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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

3D InterOp Suite: Meeting the Challenges of 3D Data Translation and Reuse for Smart Manufacturing

March 2nd, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

Since it began in 1986, Spatial has developed software components – modular software packages that perform a set of specific and related functions. This class of software is designed to work as a functional component of a larger application, such as CAD, CAM, CAE, Additive Manufacturing (AM), and Building Information Modeling (BIM). The goal of component software is to standardize the interfaces between software utility functions so that they can work together efficiently and cohesively.

In developing its software components, Spatial has always realized, too, that the best engineering software excels at optimizing imported data for data reuse. Spatial understands that design data reuse is much more than just data exchange.

Let’s take a look at one of Spatial’s 3D significant modeling software components, 3D InterOp for 3D data exchange, translation, repair, and reuse and its place in model-based definition/engineering (MBD/MBE) for Smart Manufacturing. 3D InterOp also empowers multi-CAD functionality in Dassault Systeme’ s 3DExperience Platform.

Linda Lokay, General Manager, Spatial Corp. at SOLIDWORKS World 2017

The 3D InterOp Suite from Spatial delivers the highest quality data exchange between CAD formats. Many of today’s leading design, engineering, and manufacturing applications incorporate 3D InterOp for their data translation, including SOLIDWORKS 3D Interconnect.

Introduced in 2001, Spatial’s 3D InterOp provides data exchange between CAD formats, enabling superior CAD file translation that reflects Spatial’s philosophy that data import and reuse is much more common than data creation. This comprehensive Suite of translators provides data exchange (import/export) for myriad applications, including 3D ACIS Modeler, CGM Core Modeler, and Parasolid-based applications. 3D InterOp is embedded in many of today’s leading design, engineering, and manufacturing applications, notably, SOLIDWORKS 3D Interconnect that will be discussed below.

Spatial Corp General Manager, Linda Lokay, said, “Spatial provides a suite of tools that helps customers innovate quickly, because time to market is everything. Spatial 3D InterOp addresses not just CAD, but the entire product development process as it preserves geometry and design intent.”

Spatial 3D InterOp Data Translation Input and Output Process

3D InterOp is a high-performance, high-quality set of B-rep translators, supporting parts, assemblies and non-geometric metadata. the 3D InterOp CGM 2017 Suite of translators delivers translation for all popular CAD formats including CATIA V4, CATIA V5, CATIA V6, SOLIDWORKS, Inventor, Pro/ENGINEER and Creo, and NX, as well as industry standard neutral formats, such as IGES, STEP, and Parasolid. Capabilities include:

  • For CATIA V5 and V6, 3D InterOp directly extracts native geometry while avoiding the need for translation and resulting in performance up to ten times faster than other commercially available translators. 3D InterOp also optimizes the performance of reading industry standard file formats, such as IGES and STEP.
  • A unified object-oriented interface, making the task of integration straightforward and efficient. 3D InterOp supports all 3D software applications, independent of the underlying modeling engine.
  • Product Manufacturing Information (PMI) attached to a 3D CAD model is essential for many of today’s manufacturing applications. 3D InterOp supports PMI and includes notes, dimensions, Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerances (GD&T), datums and datum targets, and surface roughness.
  • 3D InterOp translators translate non-geometric data attached to topology, including names, color, coordinate systems, work planes, and layers.
  • 3D InterOp supports the translation and automated repair of solid, wire, surface (B-rep), free surfaces, free curves, and free points.
  • Continued emphasis on model-based engineering (MBE) practices that play key roles in Smart Manufacturing.

Ms. Lokay added that 3D InterOp provides value and benefits to users that include:

Greater Quality Through Workflows – By delivering the industry’s highest quality solution for data reuse, 3D InterOp reduces development risk in applications at all stages of the product development process.

Preserved Geometry and Design Intent – 3D InterOp goes beyond “importing with no errors” by delivering data with maximum integrity that can be used throughout the workflow. Optimal data reuse is about ensuring the consistency of imported 3D data, while preserving design intent.

Increased Application Performance – Spatial maintains a continued focus on leveraging multiprocessing/multithreading, direct translation, and improved algorithms to provide continually faster data access.

Through its architecture, 3D InterOp enables users to optimize interaction with their data. With functionality that provides selective import based on application needs, 3D InterOp efficiently enables applications to focus only on the data necessary for a given task.

3D InterOp is not just one technology, but rather, an integrated Suite of technologies with specific features and capabilities you might want to implement, such as visualization, manufacturing, formats for translation, and boundary representation (B-Rep). Software developers have the choice of implementing as many of the Suite’s features that optimize their software product and their customers’ results.

Spatial 3D InterOp Overview

Data Translation with 3D InterOp

3D InterOp also provides manufacturing information from the source system. Translation of the definition data for dimensions and geometric tolerances allows for accurate inputs to manufacturing analysis and processing without introducing human error, while translation of the visualization for annotations lets users see the information exactly as it was displayed in the source system.

Data reuse is about much more than just a data translation, problems associated with the exchange of data may not become apparent until late in the product development process when investigating and correcting problems are more difficult and more costly.

PMI and MBE Support

Product Manufacturing Information (PMI) associated with a 3D CAD model is essential for many of today’s manufacturing applications. PMI is vital for intelligent manufacturing and tolerance analysis, as well visual inspection. PMI support includes:

  • Notes and dimensions
  • Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerances (GD&T)
  • Datum and datum targets
  • Surface roughness

PMI is especially helpful with B-Rep modelers, because at any point on the model there is nominal definition of the geometry which can be evaluated with the modeling kernel and tolerance information that meet the tolerance requirements.  The two primary benefits to this include:

  • For toolpath generation the surface finishes and tolerance allow logical selection of the tools to manufacture the part and to estimate costs for producing it.
  • To verify the manufactured part against the as-designed part using the knowledge of the tolerances provided by the PMI.

3D InterOp translates PMI with a focus on process automation, providing full associativity with the model geometry as well as accurate definition of datum references, including datum targets.

3D InterOp’s model-based engineering philosophy is based on a set of primary data which is used to generate other secondary and derived data. Changing a design means making the change in the primary data then regenerating all the other dependent data throughout the entire system.

3D InterOp supports design changes by providing the data required to maintain associativity with the original geometry. Changes in the original can be imported back into the application, allowing automatic updating of the application’s derived and secondary data.

Automated Repair

Data exchange through neutral standard or proprietary native formats is only part of the solution, and data transfer only provides the exchange of geometric entities, “as-is.” A CAD model usually requires modification to get it into a form suitable for engineering analysis. 3D InterOp translations support solid, wire, surface (B-rep), free surfaces, free curves, and free points. Advanced modeling technology is used in each of the translators to address common data translation differences including:

  • Geometry Repair – Geometric errors are automatically recognized and optionally repaired for producing a high-quality manufactureable model.
  • Topology Repair – Automated topology repair combined with advanced stitching capabilities produces topologically valid solid models.
  • Tolerance Resolution – Tolerance-related differences between importing and exporting systems are handled using tolerant modeling to ensure water-tight solids.

The 3D Interop/SOLIDWORKS 3D Interconnect Connection

SOLIDWORKS 3D Interconnect leverages Spatial 3D InterOp by maintaining associativity between translated parts and assemblies with the original 3D model. Because of associativity, mates are maintained throughout the translation process, as well as  information links so changes made to the original model are automatically tracked, ensuring absolute data integrity.

3D Interconnect provides SOLIDWORKS translation capabilities with new technology and workflows for working with third-party native CAD data in SOLIDWORKS 2017.

The following can be performed with 3D Interconnect:

  • Insert proprietary CAD data directly into a SOLIDWORKS assembly without converting it to a SOLIDWORKS file.
  • Open a proprietary 3D CAD format in the SOLIDWORKS software with its associative link to the original part.
  • Update changes in the SOLIDWORKS file if you update the proprietary CAD data in its authoring application by maintaining all downstream features created in SOLIDWORKS.
  • Maintain direct integration of native CAD files from PTC Creo, Autodesk Inventor, Siemens NX, SolidEdge, and CATIA, and treat them as native components.
  • Avoid fixing errors or problems due to SOLIDWORKS awareness of all components in the native CAD files, such as face and edge IDs.
  • Directly open imported files and treat them as Base Parts, so you can freely make design modifications can be made without affecting the native file.
  • Update both part and assembly files as design changes take place with Update Model feature.

SOLIDWORKS 2017 3D Interconnect Technology

Spatial’s Software Component Legacy

For quite a while now a lot of banter has been coursing through the MCAD industry about the significance of software components. While it’s probably true that few users really care about the origin of the underlying technologies in their engineering software tools, software components provide the following benefits:

  • They are developed, supported, and maintained by an expert source that focuses on improving specific aspects of the components.
  • They allow smaller organizations to develop applications relatively economically and let them focus on what they do best.
  • They are updated and released on a regular schedule so customers can time their application releases accordingly.

3D software components are Spatial’s legacy and will continue to be its business for a long time to come. As they were in the past, 3D software components, including 3D InterOp will remain significant and relevant into the future for engineering software. After all, accelerating 3D innovation is Spatial’s business.

For More Information: Spatial Corp

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