AAA Drafting Blog

A SolidWorks designer talks about stuff related to CAD and mechanical design

Monday, April 03, 2017

Solid bronze signs that wont break the bank

One modern day problem that sign companies face is having their expensive Bronze, Aluminum and Copper signs stolen. A solid metal sign is worth a good chunk of change in the wrong hands. Another problem is that these signs can be really heavy.

Fusioncast, a Canadian manufacturer on Oakville, Ontario have these problems pretty much wrapped up with their innovative combination plastic and metal casting process that leaves a thin veneer of Bronze, Aluminum or Cooper on the outside of the sign but leaves the inner core lightweight plastic.

This has been a boon for golf courses all over North America who love Fusioncasts expensive looking signs on their fairways. They also love how easy they are to install and of course the cost, which is dramatically lower than a solid metal sign.

Add to that Fusioncasts sign builder which lets website visitors design their own signs. All around it makes the whole process a getting a terrific looking sign far easier than it ever used to be

Saturday, November 21, 2015

You should be working on the railways

If you are looking for a job, I have always thought that the best strategy is to look to the companies that are doing well. Even in locations where all seems to be doom and gloom, there is always a company that goes against the trend. In that light one company I would suggest for potential job seekers is Canadian National Railways.

Rail transportation is big business. Rail is the most efficient way to ship goods from the Orient coast to coast in Canada. And with the cancellation of the Keystone XLoil pipeline to the USA, there will still be plenty of CN tank cars being sent down to Texas refineries. CN Rail has caught the attention of Microsoft's Bill Gates who recently purchased 12% of the railway company.

If you are an engineer or technician I think you could do well to get into the rail freight business. Tracks need maintenance and replacement, there are electronic signal control systems to maintain and design, the freight cars themselves need handling systems, dust control and a myriad of other technological support services to make them competitive and ecologically compliant.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Sketching on a SolidWorks drawing

If you are new to SolidWorks, there can be times when things are a little frustrating. One of those simple things is adding notes or sketching lines on an exisiting drawing with several views.

You add your note or centerline and then move one of the views but the note you added stays where it is and you end up having to move it seperately.

Or you have a note that belongs somewhere else in the drawing that gets moved when you are rearranging views when you dont want it to.

The solution to these problems is found in these excerpts from the SolidWorks help section.
Lock View Focus.
Allows you to add sketch entities to views, even when the pointer is close to another view. You can be sure that the items you are adding belong to the views you want. You can also double-click views to lock the focus.
So if you want to add a note or a line to views and have them move when you move the view, click in the views, right click and lock the view focus, then add the items you want.

Once you are finished just click the views and unselect the lock view focus. Now your items should move in lock step with the views.

What about notes that you want to be part of the sheet. Say you have some general material or heat treatment notes that you dont want to have moved when views are manipulated. You need to use lock sheet focus.

Lock Sheet Focus.
Allows you to add sketch entities to the sheet. Otherwise, the sketch entities belong to the view that is closest to where you begin sketching. You can also double-click a sheet to lock the focus. Lock Sheet Focus is available when at least one drawing view is present. When Lock Sheet Focus is enabled, the drawing sheet border is pink.

Finally if you are in a situation where you want to lock certain projections in postion use lock view position. I find this useful when I want to use a single projection to show an open or closed position by superimposing views on top of each other:

Create two views of the same part or assembly. Align them horizontally or vertically as required. Right-click anywhere in the desired view and select Lock View Position. Then you can line up the copied views right over top of the original, making it look as if both are the same.
Following these directions should help so that notes and sketched lines dont end up where they are not supposed to be!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Indiegogo and the Bully Busters

The story of the bullied school bus monitor Karen Klein receiving $600,000 in donations is a fascinating one to me. It speaks to the turbocharging of social response on so many levels. Not the least of which is how people now view so called crowdsource funding sites such as, the site used to raise the enormous donations for the bullied grandmother.

Crowdsourcing is fundraising for the 21st century. Put your request for money on a well established, well connected website and hopefully enough visitors will see your request and feel compelled to donate funds. Even if only a dollar or two is given, the total return can be mind boggling when multiplied across all the social networks.

The request can be a compassionate appeal to fund treatment for a cancer victim, a vacation for a bullied grandmother, a new band that needs money for equipment, a start-up brewery looking for venture capital, a new product or anything really. Indiegogo caters to all of this.

Indiegogo is in the fundraising business. They provide the merchant credit card account and collect the money people donate after being motivated by your appeal. They typically charge a 4% fee as long as your appeal is successful. An additional 3% is charged to cover the credit card transaction fees. In the case the of the grandmother, the appeal was for $5000 to be collected in 30 days.

As of this writing the bullying video has attracted $600,000 and still has 28 days to run ! It is likely to be the largest amount of money Indiegogo has raised to date as far as I can tell. It is likely that $42,000 will be charged in fees and the remaining funds will be deposited in the bank account of Max Sidorov. The Toronto man who manages the fundraising account. Mr. Sidorov has promised to pass all this money along to Karen Klein to use as she chooses.

Signup for Indiegogo is free and you can do so using your Facebook account. You also need a valid bank account where the funds you collect will be deposited. There are no limits or restrictions on what you can raise money for. Indiegogo allows you to choose different collection methods. If you do not reach your funding goal, you can opt to have all the money returned to those who donated or you can choose to keep the money regardless.

Indiegogo uses an algorithm, much like Google's search engine, to determine the ranking or wow factor of your particular appeal for money. That algorithm took immediate notice, when millions of visitors paid attention to he bullied grandmother video on YouTube

Indiegogo is originally launched in 2008 by wall street analyst Danae Ringelmann at the Sundance Film Festival with the idea of atracting funding for independant movie projects. Now based out of San Francisco, California, It recently received $15 million in venture capital funding making it one of the worlds largest crowdfunding sites.

Now a well respected and well connected website with over 200,000 visitors per month. Alexa ranks it the 3544 th most important site on the internet, Indiegogo has over 18,500 influential websites linkng to it . The site won a “Webby award” for excellence and for setting the standard for innovation and creativity on the internet. in 2010. Having access to such a powerful website for free is extremely compelling for the budding fundrasiser.

Aside from all the wonderful things they do for fundraising, Crowdsourcing sites do raise some ethical concerns. For one thing, what if a campaign turns out to be scam ? There are no checks and balances to make sure if a request for money really is valid especially when these requests are mixed of “for profit “ ventures.

Government registered not for profit charities must abide by strict rules and regulations but sites like Indiegogo face no such restrictions outside of public pressure. It is possible for compassionate people to be taken in by others pretending to be sick or dying simply by how polished the appeal is and by the peer pressure of friends and acquaintances.

Regardless, Crowdsourcing does put funding right at the fingertips of the individual, it totally democratizes the process of raising money. If you want to be altruistic, and offer support to causes you truly believe in such as Bullying, its totally up to you. 

Crowdsourcing is here to stay.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Yuuuuup - Auction Websites in Ontario !

Perhaps its because of the hit TV series "Storage Wars" going to auctions of all types has become very popular. Both for personal and for business purchases. Visiting auctions can be a great way for a new business to get started. If you are looking for office furniture and factory equipment there are always great bargains to be had.

Be extremely careful when computers, flat screen TV's and other technology items. You must know the value of these items before bidding. People go crazy about these items and auctioneers know it. In the heat of the moment people often pay more for a used computer that is several years old then they would brand new in a retail store.

Bear in mind you are buying items as-is where-is and there is always the possibility that the item you are buying wont work or be damaged in some way. Take advantage of the inspection days that most auctioneers provide and factor the risks into the maximum price you are willing to pay for an item. Record this information and have it handy when the auction starts and you go to bid.

Auctioneers often will refuse to sell an item if it does not draw a high enough price, they will withdraw the item and list it in a future auction where they hope it will gain more more attention. In general it pays to find an item you are interested at an auction where the majority of bidders are not looking for that kind of item. You want to be the only person bidding on it.

Auctions most often charge a fee over and above what you pay for the item. This is called a “buyers premium” and usually goes to cover the cost of the auctioneers services. You have to factor in this cost. As well, You also have to pay all applicable sales taxes.

The internet has revolutionized the auction business. Many auction houses use the services of which allow users to view the auction live and bid online without actually being at the auction. This increases the bid frenzy dramatically and drives up profits for the auctioneers. But its great if you want to log on as a guest and get a feel for a live auction and see how the auctioneers work the audience.

Registering with Bidspotter is simple and is no different than registering for an auction in person. The main difference is that you can bid in auctions across the continent. Just bear in mind that if you win a bid you will have to pay to arrange shipping and delivery to your location if you are unable to pick the item up your self.

List of auction websites May 2012

Fair warning !, Auctioneers websites are sometimes not exactly what you would call user friendly. Some like to hide their latest auctions and make it a challenge for you to figure out where they are. You can always throw your hands up in frustration and find the local auction listings in the Toronto Star any Sunday. With dilligence, you can plan out your next auction excursion

Abco Food Equipment

This company sells primarily restaurant items and with the frequency that restaurants go bankrupt, its got to be a great business. A great place to find ultra expensive espresso machine you have always wanted. Many auction houses also double as sales outlets for brand new equipment.

Asset Services, Auction and Appraisals

Mostly industrial sales of machinery. If you are intimately familiar with the equipment, you can find great bargains if you are willing to tolerate the risks.

Auction Advertiser

A directory of mainly estate auctions taking place throughout Ontario. Click on any day in the calendar to find auctions taking place.

Corporate Assets

Upcoming auctions are listed in the Toronto Star on Sunday if you get frustrated with their website.

Danbury Sales

Up until recently had a retail store location on Lakeshore road in Oakville where you could buy items from their auction sales. Now they seem to have returned to their core business of industrial and commercial auctions.

Hilco Asset Sales Canada

URL redirects to Hilco Industrial auction site in the USA which does list auctions in Canada.

Infinity Assets Solutions

Mostly company equipment auctions. You can use to join in the bidding without being there.

 National Surplus

Hamilton based business selling industrial items from auctions and bankrupcies

Northern Auction Service Inc.

Hold regular sales at the sherwood auction sales in Milton, a nice room used by several auction houses where you sit in old church pews while you bid on items. Even if you dont buy anything, the bacon on a bun they serve in the back is worth the trip.

Principal Liquidators Inc

Wildly popular auctions every Tuesday in Mississauga go on until Midnight. Principal Liquidations are also well known for their hardwood flooring material auctions.

Studio 1 Auctions

Sparse website but do show pictures of upcoming auctions.

If you have any comments or suggestions for great auctions in Oakville, Burlington and the surrounding area, feel free to post them !

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

HP's new Z1 CAD Workstation - Power without the tower

Will Hewlett Packards new Z1 workstation turn the companies fortunes ? Meg Whitman, HP's new CEO and former chief executive of eBay certainly hopes so. Meg wants everyone to know that HP is and always will be a company with great engineering.

Hewlett Packard has introduced a new workstation called the Z1, which seems to mimic the format of Apples iMac computers in many respects. To be fair HP has produced a number of all-in-one designs for its consumer market, but my first impression of the Z1 was more that it looked for all the world like a black iMac.

Being a workstation means that this computer is a purpose built workhorse for graphics and CAD applications. HP worked closely with nVidea to develop special video cards for the Z1. The base model has on board video while a special Quadro card is available for higher end models.

Unlike other all-in-one computers the Z1 features a lift up screen. When you raise the hood, so to speak, you can get at all the necessary components underneath making it hopefully easy to upgrade. Whether or not the market that buys all-in-ones really want ot upgrade their computers is another question. As well, computer technology moves so fast these days that most of us replace our computers rather than upgrade them.

On the other hand, providing the ability to tinker with the inside should appeal to the engineering crowd, especially since you wont have to dive underneath your desk to do work on your machine. It certainly appeals to the geek factor when you can raise your hood and let everyone see what you are up to. Hopefully looking cool and not ruining it by inducing a blinding blue flash in the process.

The base workstation uses a Xeon i3 processor and can be configured to accept different multi core processors for more computing horsepower. The 27 inch display features.

Hewlett Packard has been facing stiff competition in all its market segments. Sales have been declining. To combat this they say HP will not try to compete on price which is something it has been trying to do in the personal laptop market. But it has had workstations before which certainly were not priced at the bottom of the market.

HP once had a great reputation for making great computing equipment. It seems to me that the focus should be on service so that people willingly choose to pay top dollar for their equipment. The cool factor of the new Z1 workstation seems like a perfect opportunity for HP to really connect with the engineering community and work with them to deal with computer problems. An initiative like that would likely encourage a lot of companies to standardize on HP workstations and embrace the concept of the power without the tower

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Quirky Inventing and Black Ops at SolidWorks World 2012

SolidWorks World 2012 featured founder Ben Kaufman, whose free service crowdsources the process of bringing new products to market. From invention right through to financing and marketing. Quirky uses SolidWorks at its head office in New York City.

The Black Ops twins also had an interesting presentation with their 80 mile-per-hour robot tank, built on a shoestring but adopted by the US Army. The story of the tanks invention is inspiring as is many of the new products the brothers are now creating using SolidWorks.

The overiding theme of the conference was inventing in your living room. The process of design and invention is becoming easier and easier and within reach of anybody.