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News from the Developer

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Product News, Updates and Tips from the Developer

ViaCAD/SharkCAD Service Packs:

The development team has been working on rolling out service packs for ViaCAD and Shark. The English language updates for ViaCAD 2D, ViaCAD 2D/3D, and ViaCAD Pro are ready now. This update includes 50+ corrections and minor enhancements. Some of the key changes include:

• Support for MacOS 10.13 High Sierra

• KeyShot 7 Live Linking

• DWG/DXF Updates

For a complete list of changes, visit the PunchCAD User Forum. To access the latest build for ViaCAD, launch the application and select the Current Version from the Window menu bar.

Mac OS 10.13 High Sierra Released:

Apple recently released Mac OS 10.13 High Sierra. The new release has been challenging for some users and apps including ViaCAD/Shark. The new OS unfortunately broke some of the event handling in ViaCAD and Shark. The V10 service pack corrects this issue. Be sure to get the ViaCAD/Shark update before updating your OS. If you updated the OS before updating ViaCAD/Shark, contact Encore technical support for direct download links.

Unfortunately, earlier versions including V9 no longer work with the new OS. You will need to either upgrade to V10 or hold off updating to Mac OS 10.13.

Tips, Tricks and Design Examples

Tip of the Month: Feature Array with Gripper

Feature Arrays with Gripper

Below is a tip from the ViaCAD Tips and Tricks E-Book for copying groups of faces representing features. Click the image to see a video demonstration of the tip performed with ViaCAD.

How can I copy a feature with the Gripper?

  • Use the Deep Select tool to select the faces associated with the features you want to copy.
  • Then, hold down a copy key and drag the faces to a new location. Upon release, the copied
  • faces are merged into the body.
  • After you copy faces, you can go to the Data Entry Window to do a linear or polar array. Note

you can only select faces inside a larger face. Selecting the most outside face will fail the copy operation.

For more tips like this check out the ViaCAD Tips and Tricks E-Book.


3D Printable Wrench with ViaCAD

We gave ViaCAD 2D/3D a spin recently and tested the direct edit features of the app using the 3D printable wrench files found on Thingiverse. Our design mission was to create a branded version of the wrench by replacing the slot and some imprinted text from the initial STEP file.

Using the white flexible plastic material option from Shapeways, we printed an eight inch version of the part for $29.

Watch the video to see the steps used to derive this version of the 3D printable wrench. Or jump to 16:50 of the video to see the final 3D printed part.

This was a fun exercise using ViaCAD 2D/3D and 3D printing of an assembly of moving parts. However, the moving pieces are tight. It took a bit of Vaseline and lots of prying to get the screw to move smoothly!

Printing Out Your 3D Designs with Third-Party Services

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

The world of 3D printing is only growing – and quickly!

If you’re ready to jump into your own designing and prototyping, but aren’t ready to invest the time, money, and space required of in-home 3D printing, you have plenty of options for outsourcing the actual printing.

Using a third-party 3D printer comes with many benefits:

  • Convenience – send off an electronic file and wait for your design to be realized; perfect especially if you’re not ready for small-scale in-home 3D printing
  • Scalability – produce more products in less time
  • Quality control – know that you’re getting a top-notch, professionally-made final piece

We are outlining the types of 3D printing services that exist, covering the most popular, though there are dozens of these services that exist globally. We list important factors like materials, printing methods, and bonus factors. And if you need a refresher on printing technologies, check out another blog of ours – 9 common printing methods.

The standard model for outsourcing 3D print jobs is uploading your design, getting a price and delivery quote, and waiting for the product to arrive on your doorstep. We share four popular services along these lines, but you’ll be surprised with a couple brick-and-mortar options that may exist in your area, as well.

Overall, the companies we researched offer a range of price points based on material and finish, design, and processing time. These are difficult to estimate until you can share a specific design with the company in order to get a price quote. Know that there are very affordable entry-level costs for beginner designs.

(For more specific prices, check out this comprehensive review of some companies included here. They used 3Dbenchy to source quotes in popular materials.)

Without further ado, here are our recommendations for third-party 3D printing services.


This Dutch start-up was formed in 2009 and today houses its primary printing locations, called “Factories of the Future” in Queens, New York, and Eindhoven, Netherlands.

  • Materials and finishes: 50+, including porcelain, ceramic, metal, various plastics, wax, and sandstone
  • Printing methods: selective laser sintering (SLS), Binder jetting, wax casting/material jetting
  • File formats: accepts designs in STL, OBJ, X3D, DAE, Collada or VRML97/2 (WRL); designers can convert into these formats
  • Shipping: 3-10 business days
  • Markets: rapid prototyping; industrial-grade printing; instant pricing; automatic and manual checks on design printability; no up-front costs or minimum order size beyond what you order; dedicated tech support
  • Bonus: Provides printing and design tutorials, and real-life inspiration from community printers


Started in France in 2009, Sculpteo now has several locations, including one in San Francisco. Their app and Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud integration allows for print ordering directly from smartphones.

  • Materials and finishes: Dozens, including acrylics, aluminum, steel, and stainless steel
  • Printing methods: SLS, binder jetting, polyjet, metal casting, and more
  • File formats: accepts over two dozen 3D formats; see their table for more info
  • Shipping: Ships worldwide; in-person pick up available in San Francisco
  • Markets: Rapid prototyping; additive manufacturing; cloud engine; agile metal technology; laser cutting services
  • Bonus: Offers plenty of free tutorials, ebooks, and webinars


This publically-traded company was founded in Belgium in 1990, so they are serious about their experience. They tend to be a bit more professional, with major business partnerships, but hobbyists can take advantage of their experience, too.

Materials and finishes: 20 materials options; 100+ color and finish options, including gold plating and polishing

  • Printing methods: Uses exclusively Industrial printers – stereolithography (SLA), SLS, FDM, binder and material jetting, indirect metal printing, and more
  • File formats: 40+ accepted
  • Shipping: Flat rate depending on your location; can upgrade to 48-hour printing
  • Markets: Major experience; they are the “trusted partner” of Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, SketchUp, and Twikit
  • Bonus: Students get 10% discount

3D Hubs

This option works differently than the previous companies, who print your design and ship it to your door. Instead, 3D Hubs is a network of more than 6,000 3D printing locations worldwide. In fact, they claim that 1 billion people have access to a 3D printer within 10 miles of home. Their goal is to reduce the waste, time, and inventory associated with shipping from one location – with an aim to change how we rely on goods.

  • Materials and finishes: prototyping plastic, high-detail resin, SLS nylon, fiber-reinforced nylon, rigid opaque plastic, rubber-like plastic, transparent plastic, simulated ABS, full-color sandstone, and industrial metals and alloys
  • Printing methods: FDM, SLA, SLS, jetting, direct metal laser sintering (DMLS)
  • File formats: STL or OBJ
  • Ship time: Average 48-hour turnaround
  • Markets: rapid prototyping; additive manufacturing; supply-chain production on demand; consulting and design services; bulk orders (from 50-50,000)
  • Bonus: Students and educators get 25% off – always; lots of major companies use these guys, including Texas Instruments, Tesla, and GE

Surprising printing options

Before you head off into the wide world of online options, you may want to check out your local libraries and community colleges. We’ve found a lot of these institutions offer innovation and digital learning labs that provide access to different types of 3D printers. Some offer a limited number of free print jobs with your library card or really affordable options for those enrolled in the community college.

Across the U.S., UPS Stores are beginning to offer 3D printing at select locations – simply access your CAD files and head in!

These 3D-Printed Products Will Surprise You

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

The technology industry is buzzing at how 3D printing is the next big thing. And it is! But it’s not something that we are just waiting around for something to happen – it’s happening right now.

3D objects can feel limited to plastics, ceramics, and metals. Or the application of 3D printing offers products that are nice and convenient, but not quite yet changing the world. In today’s article, we are sharing some incredible 3D-printed products that will surprise you.

Oral medication
In 2016, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) gave its first-ever approval to a 3D-printed drug. Spritam is an oral medication that helps treat epilepsy – and its website highlights how 3D printers made it.

The producers of Spritam credit printing process stereolithography (SLA) with helping to create ZipDose Technology. This patented technology is a new way for medicines to rapidly dissolve and disintegrate with only a small sip of liquid, something that hasn’t been done with traditional drug production methods. The 3D printing process means the drug isn’t made using compression, punches, or die casts. Instead, the technique allows the drug’s production to bind layers of powdered medication with a water-based substance. The pill is a solid medicine that has many tiny spaces or holes, allowing it to dissolve quickly.

3D printing allows for this drug to hold a lot more active ingredients, up to 100mg of medication, while still being easy and quickly dissolvable, and still tasting better than a lot of oral medications.

The potential for 3D printing in this field is huge: imagine the taste options printing a drug could offer – while still ensuring precise dosage and easy-to-administer medicine. It’s not a far stretch of the imagination to see a time when a person could print their medicine at home.

People have been making glass for thousands of years, and it’s even considered an art. So why are we excited about glass that could be 3D printed?

For nearly a century, glass has been made in factories. The process starts with melting sand, and then floating the molten sand sheets into large tanks of molten tin. It’s a process that is very risky and can be unsafe, as it involves extremely high heat. Combustibility of the glass is major concern. Further, glass factories can be significant polluters and users of raw materials, so the environmental risks must be weighed.

3D printing could be changing this decades-old process. In April 2017, a German research team offered a new method for making glass: “liquid glass” that can be shaped into complex shapes using 3D printers, then heated into a solid.

Other organizations have already 3D printed glass, but the process of this German team makes it much easier to create a smooth and transparent object. More complex details are easier to design and execute, reducing the time and cost of creating such glass. That means 3D-printed glass could revolutionize the eyeglass and mirrors industries, reducing the time and materials required for creating these customized pieces, thereby reducing the cost.

It’s also a lot safer, and relies on a lot less valuable environmental resources. As an additive process, 3D printing allows for using a nearly exact amount of raw material, without much waste.

Body tissues
Healthcare was one of the first forecasted industries ripe for a 3D printing revolution. Industry experts and hobbyists alike immediately seized on the potential for 3D printing to offer custom-built medical devices, like pacemakers, prosthetic limbs, and medical models and tools. Traditionally, these pieces require a lot of time and money to build, and their useful lifespan may not be that long, with quality sometimes remaining elusive. 3D printing is already changing that – allowing medical professionals to print pieces as-needed, and customize them to the individual patient.

But recently, several universities and companies are starting something beyond just implants and objects: they are 3D printing skin tissue, blood vessels, and heart tissue.

In January 2017, a collaboration of a Spanish university, research group, hospital, and health firm presented a prototype for a 3D bioprinter that creates human skin. The printed skin can be used directly in transplants to patients, or as research substance for chemical, drug, and cosmetic testing.

Instead of using cartridges of material or colored inks, the bioprinter relies on ‘bioinks’. These bioinks allows the user to mix biological components, such as cells, in a way that the components continue to function. The prototype offers affordability and scalability: depending on the intended purpose, skin can be printed in large quantities or customized for an individual patient.

Bioinks are being used in other bodily tissue printing, though these are still in developmental stages. A Chinese research team confirmed in December 2016 that they had implanted 3D-printed blood vessels into monkeys. Other researchers and scientists worldwide are developing ways to use 3D printing to create heart tissue.

The future of 3D printing is here. With the time, money, and research investments made into this technology, we can fully anticipate revolutions in several important industries in the 21st century.