SWW09: Prototype This!

Prototype This is a show on Discovery Channel where four engineers create prototypes for radical new ideas.  Dr. Mike North and Joe Grant represented the show at today’s General Session.  From their entrance, we know this would be no ordinary presentation.  Joe was in a Firefigther’s hat, pushing (and pulling) Mike up to the stage in one of their inventions for the local fire department.  It was a cart that could carry firefighting gear up stairs and convert into a chair to assist in the rescue of trapped individuals.

They talked about the earlier struggles they had with the show’s producers in the first few episodes.  The producers expected 100% successful projects of world changing scope each week (in fact they wanted two each week originally).  As the show went on, the producers gained more appreciation for the design process and began to focus the show in that direction.

At the news conference that immediately followed the General Session, Mike and Joe talked about the goals of the show: to show cutting edge technology, to inspire kids, and get them to reconnect with the development process.  As the show went on, they realized that kids started to think the way engineers think about design.  They were becoming interested in a career in engineering.

When the show started, many of the devices were built in very traditional ways (such as reliance on machined parts).  They then started working with companies like Forecast 3D (of which I am also a customer from time to time) to utilize rapid prototyping technologies.

I asked them, “How long have you been using SolidWorks, and how did you first become aware of the software?”  Mike (the mechanical guy) explained that before the show, he did not do the type of work that exposed him 3D CAD modelling often.  He discovered SolidWorks through the course of the show.  SolidWorks Corp provided one seat for them to use.  They then started to design and conduct FEA activities with SolidWorks.  Since then, it has become the show’s “bread and butter”, and that it was the “savior of the show”.  Mike explained that SolidWorks helped the show go from being a build-show to become a design-show.  You can’t get plugs better than that.

Another area they began using heavily was 3D printing.  Not only did using this technology speed up the design cycle, producers where enthusiastic about being able to print actual working parts right in front of the camera.  Mike and Joe showed off a wall walking device that would support 80 lbs of weight on window.  The structure of the device was 3D printed.  It had a shape and composition that could not be reproduced using traditional manufacturing means.

As the show progressed in season one, the producers began to understand that failure of a project is still an engineering success.  Failure is needed in order to learn and to succeed.  Sucess is measured by the achievements within the project.  It appears that SolidWorks played a significant role in helping this transition in their mindset by providing the backbone of the design process so that sucesses could be realized much faster.

Author: fcsuper

As a drafter, mechanical designer and CAD engineer, I've been in the mechanical design field since 1991. For the first 8 years of my career, I was an AutoCAD professional. I utilized AutoLISP and many other AutoCAD customization features to streamline drafting activities for 6+ drafters and designers. I authored several custom functions, one of which was published in the March 1997 issue of Cadalyst Magazine. Since 1998, I've been used SolidWorks non-stop. I've worked to utilize the SolidWorks' user environment to simplify drafting and design activities for 20+ engineers. I've created this website to provide current information about SolidWorks from a variety of contributors. More recently, I am now employed by Dassault Systemes as SOLIDWORKS Sr. Product Definition Manager to improve drawing, annotation and MBD related areas.

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