Laser Cut Birdman Costume

One handy tool for prototyping is a laser cutter.  At Salient, we use our laser to cut wood, plastic, cardboard and fabric for testing, prototypes and golden samples.  However, with Halloween upon us, why not make a cardboard Birdman costume using the laser cutter?!  Once you have a pattern, the laser cutter is more precise, repeatable and faster than cutting with a blade.

Here are some basic steps and images of the process.  For full instructions, you can visit

  1. Design the flat pattern in SolidWorks keeping in mind the ideal size and articulation for the wings. (This was very fast, allowing for the quick scaling of parts and patterning of features like feathers.)Laser Cutting Birdman
  2. Cut out the pieces using the laser…. So much faster and accurate then cutting cardboard with a knife!      birdman-laser-cutting-spread
  3. Assemble the pieces using industrial strength hot glue, bolts and nuts for the wings and Gorilla Tape.      laser-cut-birdman-halloween-costume
    And, Voila!  It’s a Birdman Halloween!

Birdman Costume

6 Player Loopin’ Chewie Hack

As a gamer, maker and designer, I am a huge fan of altering toys and games for more exciting play. Sometimes you just need to make a Nerf dart fly faster or make a toy glow in the dark just for fun.  For those that love action games, Hasbro reintroduced the classic Looping Louie this last year with an epic Star Wars version called Loopin’ Chewie.  Gameplay is simple: Chewbacca flies in circles trying to knock over Stormtrooper tokens.  You defend your tokens by hitting a paddle which can launch the erratic Millennium Falcon away from your troopers and hopefully knock out your opponents.  If you are the last to have Stormtroopers, you win.

Well, the original Looping Louie was a Loopin' Chewie, Step 14 player game, and with the reintroduction, the Star Wars edition was dropped to 3 player.  While the game is super fun, I wanted to make play a little more interesting by turning it into a 6 player game.

The necessary 6 Player Loopin’ Chewie Conversion files can be downloaded for 3D print using the link below, but here is a step by step if you want to make one yourself…

1. Supplies:

  1. 2 sets of Star Wars Loopin’ Chewie Game,
  2. 3D printer,
  3. Ability to create the 3D file (or download here

2. Design: Using a photograph of the motorized base as reference geometry, I drew a clip attachment in a 3D CAD software called SolidWorks that would attach to an extra paddle. The base has vertical ridges that come up at an angle, so I was able to use those to help position and hold the part.  I used calipers to measure the features on the original base to make sure my geometry was correct.  With one extra attachment complete, I simply patterned the geometry 3x around the motorized center.

Loopin' Chewie Hack, Step 2

3. 3D Printing: With the 3D file ready, I 3D printed the part on our Formlabs 2 SLA printer out of Tough Resin. This material was ideal since the part has to flex over the base to fit into place… and since it will see proper abuse when things get really competitive. The print took roughly 6 hours and can be seen finished in the machine and with the structural supports removed.

Loopin' Chewie 3D Print - Step 3

4. Assembly: Clip the 6 Player Conversion over the base from
the bottom. Since the print is semi-flexible, it can deform enough to clip over the angled base. The vertical ridges hold it perfectly in place. Attach the 6 paddles. Be careful though – it’s still a 3D print and not as strong as molded plastic. Assemble 6 competitive Star Wars fans, and prepare for battle.

Loopin' Chewie 3D hack - Step 4

5. Play: Get ready, cuz it’s about to get crazy! If you only have 3 players, you can operate a paddle with each hand…. Not easy.

Loopin' Chewie 6 Player hack

Thank You, Teach!


The Lincoln Middle School Students having a go at using the Wacom tablet during their tour of Salient

This last Friday and Saturday, I had the privilege of leading 20 junior high students and 10 high school students through the product design process here at Salient Technologies headquarters. The students traveled to Bozeman to take part in a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics competition.  Picture an intense basketball tournament with dozens of teams, but instead of winning because you can put an orange ball through a metal circle, a team wins by completing complex challenges performed by a robot they built and created.  The teachers coaching the team reached out to Salient for a tour and inside-look in aims to inspire kids to pursue careers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics), more specifically, design and engineering.  It’s funny how things come full circle sometimes. Little did they, or we,  know that the teacher leading the charge for the high school team was my first design/engineering/CAD teacher from nearly 20 years prior… a teacher who inspired me in the very same way.

The tour of Salient consisted of an inside look at the Design Process: what it looks like to take a product from imagination all the way to production.  After working on thousands of products over the years, we were able to reference a handful of fun examples from NASA valves, to familiar household games like Yahtzee.  We looked at industrial design, drawing in 3D CAD (and using Wacom tablets!), video animations, renderings, structural design and designing for manufacturing.  It was just the kind of stuff I was first introduced to in the very same class this teacher was teaching in the mid 90s.


David’s first CAD file – a Hummer…go figure.

During the tour, I pulled out an old, yellowed drawing to share with the group.  It was my very first CAD drawing – a side view of a Humvee drawn under the open-ended instruction of the very same teacher.  It was drawn in 2D AutoCAD back when just printing in color was ground-breaking technology.  I hung onto that simple drawing because it was an exciting discovery for me. It was where I first encountered a new tool that could help amplify my artistic and creative ability. It was the first time I got my hands on the same type of technology I now use almost every day in my exciting career.

On behalf of designers and engineers everywhere, I wanted to say thank you to the teachers who inspired creativity in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  In this specific case, Thank You, Mr. Ruble, for fostering a place of inspiration!


The whole crew of Lincoln Middle Schools’ FIRST program on their tour at Salient Technologies, with NERF guns in tow.


The infamous Mr. Ruble and the FIRST crew from Lincoln High School wrapping up their Salient tour.

Taking Ideas from Good to Great

“Salient has been a vital part of The Ripple product development process, not only from an engineering perspective, but also in terms of design conception and education.  Developing an innovative and functional product is not a black and white process and what separates Salient from the competition is their willingness to dive in and explore all the possible ways your product can look and function. I would definitely recommend Salient to anyone who is ready to turn their idea into a reality.” – Kevin Scharfe, Founder, Warum Studios, LLC

Here at Salient, we get to work with lots of people who have really good ideas, and we love nothing more than helping our clients develop their good ideas into great ideas. So when Warum Studios, LLC approached us with The Ripple, we knew it could be a great product, and the collaboration began.

With some “expert tweaking” – including improving on the bayonet design, size and depth of the bowl, and the ergonomic handle design – Salient kicked out manufacturing files, and The Ripple began a Kickstarter campaign to fund the next phase in production.  In a little over a month, Warum Studios was able to raise almost $30,000 in Kickstarter backing, collect market research and narrow down their target market to people in their 20’s who live in dorms or small apartments; young families and the disabled.ripple-3-horizontal

Now, 10 months after producing their first run, founder Kevin Scharf is proud to say they’ve sold almost 4,000 Ripples to customers all over the world! “What makes The Ripple truly special”, says Scharf, “is not that it’s a detachable bowl and plate, but the possibilities for different dishes and devices that can connect quickly and securely with our bayonet mount.  We are now in the market research phase of adding a smaller bowl to the lineup for kids and possibly a dipping cup/drink holder!”

The Ripple is currently available in retail stores across Montana and was recently published in Japan’s version of the Wall street Journal.  Friday, November 14th, you can tune into the DIY Network hit show, “I Want That”, at 9 PM Mountain Time, to see The Ripple featured as one of the shows coveted items. The Ripple has also been accepted into the “Discover Design” section of the juried Chicago-based International Housewares Show in February 2015. But, if you can’t make it to Chicago, you can purchase your very own Ripple HERE.


SolidWorks Workstation Build

By Steve Sanford

I have always wanted to build a PC from the ground up. Coincidentally, it was always something Joel Switzer (our senior product designer here) wanted to do as well. Around Salient, we were always changing out computer components and upgrading everything “upgradeable” throughout a workstation’s lifecycle. Then eventually, the workstation would be retired and a new (usually Dell Precision) workstation would be put in its place. This time, instead of buying a pre-built workstation, we decided to build two workstations that would be as fast as our budget would allow.

SolidWorks logo

As a certified SolidWorks trainer and tech support provider (in a previous life) I always recommended users buy a balanced workstation. That is, processor, graphics, ram, hard drive speed, etc. should all be balanced for a given budget. In the last couple of years, though, it’s become apparent that less expensive workstation-class graphics cards coupled with the fastest processors resulted in excellent day-to-day results. No one likes waiting around for their CAD system to rebuild solid model geometry, and one core (or thread) in the processor is responsible for that in common 3D CAD systems. Even though SolidWorks is single-threaded–meaning that typical modeling work only utilizes one processor core–other applications, such as photo rendering, video creation, and using multiple programs at the same time can utilize a multi-core processor. At Salient, that’s translated into moving away from Intel Xeon processors and into Intel Core i7 processors for our last several upgrade cycles.

Intel Devil’s Canyon i7 4790k Logo

When Intel announced it’s Devil’s Canyon i7 4790k (the “k” meaning it is unlocked or can be overclocked) and the release new Z97 motherboards, we knew we had try building some dedicated SolidWorks machines. So, with a few tips from Charles Culp and Anna Wood on the SolidWorks forums, an Easy PC builder YouTube video, we used (see this link for our build) to spec out components that would work together.

PC Part-Picker is helpful in figuring out where each component is a good deal, but if you have a Micro Center nearby, they have some great deals on processors and components. Being in Montana–far from the nearest Micro Center…and any other source of components–we found most of the parts we needed on Amazon, Newegg, and Tigerdirect. After they all showed up, we got out our toolkit, slapped on our anti-static wristbands, and set about assembling our two new workstations.

At the same time, we decided to make a timelapse video of the build just for fun. This isn’t meant to educate anyone on putting together a computer, but with a GoPro with suction cup mount and Canon DSLR + intervalometer just itching to be used, we couldn’t resist. Enjoy!

Next up is using these workstations for SolidWorks 3D solid modeling software and Adobe Creative Cloud. After we make sure they’re running smoothly, we’re going to try overclocking, both manually and with ASUS’s AI Tuner to see what kinds of performance gains we can achieve.

Steve Sanford is the President and Co-Owner of Salient Technologies, Inc.


The Importance of an Animation – Using 3D CAD to Tell Stories

If a picture is worth a thousands words, then at 30 frames per second, a video is worth its weight in gold…

Seal Master

In the product design world, a high value is placed on sharing ideas, which springboard to greater things. Animations are helpful for both proof of concept prior to an idea being fully fleshed out and for products that are ready to manufacture.  Today, videos play a pivotal role in getting a product seen by the right person or group, and often lead to purchase or licensing agreements. With social media playing such a large role in our society, creating a video that highlights the key features of your design and why it stands apart from others can be a key player in getting a product to market.

Take Kickstarter for example. Each crowd-funding campaign is required to have a video to share the story behind the idea of what’s being pitched and all the elements that make this particular product worth monetary backing. Frequently, these products are still in a prototype phase, so the value of an animation is immeasurable in being able to paint a picture of something that could potentially exist, but needs funding to actually reach the manufacturing stage.

Earlier this year, Seal Master Corporation approached Salient Technologies, Inc. for help showcasing a product. Using 3D CAD and video editing software, the STI Team was able to provide Seal Master with a technical animation showcasing their inflatable seals and the components that set it apart from the competition. Salient delivered the video they envisioned to communicate product features to potential client and grow their business.

Check out the video animation below:

After working with STI, Dan Jackson, IT Manager for Seal Master Corporation had only good things to say:
“Salient Technologies has been wonderful to work with. From initial draft to final revision, our animation has been created exactly how we envisioned. When many other design firms fell short with our concept, Salient had the knowledge and vision to deliver. They provide quality work for a fair price. Looking forward to working with them in the future for all of our technical animation needs.”

Let Salient Technologies, Inc. help share your idea and vision through the power of animation!

Get Lost! How 3D CAD is Used to Build a Massive Maze

Fall has officially arrived in Bozeman, Montana when the local straw bale maze opens to the public.  Every year, they amaze the community with very large and complex designs that, like the Nazca Lines of Peru, can truly be appreciated from the sky.  Over the years, the Bozeman Straw Bale Maze has given us an immense castle to explore, a pitchfork-holding scarecrow, 3D stage coach and now, an isometric view of a tractor.  This years’ monolith was built out of 4,300 purposefully placed straw bales and now confuses even the greatest of navigators.

Bozeman Straw Bale Maze 2014Asides from being a gigantic maze, beautiful piece of art and an ideal community event, another highlight is how this feat is accomplished. With inspiration for the tractor from the newly added straw bale rides pulled by a classic John Deere, maze founder Dale Mandeville drew up what he wanted to create. “It’s always a challenge because we’re working off just a drawing and then we take what is an 8.5 by 11 inch sheet of paper and turn it into a 150 foot drawing on the ground,” says Mandeville.

After scanning the tractor drawing, the file is brought into SolidWorks, 3D CAD software. From there, a precise grid is placed over the picture and the placement of towers, tents, parking and buildings are added.  A much larger grid scaled to size (roughly 400:1) is then placed on the ground utilizing miles of string and spray paint markers. This grid drawing method allows one to break a complex image into individual manageable squares (finite elements). Utilizing the original drawing as a reference, it is much easier to create one square at a time, one after another until the entire image comes together which can be quite helpful if a projector is unavailable or won’t suffice.

The Maze is one of those events you must experience in person! But if you simply can’t make it, or want a preview, you can experience the 2012 Scarecrow virtually within a 3D environment created with MicrosoftPhotosynth HERE.  Have fun!



David Yakos is VP and Director of Creativity at Salient Technologies, Inc.

3D Printing a Doctor Who Dalek for Yahtzee!


When you can combine 3D printing, product design, Yahtzee and the BBC science-fiction program Doctor Who, you end up with one fun and creative project.  We were tasked by USAopoly to create a Yahtzee dice shaker that represented the evil mutant race of the Daleks, extraterrestrial villains who battle the Doctor though time and space.  USAopoly is well known for playful variations of games like Monopoly, Risk, Life and Yahtzee.

Here is an inside look into the development process.  Wanting to stay true to the details of the Bronze Asylum of the Dalek characters, we started by reverse engineering images from the original costuming.  Paying attention to the fine details, we drew the figure in SolidWorks. SolidWorks is a feature based 3D CAD program that allows us to create a virtual prototype to ensure moldability, symmetry, form and fit.  With the geometry fully defined, we 3D printed a rapid prototype to test geometry and to create a showpiece.  Prototypes are very helpful to ensure dimensions, test the way it feels and to pitch the product at tradeshows. The 3D print was hand painted to represent a final production piece so it could be showcased.


Dalek Yahtee - Creating a Prototype

Dalek Yahtzee - creating a prototype

David Yakos is the VP, Director of Creativity at Salient Technologies, Inc.


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