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 »
August 1st, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
Not all marriages are made in heaven, and the news that Stratasys and HP have agreed to discontinue their manufacturing and distribution agreement for 3D printers, effective at the end of 2012 proves it. The relationship lasted only a couple of years.
Stratasys said it does not expect the termination of its agreement with HP to have a material impact on its financial results for the current year and intends to work closely with HP to ensure a smooth transition for customers. I doubt, though, if the same holds true for HP.
Under the terms of the definitive agreement signed in January 2010, Stratasys developed and manufactured for HP an exclusive line of 3D printers based on Stratasys’ Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology. Later that year, HP began a phased rollout of the 3D printers in the MCAD market in select European countries, but never made it over here to North America, which was both a mystery and a shame.
When Stratasys made the original distribution announcement with HP, it was regarded as a pretty big deal. The announcment also boosted Stratasys’ stock price. It truly was a big announcement for additive fabrication, but I don’t think many in the industry regarded it as the turning point for the technology. In the end, the annoucement and partnership never did fulfill the initial hype or substantive change in the additive fabrication market.
To be fair to HP, though, it only got Stratasys’ entry level UPrint and Dimension product lines. I think this was done to expand Stratasys market presence and installed base without canibalizing its more lucrative high-end 3D printer market that it wanted to keep. Fair enough.
It always puzzled me, though, why HP didn’t develop and market its own 3D printer for a worldwide market — especially at the low-end, prosumer level. After all, HP has provided 3D print heads for ZPrinters (now owned by 3D Systems) and is a market leader in 2D printers. Why not go the next step to develop and mass market your own 3D printing machine?
Admittedly, these are tough times, and no technology company knows that better than HP.
July 18th, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
As has been the case for several years, not all computer users need a workstation-class machine, but many do, especially with graphics-oriented and computationally intensive applications, such as MCAD, FEA, and animation. However, high-powered workstations for graphic-intensive applications can come with a price premium. So, you can really pay a relatively high price for higher levels of performance, but is often worth it. There are exceptions, however, and the HP Z620 desktop workstation offers the best of both worlds – a versatile machine with excellent performance at a reasonable price.
I’d classify the HP Z620 as a mid- to high-level machine that provides just about everything most customers would need in a desktop engineering workstation. Admittedly, it may seem a bit pricey for what you get (at least how our review machine was configured), but overall is a real performer compared with competition in this spec and price range. The HP Z620 workstation is designed to perform in a professional engineering-oriented environment. It’s got a lot of premium, server-grade components optimized for demanding workloads.
The HP Z620 Workstation with Moldflow running
The HP Z620 we received for review came configured as follows:
CPU: Intel Xeon E5-2643, 3.30 GHz
Other: Solid state drives (optional)
Storage: up to 11 TB
3 internal 3.5” HDD bays plus 2 external 5.25” bays
2 Integrated 6Gb/s SATA ports
Support for up to 300W of graphics
3 Third-generation PCI Express slots, (2×16, 1×8) 6 slots total
With Intel’s Core i7 and higher CPUs, why consider a Xeon processor? Well, first of all, Xeon processors are generally intended for use in servers that tend to run cooler and at lower voltages than the Core i7 CPUs. In other words, Xeon-based machines are designed for continuous use over long periods of time under demanding workloads. The performance hit, though, could be an issue, but was negligible in this evaluation.
The Nvidia Quadro 2000 graphics card is part of a product line that is designed specifically to work on a continuous basis. Some applications, such as SolidWorks and Inventor are also optimized to work with Nvidia’s Quadro cards.
Behind the scenes, but an integral part of the overall Z620 are the system software applications that come pre-installed on it as part of the HP Cool Tools suite – namely, the HP Performance Advisor and Power Assistant. Performance Advisor provides a lot of useful information and tools regarding the machine. It lists component changes, provides details on driver versions, as well as CPU and memory utilization – all handy information to know if and when you need it. The Power Assistant shows you much power the HP Z620 is using, along with estimates of its operating costs and carbon footprint. With this information, you can adjust how the system operates to minimize energy usage.
I’d thought I’d take a peek inside the Z620 and was impressed with the tool-less chassis design with integrated handles and complete serviceability with internal modules that slide in and out. There is also a diagram on the removable side cover that has a handy map/guide that illustrates what is located where internally. Anyway, the inside of the box was well laid out and tidy.
Objective and subjective tests were run to measure performance. Keep in mind that the tests were performed with the machine in an “out of the box” state, nothing was tweaked or optimized to skew performance. I actually get more out of the subjective testing because it’s more “real world,” but the raw numbers from the benchmarks are also useful, as well as a means of comparison. Your evaluations may differ from mine, but they do provide a point for comparison.
For objective testing, we ran two benchmarks NovaBench (geared more toward overall performance) and SPECviewperf 11 (geared more toward graphics performance).
NovaBench Benchmark Test:
32,695 MB System RAM (Score: 286)
CPU Tests (Score: 1182
Graphics Tests (Score: 244)
Hardware Tests (Score: 28)
The 1,740 composite score is fairly impressive because the average score of other workstations in this class was 1,294. So, the HP Z620 provided better performance in relative terms.
SPECviewperf 11 Benchmark Test:
The scores for the various tests (CATIA, Solidworks, Lightwave, Ensight, NX, and Pro/ENGINEER) were some the best I have seen lately and averaged approximately 22% better than other HP desktop workstations I have benchmarked and reviewed.
For subjective testing, I ran Autodesk Inventor, Simulation, and 3ds Max. I used a data set of standard models that I have created over the years for this testing, including a model with 50,000+ parts, renderings of complex surfaces, advanced FEA, and animations. The Z620’s performance was good with these tests.
Most companies have users who need a little extra computing horsepower than is available in a generic desktop computer where a standard desktop PC might be perfectly suitable. However, heavy graphics and especially 3D can tax a standard PC beyond its capabilities. For these types of applications and users, seriously consider a workstation. In 2012, workstations aren’t an absolute requirement for everyone. But, if you need a powerful PC to work with graphics and 3D application, and are willing to pay a bit extra for optimized hardware for these types of tasks, the HP Z620 CMT is worth considering.
Hewlett Packard Z620 Desktop Workstation
Pluses: Cost/performance ratio, internal accessibility; easily upgradeable; system management software.
Minuses: None significant.
Price (as supplied): $5,868. Prices start at $1,649.
Overall Grade: A-
Contact: HP Z620 Workstation
The Week’s Top 5
At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the news items that were the most viewed during last week.
The 2013 release of Delcam’s PowerSHAPE CAD system includes enhancements to its direct modeling and reverse engineering capabilities. In addition, the solid and surface modeling options are faster and more robust. The most important new option in PowerSHAPE’s direct modelling functionality is “Replace Face”. This allows a selected face or group of faces to be replaced with another face or group of faces, either from the same solid or from a separate solid or surface model. A second new option that will be of particular interest to tooling designers will be the “Solid Core” command. This selects automatically the smallest rectangular or cylindrical shape that will fully enclose a group of solid faces. For reverse engineering, PowerSHAPE now allows point-cloud data to be captured directly. Point data can be displayed on-screen as a laser attachment is passed over the object being scanned. This ensures that all the required information can be captured as any gaps in the data will be apparent immediately.
Luxion announced that solidThinking Evolve 9.0 launched with file export for KeyShot. This week, solidThinking released the newest version of its concept design and 3D modeling software, solidThinking Evolve 9.0 and with it, support to save KeyShot .bip files directly. Features of the solidThinking Evolve 9.0 KeyShot save option include:
IHS Inc. acquired Invention Machine for approximately $40 million. Invention Machine is a semantic search technology that uncovers relevant insights held within a wealth of internal and external knowledge sources, transforming the underlying data into actionable intelligence. Their patented semantic question-answering software engine leads engineers and knowledge workers to information quickly and enables them to rapidly digest it to make better decisions. Invention Machine’s Goldfire product is the decision engine built on top of a patented semantic search engine that connects engineers and innovation and knowledge workers, on-demand, to one another and to the internal and external knowledge and trends needed to develop, maintain and produce breakthrough products and services. Semantic search engines understand the meanings and relationships of words, and can provide more relevant results than traditional text-based search engines.
Geometric announced the launch of its automated design for manufacturability solution, DFMPro for NX software. Today, organizations are striving to create innovative products and need to get them to the market faster, within cost targets and with better quality. Issues related to product delays as well as cost and quality need to be detected early in the product development cycle as changes in later stages have an exponentially higher impact on time and cost. Geometric’s DFMPro product is a solution that identifies and fixes these issues at the design stage. DFMPro comes with global best practices in the area of manufacturability and assembly, along with a powerful framework to add an organization’s in-house best practices. This allows design engineers to save time on design reviews and rework, and utilize such time in creating innovative products. DFMPro provides numerous built-in checks for manufacturing processes like machining, sheet metal, casting, molding and assembly. The standard checks in DFMPro are derived from various handbooks, design guidelines and global best design practices.
Product and Company News
Related MCAD News
July 13th, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
I’ve been an industrial designer for a long time, so long in fact, that I still have Prismacolor pencils, pastels, markers and gouache (long ago dried out) that I used to execute product design sketches and renderings. I still sketch quite a bit with pencils and pens. However, there are also a lot of ID software packages out there today for different budgets and needs.
With all these ID software choices, you can narrow them down with a few basic features and capabilities that you’ll need for ID:
GUI — A good one is essential for minimizing the learning curve (which can be very steep) and fitting in with the way you work.
Sketching — For mimicking napkin drawing medium, and not with contstraints and parameters, easy and fast sketching ability is an absolute.
Surfacing — Freeform, organic shapes require top-notch surfacing, above and beyond basic 3D modeling.
Rendering — Communicating a design to others inside the company or to customers outside is much more effective with high-quality renderings.
Export — ID is not a standalone endeavor and the ability to export to other CAD packages for refinement is key — in native and/or neutral file formats.
We don’t have room to detail all of the ID software possibilities, but some of the more notable packages include:
Any others you care to add? Let us know.
In the future, I’ll put together a matrix that lists the products above and their features for comparison purposes for aspiring and practicing industrial designers.
July 9th, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
There are many choices in the engineering software space for CAD and CAM. However, there are relatively few choices that have both capabilities in one package, but ZW3D offers both in one well-integrated package. ZW3D 2012 Premium, with its ability to handle both CAD and CAM has several advantages. The biggest advantage is probably the common user interface, so you can easily move between the CAD and CAM environments for a smoother and more efficient design, engineering, and manufacturing workflow that can provide better end results.
ZW3D 2012 is available in five versions – Standard, Professional, Premium, 2X machining and 3X machining. Each version offers features for users with different needs and workflows, and includes:
The most significant improvements to ZW3D 2012 Premium include:
ZW3D 2012 Premium will be the version covered in this evaluation/review. Note also, that although ZW3D Premium has a wide range of CAD and CAM capabilities, we will focus primarily on the CAD side of its features and capabilities. Because there is so much to cover on the CAM side, we will largely leave that for a future evaluation/review. We will, however, cover the new turning operations on the CAM side .
User Interface and Experience
ZW3D 2012 has a new user interface which looks and feels somewhat familiar and can be customized. In ZW3D 2012, the user interface has the following components: Menu, Quick Access Toolbar, Ribbon Tabs, Toolbar, and Data Manager.
I feel the Data Manager is one of the most unique features of ZW3D’s UI. It is used to control several aspects of parts, drawings, the CAM Plan, etc. through Levels.
Figure 1: ZW3D 2012 User Interface
The Data Manager can be used at the following ZW3D Levels:
The Layer Manager is accessed from the ZW3D Data Manager. Select this icon from the Toolbar and then select the Layer Manager tab. Entities can be assigned to different layers to help manage design data. For example, reference geometry can be assigned to a different layer than part geometry. Layers can be created, edited, deleted, blanked, activated, and frozen. You can set default line and face attributes for a layer and new entities will be assigned those attributes automatically.
The Input Manager provides a non-linear method of entering required and optional inputs. Options Forms are displayed in the ZW3D Data Manager if it is enabled. You can use the ZW3D Configuration Form to have forms displayed automatically. The forms complement the command prompt sequence. When the forms are not displayed, this is referred to as “streamlined mode” verses “play mode” when they are displayed. In “streamlined mode” optional inputs are assigned default values and only the required inputs are prompted.
For new and even experienced users, the place to start learning ZW3D 2012 are its Show-n-Tell tutorials. ZW3D 2012 also has a series of helpful CAD and CAM tips for just about all aspects of the design and manufacturing processes.
A good user interface is vital for new users and minimizing the learning curve, and ZW3D 2012 has made some significant strides in this area. However, the documentation that comes with the product is incomplete and will leave some users at a loss on how to perform some functions without trial and error.
Files created with ZW3D can contain as many parts, assemblies, drawings, and CAM plans as required, each being known as an object. You can store an entire project of objects in one file or multiple files. With this in mind, a good strategy is to store commonly used parts in one file and create part objects specific to an assembly in another project file.
Another good strategy for beginning a design with ZW3D is to create template objects for modeling, 2D drawing, and machining. All template objects are stored in the Templates file. You can edit previous template objects, as well as copying and pasting to create a new one. Templates can be customized to set such things as colors and line styles, layer schemes, and machining operations and parameters. A template can be selected and used when starting, for example, a new part, drawing sheet, or CAM plan. When using templates, be sure to properly save and close the Templates file when you have finished editing to ensure the integrity of your work.
ZW3D 2012 has hints and prompts as design aids that most users will appreciate. First, there is Show Hints that provides context sensitive, continuous tips. Second, at the bottom of the graphics window is the Prompt/Status Line that displays the current command and the next logical step ZW3D wants you to perform. This latter feature is not perfect, but is usually quite helpful.
With ZW3D 2012 you can work with any geometry and solids are not necessarily required. Once imported you can manipulate solids, surfaces, wireframe, and scanned point cloud data. Geometry healing is useful for correcting gaps in imported model geometry. Healing functions make it relatively easy to analyze surface topology, sew surfaces together, fill gaps with new surfaces, and specify tolerances for creating closed solids.
From the beginning ZW3D has been built on the company’s proprietary Overdrive Modeling Kernel, which is a good thing for mathematical modeling efficiency, and optimization.
Like virtually all CAD systems, including ZW3D, most new designs start with sketches. However, ZW3D simplifies sketching using a proprietary capability called ReadySketch with several pre-defined commonly used, dimensioned geometric sketch shapes that can be quickly edited to a size required for a design.
Sketching in ZW3D is easy and straightforward. Clicking on a line and right clicking displays several context sensitive options, such as copy, move, mirror, cut, etc. Geometric constraints, such as perpendicular, parallel, etc. are automatically displayed and usable during sketching. Clicking on a constraint displays options for changing it which is a time saver in the early stages of a design. Like most other CAD applications, save and exit the sketch to start creating features.
Figure 2: Sketching a Part in 2D
The most common way that 2D sketches become 3D shapes for further modeling is by extruding the 2D sketch. Extruding and adding additional features, such as fillets and chamfers is easy with several options available as they are added for creating the shape you want.
Figure 3: Extruded Part Sketch with Features Applied
At the 2D level, there are several dimensioning modes available, including:
For 3D, with ZW3D’s dynamic dimensions you can pick and drag 3D dimensions for modifying shapes with simultaneous visual feedback. This ability lets you construct 3D geometry with parametric dimensions because they are automatically created during the design process.
Next, constraints can be applied in both 2D and 3D design environments.
In 2D, there are several commands available for adding constraints to an active sketch, such as anchor, parallel, perpendicular, co-tangent, etc. Like it or not, constraints force conditions on geometry as a sketch is modified. You can choose commands to analyze and solve the constraint system of a sketch. 2D constraints (and dimensions) can also be applied automatically to sketch geometry on the fly by using the Constraint toolbar and selecting a base point.
In 3D, the constraints most commonly applied are assembly alignment constraints. For assemblies, inserting component parts and adding alignment constraints are considered individual steps in parametric history. This is a good feature because constraints can be added in any order since they are not bundled with components or replayed sequentially during a history replay. When a 3D constraint is applied, a short animation shows the parts aligning and moving into place in the assembly. Alignment constraints can be added, deleted, solved, edited, dragged, and investigated. Alignment constraints can also be applied to anchor components in a fixed position. Applying 3D constraints can be time consuming, however, because in most cases, multiple constraints are required to properly align a component.
Before leaving basic part modeling, I want to briefly discuss the sheet metal features and capabilities in ZW3D 2012 Premium.
The Sheet Metal tooltab has commands for unfolding and refolding the axial bends in a 3D sheet metal part. Unfolding the part shows the size and shape of the flat pattern. The part can also be detailed on a drawing sheet in its unfolded state. Also included here is a command to set the stationary face (a face that remains flat and is not bent) that governs how a part will unfold. Features that can be added to sheet metal parts include flanges, dimples, louvers, and extrusions.
Figure 4. Unfolded Sheet Metal Part
Although these capabilities are not new anymore, since many CAD vendors offer it, direct editing continues to be a hot topic. ZW3D actually provides two different modeling methods – history-based and direct – that together provide a hybrid approach for modeling. History-based modeling employs a History Manager, or what other parametric system vendors call a history/feature tree.
ZW3D’ SmoothFlow Direct Editing combines the best of both worlds – the speed and flexibility of direct modeling with the precision of dimension-driven modeling, while still maintaining the functionality of history-based modeling. Using SmoothFlow, you can directly modify model geometry without editing history – a real time saver, since creating and editing history-based geometry can be a challenge.
QuickEdit is a ZW3D technique that streamlines creating and editing shapes. With QuickEdit you don’t have to pre-select an editing tool. Instead, you touch a part’s face or edge, right click the mouse, and choose a tool, such as fillet, offset, or move. SnapPick is a ZW3D option that takes a point pick and automatically drives it from intersections, critical points, and axis directions. You can think of SnapPick as an assistant for helping create 3D sketches, features, and parts.
The Direct Editing (DE) approach provided by ZW3D is unique because of the way it employs a feature tree. While some competitors have abandoned the feature tree with their direct approaches, it does make for a workflow that is easier to track and understand. Direct model editing lets you pick directly on geometry for quick modifications. You also have different options for viewing how the model was created with the ability to display the history of modeling operations, a list of parent and/or child operations, as well as the ability to replay and step through a model’s history.
DE(Direct-Edit) is a method for ensuring “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG). The supported object types are Edge, Face, and Freeform Surface. The Face can be flat, cylinder, core, sphere, and ellipsoid. Four commands can be invoked in Direct Edit – Fillet, Chamfer, Draft, Extrude, and OffsetFace.
Direct edit is fairly straightforward to perform:
Figure 5: Removing a Face and Closing Gaps
Admittedly, Direct Edit is still somewhat limited in ZW3D 2012, but is getting more comprehensive with each new release.
Important for ZW3D users who are involved with both CAD and CAM, regardless of whether you model parametrically or directly, any changes made to geometry automatically updates associated CNC program output.
ZW3D 2012 Premium supports efficient assembly definition, manipulation, and management, and was a fundamental consideration when the ZW3D architecture was conceived and designed. For example, ZW3D’s Object Manager loads only display data for an object into memory if that object is active for edit, minimizing an assembly’s memory footprint while maximizing the size of an assembly that can be worked with. The Object Manager also lets you decide how assemblies are distributed into files – ranging from each component in a separate file, an entire assembly in one file, or anything in between.
ZW3D Premium supports the two main assembly creation approaches – bottom-up and top-down.
Figure 6: Saw Assembly in ZW3D 2012
Finally, ZW3D supports its proprietary lightweight Burst technology that lets you manipulate large assemblies without memory constraints. The tree structure for assemblies allows individual component parts to be graphically highlighted for identification and modification purposes.
For drawings, ZW3D 2012 has a number of improvements, including:
ZW3D automatically creates 2D associative detail drawings directly from 3D models from which they are created, so the process is pretty streamlined. The production drawing and detailing process are assisted by ZW3D’s unique object server architecture that lets you decide whether drawings will be saved in the same file as the 3D data from the master model or in separate files.
Drawings provide an insight into ZW3D’s architecture that is a multi-level object-oriented system with access to its various integrated modules, including CAM, through a common user interface. Rather than launching separate applications for drafting or CAM, you just open a ZW3D file and proceed to the level you want; in this instance the Drawing Level for creating and editing drawing packets and drawing sheets. The Drawing Packet Level contains functions that are used to create drawing packets, while the Drawing Sheet Level is used to create drawing sheets. In ZW3D, a drawing packet is a collection of one or more drawing sheets. A drawing sheet is where model geometry is actually located.
Figure 7: A ZW3D 2012 Drawing with a BOM
In drawings, there is a useful command for bills of material that lets you synchronize a BOM with part attributes for updating a 3D part by making changes to the BOM table on a 2D drawing , so you don’t have to drill down to the part level.
ZW3D 2012 Premium lets you create mold geometry that includes core and cavity, parting surfaces, draft angles and material shutoffs. The core and cavity can be created at the same time in one operation. Also available is a comprehensive library of standard mold base components that includes slides, lifters, ejector pins, cooling channels, and electrodes for producing molds. One of the most significant features of ZW3D’s mold capabilities is the way it is organized into a logical sequence that walks you through the mold creation process.
Figure 8: 3D Mold Design in ZW3D 2012
Before getting to the mold design phase, you can interrogate, analyze, and animate a plastic part’s design to ensure that it is manufacturable. ZW3D also generates so-called intelligent workflow. For example, it employs auto-feature milling with machining strategy based on a part’s features.
One of the most unique aspects of ZW3D Premium CAD process is its association with the manufacturing process. For example, ZW3D recognizes and machines geometric design features (up to 5 axes), and has the ability to directly manipulate and machine from STL or mesh scan files.
One of the new machining options that has been added to ZW3D 2012 Premium CAM is 2-axis turning. The turning capabilities can be used to machine 3D parts or 2D sketches. This time around there are seven operations available for turning operations, including:
Drilling: Drilling operations can be used to machine drill, ream, and tap holes. Parameters include drill type, tap type, depth, and others.
Face: This operation is used to machine the face of a work piece. The face operation includes parameters and a tool path can be generated without modifying any parameters. Parameters include path tolerance, step size, and allowance.
Rough Turning: Rough Turning operation is mainly used for removing superfluous materials. It currently supports outside-diameter(OD) and inside-diameter(ID) machining. The available cutting strategies include Horizontal, Vertical, and Pattern Repeat. Parameters include speeds, feeds, tolerances, and cut direction.
Finish Turning: Use the finish turning command to cut allowances left by a rough turning operation. This command can be used as either a semi-finishing or finishing operation. Parameters include speeds, feeds, tolerances, and cut direction.
Grooving: Grooves can be classified as external groove, internal groove, and face groove according to its location. The turn grooving operation provides three cut directions to machine these grooves for rough grooving and finish grooving to finish it.
Threading: For making various types of threads, like external/internal straight thread or tapered thread with single-start or multi-start. It is easy to pick a point for the thread location. Parameters include threading inside or outside diameter, thread pitch, and right-hand or left-hand thread.
Part Off: The Part Off operation is mainly used to separate an object from the workpiece. In this operation, you can generate a toolpath with just defining a Cut Off Point. Parameters include toolpath tolerance, cutoff point, and corner geometry (chamfer or fillet).
Figure 9: New 2X Turning in ZW3D 2012
The CAM and Tactics Managers in ZW3D Premium provide assistance during the manufacturing phase. These management tools help you develop intelligent and efficient milling and drilling operations. You do this by defining rules that ZW3D CAM will use when analyzing CAM features. The rules that are defined form a rule set that will help select the best machining tools from your library and calculate the best tool paths. For example, if a drilling operation is required and a good match from available drill tools cannot be located in the library, ZW3D CAM searches existing reaming or boring tools for a better match for the given operation. The suggested tooling operations can then be organized, verified, and output just as manually created operations would be.
While ZW3D 2012 Premium has several strong capabilities in part and assembly design, drawing creation, and data management, its greatest strength and differentiator is the fact that in one package, you have all the tools necessary for going from design through manufacturing (machining). In effect, ZW3D 2012 Premium can handle the entire product development process – from concept through manufacturing. This comprehensive ability really sets it apart compared with its competitors, many of whom require optional or add-in products to achieve this level of functionality, especially for manufacturing.
Having all workflow capabilities available in one package ensures a similar user experience throughout the design and manufacturing process. Dealing with one comprehensive software application, such as ZW3D 2012 Premium will benefit many potential customers, especially those directly or indirectly involved with design and manufacturing operations.
The parent company, ZWSOFT, continues to evolve and appears to have shaken up its worldwide sales channel. Technical support in the U.S. is available through a knowledge base, instant messaging, email, and channel partners. The relative lack of real “live” support, however, is improving.
Although it’s a competitive market, ZW3D 2012 Premium is a unique design/engineering/manufacturing software application because it can cover all the CAD and CAM bases and should be given serious consideration.
ZW3D 2012 Premium
Pluses: Wide range of capabilities from design through manufacturing; CAD/CAM workflow; hybrid modeling with direct editing; modest system requirements.
Minuses: Technical support; product education/documentation content.
Price: $7,000 (US). Upgrade $1,500 (US). Free 30-day trial download available.
The pricing for the ZW3D 2012 product line is as follows:
ZW3D Standard $2,500
ZW3D Professional $4,000
ZW3D Premium: $7,000
ZW3D 2X Machining: $1,500
ZW3D 3X Machining: $4,000
ZW3D 4&5-Axis Machining (add-on): $5,000
For More Information: ZW3D 2012 Premium
Product and Company News
Related MCAD News
July 5th, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
I’ll admit up front that I’ve had a “thing” for mobile computing devices for some time — smartphones, netbooks, ultrabooks, tablets, and so on for day-to-day office work activities. However, I’ve increasingly gotten more interested in how these mobile platforms work in an engineering environment.
I’ve used various Windows, iOS, and Android devices with different levels of satisfaction and frustration.
I currently use devices running iOS (an iPad and iPhone), as well as a Dell Notebook running Windows XP. In the past I have used an Android smartphone and tablet.
I actually had the highest hopes for the Android devices, but gradually got so frustrated with the relative lack of standards and consistency with different apps and devices with regard to look, feel, behavior, and reliability. I guess I could have worked more diligently getting things to work better, but felt I didn’t need another hobby/part time job, so I sold all my Android stuff. That’s not to say I won’t return to the Android camp at some time, because I do like the “open” aspect of things Andoid. I’m just going to take a step back for a while.
I now use the Apple devices on a daily basis and am pleased with the way they work together in their little ecosystem — what works on the iPhone usually works on the iPad and vice versa. Office document, engineering application, and photography workflows are still quite a challenge, but I’m really trying to make things work. Beyond writing and simple photo editing, on the engineering side, the I use the iPad primarily as viewer. There are some interesting apps for engineering, such as simple CAD and simulation, but haven’t spent too much time with them yet, although I intend to in the near future.
On the Windows side, I’ve had fairly good luck with the Windows platform (netbook), but it is Windows, and that fact alone has caused me a lot of frustration over the years — don’t get me started. The upcoming Microsoft Surface tablets with Windows 8 look interesting, but with the keyboards Microsoft is pushing, they look more like ultrabooks than innovative tablets. When introduced, there will be two levels:
Admittedly, Microsoft is a little late to the tablet game, and the company (with few exceptions) has not exactly been a powerhouse with in-house developed hardware. However, Microsoft tablets might be popular in the business world, including engineering. I’m going to wait and see on that one, though.
Ideally, I’d like to be able to have one OS/platform that meets all my needs, but for the foresseable future, I’ll probably be using two — one for personal work and one for professional work — iOS and Windows. This means ongoing compromise, but I enjoy the ability to make the best use of each one in ways that work best for me. I have no doubt, though, that mobile devices and engineering apps will continue to improve to the point where they are as useful as their counterparts on desktop platforms.
Editor’s Note: I’ll review and report on some engineering-oriented apps in the coming weeks and months.
June 25th, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
Siemens PLM Software, a business unit of the Siemens Industry Automation Division and a leading global provider of product lifecycle management (PLM) software and services, announced the release of Solid Edge ST5, with advances in core design capabilities aimed at helping users develop better products faster. The latest Solid Edge release also contains more than 1,300 new customer-driven productivity enhancements.
Siemens PLM Software also announced Solid Edge Mobile Viewer, a new free 3D viewer mobile device application (app) for the iPad portable digital device, which broadens access to design data to help companies enhance collaboration. The announcements were made at Siemens PLM Software’s Solid Edge University 2012
“The new features in Solid Edge ST5 are driven by our strong focus on our customers’ requirements. By responding directly to their needs, we ensure each functional enhancement delivers real business value,” said Dan Staples, director of Solid Edge product development, Siemens PLM Software. “Customers are seeing real benefits from our industry-leading synchronous technology and we’ve strongly extended our lead in this area.”
Faster more flexible ways to use synchronous technology
Solid Edge continues to leverage synchronous technology, Siemens PLM Software’s breakthrough history-free, feature-based design technology for digital product development, to provide designers and engineers a better way to create and edit designs and to help cut design time by enabling reuse of imported models. Solid Edge ST5 uses synchronous technology to provide enhanced support for multi-body modeling, which lets users import parts and assemblies from virtually any CAD system. The resulting imported geometry can be combined into a single part or multiple parts depending on manufacturing requirements.
“I am very impressed with what I have seen in Solid Edge ST5; especially the new multi-body design capability,” said Grant Holohan, Mechanical Engineer, Hatch, a leading global EPCM company specializing in designing large-scale mining operations. “The new multi-body design capability gives us the freedom to design without worrying about individual parts unless needed. Using Solid Edge ST5 will dramatically increase the design productivity of our staff, saving a substantial amount of design time.”
Continues to simplify drawing documentation
In many design and manufacturing companies, drawings are a key deliverable. Solid Edge enhancements continue to focus on drawing productivity to help lower shop floor errors. Enhancements in Solid Edge ST5 include the ability to show an assembly in multiple positions within a drawing view, to automatically place parts lists across sheets, and easily align the position of dimensions. A new marquee feature is the ability to create nailboards of electrical wiring harnesses, complete with flattened and “bend” views, drawing views of connectors, and connector and conductor tables for creating complete manufacturing documentation.
Delivers thermal analysis for steady-state simulations
Engineers often need to simulate both thermal and mechanical systems where a part may have to undergo both stress and a thermal load. And when issues are encountered, they require a fast, easy approach to making changes that improve design quality. Solid Edge ST5 now includes steady-state thermal simulation and when coupled with synchronous technology users can test more alternatives in less time, so designers can reduce the need to build and test physical prototypes.
Solid Edge Mobile Viewer App for the iPad
Users across a company now have the ability to view 3D parts and assemblies created with Solid Edge using the new free Solid Edge Mobile Viewer app on an iPad. The app includes the ability to rotate, pan, zoom, show and hide parts, create and email images. Solid Edge Mobile Viewer allows individuals outside of the traditional design and engineering departments to view design data, enabling faster, more convenient design reviews, customer presentations, or general model inspection.
Solid Edge ST5 is scheduled to ship in July. For more information please visit www.siemens.com/plm/solidedgest5
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
With ST5 the Synchronous Technology saga continues . . .
Starting about four years ago, one of biggest mechanical CAD software developments then arguably was Synchronous Technology (ST) that found its way into both Solid Edge and its big brother, NX. Given that it was a “Version 1” of the technology, it was stable, but was not implemented through all design environments within the Solid Edge product. That, however, has been addressed over time, and continues to be increasingly implemented throughout in new releases.
In 2008, Siemens PLM Software announced a new CAD methodology that it claimed to be the biggest MCAD breakthrough in a decade called Synchronous Technology. That was a pretty big claim, but the possibilities and implications were pretty intriguing.
June 15th, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
I guess it’s just me, but I’m still trying to get used to Dassault calling itself the 3DEXPERIENCE Company with a 3DEXPERIENCE Platform that consists of all of of its product lines. To its credit, though, Dassault recently announced a tangible result with Tata Technologies’ use of its 3DEXPERIENCE platform, based on V6 technology, for developing the small urban electric vehicle study – the eMO (for electric MObility).
Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE Platform
The eMO study was undertaken to demonstrate the feasibility of developing an electric vehicle at an affordable price. Tata Technologies says that the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform enabled its team to complete the project quickly and accurately.
“We needed a highly regarded partner for this project, as we were relying on it to showcase our multi-dimensional approach to vehicle engineering and development,” said Kevin Fisher, president, Tata Technologies Vehicle Programs and Development (VPD) Group. “We have a deep history with Dassault Systèmes and were confident that CATIA and ENOVIA V6 applications would help us leverage the talents of a global engineering team to meet numerous design and cost constraints, as well as create the targeted user experience, including a final vehicle price tag of under $20,000.”
A significant challenge in the development process was the requirement to fit all the required vehicle systems into a small footprint while maintaining spacious seating for four adults. To achieve this, Tata Technologies used CATIA and ENOVIA to develop various studies, allowing global collaboration to rapidly evaluate and optimize possible solutions.
The development of the eMO was a global effort, requiring collaboration among more than 300 Tata Technologies engineers from the U.S., Europe, and India. The data generated by the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform became the common language for collaboration and allowed rapid comparison of proposals, leading to swift decisions and innovative solutions. In addition, it allowed more time for testing of different design features aimed at reducing energy consumption, such as vehicle weight, rolling resistance and aerodynamics.
Not a lot of details were given, which is sort of understandable for a feasibility study, but is tangible proof that Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE Platform is being used for real work. It will be interesting to see how eMO evolves and where it goes.
MCADCafe e-Magazine: PTC’s CEO Jim Heppelmann Declares New Era of Manufacturing Competitiveness at PlanetPTC Live 2012
June 14th, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
At its annual worldwide gathering of customers, PlanetPTC Live in Orlando, Florida, PTC declared a new era of manufacturing competitiveness driven by technology solutions that help companies achieve product and service advantage. In his keynote address, PTC president and CEO Jim Heppelmann argued that the world is poised to enter what The Economist magazine recently labeled a “third industrial revolution.” In this new era, a concerted focus on strategy will lead a renaissance in global manufacturing which will, in turn, put companies using PTC technology solutions in increasingly important roles helping create new value for their companies, and helping them achieve a competitive edge in the 21st Century.
“Over the past few decades, global manufacturers have made massive investments in technology and process change aimed at improving operational efficiency,” said Heppelmann. “Today, however, we are reaching the limits of the competitive edge these investments can deliver. Manufacturers need to be operationally efficient to stay in the game, but they can no longer achieve meaningful advantage from that alone. The time has come for a new source of competitive advantage – product and service advantage – from technology and process change that improves strategy decision-making across the enterprise, from engineering to the supply chain to sales and service networks.”
Fundamentally, PTC technology solutions transform the way companies create and service products by enabling them to make better, smarter, faster strategy and planning decisions. These decisions relate to how products are designed and engineered, how a supply chain is optimized, how quality and compliance is assured throughout the manufacturing process and, ultimately, how service is efficiently delivered against a product once sold. Individually, these planning decisions help deliver a strategy that supports a brand. Collectively, they are the new source of competitive advantage.
Over its 25 year history, PTC has developed a deep expertise in helping companies optimize the processes associated with each stage of the product lifecycle. In recent years, through a combination of organic development and acquisition, PTC has built a broad portfolio of technology solutions that it combines with its process expertise to assist customers in achieving greatness. In 2012, PTC has gone one step further and reorganized the company itself to align directly with the organizational structure of the modern manufacturing enterprise. Specifically, PTC has established five internal leadership teams focused on driving its technology solution strategies in the areas of product lifecycle management (PLM), computer-aided design (CAD), application lifecycle management (ALM), supply chain management (SCM), and service lifecycle management (SLM).
“A new era is upon us,” concluded Heppelmann. “To win in the new century requires a new way of thinking. For manufacturers, it’s about making fundamentally smarter strategy decisions. Today, advantage goes to those who differentiate their product and service offering, and PTC is proud to align itself with leading global brands that are poised to win in the new competitive era by achieving product and service advantage.”
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
Along with about 2,000 other attendees, we just returned from PlanetPTC Live 2012.
It was a good conference with a different “vibe” than in past years – more confident, forthcoming, and upbeat. I don’t know if it was the recent management changes that made the difference, but it was evident that the era of the “new PTC” has begun.
June 1st, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
The privately funded and developed SpaceX Dragon just returned from a flight that was successful from start to finish. The SpaceX Dragon capsule parachuted into the Pacific on May 31, 2012 to conclude the first private delivery to the International Space Station and ring in a new era for NASA’s approach to space exploration.
SpaceX’s CEO/CTO, Elon Musk, said “Welcome home, baby,” and was said to be a bit surprised with the SpaceX Dragon’s triumphant mission.
After its initial success, the primary goal for SpaceX will be to repeat the success on future flights.
Because the unmanned supply ship’s arrival was so accurate, when it splashed down, a fleet of recovery ships was able to quickly move in to pull the capsule aboard a barge for towing to Los Angeles.
It was the first time since the shuttles stopped flying last summer that NASA got a sizable load returned from the space station – more than half a ton of experiments and equipment.
The arrival of the world’s first commercial cargo carrier concluded a nine-day test flight that was virtually flawless, beginning with the May 22, 2012 launch aboard the SpaceX company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, continuing with the space station docking three days later, and departure six hours before landing in the ocean.
SpaceX attributes a large part of its design and engineering success to CAD, CAM, and CAE software, including Fibersim from Siemens PLM Software for composite material design and engineering.
According to Chris Thompson, Vice President of Structures Engineering at SpaceX, “Time is always of the essence for us, so Fibersim’s proven ability to take us from art to part so rapidly was a critical consideration in our decision to purchase the software. Fibersim improves product quality by providing accurate engineering information to the manufacturing floor, which also helps the repeatability of the manufacturing process.” The repeatability of the manufacturing process is vital for repeated success of the space platform.
Adopting Advanced Composite Materials
For more than 50 years, commercial access to space has been limited by the high cost of flight operations. However, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) has rewritten the rules of the game by adopting a new business model and cutting edge technologies to enhance reliability and reduce the cost of space access.
One significant way SpaceX enhanced the performance of its Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule was by adopting composite materials. Composites have received growing acceptance in a variety of industries, including aerospace, and the space industry has taken note. SpaceX was no exception. The design team recognized that composites could significantly enhance performance by improving the strength-to-weight ratio of the materials used to construct its spacecraft.
Once that decision was made, SpaceX conducted an evaluation of available composites engineering solutions and concluded that Siemens PLM Software’s Fibersim software was the best fit for its design and manufacturing environment.
“Based on our comparison, there was no question that Fibersim was definitely the best choice on the market for designing and manufacturing composite components to suit our needs,” said Kirk Matthes, SpaceX’s design manager.
SpaceX’s business model is derived from the philosophy that simplicity, so low-cost and reliability can go hand in hand. By eliminating the traditional layers of management and subcontractors, the company reduced costs while speeding decision making and delivery. Likewise, by keeping the vast majority of manufacturing in-house, SpaceX reduced costs, kept tighter control of quality, and ensured a tight feedback loop between the design and manufacturing teams. By concentrating on simple, proven designs with a primary focus on reliability, the company has reduced the costs associated with complex systems operating at the margin. Fibersim has proven very valuable within that design/engineering paradigm.
SpaceX used Fibersim to design and manufacture a variety of composite parts on both the Falcon rocket and the Dragon capsule. Fibersim was used to develop production fiber placement diagrams and laser projection files. It was also used to assist with actual fiber placement for the spacecraft’s thermal protection system, including the heat shield, exterior panels, insulating layers on the rocket and spacecraft, and several panels around the nose cone and engines.
Fibersim is now being employed from the outset on all new composites projects and has enabled SpaceX to reduce the design-to-manufacturing time on composite parts, such as the 5-meter fairing boattail panel by 71 percent, from seven days to two days. For other designs, the generation of manufacturing data was reduced by as much as 86 percent, from seven days to one day, using Fibersim. These time savings mean that changes are processed more quickly, designs are updated more reliably, and the overall process flows more smoothly.
SpaceX has used Fibersim to perform a variety of tasks, including creating designs, making flat patterns, working in conjunction with its finite element analysis (FEA) software, and creating laser data.
Strong Support From Siemens
As a newcomer to composites, SpaceX was also concerned about finding a software vendor that had significant composites experience so it could receive the necessary guidance and support as it embarked on working with new materials.
“Siemens PLM Software’s support is excellent,” said Matthes. “Anytime we have a problem, we can send a model to the Siemens PLM Software’s technical consultant and he helps us get through the issue. Again, as a fast-paced organization, we must continually be moving forward, and Siemens PLM Software’s responsiveness and expertise enables us to do just that.”
Siemens PLM Software also embeds the know-how derived from its years of experience in the composites industry to provide intuitive, easy-to-use features for the design of a variety of composite structures. This is integrated into the software, speeds learning time, and makes the learning experience for new users more effective. This also aids in training new users who may not have experience in designing with composite materials.
Since most of the composite parts are not especially complicated, the Fibersim Composites Engineering Environment (CEE) has proven to be sufficient. However, certain sections of the launch vehicle are characterized by complex curvature, so SpaceX opted for Siemens PLM Software’s Advanced Composites Engineering Environment (ACEE) to design those parts. ACEE exploits the inherent advantages of many different composite design methodologies –including structure-based, zone-based, and ply-based design — to enable efficient engineering of large, complex structural components and highly contoured composite skins.
Most importantly, it helps to address the changes that inevitably occur while developing a composite structure. Based upon inputs from analysis, manufacturing or further iterations of the design, the definition evolves to its final state. This can require frequent updates and changes, which are time-consuming without software created specifically for this process. ACEE is designed to meet this challenge and create a more straightforward process for managing design changes.
“ACEE provided a significant boost to our efforts to define or import laminate specifications and requirements quickly using a zone-based design methodology,” explained Matthes. “It helped speed ply definition by dynamically generating zone transitions and ply boundaries using an offset profile.”
The ability to accelerate the process and make it more accurate enables SpaceX to proceed with high speed and quality, as well set new standards for designing and manufacturing composite spacecraft both now and in the future.
As a kid who grew up during NASA’s heyday in the 60s and 70s and the more recent hiatus, I’m now very encouraged about the future of space exploration – due in large part to private enterprise — and I applaud the efforts of SpaceX. I hope SpaceX’s accomplishment ushers in a new wave of engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurial companies who will take advantage of this great opportunity.
May 21st, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
This week we are attending the Collaboration & Interoperability Congress (CIC) 2012. CIC is a unique independent vendor/technology/product-neutral event that addresses collaboration and interoperability in manufacturing and business processes. The event seems particularly well attended this year and represents by a wide range of industries and standards bodies.
One notable absence, however, was any representation from the JT camp — Siemens PLM Software. I would have thought that JT would take advantage of an event such as CIC to showcase and grandstand the data format. With no real presence, what are we to think? Is JT really as ubiquitous and pervasive as we have been led to believe? Maybe yes, maybe no. Admittedly, JT has its own conference this coming fall, but when just about every other interoperability technology provider shows up, why not JT? On the other hand, an organization that had a major presence was the relatively new 3DPDF Consortium.
CIC is an interesting conference because collaboration and interoperability are undergoing huge changes, due in large part to clould-based computing, storage, and software as service. Will the cloud be used exclusively tomorrow? Probably not, but over time it will be increasingly used as a primary digital data creation and management platform. In any case, interoperability in the cloud will become a bigger and bigger issue with great challenges, but also great opportunities.
An interesting session on the first day of the Congress discussed the following lightweight 3D formats:
Free viewers are largely what differentiate the above formats, but it was made clear that there is no such thing as a free viewer due to implementation and IP protection/security costs.
The 3D PDF format really got a lot of attention, at least during the first day of the Congress. It seems the reasons for this are the industrial strength tools available for 3D PDF, excellent user acceptance, and the fact that PDF is a widely recognized ISO standard (ISO 32000).
In the coming weeks, we’ll detail the advantages and disadvantages of each of the lightweight formats because they definitely have each.
As its central theme, CIC drives home the point that like living creatures and technologies, when it comes to evolution, it’s not necessarily the strongest or brightest that survive, it’s those who are the most adaptable. I think this will prove true and apply to collaboration and interoperability going forward.