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Dave Opsahl

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Mastering the Hardware Renaissance

Posted by Dave Opsahl on Jul 25, 2018 8:36:53 PM

As software continues to eat the world, garnering a fair amount of attention along the way, it’s
easy to overlook the fact that there’s ahardware renaissance going on.

In the United States and elsewhere, increasing numbers of people that have never done
manufacturing before are designing and making products. Even big-name companies like
Google and Snap Inc. — entities typically regarded as being part of the software juggernaut — are
getting into the game and producing hardware.

What happened to make hardware cool again? In large part, it’s because hardware is reaching
the same tipping point of accessibility that software achieved about a decade earlier.

Starting in the mid-90’s, tools began to appear that made developing software products cheaper
and easier than ever before. The appearance of Amazon Web Services in the 2000’s added an
extra dose of rocket fuel to the equation, enabling scores of software products and apps to
quickly get off the ground.

The result? An idea could become a piece of functioning software in a record amount of time.
Concepts like continuous integration and DevOps have since become the norm, and people can
release software multiple times per day, rather than on a six-month or eight-month release cycle.
Hardware is entering a similar phase, as a series of enabling technologies lower the barrier to
entry and let people get to market quickly with a piece of hardware. The pressure to iterate faster
and reduce cycle times will only continue to increase — and to succeed in this new world, there
are a few things that these new manufacturers need to master.

Speed and quality with 3D printing

Manufacturers in decades past relied primarily on traditional subtractive manufacturing methods.
Today, additive manufacturing methods like 3D printing have become tremendously popular.
The difference in time and cost between the two methods can be stunning. Take the example of
creating the tooling for an injection molding run. In the past, it might take four to six weeks — and
anywhere from $40,000 to $150,000 — to cut some tooling out of metal. Today, people can
design a mold using their CAD system, send the CAD file to their 3D printer — or off to a 3D
printing service bureau, if they don’t have a printer of their own — and be ready to do their first run
of 100 or 200 injection-molded parts in about 24 hours.

So far, so good: today’s manufacturer can turn an idea in their head into an actual physical piece
of hardware quicker and with less cost than ever before. But quality can’t be sacrificed at the
altar of speed if this hardware renaissance expects to continue blooming.

To achieve a high level of quality for 3D printed parts, manufacturers need to apply traditional
manufacturing techniques such as geometry dimensioning & tolerancing (GD&T) and computer
engineering analysis (CAE). Additionally, metrology can be applied for quality control purposes, to check the quality of a manufacture after it’s been printed. These methods are only possible
when there is access to the data in the original CAD file, rather than just the STL version of the
file, which is the file format often used for 3D printing workflows.

Fortunately, data translation products like those offered by Tech Soft 3D provide fast and
accurate access to native CAD formats — ensuring that the data in the original CAD file is always
accessible throughout the manufacturing process. This is critical, because manufacturers — even
today’s nimble newcomers, who are starting with little more than an idea in their head — need to
be successful at every stage of the manufacturing journey, from rapid prototyping, to working the
kinks out of the first production units, to manufacturing at scale.

Collaboration and communication still matter

All this focus on the means of production shouldn’t obscure the fact that communication and
collaboration remain just as essential for today’s new manufacturers as for their
predecessors — perhaps even more so, given the accelerated pace of product development and
iteration, and the “need for speed.”

Sharing the data contained in the original CAD file with others enables effective collaboration that
supports these needs. Using the appropriate tools, a CAD model can be converted into a 3D
PDF document that any user can open and view using a copy of the free Adobe Reader. This
makes it quick and easy to send someone a design for review or approval, even if they don’t
have a license of the CAD application that created the file — eliminating bottlenecks that can slow
down getting a new hardware idea into production.

Meanwhile, further downstream, there is a need for manufacturers to ensure that end users have
access to all the information that they might need to properly use, maintain, and service their new
piece of hardware. Once again, 3D PDFs can play a big role here, allowing the original CAD data
to enhance and enrich user guides, repair manuals, and other documentation. After all: what
good is a hardware renaissance if no one knows how to best use or service your products?

Brave new world

It’s an exciting time for hardware. As more people and companies jump into the world of
manufacturing — many of them for the first time — we’re going to see an incredible array of
products, including many that we couldn’t even imagine being produced five years ago.
By properly leveraging design data to take full advantage of new manufacturing methods like 3D
printing — while also supporting effective communication with various stakeholders — companies
can keep pace with the dizzying pace of innovation and position themselves for success in this
new environment.

When it comes to hardware, it’s a whole new world — and it’s anyone game.

Dave Opsahl is VP of Corporate Development at Tech Soft 3D, and Jon Stevenson is CTO at

Originally published at

This article is based on a podcast interview “It’s a Hardware Renaissance” with both authors.
Listen to the podcast here:

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Topics: 3D, Software Development, Engineering Software, Hardware

Why Partnering Is The Key To Innovative Engineering Software

Posted by Dave Opsahl on Jun 28, 2018 2:34:02 PM

In the past, almost every large manufacturing enterprise had an in-house computer-aided design (CAD) department to develop custom software that met their unique needs. Later, the independent software vendors (ISVs) appeared with specialized solutions, followed by enterprise software providers with high-end commercial offerings.

Whether developed internally or purchased off-the-shelf, engineering software needs to constantly innovate in order to meet the unique requirements of the enterprise. Increasingly, partnering is the best way to deliver this innovation.

By working with software component providers and expert software development teams, companies of all sizes can take advantage of the latest technologies, keep their applications current, and deliver the innovative engineering software solutions that end users require.

Software Components + Expert Software Development Consulting

Technology has advanced at a rapid pace in the last 15 years, and the engineering software world is no exception. For instance, it used to be that if you were writing a graphics application and you knew some OpenGL, you’d be all set. Today, there are literally dozens of different technologies to choose from — and companies are finding it next to impossible to keep up with the complexity.

Expertise in these areas is expensive and time-consuming to acquire. On top of that, the specific expertise is usually tangential to the main business and core competency of the company. That’s why partnering with a provider of software components makes so much sense.

Components provide basic building blocks of functionality that have been developed by domain experts with core expertise in that particular area. One of the main fears companies have with custom development is that the final product might be full of bugs. The component approach prevents a lot of bugs from happening in the first place because the components have been tried and tested a multitude of times in a multitude of applications. Simply put, the foundation that components provide is very solid.

While components provide the starting point, these building blocks need to be assembled, customized, and integrated into a production-ready application. That’s where a team of qualified developers that are familiar with the component technologies comes into play.

These external development teams have extensive industry expertise, they know the components inside and out, and they know how to combine the components into a final product for the customer. If components help remove much of the risk around adopting or incorporating a new technology, seasoned professionals with years of experience and specialized skills help remove much of the remaining risk.

Another point of concern for custom developed software is a post-production maintenance. Enterprise customers don’t want to get stuck with a solution that nobody can support. Not all development consultants are in the position to provide such support. When looking for a development partner, it is important to look for one that offers long-term support service in addition to development services.

Authors: Dave Opsahl, VP of Corporate Development at Tech Soft 3D and Boris Shoov, VP of Business Development at AMC Bridge

Originally published at on June 28, 2018.

This article is based on a podcast: Beyond 3D — Services and component technologies take the complexity out of dealing with today’s tech trends

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Topics: Component Technologies, Software Development, Engineering Software

Unlocking Engineering Data for Downstream Consumption is Now a Must

Posted by Dave Opsahl on Aug 8, 2017 2:02:26 PM

Written by Dave Opsahl, VP of Corporate Development at Tech Soft 3D

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Topics: 3D PDF

It’s a Hardware Renaissance

Posted by Dave Opsahl on Apr 3, 2017 4:38:43 PM

In this episode of Beyond 3D we talk to one of the pioneers of 3D CAD, Jon Stevenson, who helped turn GrabCAD into the largest online collaboration community in the 3D CAD world, and is now VP of Global Software at Stratasys. 

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Topics: Hardware

Do you Zip files? You should 3D PDF them instead for better, structured communication. Listen to the new Beyond 3D Podcast!

Posted by Dave Opsahl on Jan 31, 2017 3:17:30 PM

There are millions of 3D PDFs used in different manufacturing workflows every day, across the globe.  So why are there still so many misconceptions about how 3D PDFs can be used? How versatile they are, how much better they are than Zipping a ton files together and hoping the recipient can figure out how to view them all. The 3D PDF Consortium was founded for exactly this purpose – to provide education and awareness to the market about 3D PDFs.  We talk with Jerry McFeeters, the Executive Director, and Phil Spreier, Technical Director to dispel some of the bigger myths when it comes to 3D PDF creation and use.

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Topics: 3D PDF

Igniting the 3D documentation revolution – 3D PDF for the model based enterprise

Posted by Dave Opsahl on Jan 7, 2016 10:58:00 AM

This blog originally appeared on the GrabCAD blog:

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Topics: MBE, MBD, 3D PDF

MBE Blog 2: Visualization ≠ Communication

Posted by Dave Opsahl on Oct 6, 2014 10:26:00 AM

I began this blog series in my previous post by talking about what model-based enterprise (MBE) means. In this post, I’d like to dispel a perception that is quite common in manufacturing enterprises, and replace it with a different way of looking at collaboration.

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Topics: MBE, MBD, 3D PDF

MBE: What's it all about?

Posted by Dave Opsahl on Aug 21, 2014 6:05:00 AM

Chances are you have heard talk around the water cooler about MBE, and thought – what’s up with that? This is the first in a series of blogs that will answer that question.

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Topics: MBE, MBD, 3D PDF

Investing In The 3D PDF Ecosystem: Why Tech Soft 3D Acquired tetra4D

Posted by Dave Opsahl on Dec 16, 2013 8:10:00 AM

Tech Soft 3D and tetra4D today announced the acquisition of tetra4D by Tech Soft 3D. This event marks the beginning of a new chapter in the 3D PDF world, and I wanted to take a few minutes and explain what this means for the customers of 3D PDF Converter, the partners who have helped build tetra4D into a growing business, and Tech Soft 3D’s HOOPS customers.

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Topics: Our culture, 3D PDF, HOOPS Exchange, HOOPS Publish

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