Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Announcing the ADI Post Collection

Advanced Decisions is proud to announce the release of its first blog post compilation, giving you a quick and easy information resource developed straight from our blog. In it, you’ll find key industry insights and advice that will help your firm to better develop and deliver solutions in the ever-changing world of technology solutions.

Volume 1 Topics
• When Is Software Ready To Demo?
• Are Code Reviews Still In Vogue
• Embedded System User-Interface Tips
• Planning Your Next Embedded System
• To Reuse Firmware Or Not To Reuse

Download Volume 1

Thanks and enjoy,
Gary Felberbaum

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My Favorite Productivity Apps

It's been 4 months since I abandoned my notebook as my primary computer. Now I use a PC Desktop computer exclusively at work and a tablet (iPad) when away. It has been a pretty smooth transition, experimenting with various apps that allow me access to all my data, documents and messages wherever I am.

I have narrowed down the app field to a few favorites:

Evernote is my go-to for keyboard-entered notes. It's easy to use, works seamlessly on all my devices and provides a simple way to create and manage text, audio and webcam notes. In Evernote, I am able to keep all of my notes and information organized by categories within notebooks. I have been using the free version for several years.

Notability is a more recent addition to my iPad. It is a low-cost app that is optimized for the iPad allowing me to completely replace a paper notebook. When typing notes is not an opton and more free-form entry is required this app is a terrific tool. Using a standard stylus, I am able to create and modify handwritten notes and diagrams easily, which can then be printed, or saved to a PDF file on a variety of cloud-based platforms including Dropbox. One of the best features of Notability is its sliding virtual wristguard preventing erroneous marks appearing on the document when resting your writing hand.

After experimenting with various cloud platforms for collaborating with team members and clients, I have chosen Dropbox as my primary storage and shareable resource. Although I have access to iCloud, Google Drive and SkyDrive, I found it is much too complex to try to use more than one. I chose Dropbox since I found it to be the most widely accepted and easiest to use. I am able to access and share documents, programs and images in Dropbox folders from my desktop PC, iPad and iPhone. One unanticipated bonus is that each time a document is updated the old version is saved. More than once it was helpful to go back and reread or restore from an earlier file version.

There are times when you just need to gain access to your work computer remotely. I have found that PocketCloud and its companion program that resides on the remote PC provides that capability in a simple-to-use application. This program basically converts your tablet to a remote desktop. It looks and feels like you are running Windows on your tablet and comes with a unique "mouse" pointer for navigating Windows remotely.

The biggest disappointment for me is the lack of good support for editing and creating Microsoft Office documents tools on the iPad. There are a variety of apps to read any Microsoft-formatted document (e.g. Word, Excel and PowerPoint). However the tools to create or edit MS Office files on the tablet are pretty simplistic, somewhat expensive and have limited access to cloud platforms for sharing. Even Microsoft's own Office Mobile for Office 365 (which requires an Office 365 subscription) only runs on the iPhone and only supports Microsoft Skydrive.

What are your favorite productivity apps?


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Reflections On 3D Printing

Advanced Decisions recently co-sponsored a 3D printing and additive manufacturing panel discussion in Shelton, CT, which went great and opened my eyes to the astounding potential of 3D printing.

Here are some of the take-home points I gleaned from the presentation:

1. Not just about plastics. 3D printing can be used with all sorts of materials including metals, food and biological.
2. Biological 3D printing is on the rise, including capabilties for printing prosthetic body parts.
3. The focus isn't limited to creating mechanical parts but also new materials.
4. Found a niche in the market of replacing and repairing obsolete parts.
5. Ideal for rapid prototyping during new product development.
6. Manufacturing is undergoing transition from conventional to additive. Twenty years ago 3D printing could make 10s of units but can now make 100s and in some cases 1000s of units economically.

And if you're interested in learning more, here are some 3D printing articles I found useful:

US Navy considering 3D printers on carriers
3D printer saves a boy's life
NASA considering 3D printers


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing Seminar

Update: Read the follow-up to this post, Reflections On 3D Printing.

Advanced Decisions is proud to be a co-sponsor of a Ratafia Ventures seminar on 3D printing and additive manufacturing, to be held on Thursday May 23. More information about the event is located below. If you are interested in attending please contact Manny Ratafia at or 203-387-7348. 

The event will host a panel with broad and diverse experience in the rapidly emerging technologies we call additive manufacturing and 3D printing, poised to revolutionize business, from how we design and develop to how we build prototypes to how we manufacture and distribute products. Our speakers will provide insights into these technologies, relating their personal experiences and providing advice. After the formal presentations, we will have Q&A and discussion, followed by a reception.

Date: Thursday, May 23, 2013

Location: Robert D. Scinto, Inc., 3 Corporate Drive, Shelton, CT 06484

Time: 4:00pm to 8:00pm

  • Registration, networking and refreshments from 4:00pm to 4:45pm

  • Program from 4:45pm to 6:40 pm

  • Wine reception from 6:40pm to 8pm

Fee (please contact Manny Ratafia at or 203-387-7348 to pay):

  • $40 is payment received or postmarked by May 16

  • $65 is payment is received or postmarked by May 20

  • $75 is payment is received or postmarked after May 20

  • $90 at the door by cash or check (if space is available)

The presenters are:

  • Mark Bliek

  • Sam Brauer

  • Justin Coutu

  • Jeff Crandall

  • Kevin Dyer

  • Bruce Popek

Moderator and meeting organizer: Manny Ratafia

Presenter Bios

Mark Bliek

Mark Bliek is President of Bolton Works in East Hartford, CT, a leading firm in 3D Scanning, Metrology and Reverse Engineering, as well as 3D Printing. Over the last 25 years, Mark Bliek held positions involving rapid prototyping, 3D scanning and reverse engineering. While at Materialise, first in Belgium from1991 to1995 and then in the US  from 1996 until 2001, he worked in the use of techniques currently driving innovation in additive manufacturing. From 1996 to 2001, he founded and directed the Materialise US operations in Ann Arbor, MI. While Director for Materialise USA, Mark reported trends in the field of rapid prototyping and scanning and gave direction to new software developments. Earlier in his career, working in The Netherlands, Mark was a Software Engineer at Somatech, and did work in 3D CAD systems for Teser, Wiva and Rendeck.

Mark Bliek founded Bolton Works in 2002 to develop automated metrology systems using scanning technology. Since 2005, Bolton Works has done projects for Pratt & Whitney and the United Technology Research Center, including baseline accuracy determination of industrial White Light scanners and development of an automated reporting system for dimensional deviations in turbine blades. Bolton Works has also attracted clients outside the manufacturing world, from dental products to jewelry to the arts.

Sam Brauer

Samuel Brauer, PhD, is a Partner in Nanobiz and CEO of Nanotech Plus, LLC, both in Stamford, CT. Sam has worked on commercializing advanced materials in areas such as coatings, filtration, photovoltaics, fuel cells, batteries, pharmaceuticals, and personal care. A recent project for the government of Catalan, Spain involved new manufacturing technologies including 3D printing and focused on new materials and construction processes for transportation and energy generation. Sam has an extensive background in market research, including estimating market sizes in widely diverse industries, with an emphasis on advanced materials. While most of his projects today are undertaken as a partner in Nanobiz, Sam is also the founder of Nanotech Plus, LLC, an alliance of consultants focused on the business of nanotechnology, offering analysis of this burgeoning field to major corporations, small materials companies, venture capital firms and angel investors, and large financial institutions.

Prior to Nanotech Plus, Sam was with the Business Communications Company, leading market research on a range of advanced materials topics, including polymer nanocomposites, carbon nanotubes, advanced polymer composites, DNA micro arrays and in vitro toxicology.

Sam Brauer’s presentation at this meeting will focus on materials that can be used for 3D Printing.  Although thermoplastics remain the most common type of material, a range of other materials are also being used. 3D printing has produced parts with metals, ceramics, hydrogels, and grapheme, in addition to polymers. The ability to incorporate these types of materials greatly expands the utility of 3D printing to produce more complex devices such as circuit boards, aerospace parts, and medical devices.

Sam Brauer received his PhD in Chemistry from Dartmouth. His views have been quoted in a variety of publications, including Fortune, Forbes, Business 2.0, Boston Globe, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Chemical & Engineering News, Chemical Market Reporter, and Small Times Magazine.

Justin Coutu

Justin Coutu is the General Manager of R&D Technologies in North Kingstown, RI, a company that has been in the 3D Printing industry since the early 2000s. Justin is responsible for implementing the company’s business plan, as well as managing operations, finance, sales, marketing, technical support and service bureau activities. Using CAD files, R&D’s in-house 3D printing systems can produce high-resolution prototypes for shipment to companies across the U.S.. R&D serves the rapid prototyping needs of the manufacturing, consumer product, medical device, education, defense and industrial markets, and is a reseller of the Stratasys line of 3D printing and rapid prototyping systems throughout New England.  R&D also is a service bureau for companies throughout the U.S. who outsource their prototype printing.

R&D’s printers have been used to print rifle scopes, medical endoscopes, exact replicas of houses, golf balls, and models of the heads of conjoined twins for surgeons to use to prepare for operations. R&D has also made a prototype of a console and joystick assembly for underwater exploration vehicles that were used during the BP oil spill catastrophe

At this meeting, Justin will discuss the value of having 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping available to you and their role in the design, research and product development cycle. He will describe how this technology is significantly reducing the time-to-market for new products and help make products faster, better, and cheaper. Justin will discuss how you can bring Objet 3D Printing into your organization and how this technology can help your company grow. He will also describe the material choices. There are currently more than 107 options for Objet printers alone.

A 1997 graduate of Roger Williams University, Justin earned a BS in business with a minor in engineering.  In 2010, he received his CAD certification in SolidWorks 3D design software from Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp.

Jeff Crandall

Jeff Crandall is the Laser Applications Engineer for Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT) in East Hartford, CT. He is directly responsible for projects involving metals additive manufacturing using CCAT’s Optomec 850R Laser Engineered Net Shaping (LENS) system and is the project coordinator for other laser materials processing projects. Currently, CCAT owns the only Optomec system in New England and is working on several federal government additive manufacturing programs as well as additive development projects for private companies.

Prior to coming to CCAT, Jeff was one of the founding members, and held an operations management position at JDS Uniphase Corporation. He has twelve years of laser and optical systems research and development experience doing laser spectroscopy, diagnostics and analysis for NASA’s Space Shuttle Main Engine and Pratt & Whitney’s National Aero Space Plane (NASP) engine programs at United Technologies Research Center in Connecticut; and laser based research and scientific imaging work for aerospace gas turbine and liquid fuel rocket engine programs at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Kevin Dyer

Kevin Dyer is the Founder, Owner and President of InterPRO, located in Deep River, CT. InterPRO provides 3D printing, rapid prototyping, additive manufacturing and related services that help individuals and companies develop better products faster, and at lower cost. The InterPRO team includes engineers, designers, craftsmen, artists and highly skilled model makers. InterPRO serves clients in a range of industries, including aerospace, defense, medical products, hospitals, automotive, electronics, consumer products, universities and other research institutions. InterPRO services include:

  • Computer-aided design and engineering

  • Rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing (SLA, SLS, DMLS, FDM, Polyjet)

  • CNC machining

  • Rubber molding and cast urethane prototypes

  • Professionally painted appearance models

  • Plastic injection molding

  • Medical prototypes for research and surgical planning

Kevin founded InterPRO in 1996. After earning a B.S. in Computer Science at UMass/Amherst in 1984, Kevin joined Data General Computer Corporation as a software engineer.  He joined Evans & Sutherland Computer in 1986 as an Applications Engineer. Kevin was promoted to direct sales with E&S the following year, responsible for selling high-resolution graphics supercomputers used in biomedical research, flight simulation and mechanical modeling. Kevin was hired by California-based 3D Systems in October 1988 as District Salesperson for the northeast U.S., one year after 3D Systems developed the first 3D printing technology. Kevin was promoted to Northeast District Manager in 1991. In his eight years with 3D Systems, Kevin worked closely with Pratt & Whitney, Hubbell, U.S. Surgical, Torrington Company, Hamilton Standard, The Siemon Company, Raytheon, Grumman, Tupperware, Converse, Leviton and others, helping them integrate 3D printing and additive manufacturing into their product development, testing and manufacturing processes.  The installed cost for a 3D Systems machine was then between $300,000 and $700,000.

Kevin launched InterPRO in 1996 and 3D Systems offered InterPRO the opportunity to become a reseller for their new lower cost ThermoJet 3D printers. InterPRO also became a reseller of reverse engineering software and digital sculpting systems as well.  InterPRO currently has ten employees, and is now the largest provider of rapid prototyping services in the New York/New England area.

Bruce Popek

Bruce Popek is President of Design Innovation, Inc., in Avon, CT, a leading product design and development firm working with Fortune 100 companies, inventors, and entrepreneurs.  For 25 years, they have been fully integrated in the product development cycle, working on brainstorming, concept design, production drawings, and manufacturing follow-up. Clients include Cannondale, Conair, Edible Arrangements, Otis Elevator, and Yale.

Before founding DII, Bruce was Director of Design at Coleco Industries, responsible for aesthetics and human factors for ColecoVision and the Adam Computer system. As design director of preschool and games, he was involved in concept evaluation and development of those concepts from Tomy Japan.  Bruce started as a designer for Prince Corporation (now Johnson Controls), designing accessories for General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler.  Working with National Semiconductor and Cadillac, he was on the team that developed the first automotive computer for drivers’ use.

DII entered the CAD age in 1993 with one seat of Pro Engineering and, in 1997, became an early user of SolidWorks. Today, they employ product designers, mechanism developers and model makers that use 3D CAD in performing a multitude of development tasks. Their work for a project may include pencil sketches, mock-ups, 3-D CAD, 3-D printing of models and prototype mechanisms.  They have in-house capabilities to create RTV molds, urethane castings and thermo-formings.

In late 2002, DII entered the age of 3D printing with the purchase of a 3D Systems Thermo Jet wax printer.  Since 2012, they have been using an ObJet 30 printer. DII uses their 3D printing system along with CNC machining, SLA models to build prototypes, evaluation models, working models, and photography sales samples.  The ability to print models overnight gives them a competitive edge over competition while saving clients time and money.  The accuracy of the Objet 30’s additive layer process and photopolymer materials hold production tolerances for engineering mechanisms and also reduces finishing time for appearance and working models.

Bruce is a graduate of the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, MI with a BFA in Automotive Design. He is a member of the APMM, Association of Professional Model Makers.

Moderator and Meeting Organizer—Manny Ratafia

Manny Ratafia is an entrepreneur, management consultant, and angel investor. He has founded and run ventures in a variety of technology areas, organized conferences and meetings, and has consulted to owners and senior executives of companies on a range of management, market, and technology issues. His educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from The Cooper Union and master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and in Engineering and Applied Physics from Harvard, and an MBA from Dartmouth. In the past, when he worked as an engineer and manufacturing process researcher, he has been involved in extensive product design, development, manufacturing, manufacturing process improvement, and has personally run various types of machining equipment, including some automated equipment, and has done some computer-aided design. As a management consultant, he has developed and helped commercialize products in medical devices, sensors, scientific instrumentation, and physical therapy/physical fitness markets, and has consulted on several product development/manufacturing company acquisitions, consulting at times for both acquiring companies and companies being purchased. Manny has served on the boards of directors and advisory boards of several start-up companies and non-profit organizations. Manny’s research and opinions have been published and quoted in more than 100 general, business and scientific publications in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.

Friday, March 15, 2013

When Is Software Ready to Demo?

During the development of custom software applications I am often confronted by the question of when to demonstrate software that is still under development.

The fear of every developer is to allow individuals to interact with the software before it is "ready." Of course, defining "ready" is the challenge--but so is defining who is giving the demo, its purpose and the composition of the audience.

In the early stage of development, as a developer or technical lead, I am the one pushing for a demo intended to uncover questionable areas of the requirements definition or technology issues as early in the development process as possible. (The actual software may very well be throwaway code.) For this to be effective, the test application should be created rapidly with a single focus (e.g. illustrate performance, screen layout, work-flow, or even error handling). The main idea is to eliminate as many unknowns as possible and to throw light upon aspects of a complex system as early as possible. We want to avoid going down a path too far, only to find we are proceeding in the wrong direction. These demos are typically oriented for technical people on the team as well as stakeholders.

The next opportunity for a demo is the more traditional usage. At this stage of development, the application is not complete but major functions are implemented and tested. The purpose is to measure the applications performance against requirements in a controlled setting. One example is to gain feedback observing typical users, where feasible, interacting with the application. Are there confusing areas? What happens when a mistake is made?

Another effective demo is to stress-test the application. This can be done by scripting data entry or transactions for example. Allow the application to run for an extended period of time and measure performance. Now I am looking to expose areas of weakness and potential bottlenecks that must be addressed.

Finally the software is code complete, tested and ready for release. It is safe to demo at a trade show and in front of potential customers. In fact, at this stage, the software is ready for beta site deployment.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Changing Mobile OS Landscape

As we begin 2013, and to nobody's surprise, there are two dominant smart phone operating systems, Android and iOS.

Recent data in Business Insider states that as of Q3 2012 Android and iOS account for over 70% of the market share, with Android  accounting for about 75% of that share. In Q4 2012 alone BGR states that worldwide iOS and Android phones made up over 90% of the smartphone shipments.

But after digging a little deeper it becomes apparent that change is on the horizon for 2013.

Most of us are familiar with Windows 8 mobile handsets and Blackberry's recently announced Blackberry 10 handsets -- but lesser known are the 6 or so additional OSs that are in the works, including FirefoxOS, Jolla, Tizen and Ubuntu.

Though these oncoming options are good news for innovation and competition, I suspect our lives as mobile developers will be getting a bit more challenging.

To Reuse Firmware or Not to Reuse

Sometimes on new embedded development projects I am presented the option of repurposing firmware that has already been developed for the intended platform.

At first glance, repurposing seems a no-brainer because of its potential for saving time and effort, but a closer look at the risks involved paints a different picture.

Risks of repurposing firmware include unknown bugs, uncorrected known bugs, poor programming practices, and "fragile" software that becomes unstable after change. And sometimes even though the software is well-written it just doesn't achieve its intended purpose.

Here are some criteria I find helpful when evaluating if I can reuse a firmware code base:

  • Documentation: Does it exist and is it current? (Specifically, I ask for design documentation and test procedures.)

  • Understandability: Simply read through the source code. Does the style and format conform to your standards?

  • Testability: Has the code been unit tested? Can you duplicate the results?

  • Availability of original developer: Can you contact the programmer(s) should you run into problems?

  • Version and source control: Is the software under active management and control?

Unfortunately I have not found a failproof system to make this decision. However if more than half of the above points are answered in the negative I choose to start from scratch.