3D ContentCentral: Get Those Models for Free

May 28th, 2015

Most companies I work with use purchased components and want to add them into their assemblies.  So how do you get the solid models?  You might contact the company for the model or just model it yourself.  Well you could download the models for free without contacting anyone by using 3DContent Central.

3D ContentCentral Logo

3D ContentCentral (3DCC) is a free service for users to download solid models.  How is this different than other similar sites?  This is a Dassault Systemes site and the models are not just from users.  You have the ability to download models that other users have modeled but you also have the option to download from certified suppliers.

Suppliers can upload their models from their catalog to allow consumers to download them for free.  This way you can add it to your assemblies and have the BOM show the true items to be assembled.

3D ContentCentral BOM

There is also integration into your SOLIDWORKS interface.  If you open the Design Library, you will see it on the right side.  When you click on it, it will take you to the website allowing you to download the files.

3D ContentCentral  Integration

Many of the files allow you to configure them before you download.  So you can choose a different color, different size, etc.  You can also choose what format you want to download the file in.

3D ContentCentral Configure

How many suppliers are on 3D ContentCentral?  I just counted 840 which are from all over the world.  You can search for a specific supplier or find them in the global list.

So what if you want a model from a supplier but they aren’t on 3DCC?  You have the ability to request the content.  You can make the request to have a member of the 3D ContentCentral community model it.  Or you can request that a supplier be added to 3DCC.

3D ContentCentral Request

3D ContentCentral is going through a website redesign.  They are changing the interface, adding a new eDrawings viewer which will be available in many browsers/mobile, and an improved searching tool.  The viewer will allow you to rotate, section, and shade the models so you know what you are downloading.

3D ContentCentral preview

Check it out here: Beta 3D ContentCentral

3D ContentCentral Interface

I have used this site many times and have suggested users check it out.  There are over 1.3 million members who have used 3DCC.  Are you one of them?

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve used it and what you think.

Josh Spencer

Elite Application Engineer, CSWE 3DVision Technologies

Store Project Constants in EPDM Folder Cards

May 22nd, 2015

With nearly every design, you’ll have a few variables that nearly every decision hinges off of… working height, conveyor height, cycle time, etc. These values always seem to change, forcing a lot of updates through out your designs.

There are several ways you can link your SOLIDWORKS models to these constants. The most common methods involve creating relationships between your parts and other files [“Layout sketches”, “Skeleton Sketches”, “Phantom Parts”] these parts get inserted into all of your assemblies. It works but can make quite a spiderweb of relationships. I am becoming a fan of storing project constants in the SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM’s folder card. Then I link my dimensions to these folder card values through SOLIDWORKS equations.

Let’s imagine I am designing a table and I always want my table height to always be 3″ less than the conveyor height. First I’ll store the conveyor height in the project’s folder card.


These constants also need to exist on the SOLIDWORKS file card.

Folder Card SWCard

Make sure you have the file card control to inherit information from the folder card. So that as we add files to the project the file’s data card will get its information from the folder card.

Folder Card Inherit

The variable needs to be pushed into the file’s custom properties

Folder Card VariableLink

SOLIDWORKS equations can use file properties as part of their arguments:

Folder Card LinktoProperies

Below you see that I am taking the “ConveyorHeight” and subtracting “3” from its value. If the “ConveyorHeight” ever changes, the dimension named “TableHeight@Boss-Extrude2″ will update automatically.

Folder Card Evaluated

Here is another cool thought. Now not only if the conveyor height changes for this project will all my parts update (using EPDM’s Update function), but if I copy any of these parts into another project and have “Default overwrites” turned on for the card variable, these parts will automatically update to their new project’s values as they get copied from one project to another.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

3D Printed Lithophane

May 19th, 2015

A lithophane is defined as an etched or molded artwork in a thin translucent material that can only be seen clearly when lit from the back. They have been around for a thousand years dating back to ancient China. Our 3D Printing Application Engineer, Jeremy Marvin, added a modern touch to this ancient art form. He printed his daughter Gabrielle “Gabby” on a Fortus 400 using ASA plastics. See the amazing results below.

Flat View of 3D Printed Lithophane

3D Printed Lithophane


3D Printed Lithophane Without Light

3D Printed Lithophane


3D Printed Lithophane with Light

3D Printed Lithophane

Cody Markham

Assistant Marketing Manager 3DVision Technologies

STL Output Settings for CAD

May 15th, 2015

Last fall I switched responsibilities here at 3DVision.  I moved from the SOLIDWORKS side of our business to 3D Printing.  Some of our readers may recall chatting with me on Technical Support or sitting in one of my training classes.  For my first “official” blog post I thought it might be good to mix both worlds – CAD and 3D Printing.

CAD comes into play when we think about what we need to print.  Currently, the industry standard file format for 3D Printing is the STL (Standard Tessellation Language) file.  All major CAD packages can save or export in the STL format, including SOLIDWORKS.  Simply click File-Save As-STL.  Once the STL file type has been selected you’ll notice an options button appears.  Clicking this options button shows you all the settings we can change regarding the STL File itself.



Quick Tips when setting up your STL Output

1.  Use the Binary option to save disk space, it reduces the file size by a ratio of 6:1.

2.  The STL itself is unitless.  SOLIDWORKS will output in the specified units, no matter what unit we use in our model.  When we bring the model into our 3D Printing software, we’ll need to specify the units used.  If the parts come in really big or small, the software will ask you to confirm.

3.  Stratasys recommends a Deviation tolerance of .001″-.012″ [.03mm-.3mm] I generally set the resolution to Custom and use .0005″ which is a touch smaller than they recommend. The files tend to grow very fast when you get down much smaller than that.  The bigger the file the longer it takes to process in the 3D Printer software.  [I have a model from a customer that was 750mb and took 30 hours to process.  We need to strike a balance between getting a high tolerance part and keeping file size/processing time down.]

4.  Stratasys recommends an angle tolerance of 5-10°.  The default in SOLIDWORKS is 10° so I leave this alone.


Below is a small example explaining the Deviation (chordal tolerance) and the Angular tolerance.  This is the max difference allowed between the faceted surface and the SOLIDWORKS Model.


We can’t print a model better than the STL, so it is always good to check the options before saving the model, and verify the STL looks good before processing.



Keep an eye out for future blog posts regarding 3D Printing and be sure to comment below. I’m currently working on a multiple part blog regarding part orientation so stay tuned.

Jeremy Marvin

Application Engineer - 3D Printing 3DVision Technologies


May 14th, 2015



Aerosport Modeling & Design

Although Aerosport Modeling & Design, Inc.’s  product development, prototyping, and manufacturing services has deep roots in aviation, Aerosport has worked with thousands of satisfied clients in the automotive, medical, electronic, military, aviation, toy, and consumer products industries. The firm produces high-quality prototypes, appearance models, working models, and machined parts, and also serves as an extension to its clients’ design and engineering teams.

Aerosport owner Geoff Combs cites ongoing investments in research and the latest design, prototyping, and manufacturing technologies as critical to the company’s growth, competitiveness, and success. While Aerosport began as a prototype model shop working primarily in the custom model airplane industry, its business soon grew into design, prototyping, and manufacturing services for a range of other industries, operations for which it needed a robust 3D CAD solution.

“When we started handling work that went far beyond model airplanes—such as medical devices and automotive fixtures—we needed to add an effective design and engineering capability,” Combs recalls. “I asked around and decided to evaluate the Pro/ENGINEER® and SOLIDWORKS® 3D CAD packages. Once I started working with demo copies of the software, it became obvious that SOLIDWORKS had a better interface, was more intuitive, and was easier to use.

“Acquiring SOLIDWORKS Professional design software turned out to be the right decision because more and more of our customers use SOLIDWORKS, which makes collaboration much more efficient,” Combs adds. “We recently added the SOLIDWORKS Composer™ package to automate the development of instruction manuals.”

While Aerosport realized significant productivity gains by implementing SOLIDWORKS design software, allowing the company to take advantage of a range of new business opportunities, there was one area of its traditional business that required an additional solution: providing upholstery services for aircraft and automotive seats, including both prototypes and final products.

“Once we began working on the interiors of cars and planes, we needed to upholster seats,” Combs explains. “Upholstering a seat began as a completely manual process for us. To create patterns, we would draw sew lines on the foam seat bun with black magic marker, pin a sheet of cotton over the bun under a piece of drafting mylar, and follow the black marker lines to notch the pattern, adding salvage before sewing it up on our sewing machine. That was a time-consuming process for which we needed a better solution.”

Combs was researching upholstery-related applications when a supplier suggested the ExactFlat® Design Studio 3D-to-2D flattening application, for use on composites, industrial fabrics, leathers, and other types of technical textiles, from SOLIDWORKS Gold Solution Partner Tri-D Technologies, Inc.


Using the combination of SOLIDWORKS and ExactFlat software, Aerosport has replaced its manual seat-pattern-making upholstery process with an automated digital approach. The process begins with scanning the seat foam bun, or acquiring a model of it from the manufacturer, to create a 3D solid model in SOLIDWORKS software. Combs then creates the pattern for the seat upholstery using ExactFlat from inside SOLIDWORKS software.

“The new digital approach is much better than doing it by hand,” Combs stresses. “Creating a seat pattern used to take a week or longer, depending on the complexity of the seat. With SOLIDWORKS and ExactFlat, we can finish a pattern in an hour. This solution is saving time and money, as well as enabling us to increase throughput.”


Because SOLIDWORKS and ExactFlat automate the creation of upholstery patterns, Aerosport has cut its time-to-market by 50 percent and reduced upholstery production costs by 30 percent. The combined solution has also enabled the company to increase its seat pattern accuracy, resulting in material savings through ExactFlat nesting capabilities and an improved finish, particularly when working with the latest generation of seat designs.

“With newer, more complex seats, we used to add a layer of foam along the sides to make the upholstery fit,” Combs notes. “SOLIDWORKS and ExactFlat have improved our pattern accuracy to the extent that we no longer have to add any foam. I’m amazed at how well our patterns now sew together. SOLIDWORKS and ExactFlat have really helped us to streamline the process.”



In addition to automating seat upholstery operations, the combination of SOLIDWORKS design and ExactFlat flattening solutions supports other projects requiring patterns or coatings. For example, Aerosport used the solution to develop the pattern for a de-icing sheet used to prevent ice buildup on high-flying drone aircraft.

“Using SOLIDWORKS and ExactFlat on the drone de-icing sheet project helped us enhance accuracy,” Combs points out. “Even though we mainly use the combined solution for seat upholstery, we expect it to come in handy for any designs that require a flat pattern, such as applying composite or fiberglass lay-ups in a model.”

Cody Markham

Assistant Marketing Manager 3DVision Technologies

Plastics Symmetry Analysis Saves Time

May 11th, 2015

SolidWorks Plastics has joined the other Solidworks Simulation Products (Simulation, and Flow)in offering a Symmetry Option.   What is Symmetry you ask?

According to Merriam- Webster Symmetry noun sym·me·try \?si-m?-tr?\ is: the quality of something that has two sides or halves that are the same or very close in size, shape, and position : the quality of having symmetrical parts.

With regards to analysis not only does the geometry need to be symmetric but the analysis boundary conditions need to be as well.

For SolidWorks Plastics Symmetry two rules need to apply.

  1. The model needs to be symmetric about a plane, two planes, or an axis.
  2. The injection location is also split by the symmetry condition.  This allows a user to take a fraction of a cavity and analyze it better, faster, and smarter.

Plastics Symmetry



Symmetry is accessed through the mesh settings with a solid mesh type.



Symmetry is an excellent option to save processing time.  The results are fast, efficient, and reliable getting the user answers like never before.


Robert Warren

Elite Application Engineer CAE Technical Specialist 3DVision Technologies

3D Printing Gives Edge to Zips Racing

May 6th, 2015

The University of Akron’s Formula SAE Racing Team Ranks in the Worlds Top Ten

University of Akron racing

Formula SAE® is a student design competition organized by SAE International (formerly Society of Automotive Engineers). Formula SAE/Formula Student encompasses students to engage themselves into a work environment similar to that of the engineering industry. These students are challenged to incorporate their classroom knowledge into effective designs related to the automotive industry.

The concept of the program is that a fictitious manufacturing company has contracted a group of engineers to manufacture a prototype formula style racecar to be evaluated for production. The vehicle must have high performance in terms of acceleration, braking, and handling capabilities. At the same time, the car must also be aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, and easy to maintain. With the same considerations as any engineering business, the students must also evaluate cost, manufacturing capabilities, and reliability of the racecar. The teams are tested to design a “complete package” that includes both racer and business strategy.

Pat Moga, Administratice Team Captain, on the Impact of 3D printing

“The functionality that your company offers us through 3D printing allows us to create complex designs. Last year we used your services for many parts of our vehicle. To begin, our car is completely modeled in SolidWorks. 3D modeling of the car allows us to design and iterate our vehicles components to reduce weight, and increase life. Parts such as the cooling system, and various electronics. With this help we achieved many high rankings at the competitions we attended. Taking 5th Place overall in Michigan, and taking 1st and 2nd place in the Engineering Design events in the Czech Republic and Germany respectively.”

3D printed Parts Included in the Racecar

The shift light housing sits right in front of the driver above the steering wheel. It is an indicator that tells the driver RPM of the motor and various other signals through lighting sequences, this is a very critical part for driver feedback.

University of Akron racing

The Radiator Fan Shroud connects the cooling fan to the radiator. Without this shroud, our vehicle would overheat, it is very difficult to see in the picture. We rely on 3D printing to create our complex pieces, that’s what makes our car better than the rest.

University of Akron racing


To learn more about The University of Akron’s Formula SAE Racing Team including competition results, car details, and where they will be racing next click the link below.

ZIPS Racing

University of Akron racing

Jeremy Marvin

Application Engineer - 3D Printing 3DVision Technologies

Monthly Best – April 2015

May 5th, 2015

Don’t miss any of our articles from April. Catch up now with our Monthly Best – April 2015 recap.

1. Automatic Handling International Inc.

Automatic Handling

Automatic Handling International, Inc. is a worldwide manufacturer of custom handling and packaging systems, serving leading companies in the pulp and paper, tissue and towel, nonwovens, fiberglass, agriculture, stone, and steel industries. In 2002, Automatic Handling transitioned from AutoCAD® 2D development tools to the SOLIDWORKS ® Professional 3D design platform. According to Media Group Manager Nathan Pienta, Automatic Handling upgraded from 2D to 3D to improve design accuracy and efficiency, choosing SOLIDWORKS for its ease of use, large-assembly capabilities, and extended suite of integrated solutions.

Full Article

2. WACO Aerobotics Advance to World Championship

waco aerobotics

The Troy, Ohio based WACO Aerobotics; a US First FTC (First Technical Challenge) high school robotics team recently competed in the West Virginia State Championship where they swept many of the top awards including the Promote Award(60 Second Video Promoting FIRST), Winning Alliance Team Captain(Undefeated robot runs the entire day), and the First Place Inspire Award (Best overall team at a tournament, robot, notebook, outreach, and gracious professional acts of helping other teams).

Full Article

3. New Stratasys Objet1000 Plus

objet1000 Plus

Introducing the new Objet1000 Plus the World’s Largest Mult-Material 3D Printer. Maximize your productivity and quickly achieve ROI with the Objet1000 Plus 3D Production System. Its multi-material capabilities, substantial throughput and ultra-large build tray get your jobs done faster, smarter and with more precision. Based on PolyJet™ technology, this versatile system enables engineers, manufacturers, designers and universities to 3D print any design, no matter how complex or detailed.

Read More

4. US Army is Using 3D Printing to Develop Body Armor Inspired by Fish Scales


A collaboration between American and Israeli researchers has produced a prototype of a new type of body armor inspired by the flexibility of fish scales and other naturally occurring imbricated body armor. The armor prototype was designed to maximize the wearer’s ability to move unencumbered while providing significantly more protection than standard Kevlar body armor.

Read More

5. Innovation Honored in 2015 Extreme Redesign 3D Printing Challenge

We’re pleased to announce the winners of the 11th annual Extreme Redesign 3D Printing Challenge.

This worldwide contest gives students in secondary and post-secondary educational institutions the opportunity to redesign an existing product or to create a new product that improves how a task is accomplished. Entries were evaluated based on creativity, being mechanically sound and being realistically achievable.

Learn More


As a valued customer we would like to provide you with the most relevant content that you are interested in. Connecting with 3DVision Technologies will instantly connect you with news and information that directly relates to your industry including:

  • 3DVision News and Success Stories
  • Latest Product releases
  • Latest Industry News and Events
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Cody Markham

Assistant Marketing Manager 3DVision Technologies

DimXpert Tips

April 30th, 2015

With SOLIDWORKS MBD being released, you might be trying out DimXpert for the first time.  If you want to learn more about SOLIDWORKS MBD, check out my previous blog entry.  Here are some quick tips that might help.

Change Annotation Plane

When you have an annotation, you might need it to be placed on a different plane.  An example would be the dimension is on the TOP plane and you need it on the FRONT plane.  If you select the annotation, click the Single Quote button on your keyboard.  It’s the button with the ~ & `.


This will bring up the annotation plane box allowing you to choose where to place it.

Annotation Plane

Combine Dimensions

If you have multiple DimXpert dimensions and they are the same, you can combine them.  Just select them and RMB; it will give you the option to Combine Dimension.

Combine Dimension

Dimension Names

In the DimXpert Manager, the dimensions are just listed out with a generic name (i.e. Diameter1, Diameter2, etc).  You have the ability to rename them to whatever you want.  This can help with finding specific dimensions later.


Basic Dimensions

When you have a Geometric Tolerance, you might want to display the basic dimensions (the ones with a box around them).  If you select the GT in the tree, RMB and choose to Recreate basic dim.

Basic Dimension

Imported Models

DimXpert isn’t only for SOLIDWORKS files.  You can import other 3D models and apply dimensions to it.  The dimensions do not look at features but rather geometry.

Josh Spencer

Elite Application Engineer, CSWE 3DVision Technologies

You Need to Use SOLIDWORKS Shortcuts

April 17th, 2015

Life is full of shortcuts but those typically don’t work out well for anyone.  Well that’s not the case with SOLIDWORKS shortcuts.  There are many places to use shortcuts in parts and sketches.

Think about how you create a model in SOLIDWORKS.  You choose a sketch plane, start a sketch, find a sketch entity to use, add some dimensions, then extrude that sketch into a feature. You do this over and over again until the model is created.  But during that process are you being as efficient as you can be?  Are you using any SOLIDWORKS shortcuts?  Well I hope you are.

When I’m teaching, I emphasis SOLIDWORKS shortcuts.  I say they really will help get your design done quicker but I never really had any data to put behind it.  So I figured that I would model the same part 2 different ways.  One way I would model using my typical shortcuts and the other would be with none.  I timed myself modeling both ways to see which one was faster.  I also downloaded 2 tools to help track my mouse movements.  One shows where my mouse has been with a black line and the other tracks the distance in feet that my mouse has traveled.

Here’s the model that I choose.  It’s a part that has 3 extruded bosses, 3 cuts, 3 fillets, 19 sketch entities and 19 dimensions.

Ratchet Screen

The first model I used my typical, everyday SOLIDWORKS shortcuts.  These are some hot-keys (i.e. “L” for line & “D” for dimension), mouse gestures, and the shortcut tool bar (“S” key).

It took me 226 seconds to model it and my mouse traveled 28 feet.  That isn’t too bad as a good base value.  Here is what the mouse path graphic looks like.

Ratchet Screen_Shortcuts

You can see that my mouse really stayed in the middle of my screen right where my model is.  I didn’t need to move to the command manager for anything.

Now let’s look at the one where I didn’t use any SOLIDWORKS shortcuts.  I knew that this one would be slower and I would have a lot more mouse movement.

It took me 421 seconds to model it and my mouse moved 103 feet.  Here is the mouse path graphic.

Ratchet Screen_Manual

I can say that I modeled this as fast as I think I can.  I had to really try to not use any shortcuts.  This was harder than I thought it would be.  As you can see, my mouse spent more time on the property manager and command manager than in the graphics area.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.  I can see that I had a savings of 46% in time and 73% in mouse movement by using SOLIDWORKS shortcuts.


I don’t know of a reason not to use SOLIDWORKS shortcuts.  I just proved out the reason for them with sketches and parts.  You need to customize your environment to match what you do.  So if you do a lot of sheet metal then add the sheet metal tools to the shortcuts or whatever features you use the most.

I thought you might be wondering what my “S” key has on it.  Here it is for sketches and parts.

SOLIDWORKS Shortcuts SketchSOLIDWORKS Shortcuts Parts

I also have shortcut keys that I use and mouse gestures.  Here are 2 PDFs that have my tools.

SOLIDWORKS Shortcut keys document

SOLIDWORKS mouse gestures document

Again, you need to customize yours to match what you do.

Josh Spencer

Elite Application Engineer, CSWE 3DVision Technologies

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