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 »
September 5th, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
Autodesk continued its strategic investment in product lifecycle management (PLM) and has announced it has acquired certain assets of Inforbix, LLC. Inforbix is a software company focused on cloud-based SaaS solutions aimed at increasing the value of product data, productivity, and improved decision making for manufacturing-based companies. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. As a part of this acquisition, Autodesk also announced that it appointed Oleg Shilovitsky as Senior Director of PLM and Data Management. Shilovitsky is a co-founder of Inforbix, LLC.
“Oleg Shilovitsky is an established PLM thought leader who brings deep industry experience and a history of innovation to his new role at Autodesk,” said Buzz Kross, senior vice president, Design, Lifecycle and Simulation at Autodesk. “Since the launch of Autodesk PLM 360 last year, we have introduced thousands of new users to the power of cloud-based PLM. We are thrilled to welcome Oleg and under his leadership look forward to continued innovation and driving greater adoption of Autodesk PLM 360.”
Autodesk plans to incorporate Inforbix technology for indexing, search, personalization and data visualization into Autodesk PLM360, which will help to accelerate the vision for the Autodesk 360 cloud services.
Oleg Shilovitsky co-founded Inforbix in 2010 and served as CEO. He was Inforbix’s strategist, technologist, and ideologist and also an author of the PLM Think Tank and Beyond PLM blogs. Prior to Inforbix, Shilovitsky worked for Smart Solutions, SmarTeam, Enovia and Dassault Systems.
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
Well, summer’s (almost) over, and we’ve had a relative dearth of news coming out of the MCAD industry the past several weeks, but this acquisition is a big deal for both Autodesk and Inforbix.
Inforbix is a developer of software that lets users access and view product data from multiple sources without any confusing data extraction, import, or conversion required. The software also helps connect product data elements that may or may not be similar in character. Because it has always been cloud-based, Inforbix software is relatively easy to deploy and much less costly than traditional PLM applications – two characteristics also shared and touted by Autodesk’s cloud-based PLM 360.
To expand its PLM product offerings, Autodesk is acquiring “certain assets” of Inforbix. Although terms of the transaction were not disclosed (which is not all that unusual), the deal is not expected to have any impact on Autodesk’s future earnings guidance issued earlier on August 23, 2012 (see The Week’s Top MCAD Stories below). Requests for information regarding the “certain assets” and financial terms of the acquisition are still in the works, and we’ll report back what they are when Autodesk gets back with us.
It’s not too surprising that Autodesk plans to integrate Inforbix software into its PLM 360 (its cloud-based PLM suite launched in early 2012). It’s also not too hard to imagine that the Inforbix acquisition will expand the PLM 360 suite’s indexing, searching, personalizing, configuration, and data visualization capabilities.
MCADCafe Weekly (8/26/12): PTC Acquiring Servigistics For Increased Presence In Service Lifecycle Management
August 23rd, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
PTC announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Servigistics, Inc., developer of an innovative suite of service lifecycle management (SLM) software solutions, for approximately $220 million in cash. Pending regulatory approval and satisfaction of other customary conditions, the transaction is expected to be completed in September 2012.
The acquisition will greatly enhance PTC’s existing portfolio of SLM solutions which, today, includes robust capabilities in the areas of warranty and contract management, service parts definition, and technical information – including mobile delivery. Servigistics is recognized as a technology leader in complementary areas such as service parts planning, management and pricing, field service management, returns and repair management, and service knowledge management. In combination, the solutions will dramatically accelerate PTC’s ability to help discrete manufacturers transform their service strategies and operations into a true source of sustainable competitive edge – what PTC describes as “service advantage.”
“Over the past few years, Servigistics has earned a reputation for innovation in helping companies maximize their global service businesses through increased profitability, cash flow, and customer loyalty,” said PTC president and CEO Jim Heppelmann. “Their customers are at the leading edge of a global trend to take service from a cost center to a profit center, and SLM technology has been a critical driver. This acquisition should make clear just how serious PTC is about helping its customers achieve lasting service advantage.”
For leading manufacturers, getting their service strategy right presents a multi-billion dollar, high-margin revenue opportunity to differentiate themselves in the market from their traditional product-oriented competitors. As an enabling technology, SLM helps manufacturers and their service network partners optimize the customer experience by ensuring service is systemically planned, delivered, and analyzed to continually improve performance and maximize customer value. Yet, few manufacturers have either a coordinated strategy or the integrated technology suite needed to capture this new market opportunity – with many manufacturers realizing as little as 25% of the total service value in their products’ service lifecycle.
PTC has long been known for its world-class technology solutions that optimize the way companies create products. With this acquisition PTC will significantly expand how it helps companies service those same products. In fact, starting with the acquisition of Arbortext in 2005, PTC has been developing solutions that enable manufacturers to plan and analyze service based on how their products are designed and built. This service-focused strategy has driven PTC to deliver specialized solutions that are the result of innovative technology development combined with capabilities gained through the acquisition of companies such as ITEDO, LBS and 4CS. By adding Servigistics to this portfolio, PTC will be able to deliver a complete system for service – providing market-leading capabilities across all key components of the service lifecycle.
With Servigistics, PTC’s SLM solutions will provide global manufacturers with a real-time, single view into the extended service environment to identify and respond to areas for improvement, opportunities for new business, and risks to avoid. Only with a connected service network – supporting the owner/operator, distributor, dealer, service partner, field service force, repair depots, and warranty desk – can the OEM plan, deliver and analyze all necessary resources to ensure that service performance and overall value is meeting or exceeding their customers’ expectations. In addition, this acquisition further enhances PTC’s ability to help customers gain competitive advantage throughout the entire product lifecycle – from conception and design to sourcing and service.
“At Servigistics, we share PTC’s vision for helping to transform the way companies execute their service strategies,” said Eric Hinkle, Servigistics president and CEO. “We anticipate that our clients will reap great benefits from the synergies of this shared vision and are pleased to help PTC secure a strong technology and thought leadership position in SLM.”
Over the past 12 months, privately-held Servigistics generated approximately $80 million in revenue. In connection with this acquisition, PTC is increasing its previous preliminary FY’13 non-GAAP EPS target of $1.70 to $1.80 by a range of $0.02 to $0.05. PTC expects to draw on its credit facility to finance this transaction.
RBC Capital Markets Corporation is acting as financial advisor to PTC. Blackstone Advisory Partners L.P. is acting as financial advisor to Servigistics and its owner Marlin Equity Partners.
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
Not all that long ago, who could have predicted that like PLM, service lifecycle management (SLM) could contribute to a company’s top and bottom lines? To its credit, PTC saw this opportunity and jumped on it. This acquisition of Servigistics reinforces PTC’s commitment to SLM as an important aspect of its overall business, as well as a differentiator in a crowded marketplace
August 22nd, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
For almost 100 years, Aston Martin has been an icon of automotive speed and sophistication, winning the most distinctive races in the world throughout the 1920s (French Grand Prix), 1930s (Biennial Cup at Le Mans), and 1940s, as well as the 1950s (Le Mans 24 Hours).
But, for more than 45 years, Aston Martin stayed away from the racetrack.
In 2005, however, the company resurrected its racing heritage when it returned to the world circuit as Aston Martin Racing (AMR). That first year out, AMR’s DBR9 gained a CT1 class victory. Two years later, Aston Martin triumphed at Le Mans. Based on the Aston Martin DB9 road car, the DBR9 retains the chassis, engine block, and cylinder heads of the road car’s V12 engine. The rest of the car was re-engineered for high performance competition use. The DBR9’s bodywork is a blend of optimum aerodynamic performance and the styling of the DB9 road car.
More recently, AMR has geared up with some extra digital technology in its pocket. For a car company like Aston Martin, where prestige and precision have been part of its heritage since 1913, going digital for design and engineering was a big step forward.
After an extensive benchmarking process, AMR chose PTC Creo and PTC Windchill in 2011 for 3D CAD design of its racing vehicles and for PLM in its racecar division.
With the Creo suite, Aston Martin can start with simple sketched designs, refine them in Creo Parametric, and make them work on the track. AMR performs CFD analysis in Creo early on, and designers can make designs more aerodynamic. Instead of waiting for expensive prototypes, problematic areas are now digitally tested and corrected early in the design process using Creo.
In a three-minute video, PTC interviews Rick Simpson, Design Engineer at Aston Martin Racing. He explains the specifics of how PTC’s Creo design toolset helps them reduce lead times from design and fix design issues before going into manufacturing.
Interesting stuff from a company with a large legacy, long period away, and resurrection on the racetrack.
August 6th, 2012 by Jeff Rowe
Dassault Systèmes introduced new SolidWorks Electrical applications that include an innovative, system level 2D schematic design tool and a powerful 3D electrical modeling add-in to SolidWorks design application that are linked in real time.
“Today, companies in industrial equipment, engineering services, high-tech, medical devices, and consumer goods are developing products that include more electrical content. More than half of our SolidWorks customers require a solution that streamlines collaboration between mechanical and electrical systems engineers,” said Bertrand Sicot, CEO, SolidWorks, Dassault Systèmes. “The addition of SolidWorks Electrical to our product portfolio moves us into this underserved market with a robust solution that upholds the SolidWorks focus on ease-of-use and makes close collaboration between mechanical and electrical design groups a reality.”
When it comes to electrical system design, organizations frequently look for ways to improve the overall delivery performance of their departments. SolidWorks Electrical applications make it easy for engineers and designers to plan electrical systems and integrate those electrical aspects into the overall 3D mechanical models. These new applications pave the way for mechanical and electrical engineering teams to collaborate during product development, streamline the design phase, and reduce product delays, resulting in more consistent and standardized designs, lower costs, and faster time-to-market.
“The full integration with SolidWorks will make SolidWorks Electrical easy to learn and will allow both our mechanical and electrical departments to collaborate on electrical system and wiring design,” said Kyle Strong, project manager at Getman Corporation. “Our mining vehicles include complex electrical wiring and need to have consistent design — the decision to consider SolidWorks Electrical was easy. By integrating our electrical and mechanical design processes, we can better document electrical requirements and cable/wire paths, resulting in less rework, higher product quality, and faster time-to-market.”
SolidWorks Electrical provides new capabilities with the following three applications:
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.