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AutoCAD and Productivity

August 7, 2012

Do you work for or represent a company that is performing product design in 2D AutoCAD? Then you have a great opportunity to introduce some design group productivity gains by transitioning to a 3D parametric design suite.

How can I make such a bold claim? Personal experience.

At one company I worked for, a fabricated metal product was being redesigned for manufacturability in AutoCAD. Even with AutoCAD 3D, it was a painful process. I pushed for change, and got management buy-in to transition to a package called Alibré Design. It’s a lesser-known tool, and was immature at the time, however having a true 3D parametric design package increased my personal design productivity by over 100%. No more fighting with the software, just designing.

More recently, I was asked to assist another design group within the company to design a set of full-scale training mock-ups for an upcoming contract. Working with the contract drawings and a set of 3D CAD data from a similar project, both mock-ups were complete (pending feature review) within 2 weeks. The data was handed back to the original group, who estimated a time of 5-6 weeks to complete all the detail drawings, using a group of 3-4 AutoCAD detailers (15-24 person-weeks). The same detailing could have been completed by myself in less than two (2 person-weeks). Even allowing for some overestimation and contingency, that is a huge difference.

So, why wouldn’t companies make the transition to 3D? My personal guess is twofold:

1) Cost. AutoCAD is so ubiquitous as to almost be free (and is pirated so much that in most cases, it is being used for free). Contrast that to the cost of a mainstream 3D solid modeling package plus maintenance and server costs, a transition may be dismissed out-of-hand for being “too expensive”.

2) User reluctance. Who would be comfortable throwing out 10, 15, 20+ years of AutoCAD knowledge, macros, and shortcuts?

There is no easy answer, but I’d a company is looking to become more flexible and responsive in their design department, and gain productivity in the long run, looking at a transition away from AutoCAD 2D would be a great place to start.


Seeking Opportunities

July 26, 2012

Welcome, recruiters and employers! On July 25th, 2012, Babcock & Wilcox Canada Nuclear Services undertook some internal restructuring. As a direct result, I was permanently laid off effective that day. Since I keep buying the wrong lottery ticket, I am seeking a new career opportunity.

If you have found this, you likely performed a web search on my name and ended up here. This is where you will find some entrepreneurial ideas and thoughts on sustainability in the archives, and perhaps some ideas that percolate out of my current job search. For more relevant professional information, I would suggest looking at my LinkedIn profile, or sending me an e-mail so can forward a copy of my résumé to you.

Thank you for your interest!

Pocket inductive charger

December 26, 2011

I received some very cozy fuzzy pants for Christmas. The running joke was how static-y they would be on my hairy legs (usually an issue with polar fleece and derivative materials). Half jokingly, I said I should try to develop a charger for my smartphone that worked off of static electricity in my pants.

While perhaps possible (and entirely impractical) that bred another idea. Our houses are rife with electromagnetic fields – how much charging power could one extract inductively with a pocket-sized coil just by walking through our own homes? And, would it be enough to provide a worthwhile amount of power to a modern smartphone?

I have a feeling the answer is “no” to that last one. Perhaps if a coil ran the full length of the pants, and one continually walked through the house, you might get enough… but that doesn’t sound like a typical North American lifestyle to me.


July 17, 2011
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HARSHmallows is an idea that is likely extremely limited as a business idea on it’s own, but could serve as an introduction to or segment of an “extreme snack” and/or novelty market niche.

The premise is simple – update the marshmallow with unusual, “extreme” flavours; jalapeño, sour, wasabi, that sort of thing. Sell them only as miniature marshmallows in small 2 or 3 serving size packages to encourage sampling of all the different flavours. Provide recipes and suggestions as to how to creatively use HARSHmallows, such as jalapeño puffed rice squares.

As a business idea I wouldn’t dump anything into it personally, unless I already had access to equipment that would allow me to make trial runs of marshmallows and a co-packager willing to do small runs. If you’re such a person, by all means give it a try and send me a pack. Jalapeño, please.

Gingerbread Pancakes

December 17, 2009

For some reason, my Facebook account is not letting me write new notes. As I have this blog set up as a note feed, if I post here it WILL show up as a note in my Facebook account. Thus, for all to enjoy is my family’s favourite pancake recipe: Gingerbread Pancakes! Read more…

roadside assistance for wheelchairs?

November 20, 2009

An acquaintance of mine is wheelchair-bound. He uses a power chair to get around, and has adapted his vehicle such that he’s independently mobile. A few months back he posted a quick tale on his blog about how he was out by himself and got his chair hung up on the ramp of his vehicle. He had to violently rock back and forth to get off, which did the trick, but could have just as easily found him lying down in the mud. This got me thinking – would a roadside assistance-type service for wheelchair users be a viable business?
Read more…

time for a transition

November 9, 2009

It has been nearly two years since I last wrote here. Life, as it will do, happened, and the Sustainapedia got put on the back burner. My previosly-planned career change has not happened, and thanks to a fortunate job change, will not happen in the forseeable future. That means that the Sustainapedia doesn’t have the purpose or mission I started it for.

With that in mind, I may rebrand the Sustainapedia and repurpose it. What’s been added here will stay, but going forward posts will not likely have the same focus on sustainability. The exact focus to come is yet to be decided, and may be multifaceted. Time will tell.

To those that encouraged the Sustainapedia, I thank you. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you.

a lot of light, a lot of savings

January 20, 2008

Very surely we’ve been trying to make our lighting in our house more energy efficient. Our foyer fixture has been on a dimmer for a number of years now, any new fixture we get has CFL bulbs in it, and old incandescent bulbs are being replaced with CFLs on a sporadic basis. There has been one light in the house that wasn’t being changed, and it was the one light that I really didn’t like: the 300W halogen ceiling fixture in my kitchen.
Read more…

automotive challenges I’d like to see

November 23, 2007

During my final year in university, I was a member of the University of Waterloo’s Propane Vehicle Challenge team. This was the second year for the Propane Vehicle Challenge, but the first year for the pickup truck category. The Challenge: convert a pickup truck to 100% propane fuel use, focusing on emissions, fuel economy, range, and driveablility. Our team received a Dodge Dakota V8 and competed against teams from across North America. It was a great experience, especially as we won the top prize, beating out the previous year’s champions despite being one of the least-funded teams competing.

The glow of past victory aside, I find myself asking, “Why did we bother?” Nothing any of the teams did was extraordinary technically. All teams used off-the-shelf propane fuelling systems, with only the fuel delivery side being customized by each team. The fuel tank shape was novel, but everything else about it was entirely standard. Essentially, the challenge came down to how we tuned our vehicles. Nothing any one team did could not have been accomplished by any other company or organization involved in the challenge. So what was the point of it all?
Read more…

it wasn’t the biodiesel

November 13, 2007

As it turns out, it was not biodiesel that was giving my New Beetle TDI issues. According to the dealer, there is a techical bulletin from Volkswagen on these vehicles that implicates a valve in the fuel system as the culprit. The small amout of gelling biodiesel may have simply prompted the valve to fail (causing fuel starvation, which I took as a gelled filter), but the vehicle was prone to that failure regardless of the fuel.

Now, I’m still nervous about using biodiesel in an unheated fuel system. The B100 I got actually turned solid below freezing, so it may have been (and likely was) produced from some pretty heavy feedstock (possibly tallow). All fuel is not created equal! So I’ll stick with petrodiesel for this winter, and consider any fuel heating modifications next spring/summer.

I still stand by my recommendations that you know how to change your fuel filter before you start using biodiesel, but rest assured that it was not biodiesel that was causing the vehicle troubles I’ve been experiencing.