Morning coffeeWelcome to your Monday! Last week was a doozie, so let’s get right to it.

It’s the Economy …

We’ve got good news, bad news and good news. On the good news side, US employers added 192,000 jobs in March. That’s better than recent months but bad news because more people are looking. Netting it all out, the unemployment rate stayed unchanged at 6.7%. The mixed news sent the NASDAQ down almost 3% and the Dow down 1%. Economists also think that wages may start climbing, as competition heats up in the job market for qualified applicants.

Over in the Eurozone, the European Central Bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 0.25% despite the fact that inflation fell to a five-year low in March. According to the BBC, “The fear attached to lower inflation is it could harm the eurozone’s nascent economic recovery, by weakening consumer demand for goods and services because households would be likely to put off spending believing prices will continue to fall.”

In China, government data showed that manufacturing expanded ever so slightly in March, while data from other sources showed a contraction, leading many to believe that the Chinese economy is slowing. The BBC said “China’s premier Li Keqiang acknowledged that there were “difficulties and risks”, as rising debt and ongoing pollution problems cloud China’s economic outlook.”

Finally, the US Supreme Court heard arguments last week about whether software algorithms can be patented. US law says that specific process that describe how an idea is implemented can be patented but that an abstract concept like a math formula can’t. But isn’t software just a long, interlinking piece of math? You can read a transcript of the Court session here.

PLMish Deals, Earnings and Other News

I don’t think there were any earnings announced last week, but we had plenty of acquisition news. Aspen Technology announced that it acquired Sulsim, a sulfur simulation tool from Sulphur Experts. Adding Sulsim to the AspenTech family means that process designers can model cleaning and recovery as well as the plant’s operations, all in a single environment.

But Stratasys wins, hands down, the “volume of news” awards. The company announced that it will acquire Solid Concepts, Harvest Technologies and “certain assets” of Interfacial Solutions. All three are service bureaus, a segment that Stratasys CEO David Reis sees as critical to Stratasys’ success for concept modeling, low-volume and other specialist uses. Interfacial Solutions also does thermoplastics R&D and, says Stratasys, has been “instrumental in the research and development for, and is the producer of, some of Stratasys’ thermoplastic material”. Stratasys will pay up to $295 million in cash and shares for Solid Concepts. The details of the Harvest Technology and Interfacial Solutions deals were not disclosed.

We haven’t had an IPO in a while, but Materialise, which straddles the additive manufacturing software/service bureau line, is testing the waters. Last week, the company filed a registration statement with the US SEC for potential trading on the NASDAQ. You can read the filing here, or read my synopsis of the best bits.

We also had a couple of other noteworthy vendor announcements last week. Dassault Systèmes finally released SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual. It’s the first SolidWorks application on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform — now users can see for themselves what all the fuss is about. You can see tutorial videos here.

Siemens PLM announced the availability of NX on private clouds using a virtual desktop infrastructure with the NVIDIA GRID vGPU (virtual graphics processing unit). This enables companies to offer remote access to NX running on central servers, which increases security while making it easier to administer a large installation.

I’m not really sure what to do about this one, but if you need to know: ZWCAD Design Co. emailed me to let me know that it thinks it’s being sued by Autodesk for infringement of intellectual property — but found out about it from Ralph Grabowski’s blog. ZWCAD says the suit has no foundation and that it’s business as usual while all of this gets sorted out.

Link of the Week

We’re seeing all sorts of uses for 3D printing, from high-tech manufacturing of small lots of specialist parts to prosthetic devices to kid toys. But what about music? In 2000, a physicist from Lawrence Berkeley National Labs named Carl Haber stuck an old 78 rpm phonograph record under a microscope and saw (not surprising) grooves. Surprising was that the edges to those grooves were measurable. Those measurable edges could be digitized, starting a preservation project that changed a lot of what we know about recorded sound and preserving physical media that is too fragile to play on a phonograph or other device. We can “see sound.” So cool.

[If the Globe article is behind the paywall, this will take you directly to the Northeast Document Conservation Center.]

That’s it — hope you have a great week!

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