing the “Enter Client Mode Now” button. In the PhotoView 360 options on the coordinator machine, be sure to check the box for “Network Rendering” to use the available render clients.2014-07-26_18-08-58



Just press final render and get your photorealistic image quicker than ever before.

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Choosing a SOLIDWORKS package depends on many factors. Regardless of which you choose, SOLIDWORKS will help streamline your workflow and get your work done faster.

SOLIDWORKS PackagesThere are three basic levels of SOLIDWORKS: Standard, Professional and Premium. Below is a brief overview of each. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should give you a better idea of the differences.


SOLIDWORKS Standard is the right fit for 3D CAD newbies or individuals using SOLIDWORKS for limited purposes. It works exactly like Professional and Premium, just with fewer advanced features. But that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful. SOLIDWORKS Standard includes FEA capability, animations and parts analysis, just as a few examples.

SOLIDWORKS Professional

SOLIDWORKS Professional is made for the serious designer and includes a host of robust features. It boasts photo-realistic rendering capabilities and eDrawings Professional, which is great for sharing your files with non-SOLIDWORKS users. This suite also includes a standard parts library, file management tools and SOLIDWORKS Costing for cost estimates.


SOLIDWORKS Premium is the most comprehensive SOLIDWORKS package we offer, building on the capabilities of Standard and Professional. In addition to the features mentioned above, it offers complete support for advanced 3D CAD design. You can perform static, stress and motion analysis on assemblies (not just parts), tooling and harnessing. If you use ECAD software, SOLIDWORKS Premium interfaces with CircuitWorks for easy electrical design.

For a more in-depth overview of all the differences, check out SOLIDWORKS’ 3D CAD Matrix or view this video.

When deciding to upgrade, think about what you plan to use SOLIDWORKS for and how often you’ll use the software. If you’re still unsure, our expert Sales Team can help. They know all the ins and outs of SOLIDWORKS and can recommend a package that’s right for you.

Contact Sales at 1.877.553.9001 or email us.

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Thinking about SOLIDWORKS but aren’t sure if you’re ready to bite the bullet? Need some ammunition to convince your boss to make the switch?

Check out these 5 signs SOLIDWORKS is the right solution for you:

1. Increased Productivity

Solidworks_screenshotYou might think you’re just fine doing things the old fashioned way with 2D CAD. Or, you may already be using 3D CAD software and see no reason to switch. According to a SOLIDWORKS customer survey, 95% of the companies responding reported an increase in productivity with SOLIDWORKS, and it only took them about two and a half months to see these improvements.

2. Tools That Cover The Entire Design Process

SOLIDWORKS runs the gamut with its many uses —from design and validation to technical communications and data management. SOLIDWORKS products work together to make your design process quick and seamless. You can focus on creating top-tier products, not your design tool.

3. Faster Time To Market

Getting your product to market before the competition in the name of the game for any business. The sooner it’s out there, the more market share you capture. SOLIDWORKS can get you there. More than half of customers said they got their products on store shelves faster as a result of SOLIDWORKS.

4. Easy To Use

Whether or not a product is user-friendly is a top consideration for designers. Survey respondents reported SOLIDWORKS is much easier to use than their old CAD system, and that held true whether they were coming from 2D or 3D CAD software. They also said they were more satisfied in their design work now that they were using SOLIDWORKS.

5. Bigger Profits

For the money you spend on SOLIDWORKS, you’ll see that back many times over. Third party research found significant monetary gains with SOLIDWORKS, no matter the industry or previous CAD system used. Customers report higher sales and profit margins with SOLIDWORKS.
We have more signs to come. Stay tuned! If you have a suggestion you want to see on this list, send an email and let us know.

Have questions about how to purchase SOLIDWORKS? Our Customer Service staff would be happy to help you.

You may also want to check out our free introductory trainings and summer webinars.

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