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Fighting Your 3D CAD Demons

References Cited

Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD), 3D Visualization, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

Businesses are all about risk and managing that risk. It’s really important to understand what the risks are so that they can be properly mitigated. Hopefully you’ve already faced your 3D CAD demons. Now let’s dig into some misconceptions about them, to better enable you to fight those demons within your organization.

Changing the Culture

We hear a lot of this: “Oh, you know what, my engineers will never do it. They’re going to hate this. They’re not going to accept any new methods.” Guess what? All of the “kids” coming out of college are going to expect you to be working with 3D models and delivering in 3D models. Try to pull them back! We don’t think it’s even worth the time to try to pull them back. Take the expectation that they’ll be working with 3D models and run with it.

The good news is most working engineers at this point have had some 3D CAD experience, whether they’ve just downloaded Google SketchUp or they’ve been using CATIA for 20 years. In the back of their minds, they can really see the benefits of 3D CAD. They just might not know how to get there step-by-step.

Catching Up with Technology

Technology continues to improve, often faster than we can keep up with. Large assembly management has become much more attainable for the common user as opposed to just super users. There’s ability to look at large data in a better way. Also, geometry translation is more accurate than it used to be. There has been a lot of work done in specifying geometry translation methods and validation methods. This keeps our data more consistent.

3D annotations are feasible where, in the past, that wasn’t really on the table for people to work with. 2D drawings were the primary communication source. Having the ability to create 3D annotations opens up a whole new world of documentation and communication possibilities.

3D solid model data management systems are more robust and tie in more seamlessly to your CAD creation package, so that you can really have those environments working together. It’s a big integrated environment. That facilitates not only collection of good, accurate data, but also the design collaborative parallel workflow process. Then there’s a lot of work being done also in the data transfer (such as XML languages) so that you’re actually transferring the metadata that goes along with the 3D information.

Then there’s data exchange and solid model interoperability. This specific topic has really been heavily worked through with the STEP (ISO 10303) format, and then we’re also seeing 3D PDF hit the stage and really be able to normalize access to the CAD data. That’s a major step forward because we like to say that if a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a solid model is worth a trillion. It’s a much richer data environment that you’re saturating your mind in. That’s a major improvement from where we used to be.

What about big data? Make sure you have backup plans in place to deal with the data throughput. Make sure you have some business practices in place that will help you get that going fast enough if you reach a wall in your data management.

Hardcore technology has improved and that, if you start putting these systems in place, will help out:

  • We’re getting very close to the needs of the computer hardware matching up with the needs of what we as humans can design and pump through at one time. Max out the RAM in every machine you have because CAD programs are intensely relying on RAM. It’s just how they work.
  • Network bandwidth has increased. Everybody’s got wireless, everybody’s got active connection to a network, which is really great from a data management perspective because now you’re live syncing and getting feedback much more automatically than you used to be.
  • Solid state hard drives are a real improvement as well because CAD works on hard drives and RAM. Being able to have quick access to hard drives is immediate through solid state as opposed to spinning hard drive is that’s a major expanse too.

Start by figuring out specific 3D CAD barriers within your organization, then break them down to address how you can move forward to overcome those demons!

Have you started MBD implementation at your organization, but now you have more questions than answers? Join Action Engineering and other businesses at a 2-Day Intensive Workshop.

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