This interview has been a long time coming. I first reached out to Mark back in September, but I didn’t mark his response and it got buried. I apologized to Mark for my disorganization. He, graciously, accepted my apology. Without further ado, let’s learn about Mr. Mark Lyons.

Mark Lyons

Mark grew up in Marlboro, Massachusetts as one of 10 kids in a blended family. Home life, as one might imagine, was a bit chaotic. He loved sports, focusing on baseball, had three paper routes and spent whatever free time he had at the Marlboro Boys & Girls club or fishing. One of his most vivid memories was when he was 15 and playing on a travelling basketball team. They went to play against another team out of Cambridge who had a player that stood 6′ 11″ at 15-years old. This player constantly knocked Mark’s shot attempts, sending them into the stands. Mark’s team lost to the Cambridge team and their star player, Patrick Ewing, that day.

Mark attended Assabet Valley Vocational High School with plans on learning printing. His family had a print shop in town and he planned on joining the family business. Part of the curriculum at Assabet required that students look at other trades and one of those happened to be drafting. Turns out, Mark was pretty good at it and opted for drafting as career.

After graduating from high school, he opted to join the workforce forgoing college. He worked began working at Hypertronics in Hudson, MA. His quick promotion to Drafting Department Supervisor, at the tender age of 18, was proof that he’d made the right decision.

From Hypertronics, he moved on to Digital Equipment and Prime Computer. Both of whom offered education reimbursement, which afforded Mark the opportunity to go to night school for Mechanical Engineering. Quite the go-getter, Mr. Lyons. It was also at these companies that he was got his first taste of CAD. Unigraphics and then Prime Medusa.

Mark’s career took off at this point. He went to work as a Senior Mechanical Designer at Bose. He worked designing speaker housings for automobiles, mainly supporting GM. His designs could be found in Cadillac, Camaro, Olds, Mercedes and Mazda. At the time, circa 1988, Bose hadn’t moved to CAD. Mark helped change that, though it was a bit before they were using a 3D package (Unigraphics). Being able to truly design in 3D Mark was moved around to various teams to design. He created designs for the first generation noise cancelling headphones as well as the Wave Radio.

The next natural step for Mark was to give back. Assabet recruited him to teach drafting. Talk about coming full circle, eh? He started teaching manual drafting, the AutoCAD. He spent 10 years teaching, getting the school involved in the FIRST robotics program while he was at it. During his off time, Mark had started playing golf, becoming quite good at it. He left teaching and went to work in the golf industry, as a player and teacher. After trying it for a time, he returned to teaching at Bay Path Tech in Charlton, MA. Again, teaching drafting in both AutoCAD and SolidWorks. Three years later, a position opened up at SolidWorks and Mark took it. In his words, he is “the 2D guy”. He is the DraftSight Training Specialist. He creates training material for Draftsight and loves it.

In his down time, Mark loves to spend time with his wife and kids. He also enjoys golfing, fishing and watching the New England Patriots. That, alone, makes him a-ok in my book.


Picture stolen from

March 3, 2013 · Posted in Interview, SolidWorks Community  

It wasn’t until I joined Twitter in July of ’08 that I first became aware of Alistar Dean. How this was even possible is beyond me. Al is one of those people who, upon meeting him for the first time, you know you will never forget. If asked to describe him, I would say he’s an uneven mix of father, scholar, punk and geek. I say uneven as I believe the mixture changes depending on environment. Perhaps ‘chameleon’ would be a more apt description? No matter, it is the sum of these parts that makes up the incredible Human being that is Al Dean.

Let’s back up a bit, though, and talk some about how Al, in his present form, came to be. Al has been surrounded by engineering all his life. His father was a Chief Engineer in the Royal Navy, his grandfather a carpenter on movie sets from the 50′s through the 70′s. It was only natural that Al would develop a fascination with design and manufacturing. It was this fascination that led him to get a degree in product design in the mid 1990′s. That was as specific as he got. I’m not sure if he was being deliberately vague or if he’s simply not sure any more. I suspect either could be true. One of the things I love about Al is he has such a way with words. What he actually said about his college days was “…spent three years arsing about as one does at university.” After those three years of arsing (that could be my new favorite verb), Al came to the conclusion that he wasn’t ready to get a real job so he was able to “blag his way” onto a Master’s Degree in Engineering Product design. I had to look up ‘blag’ to be sure it was an actual word, which it is.

As is typical of college students, he held a number of different jobs. Roofer, bartender (apropos?), chicken processor (WTH?). He then moved on to various contract jobs using Pro/E and AutoCAD. From his reply: “One of the last jobs before I jumped ship was spent designing fridge handles and the associated dies for nearly 6 months straight. A lot of dies and a lot of fridge handles. I think I lost the will to live. Or at least to open doors and discover cold food.” One constant throughout his college career was the reading of CADD (Computer Aided Drafting and Design) Magazine. How fortuitous was it that he spotted an ad placed by CADD looking for a “CAD Software reviewer?” He placed a call, was invited to London, interviewed with the illustrious Martyn Day and the rest is history. During Al’s time there, they turned CADD Magazine into MCAD Magazine, refocusing it on mechanical design while watching the fledgling PC workstation in design industry grow.

(As I’m re-reading, I’m realizing that I may be doing Al a bit of a disservice here. The interview was conducted through email, and his manner of writing is light years beyond mine, as evidenced by the quotes I’ve, er, quoted. He has so many great quotes that would make no sense out of context. That causes me to wonder; do I continue in my words or switch to his? Eh, I’ll stick with mine, I need the practice. Sorry, Al.)

Naturally, I needed to find out how Develop3D came to be. Why was I not surprised to hear that it was conceived of in a pub? It wasn’t until the end of 2007 that Develop3D was born, partially out of necessity. MCAD Magazine was being reorganized and Al, and his cohorts, realizing that they could very well end up unemployed, and that they were virtually unemployable elsewhere (his words, not mine) set about creating their own magazine. What’s even more surprising is that the name was thought up in a Starbucks, not a pub. They had their plan, took as much of the staff as they could, and set up shop. About three months later, MCAD closed its doors.

So, what does Develop3D have to offer that other magazines/ezines don’t? Well, as Al pointed out to me, that is a question best answered by those that read it, so I asked the question on Twitter. Some of the responses I received:

“They just get it. They know what people want to read about and deliver it in a way where it’s easy to take in.” – Chris Serran, Senior Design Leader
“The attention to detail and the characters that write it. They are like Top Gear for CAD” – Rachael Taggart
“Reading other CAD magazines I always have the impression that their customers are the sponsors not the readers. Not for D3D!” – Franco Folini, President of Novedge,
“The guys who run it of course. Show me another mag with such colorful characters.” – Deelip Menezes,

Al did, however, chime in with his own perspective: “We wanted to give people a magazine that gave them a sense of pride in what they do. Other professions or interests have fancy magazines that have actual time and effort spent in making them look slick and read well. Why not design and engineering?”

What they wanted, and what most would agree that they’ve achieved, is a magazine that isn’t chock full of marketing bullshit and hyperbole. The team at D3D talks about the designer’s design, with only a passing reference to the software or hardware used, much to the chagrin of the manufacturers. Apparently, vendors have been known to call up Al and complain that one of their customers was on the cover yet they hardly received any press. Al’s response? Quite politically correct, which I find a bit maddening. To paraphrase, Al simply tells them that people want to read about the designer and his/her influences, not the tools used. This isn’t to say that they don’t talk about engineering tools, because they do. However, they do it in the context of a review of said tools and not as a “co-star” in an article about some incredible design.

The previous paragraph is a perfect segue into my next question regarding Al’s day-to-day duties as editor. He was quick to point out that the true editor of D3D, if there is one, would be Greg Corke. Al’s days are spent communicating with people, essentially keeping his finger on the pulse of the industry. They’ve done a bunch of research on reverse engineering and they’re in the process of researching simulation. Al figures he only spends about 50% of his time actually writing these days. The rest of his time is taken up by “yacking and hustling.” Oh, and working on a sister publication to Develop3d. That, I believe, will be a future post. Just as a teaser, it deals with sustainability.

Even though he’s not out there designing himself these days, he still gets the opportunity to help in design cycles via reader inquiries or friends that ask for a hand. He shared a bit about one such project with me. A reader contacted him to find out what Al knew about laser scanning as he, the reader, had a sculpture he wanted to scan. Nothing out of the ordinary there, right? How about the fact that the sculpture was a blowtelope? Yeah…a Blow fish with Antelope horns. I’m still hoping to see a pic of that, Al.


Picture stolen, appropriately enough, from





March 26, 2011 · Posted in Interview  

Can you guys please get together and fix the issue I’m having with my SpacePilots? The need to have the tool I want to map to my buttons on an active toolbar is ridiculous. One of my favorite things in SolidWorks is the fact that I don’t need to clog my graphics area with toolbars. I like having my space! When I got this SpacePilot PRO, I was beside myself with joy. I LOVE new technology and dove right in. Then I got bit. My button mappings wouldn’t work; not even the default mappings. I uninstalled/reinstalled the 3Dconnexion software to no avail. I called 3Dconnexion’s tech support and was told about the whole toolbar thing. I’d forgotten about that tidbit of information when I was having problems with my SpacePilot last fall. The “solution” I was given was to populate a macro toolbar with the commands I wanted to map to my buttons. Seriously? What is it about the coding in SolidWorks that’s preventing me from being able to use the buttons as designed? Where is the disclaimer telling SolidWorks users about this shortcoming? Are any other CAD packages effected this way? Another thing is the whole ‘S’ key thing. That I can get to map to a button, but it won’t stay mapped. Why is that?

Don’t get me wrong, I think the SpacePilot PRO is great. It’d be even better if it worked like it should. With all the software gurus at SolidWorks and 3Dconnexion, you think they’d be able to solve this issue. While I’m at it, can we talk about the default drivers? Is it absolutely necessary to load drivers for every CAD software under the sun by default? I don’t use AutoCAD, Maya or any of the other offerings. It seems to me that, when installing the drivers, you should be given the choice of what to load versus having to go through the custom setup. It just doesn’t make sense, in my humble opinion.


A frustrate, yet hopeful user.


April 21, 2009 · Posted in Rant, SolidWorks Community  


When was the last time you meandered over to 3D ContentCentral? Have you ever been there? Whenever people jump onto one of the forums looking for a model, 3D ContentCentral is where they’re inevitably sent. Why? Because there’s over 500,000 CAD users registered. If each of them has contributed just 2 models, that’s a million models to choose from. Granted, not everyone contributes. But there are prolific posters, as well. Per Nielson has contributed a total of 306 parts since he joined. It goes beyond individual users though. The list of supplier created content is quite impressive as well. Did I mention that there are 2D blocks and macros available as well?

One of the best things about 3DContentCentral is that it’s not just for us SolidWorks users. The models are available in all major 2D and 3D CAD formats, including Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD. This allows for sharing across industries and, in some cases, companies. Dassault Systmes has also added self-publishing to the site making it easier for suppliers to upload their parts and assemblies without the use of third-party applications. This means even more content for you!

With the popularity of social networks (Facebook, Twitter), Dassault has added social networking to 3D ContentCentral as well. You can build communities to share experiences and knowledge. Some of the key features, as described by Dassault, are:

  • My Updates: Automatically keeps users up to date on everyone in their community of contacts. For example, it notifies a user when a contact uploads a new 3D model, or contributes a comment to an online discussion.
  • Favorites: Lets users track specified users and parts catalogs without inviting them to become a contact.
  • Rate and Comment: Enables users to collaboratively evaluate model quality and share their experiences with one another.
  • Requesting: Gives users a direct channel to suppliers so they can ask for modifications and new designs.
  • Maps to Suppliers: Google Maps integration in the search options helps users find the nearest component suppliers and OEMs.
  • Advanced Search Tools: Helps users find content more efficiently using guided navigation.

Even with all the new features that Dassault has implemented, the best part about it is you don’t have to rebuild the wheel, as it were. If it’s an off-the-shelf item, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to find it at 3D ContentCentral.

March 23, 2009 · Posted in SolidWorks Community, SolidWorks Tips