Jeff's MCAD Blogging
Jeffrey Rowe has almost 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 design … More »
April 10th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe
With surprisingly relatively little fanfare, DS SOLIDWORKS last week announced the availability of its long-awaited new product, Mechanical Conceptual (MC for short). Dassault Systemes says that MC is the first SOLIDWORKS application on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform — “that embraces the new realities of today’s world of design in the age of experience: it is more social and conceptual and delivers on the promise of ease-of-collaboration among key contributors.” All of this is something I’m still unclear exactly what it is, what it does, and what it means.
I contacted Kishore Boyalakuntla, Director, Product Management, SOLIDWORKS, who is in charge of managing Mechanical Conceptual for some clarification on what the press release announcing the launch lacked.
Mechanical Conceptual was formally introduced a few months ago at SOLIDWORKS World with the following four basic tenets — conceptual, social (collaboration), connected, and instinctive. The conceptual part I understand, because that’s the primary purpose of MC. It also lends itself to collaborative methods because it’s a cloud-based application, as well as instinctive, because it has direct modeling/editing capabilities. The connected part, though, especially to SOLIDWORKS is still a bit of a mystery. Read the rest of SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual Hits the Market, But Does It Hit the Mark?
April 3rd, 2014 by Jeff Rowe
LEDAS Ltd. and ASCON recently announced the integration of ASCON’s C3D kernel into LEDAS Geometry Comparison technology. According to both companies, this is the first third-party component to benefit from the C3D kernel. Previously, third parties had only developed CAD/CAM software as applications on top of C3D.
Geometry Comparison software deals with the problem of detecting differences in 3D models within a specified tolerance.
LEDAS developed its Geometry Comparison technology to check and locate all of the differences between similar-looking geometric models. These changes can come about through:
When comparing two similar-looking 3D models, it is essential to distinguish between differences that are important and defects that are negligible. So this makes 3D model comparisons very different from a simple text comparison, where only text that is fully identical is considered as having no difference.
Making comparisons between 3D geometry requires operations performed at the most basic levels, and so are usually provided by 3D modeling kernels, of which C3D is an example. Geometry comparison is a component technology powered by C3D, and so this integration expands C3D’s sphere of application. The kernel is now being marketed as a general purpose tool for any engineering software needing advanced 3D modeling.
Until now, geometry comparison has been mostly done through Boolean subtraction operations, which is a core function of geometric kernels, such as Parasolid and ACIS. The difference between 3D bodies is found by subtracting the volume of one body from another.
3D geometry consists of two levels of geometry representation: topology (made of faces, edges, vertices), and underlying geometry (surfaces and curves that define the form of faces and edges). It is relatively easy to map topology of one 3D model to the topology of another model: each entity gets its counterpart, and if mapping for some entities does not exist, then the difference is found at the topological level. It is more complicated to find difference (or to check that there are no differences) when taking into account underlying geometry and specified tolerances. The solution developed by LEDAS makes it possible to detect differences at both the topological and geometric levels.
For those of us who have grown up with and seen the CAD industry evolve, it means experiencing CAD from a relatively narrow perspective, that is, a US perspective. As it turns out, the CAD development realm actually extends far beyond our shores, and is becoming more competitive over time. Some of the most noteworthy competitors are coming from Russia.
One of the more interesting CAD tools I’ve come across in the past few years is from Russia — ASCON’s KOMPAS-3D for associative 3D modeling. Models can be made from original designs, standard part libraries, or combination if the two. While that’s not especially unique, KOMPAS-3D’s parametric technology lets you generate ranges (different configurations) of products based on a single source model.
A distinguishing feature of KOMPAS-3D is that it uses its own modeling kernel and parametric system, both of which were developed at ASCON — something I have always considered an advantage over licensing components that form the basis of a CAD product.
The following video clip provides a brief overview of the KOMPAS 3D geometric modeling kernel:
What the video lacks in detail introduces the possibility that ASCON and its 3D modeling kernel could increasingly become a power to be reckoned with in the future.
A couple of years ago ASCON Group made public its proprietary geometry kernel, C3D, as the foundation for creating CAD systems and applications.
Development of the C3D kernel began in 1995, and became the basis for ASCON’s KOMPAS-3D in 2000. The company continued to update the kernel, and last year launched it as a separate product for the CAD component market. It can handle several aspects of a CAD system, icluding 2D drawing and sketching, 3D hybrid and solid modeling, parametric constraints, and translation.
The main feature of ASCON kernel is that it is comprehensive. The core of C3D combines just about everything necessary for developing engineering application software with modules that include:
Keep in mind, though, that the C3D kernel is not the only Russian kernel being developed there. There is also a Russian government-financed mandate to develop a “national” CAD engine, the Russian Geometry Kernel (RGK), a B-rep modeler that can create NURBS curves and surfaces. The RGK is being developed by Russian university mathematicians, and like the C3D modeler, it supports GPU acceleration and multi-threading.
The ultimate winner of the Russian kernel competition is anybody’s guess, but ASCON seems to have a number of technical things in place to make it a real player in the worldwide CAD arena. To a large extent, because it’s in control of its base product components, it may have better control over its destiny in a competitive market.
“We first became familiar with C3D when we began a joint project with ASCON aimed at integrating our LEDAS VDM (Variational Direct Modeling) technology into C3D and KOMPAS-3D,” said Ivan Rykov, CTO of LEDAS. “Our long experience in developing and using 3D modeling software makes it possible for us to easily identify the advantages and bottlenecks of any 3D modeling kernel. C3D made a really positive impression on us while we were testing it in our Geometric Comparison project, especially with regards to its stability and with the technical support from ASCON.”
March 25th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe
We’ve all witnessed the explosive growth of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing over the past several years. The possibilities for AM seem limitless and literally grow by the day, for mechanical design and now architecture. Sure, custom printing iPhone cases and jewelry are one thing, but the capabilities of 3D printing have grown so much, in fact, they’re now as big as a house.
The 3D Print Canal House is an exhibition, research, and building site for 3D Printing Architecture. This is a unique project where an international team of partners collaborates in “research & doing” linking science, design, construction and community, by 3D printing a house at an exposition site in the heart of Amsterdam.
March 17th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe
Do you have something to share with the MCAD community, such as opinions, thought-provoking topics, or commentary? MCADCafe.com, the leading mechanical design, engineering, and manufacturing portal is seeking the following types of blogging contributor categories:
MCADCafe has 60,000 unique visitors per month; as well as 24,000 subscribers to our daily newsletter and MCAD Weekly. Translation: People like to spend time at MCADCafe.
We’re looking for the following types of content from you:
Tips – in other words “how to do something.”
Success Stories — narratives or interviews about projects you’ve worked on, skill development, or how you have succeeded in your career.
What’s On Your Mind – what do you like, not like, what bothers you about the MCAD industry?
Topics for any of the types of content may range and cover the following (but this is just a sampling of possibilities):
March 12th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe
Last year we got pretty excited when Google Glass was first introduced and the possibilities it offered, both generally and for CAD users.
Although I’m gradually coming around, I still personally find the Google Glass technology/device concept intrusive, but have to admit it is innovative and possibly inevitable. Google Glass is still being tested and has received mixed reviews. Even though not generally yet, there are already several places and events where Google Glass will be banned.
According to Google, “Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that is being developed by Google in the Project Glass research and development project, with the mission of producing a mass-market ubiquitous computer.” Like all things Google, Glass runs under Android, and this might be a good thing for wide acceptance.
Any negativity shown toward the device, however, has not stopped many companies from exploring the possibilities of Google Glass. In fact, a CAD company last year announced an app for Google Glass — TurboSite from IMSI/Design.
OK, TurboSite for Goggle Glass is an AEC application, but you have to believe it could also be used in plant design and verification, as well as facilities management.
As for MCAD, I envision that it could be used in automotive, aerospace, consumer product design sectors, and shipbuilding (after all, a ship is just a horizontal building that floats). This marks the dawn of a new age of design with hardware shrinking from yesterday’s main frames to today’s wearable computers that will only continue to get smaller as their utility becomes bigger.
I’ve heard rumors that Autodesk and SolidWorks may be working on apps for Google Glass and other so-called “smart glasses.”
Earlier this week, Epson America showcased conceptual demos of its second-generation Moverio BT-200 “smart glasses” for augmented and virtual reality experiences at the SXSW Conference in Austin. Augmented reality (AR) allows for a digitally enhanced view of the real world. AR can add layers of digital information on top of items in the world around us.
Epson’s second generation augmented reality smart glasses debuted earlier this year at CES 2014. Keep in mind, though, the Moverio BT-200 shouldn’t be confused as a Google Glass competitor. For example, you wouldn’t want to wear the Moverio everywhere you go. It’s meant primarily for your personal time or maybe on a long flight, but there are certainly business applications for the technology as well. Since the display is visible to both eyes, movies and games translate well to it. Going forward, augmented reality is going to be the focal point for both games and commercial business use.
March 5th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe
Over the course of a year I read a lot of books — technical, non-fiction, hardcopy, and digital. Most of them I get through, although there are some I don’t even try to finish, and a few become favorites and are kept for future reading on my bookshelf. I just finished a book entitled Re-Use Your CAD: The Model-Based Handbook by Jennifer Herron. When I saw Handbook in the title, I thought it would be just a dry reference book, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was much more than that — it’s a good learning resource.
First, a little about the author and model-based engineering/model-based design (MBE/MBD).
I’ve known Jennifer for several years as we’ve crossed paths at software conferences. She is the owner of Action Engineering, a company that specializes in the promotion, process development, and standardization of 3D CAD MBE and MBD. She is an expert in multiple CAD packages, which she uses along with her practical design experience to hone standards and processes that optimize the ROI of all CAD systems.
She also offers model-based documentation education seminars, MIL-STD-31000A schema and modeling best practice training, as well as planning consulting services for Model-Based Engineering implementation. Keep in mind as you read the book that based on her experience, she is a stickler for standards, such as ISO, but you realize that’s probably a good thing.
Her company is a consulting firm that transitions government organizations and companies to effectively and efficiently implement Model Based Engineering. With a specialty in training organizations to document and tailor their business practices to be compatible with CAD, PDM and PLM software tools, Action advises companies in: CAD modeling standards and best practice, designer modeling efficiency, CAD configuration management, MBE training, team collaboration and CAD interoperability.
The concept(s) of MBE/MBD have received a lot of attention in the past few years because this approach handles product development using a digital master model, and not just necessarily CAD. All downstream activities can be derived from the master model to develop a product. The MBE/MBD approach replaces puzzling documents and can minimize the need for physical prototypes before an optimized design has been developed. In other words, engineers and designers can simulate and iterate as much as necessary to refine a model while also meeting requirements and adhering to design constraints.
Now on to the book . . .
Reuse Your CAD Handbook
The book is structured in a logical manner for those both new and experienced with MBE/MBD. Throughout, it stresses the importance of standardizing, centralizing, documenting, and reusing a CAD database. It’s written in a CAD-agnostic manner, so its principles can be applied in any CAD environment, regardless of vendor.
A sampling of some of the topics covered in the book include:
February 26th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe
As most of us know who deal with the digital design world, for many years, all of the major CAD vendors have been stressing the vital importance of managing the design and manufacturing data created using their software. Surprisingly though, even after all of the talk of imminent disaster, still relatively few design and manufacturing companies, especially SMBs, have a formal PDM system of any type in place beyond Windows Explorer and Excel.
Some of the reasons we hear for PDM not being deployed include the perceptions (and experiences) that PDM is time consuming and expensive to implement. Also, some companies are perfectly happy with a sort of homegrown approach – Windows Explorer and Excel spreadsheets. In many cases these provide legitimate reasons for not implementing a formal PDM system, but times and circumstances are changing, and reasons for not implementing PDM are becoming weaker and weaker.
While most SMBs have made the transition from 2D to 3D, we have found that many of these same companies are finally exploring how to manage the mountains of CAD and associated product development and project data with a dedicated PDM system. These companies are seeking real solutions that are more capable and scalable than handling just files and folders with Excel spreadsheets and Windows Explorer. For example, PDM systems that connect the design department to the shop floor; will connect to other systems, such as MRP; and are scalable, so the system can grow as the company grows.
Because of the interest shown by our readers in PDM, we are in the process of exploring and evaluating several options for product and project management.
Keep in mind, these evaluations will be PDM systems only. Although the line between PDM and PLM systems is blurring, we’ll focus and restrict these evaluations to PDM only.
Check out the following video that clearly delineates the differences between PDM and PLM.
February 20th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe
Last time we covered the introduction of the the MarkForged Mark One that can print parts with carbon fiber filament. This time around we’ll discuss the Stratsys Objet500 Connex3 3D printer that can produce multi-material/multi-color parts.
Before the conference officially commenced, Stratasys formally introduced its new Objet500 Connex3 3D printer. For a pre-event event, it was well attended by those interested in Stratasys’ new 3D printer.
The Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer features a unique triple-jetting technology that combines droplets of three base materials to produce parts with a myriad combinations of rigid, flexible, and transparent color materials, as well as color materials — all in a single print run. This ability to achieve the characteristics of an assembled part without assembly or painting is a significant technological achievement and time-saver.
Connex3 uses a print block with eight print heads — two for each material, including supports. This technique leaves six print heads for three model materials. The print heads deposit material droplets in a pre-defined pattern to create combinations from as many as three base materials. The patterns yield digital materials that are more than just a simple blending of the base materials.
February 13th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or just don’t care, 3D printers and what they can do have become some of the hottest technology topics I can remember. Although its potential has only begun to be realized, the technology has matured beyond the curiosity stage and is being embraced by a wide range of users with a wide range of budgets. Like anything else, you get what you pay for, and 3D printing is no exception. By that I mean, sure, you buy a 3D printer relatively inexpensively, but there are always limitations with regard to material choice, part quality etc.
That’s changing, though, based on a couple of new 3D printers that were introduced at this year’s SolidWorks World. The Partner Pavilion had a few less exhibitors than previous years, but the level of traffic was high. A lot of attention was paid to a couple of new 3D printers that really set themselves apart from competing multi-material machines — the MarkForged Mark One and the Stratasys Objet500 Connex3.
This time around, we’ll take a look at the MarkForged Mark One, and will examine the Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 in our next edition.
February 5th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe
This year’s edition of SolidWorks World, held in San Diego, CA attracted a crowd of more than 5,600 attendees. I’m sure the location and weather in San Diego helped draw attendees from parts of the country caught in this winter’s the Polar Vortex.
Of course, the first morning of the conference offered the obligatory good news of sales and user (2.3 million+) numbers, as well as a long-awaited new product.
A presentation slide showed all the areas that DS SolidWorks is involved in, including CAD, simulation, electrical design, technical publications, PDM, inspection, etc. Noticeably absent, however, is CAM, but the company has partners willing to take that on. Absent from the Partner Pavilion was Delcam; probably because that company is about to be acquired by Autodesk. Read the rest of SolidWorks World 2014 — SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual Finally Takes Center Stage