Can you tell me about yourself?
I’m an engineer by day and a gamer by night. When not doing either of those, I’m usually taking care of things around the house, working on side projects, and spending time with my wife and baby son. Sleep happens too, somewhere in there.
Professionally, I’m employed by Apogee Instruments as their lead mechanical engineer. Apogee sells environmental instrumentation for weather stations, research, agriculture, and more. My role there is to design and develop the products we sell. I work with research scientists and electrical engineers during the development process, bringing together marketing and technical requirements, overall aesthetics, and manufacturing/production considerations. I typically oversee and develop a product from inception to completion, handling everything from conceptual sketching and prototyping to component sourcing and production training. Out of all that I do there, my favorite is taking ideas from concept to reality using SOLIDWORKS.
What problem did you want to solve?
I spent about a week and a half of the contest period brainstorming ideas and looking for problems to solve. I poked around in xDesign a bit, eager to give it a spin, but didn’t want to dive in too far before I had something to work on. It turns out that I didn’t have to look too far. Our son is a large part of our daily lives, and being a parent is full of challenges and opportunities for improvement.
We strive to keep him well fed, safe, happy, and healthy. He loves pacifiers, so we often end up taking them with us wherever we go. As most parents know, they can easily pick up dirt, germs, lint, or hair when not in use. Gross. What I usually end up doing is washing them off periodically, but that’s both wasteful and inconvenient.
What solution did you come up with?
I decided to design a pacifier that could fold up to protect itself, and reduce the overall size for storage. I have seen a couple examples of this on the market, but I wanted to try to give it a unique spin, and more importantly, see if I could do it in all within xDesign. It took some time to figure out, along with plenty of trial and error. In the end I came up with a solution that worked as intended. Most excitingly, I was able to export my design and 3D print a prototype to play around with.
How did you use SOLIDWORKS xDesign?
I used xDesign on both Windows and macOS using an internet browser. I started with sketches on paper and then used xDesign to give them shape. The process proved to be pretty enlightening, as it was both limiting and liberating.
Using xDesign presented some frustrations, which is expected from new software. The version I was given access to had some missing features, bugs, and occasional crashes. This version was a bit tedious when trying to bounce back and forth between assemblies and their individual components, a process much slower than SOLIDWORKS desktop. I also struggled without 3D mouse support and mouse gestures, which have become second nature to me. When time is limited, these can be some tough pills to swallow.
On the bright side, there were some great features I came across. I liked the simplicity of changing from an extruded boss to a cut, and the more intuitive mating features. There were a few times I realized that SOLIDWORKS could learn a thing or two from xDesign. Sure, there are still a lot of missing features, but for the ones present I could tell that plenty of thought had gone into making them right.
I appreciated being able to leave one computer, and pick up right where I left off on my home laptop, which cannot run typical CAD software. I also experimented with my phone, and while harder than a keyboard/mouse setup, the potential and utility is clear. With continued development, I wouldn’t be surprised to see xDesign rival, or perhaps surpass, the capabilities of SOLIDWORKS.
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