Model repository sites such as Thingiverse and 3D Warehouse helped get makers familiar with sharing their models online, typically as STLs; online design apps such as Tinkercad, 3DTin, and the 123D App Suite help them share and collaborate within the design files themselves; and now online PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) tools like GrabCAD Workbench are helping the maker and solo designer carry on that collaboration all the way from concept to machine-ready final files.
This definitely seems to be a direction commercial and consumer minded software is headed — helped by the adoption of Github and other software development-style versioning tools to many desktop 3D printing enthusiasts’ tool belts — and I plan to watch this space closely.
Right now, with GrabCAD Workbench they are offering a number of collaborative tools from ways for teammates to flag/comment certain parts that need to be changed or removed and have interfaces that allow inexperienced users to view the 3D models even on Android and iOS devices (great for those not familiar with CAD design techniques themselves). There are a small but growing list of the design file types that can be viewed and exploded in this tool (no Rhino yet, grrr) — and this means that the discussion can take place “within” the design model of choice without all of the team members paying for a software seat. (Great for Solidworks and Inventor, in specific.)
Check out GrabCAD Workbench — and include a friend or two to pass your design project back and forth with to get a sense of the new workflow possible for you and your collaborators! Even if you (like me) tend to emphasize openness and exchange over privacy as a core value, this tool offers some new behaviors that might inspire new working methods.
GrabCAD Workbench helps you save time, improve your design, and keep everyone on the same page. You stop messing with moving files around, your partners see the model in full 3D, and everyone stays up-to-date with all the comments and changes on the latest model.
- View CAD models in the browser: Anyone can immediately see and markup a CAD model right in their web browser – no downloads or installs.
- Easy uploading: Upload a new project or new revision just by dragging one folder, without losing file structure.
- View any file type: All major CAD file formats supported.
- High quality feedback: Markup tools let viewers start conversations and create sketches right on the model.
- Instant notifications: Team members see when others make suggestions, so they can respond more quickly.
- Automatic revision control: Ensure that your partners are always working off the right version without spending time managing revisions.
- Automatic version backup: Keep an archive of all file level changes so you can be sure no one’s work is ever lost.
- Available anywhere you go: Mobile application lets users work from anywhere and share models with those away from their desktop.
- High security: 256-bit AES encrypted SSL and daily backups mean your files are safe.
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!