CAD Models Now Available for Purchase

By popular demand, I've recently developed a CAD model eStore available at There you can find a number of SolidWorks models created by me over the last several years. Click the images below to see details and history of the individual models. These advanced designs are great for 3D printing or learning about complex workflows.

This is my first foray into internet sales, so bear with me, and let me know what you think. More models will be added all the time, so keep checking in!

Complete (w Contours)


Charger Ambient Occlusion Pelican Hangar Empire State Building Burj Khalifa Leatherman Barret Sniper 2



Back to Basics

It’s happened to every engineer. Your manager-slash-client-slash designer has the most brilliant vision! But when he tries to convey it to you… well, it might as well be semaphore. Maybe they’re not the most CAD-savvy – after all, that’s what they pay you for, right? So how will you ever understand what you’re supposed to design? There are a thousand different products out there that are supposed to help, but sometimes, it’s refreshing to see someone go back to the basics.

I recently received a design request in the form of a hastily-scribbled pencil sketch. Long story short: it was indecipherable. When I asked for some more clarification, I expected a clearer drawing, or a lot of unhelpful text. What I ended up with actually made me smile!

My client roughly modeled the important area of the part out of clay, took a video and some stills, and sent them over the same day. It cleared up all my confusion, and the project was back on track.

Believe it or not, this helped.

Believe it or not, this helped.

Sometimes the simplest solution really is the best.




ExactFlat At SolidWorks World 2013




Since we last checked in with Steve McClendon and the ExactFlat team at their debut at SolidWorks World 2012, their platform has been strengthened, and their integration with SolidWorks is more rock-solid than ever.  ExactFlat Design Studio is an add-in to SolidWorks that provides design tools for sewn products – anything from car seats to backpacks. I personally have no experience with this product market, but in the brief demo I received at SolidWorks World 2013 from Marketing Director Matt Smith, it was easy to understand every feature of the program.

Design can take place in either a 2D or 3D environment. The former is best for those who are used to current sewn product design tools, and the latter is for those with a strong SolidWorks background. The design style can be switched at any time, and all changes are parametrically linked. For example, a designer could model a car seat in SolidWorks, translate the surfaces of the model to 2D shapes, apply a force to the model to see how the shapes deform, add seam and hem material, and nest the shapes into a large cutting pattern, ready to feed into a cutting machine. In 2D mode, the software always remembers which edges will be sewn together, so a change made to one shape automatically updates its complimentary shapes, and the 3D model.

There are also special, automatic custom properties associated with each edge, including edge name, seam type, and a property not found anywhere else in SolidWorks, edge length. When creating a drawing, ExactFlat automatically measures the lengths of even the most complex edges, something that SolidWorks’ own dimensioning tools haven’t been able to do yet.

In developing their product, the ExactFlat team worked directly with SolidWorks – and gained R&D Partner status – meaning that the integration of their add-in goes deeper than most. For example, ExactFlat offers macros, mouse gestures, and system options through the standard SolidWorks UI. And the collaboration doesn’t stop there. ExactFlat even sponsored one of the receptions at SWW13! That’s a sure sign that business is good.


While ExactFlat is still technically in Beta, they hope to obtain SolidWorks gold partner status after their full product launch, schedulerd for March or April of this year. As the lauch approaches, excitement about the product grows. Steve told me that by the end of Day 1 of SolidWorks World 2013, they already had more interested customers than during the entirety of SolidWorks World 2012. That’s no surprise to me. I’ve known since their debut last year that ExactFlat’s enthusiastic team and the innovative new possibilities they bring to the CAD field would set them apart.


ExactFlat Stretches the Fabric of 3D CAD

 We all know that SolidWorks is the best CAD program for designing anything from toy cars to refrigerators to shopping malls. But what about those products which aren’t made of wood or plastic or steel? What about soft fabrics and leathers? How are you supposed to design fabric components in a solid modeling program?

Luckily, Steve McLendon and his new ExactFlat Design Studio feel your pain. The charismatic Atlantan was frustrated with the limitations of solid modellers when it came to industrial fabric design, and wanted to do something about it. 

ExactFlat allows industrial fabric designers to create CNC-ready cutting paths for nested fabric patterns directly in SolidWorks. Here’s how it works:

Start with any surface model in SolidWorks. ExactFlat analyzes the stresses on the fabric due to, say, someone’s 200-pound butt sitting in a seat. It then figures out where the fabric stretches or sags, and resizes the cutting path accordingly, to give you exactly the side you need for a nice smooth piece. 

The program then automatically determines where the fabric should be cut, to make the fewest flat sections, and splits the surfaces for you. It even automatically adds some excess material so the sections can be sewn together. After that, given the details the fabric cutter you’ll be using, and the number of items you hope to make, the software quickly computes the most space-efficient cutting layouts; a process known as “nesting.” Best of all, every step in the process is done inside SolidWorks, and everything is fully parametric, so design updates carry through to ExactFlat. 

The 22 members of the ExactFlat team have been working together in fabrics engineering for eight years out of their office in Sudbury, Canada. But they only recently brought their technology to SolidWorks. They’ve been working on the complex algorithms that flatten out fabrics for the last five years, and now that they’re confident in its power, they’re releasing it to the CAD community.  The product is so new, in fact, that they’ll be taking a loss in software sales until June, just to build up their momentum. During that time, they hope to build a strong reseller network Another way ExactFlat is hoping to build interest is by offering a 30-day free trial! Check it out here


The Sleek, Charger-free Cell Phone That Could Save the World

Once again, we see the steady march of progress.  When it comes to charging our power-hungry devices, for years, our only option has been the ubiquitous, energy-wasting wall chargers.  Then, more recently, came the ‘drop-n-charge’ mats.  Now we may finally have a way to get rid of phone chargers for good.  Product designer Patrick Hyland has developed a sleek, gorgeous phone for Nokia, which uses heat to charge itself.  This means that just keeping the phone in your pocket next to your warm ‘n’ toasty bits will keep it charged.  For a faster charge, a sunny window or radiator will work just fine.  The E-Cu (short for Energy and Copper) contains a thermogenerator which converts heat (or, more specifically temperature differences) into electricity to charge an internal battery.  The efficiency of this conversion is increased by encasing the phone in a layer of engraved copper heatsinks, which not only pull more heat from your body (or other source) but also make the phone look freakin’ awesome!  The ‘cracked earth’ texture not only increases the surface area of the heatsink, but also reminds us of “the effect of heat on the natural environment.”



 From the designer, Patrick Hyland’s blog:

“The Nokia E-Cu is a mobile phone charged by sources of heat therefore eradicating the need for a charger. The phone has a thermogenerator integrated inside, which converts heat energy into electric potential energy. It is surrounded by copper with engraved heatsinks in a dry earth pattern which represents the effect of heat on the natural environment. The phone can be charged by placing it on any source of heat e.g. a radiator, even inside a pocket.


Annually, unwanted phone chargers produce 51,000 tons of waste in addition to the greenhouse gases created by the production of the electricity needed to charge them.”


And this standby power consumption is nothing to sneeze at.  By most estimates, over 95% of a charger’s energy consumption occurs while the device is unplugged.  Can you imagine the energy savings if the world’s 4.6 billion cellular phones could reduce their energy consumption by 95%?  Not to mention the other devices that could benefit from such technology: Cameras, MP3 players, watches, and so on.

Additionally, while we take wall outlets for granted, a large portion of the developing world does not have access to reliable electricity. While satellite and cellular communication becomes more and more widespread, the electrical grid has failed to keep up.  While the inability to play Angry Birds in sub-Saharan Africa is bad enough, the real need is in connecting impoverished people with the aid they so desperately need.  Mobile aid initiatives like Project Masiluleke (or Project M) use mobile technology to connect patients with AIDS or tuberculosis with healthcare in Africa.  Mobile activism programs such as this could reach a far wider, and more at-risk audience, if mobile phones could be used in regions without a stable electrical system.


 In case this ingenious phone never becomes a reality, there are a few other ways to quench your phone charger’s carnal lust for electron smoothies.  The AT&T Zero charger automatically cuts power to the transformer when your device is disconnected.  And it uses a USB port, so almost every modern electronic device can be charged this way.  (also, I’m not usually one for direct product placement, but there’s a great pre-order discount here.) The Zero charger officially comes out in May. 


If you’re more of the Rube Goldberg type, you may enjoy the Leech Plug.  This charger has a built-in ejector seat, which spits your charger out in disgust like a stick of Orbit White. When your device has sucked its fill, the plug automatically detatched from the wall, just like a leech.  Take a look…


Outlet Regulator Video from conor klein on Vimeo.


If you have any other examples of energy saving designs, share them here.