Archive for the ‘Product Design’ Category

SolidWorks for Entrepeneurs – free, that is!

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

SolidWorks is currently the leading 3D CAD Program out there, and of course, it is a powerful tool in the hands of any designer/engineer, and surely, quite more powerful in the hands of a team of entrepreneurs.

The rules are “simple”: you need to have:

1. less than $1mn in funding,

2. “several” references, whatever that means – they have an FAQ section, which besides making things not so simple only mentions 3 references, and,

3. a product that needs CAD for its design.

Well the last one just makes sense. Imagine collecting references, digging out your tax ID number and all that for a product you don’t even need or can’t even use…

This seems like a very good opportunity for young companies, strapped for cash. Look at the links supplied below to get started! We wish you well, and let people know you heard it here…


1. The SolidWorks for Entrepreneurs Program Page:

2. FAQs on the program:


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Tip: 2-12-2012 – Drafts first or fillets first? Big ‘uns or small ‘uns?

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

We are building and testing our Android Application, as part of a larger schedule to get things out. So, this will be a quick update.

CAD Model Design – the order of drafts and fillets…

You may not be designing a dozen models a week, so this may not concern you much. But when you do, drafts come first and fillets next. If you find yourself in the need to apply different draft angles, which is a bit atypical, then the larger drafts come first.

Similarly, larger fillets come first! This is the order in which you should create the models in the design tree. Take a look at the example below:


[Click on image to enlarge]

In this example, the larger fillets are 6mm, and the smaller fillets are 4mm. Yes, it is a simple enough example that they could have the same radii, but this is a demonstration for the situation you will run into when in your designs. As you can see above, everything appears in order. This is because when the parametric model for this component was built, the larger 6mm fillet was applied first, and then the 4mm fillet was applied.

Now, let us see what happens if this order was reversed, that is, the 4mm fillet had been applied first, and then the 6mm fillet was applied:

[Click on image to enlarge]

As you can tell, creating the smaller fillet first causes quite a bit of havoc. This can potentially cause sharp corners and other potential errors, or simply cause the model to lose fidelity and fail!

You can create a similar example for drafts. If you have accidentally created them in the wrong order, you might be in luck if your model is more symmetric. In a future episode, we will show you how to re-order features in the design tree or design history. If you are using a parametric modeling program such as SolidWorks, SolidEdge, Creo or Inventor, you can look up the help files.

Send us feedback to tips [at] or leave comments with your thoughts!

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A case study in poor design packaging – The “Ozark Trail Vacuum Bottle”

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Blame me for shopping at Wal Mart if you must. But I am broke, and this is 2009. You, the blamer should be the one with excuses, not me (don’t worry Sierra Club members, you do get to yell at me later on). Anyway, it was the peak of summer, rather the beginning of summer 2009, and I decided to permanently switch plastic bottles with metal water cans/bottles.  I was on my way to King’s Canyon National Park and decided to stop by at a Wal Mart and check out any metal water bottles they might have. After searching for a while, I didn’t find any – but I did find the nemesis of my anti-plastics dream, “Ozark Trail Vacuum Bottle Termo”.

To be fair, they did not claim to be “green”, “sustainable” or anything sundry and Verde.

Since , I had no metal bottles I bought the flask and luckily/unluckily did not get to use it during my trip. At King’s Canyon, I managed to buy an SNHA (Sequoia Natural History Association) stainless steel water bottle for premium, hoping I had donated extra for a good cause. A bit troublesome was the fact that the “green” bottle I purchased had a plastic cap…more on that later.

Back home, I opened up my flask thinking I was going to fill her up with cool water and take advantage of it’s “flaskiness” if you will.

What do you think hit me the moment I opened up the flash for a good rinse?

A much less than tolerable, pungent dirty plastic smell that almost burned my nose emanated!

Excuse the drama, but the smell was terrible. I was taken aback, since that is not what I had anticipated from the inside of an “Ozark Trail” product – I have purchased and used many of their camping/outdoor products, as much as an urban boy pretending to be quite the woodsman can..

I looked inside with utmost repugnant curiosity to find this: A plastic strap of some sort meant to be tied so that the lid and flask could be held together. This is where our case study part comes in:

Ozark Trail – A Walmart Brand

A cursory research quickly took me to the root of my problems, at least with regards to this poor flask design anyway. “Ozark Trail” has nothing to do with “The Ozark Trail” and is not an independent company of outdoors-leaning, Prius-driving, energy bar-eating, bikers. It is just a Wal Mart brand. And it is true “Pay, and you get what you paid for”.

In keeping with Wal Mart’s bizarre traditions for the cheap, the Ozark Trail Vacuum Bottle is packaged in a cuboid, with an L-shaped cut-out, so that you can “see” the flask before you buy it, just in case, you have never seen a flask before, or have never de-frocked a flask from it’s fully covered packaging, or have been extremely dissatisfied with photos adorning the outsides of commodity packaging. Take a look at a rather ugly, but functional rendering:


As a result of this weird packaging, things like straps cannot be left loosely around the bottle – which brings us to another question: Why not pre-assemble the strap? Why bother with all this after all?

As a result of the space disadvantage, and in my opinion, oversight on the pre-assembly possibility, the strap was left inside the flask. Here, the strap dutifully emanated such a stench that the flask was practically unusable unless you went way beyond the “rinse with soapy water” before use.

Packaging your design – Design Considerations

1. Before you launch your product, package it and unpack it and use it. Also, give the packaged versions to two types of people – those you expect to typically use it, and those you expect not to use it! Yes, with enough enticement people who would not normally take to a product might and will take to it. They may also show you how your product and it’s packaging go together, and possibly some of the faults lying under there.

2. Your packaging does not have to be fancy – L-shaped cuts would make sense in products which are not as inoculate as flasks. Keep it simple, for your own benefit.

3. If you really want to show people how your product looks or works, leave a tethered, unpackaged version lying around on display shelves.

4. Consider fully pre-asembling your products. This way, your customers don’t have to buy your flask or whatever it is that you sell and either run the risk of either losing it 5 minutes after they buy it (I can’t find the strap anymore!) or have to find tools or cultivate make-shift tools to assemble your product before using it.

5. Worst of all, try to ensure that someone doesn’t have to bleach your product clean before they use it.

A product is not full by itself – it is full in the way it is designed, made, assembled, packaged and sold. A failure to pay attention to one of these areas will lead to misfits such as the “Ozark Trail Vacuum Bottle”.

Happy designing!

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