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Posts Tagged ‘CAD’

Reusing Common CAD Parts

Friday, July 19th, 2013

A good friend of ours at MCADCafe, Jennifer Herron, owner of Action Engineering, a company that specializes in the promotion, process development and standardization of 3D CAD Model-Based Design (MBD) just released a new video on reusing CAD parts.

In the video, Action Engineering calls a catalog part, a part or subassembly used more than once in a family of products. It may be a bearing, motor, bolt or washer. In a 3D model-based environment a catalog part model should be assembled into your organization’s native CAD assembly models and includes accurate geometry (as specified from the supplier), attributes (Material, Color), metadata (Part Number, Description, Supplier) and annotations (Dimensions and GD&T). A single catalog part model is the single authority for each catalog item used in your organization.

For more information regarding CAD reuse, contact:
Action Engineering
jennifer@action-engineering.com
303.903.7744

2013 PTC Live Global Conference Highlights

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Along with about 1,900 attendees, we just returned this week from the 2013 edition of the PTC Live Global conference and exhibition in Anaheim, CA. We saw and heard several interesting things from PTC employees, partners, and customers.

Let’s start off on Day 1. After a short introduction, PTC’s president and CEO, Jim Heppelmann took the stage with the song “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath blasting. What’s that about? The early focus of his address was the focus of not only PTC, but just about every other software vendor – mobility.

This dramatic change of tune comes just a couple of years after Heppelmann derided the notion of software as a service and cloud computing as nothing more than “vapor.” Today, mobility to PTC, according to Heppelmann, consists of products being delivered as a service, with the line blurred between product and service.

Click on this link to view Jim Hepplemann’s keynote address at the PTC Live Global event.

He then introduced the concept of reverse innovation to accommodate different unique requirements for different customers. Interesting concept, but I need to get more details on exactly what this means.

He went on to say that for products in general, value is shifting away from hardware to software, especially embedded software. Increasingly, products are defined, upgraded, and updated via software. Traditional hardware manufacturers are beginning to employ more software engineers than mechanical engineers. As handy as these software innovations might seem, do they offer too many choices and ultimately frustrate customers and drive up costs? The verdict on this remains to be seen, but I tend to say, “yes,” too many choices can be overwhelming, especially for products that are meant to be simple.

What he was getting at, though, is that increasing numbers of CPUs and software mean “smart” products connected to the Internet. In other words, an “Internet of things,” thanks largely to increasing connectivity.

With 10 Creo apps currently available, and although the next release of Creo (3.0) won’t be available until early next year (Q1?), a few hints were given about what it might look like. Think scalability and interoperability – more on that later, though. PTC says that today, one in four Pro/ENGINEER users has upgraded to Creo, but sees adoption rate at 50% uptake by the end of this year. That seems just a bit optimistic, but potentially doable.

I’ve just begun with the highest of highlights about the conference and the future as PTC sees it. Over the few weeks I’ll discuss some of the most significant announcements coming out of PTC’s user conference with regard to new products/technologies, corporate direction, and customers’ reactions. From what I witnessed this week, PTC’s future looks brighter than it has for quite some time.

 

ThomasNet Relaunches Online Supplier/Product Sourcing Platform

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

At the recent International Manufacturing and Technology Show IMTS) in Chicago, ThomasNet.com formally relaunched its free platform for supplier discovery and sourcing of components, equipment, MRO products, raw materials and custom manufacturing services. The new ThomasNet.com offers users an even wider range of content, tools and resources. Engineers, purchasing professionals, and facilities managers can quickly find suppliers, source products, and access CAD models and product news.

For those of you not familiar with it (or old enough) and before going online, the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers, were known as the “big green books” and “Thomas Registry”, a multi-volume directory of industrial product information covering distributors, manufacturers, and service companies within over 60,000 industrial categories. It was first published in 1898 by Harvey Mark Thomas as Hardware and Kindred Trades. The company stopped publishing its print products in 2006 due to declining circulation as Internet searches eroded the products’ usability.

1905 Thomas’ Register of American Manufacturers

Since then, Thomas moved its database online as ThomasNet, published and maintained by Thomas Industrial Network. ThomasNet has expanded to provide not only product and company information, but Online catalogs, computer-aided design (CAD) drawings, news, press releases, forums, and blogs.

After IMTS I spoke with Tom Greco, VP of ThomasNet ThomasNet with one main question: With so much available online, why should I feel compelled to use ThomasNet.com? He said that the one of the most compelling reasons for using the ThomasNet.com platform is Product Search (ps.thomasnet.com) that enables users to find the specific components and products they are looking for.

Thomas’ team of content engineers has aggregated detailed information and line item detail for over 100 million parts from over 30,000 suppliers. Product Search allows users to specify the product they are looking for using groundbreaking taxonomy-powered search and navigation features. Specifiers can find the product that meets their requirements by defining precise product attributes such as applications, materials, dimensions and tolerances.

The new site also makes it easier for buyers to find local suppliers, quality certified suppliers, and companies that meet their supplier diversity requirements. Whether searching for women-owned businesses, an ISO-certified custom manufacturer, or nearby distributors, the new ThomasNet.com makes it easier to hone in on exactly what you need and create a supplier short list.

“We make it our business to understand the challenges our users face when sourcing, and the new ThomasNet.com is designed to address them. Product Search combines semantic search technology with curated content to create an unparalleled sourcing tool,” said ThomasNet’s Greco. “Product Search is a perfect companion to our improved supplier directory and 2D/3D CAD model library.” According to Greco, interestingly, he said that some 80% of product decisions and purchases are made based on the huge volume of CAD drawings that are available.

Greco said that the new ThomasNet.com platform includes a suite of applications, including:

  • Supplier Directory – Over 610,000 suppliers including multi-media company profiles
  • CAD Library – Millions of downloadable 2D/3D models and drawings from leading industrial product component OEMs
  • ThomasNet News – the latest product, company and industry news
  • Job BoardJob Board – to help find your first or next job
  • Deal of the Day – Big savings on electronics, office supplies and business services
  • Purchasing Tools – Free RFQ Event management and Contract management tools

As for the future, Greco said that in the next 12-18 months extensions will be made to Thomas.Net to what exists today, including additional marketing and product services, as well as additional search utilities targeted to solving specific engineering problems. He also said there will be two to three major upgrades to ThomasNet.com in the next 12 months.

Even with all that is available on the Internet, I still consider ThomasNet.com the “go to” application for product and service discovery and sourcing during the product development process.

Check it out for yourself at: www.thomasnet.com

Wohlers Report 2012 Report: An Excellent Source for Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Information

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Wohlers Associates just published Wohlers Report 2012, an in-depth analysis of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing worldwide. This new edition marks the 17th consecutive year of its publication. I can attest that the Report is the most thorough and comprehensive document of its kind.

Wohlers Report 2012 covers all aspects of additive manufacturing, including its history, applications, processes, manufacturers, and materials. It documents pertinent developments in the past year, covers R&D and collaboration activities in government, academia, and industry, and summarizes the state of the industry in countries around the world. It also tracks the extraordinary growth of personal 3D printers—machines priced under $5,000, with the majority in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.

The information is used to track industry growth, provide views and perspective, uncover trends, and offer insight into the future of additive manufacturing. “The 2012 edition is the most ambitious effort in the report’s history,” said Terry Wohlers, president of Wohlers Associates and a principal author of the new report. Major new parts on applications, materials and processes, and front- and back-end considerations were added. The final part of the report concludes withtrends that are expected to shape the future of the technology and industry.

Additive manufacturing is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies. Additive manufacturing is used to build physical models, prototypes, patterns, tooling components, and production parts in plastic, metal, and composite materials. AM systems use thin, horizontal cross sections from computer-aided design (CAD) models, 3D-scanning systems, medical scanners, and video games to produce parts that can be difficult or impossible to produce any other way.

The report sells for $495 worldwide and is available in PDF form. The report’s table of contents, as well as additional information on the market and industry, are available at wohlersassociates.com.

I’ve known Terry Wohlers for many years and consider Wohlers Report THE source of timely and comprehensive information for additive manufacturing. I don’t recommend many books, but highly recommend this one for anyone who wants to get accurate in-depth information on AM.

NC Software Sales Making a Strong Comeback

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

I recently read some encouraging news from CIMdata contained in its soon-to-be-published Version 21 of the CIMdata NC Market Analysis Report. They estimate, that based on end-user payments, the worldwide NC software and related services market grew by 14.4% in 2011. The estimated end-user payments grew from $1.333 billion in 2010 to $1.525 billion in 2011. The market growth rate in 2011 reflects strong overall PLM spending, continuing the recovery from the downturn in the global economy that manifested itself in dramatically higher machine tool sales into the manufacturing industry. Estimates are that worldwide shipments of machine tools increased by 35% from 2010 to 2011, which is directly related to the volume of CAM software employed to drive these tools. CIMdata projects that in 2012 growth in manufacturing will continue and end-user payments for NC software will increase by 12.4% to $1.714 billion.

Since 2002, the NC software market has shown modest but steady growth as global economies generally improved. There has been worldwide growth in the sale of machine tools and manufacturing output; greater emphasis has been placed on the efficient operation of machine tools as manufacturing firms have strengthened their competitive positions, and the overall PLM market, of which CAM software is a component, has continued on a strong growth path during this period. CAM software purchases are related to all of these factors—particularly machine tool sales.

Alan Christman, CIMdata’s Chairman and author of the NC Market Analysis Report said, “2011 was an excellent year for manufacturers and most providers of NC software. Most firms saw good growth in 2011, and CIMdata expects this growth to continue in 2012 and beyond. The continued strength and growing importance of global manufacturing powers like China and other emerging economies should result in increased investment in advanced technologies like CAD, CAM, and other segments of the overall PLM market. We have seen moves documented in the popular press to bring manufacturing back to the US, which will require still more investment in advanced manufacturing technologies to be competitive with economies with lower labor costs. The next few years should continue to be strong for NC and the broader PLM market.”

This is good news for not only the NC software market, because since 2009, when all engineering/technical software sales sucked, most manufacturing software sectors are today experiencing and enjoying a resurgence in sales. So, is engineering software for manufacturing really emerging from the depths of despair of just a couple of years ago? I’d have to say, yes. Not only are sales stronger, but a number of software vendors have socked enough cash away to make a number of notable acquisitions, making them stronger. Sales aren’t like the “old days” yet, but indicators are definitely moving in a positive direction.

PTC Virtual Corporate Visit — Operations and Strategy

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

I recently attended a web-based company update by way of a quarterly PTC Virtual Corporate Visit. Over 500 people registered for the event that featured Jim Heppelmann, PTC’s President and CEO, as well as a customer, Dave Winter, VP R&D Lifetime Products. This time, though, I’ll focus on what Mr. Heppelmann had to say.

He started off by saying that PTC has a product and service advantage, meaning that PTC vision is being the premier provider of technology solutions that are transforming how products are created and serviced. PTC focuses on product companies and the processes that determine what and how they will create products and where and how those products will be serviced.

What PTC is offering is not just better products and services, but rather, a better way of creating products and services.

To explain what differentiates PTC’s offerings from ERP, Heppelmann said that ERP optimizes operations through operational coordination, while PTC optimizes product strategy (what-if) with strategy coordination during all phases of the product lifecycle with different functions within a manufacturing organization:
-Hardware and software engineering
-Supply chain and manufacturing
-Sales and service

(more…)

Simulating Mechatronics with LabVIEW

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

National Instruments (NI) is an interesting company that develops NI LabVIEW software as its flagship product. The company is fortunate to sell its products to a diverse customer base of more than 30,000 different companies worldwide, with no one customer representing more than 3 percent of revenue and no one industry representing more than 15 percent of revenue. Customer base diversity is an especially good thing in the technical software market.

I have followed NI for a number of years and really got interested in the company a few years ago with LabVIEW 8.5 being used alongside SolidWorks. LabVIEW has followed a natural progression in the evolution of the NI product line for designing and prototyping complex systems, including robots, that are becoming increasingly pervasive in the world around us, and not just manufacturing environments anymore.

National Instruments supports the increasing need for simultaneous simulation of mechanical and electrical systems, also known as mechatronics. As I have been saying for several years, there was a time when mechanical systems and products were strictly mechanical, however, the majority of today’s products continue to become more capable, and more complex, involving the integration of mechanical, electrical, and software subsystems.

A more comprehensive way to view mechatronics is the systematic integration of mechanical, electrical, electronics, and embedded firmware (software) components. When all of the various components are combined the result is an electromechanical system. Maybe a better term is functional ecosystem. In this context, mechatronics is characterized by software and electronics controlling electromechanical systems. This description is widely seen in automotive engines and other automotive systems, as well as production machinery and medical equipment.

A continuing trend is that as mechatronics systems get more complex and as functionality demands increase, in many instances software and firmware are replacing or at least supplementing hardware. A benefit of this transition from hardware to the burgeoning emphasis on software is called “postponement,” that is, the ability to include or change major functionality features during the final stages of production via embedded software. (more…)

Tool Maker Survival – Part 1

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Both my father and father-in-law (and his father) were master tool and die makers who made excellent tools and decent livings over the course of their careers. I chose not to follow in their footsteps, but rather, to go to engineering and design school instead. However, I consider tool making to be a noble profession and one that has contributed immensely to the quality of our lives for many years and will continue to do so for many years to come.

With all the news we continue to hear today about product design, engineering, and manufacturing increasingly being outsourced in every direction away from North America, surprisingly little coverage seems to be given to the heart of product manufacturing, namely, tooling and tool making.

Although most of our readers are obviously manufacturing-savvy, let’s first define what we mean by “tooling,” because it’s often a misunderstood term by those outside manufacturing. Simply put, tooling entails the tools, machines, or other devices required to manufacture products – everything from car fenders to detergent bottles. The two most prominent groups of toolmakers are die makers whose tools stamp out metal parts, and mold makers whose tools mold plastic parts.

Beginning a long time ago, the huge transportation market (primarily automotive) still dominates the tooling industry. Because the automotive sector is rapidly outsourcing as much of its manufacturing overseas, it becomes very clear why tool and die makers, especially the family-owned small ones with five to 100 employees have suffered the most. It’s estimated that approximately 60% of stamping dies and 40% of plastic molds are used directly or indirectly by automakers worldwide, so it’s no wonder the smaller tool shops are bearing the brunt of offshore outsourcing. This offshore outsourcing has cost a huge number of tooling jobs in North America, according to estimates from several sources.

Historically, toolmakers and machinists have been among the most highly skilled and highest paid trades in the manufacturing world, but also people who provided among the highest value-added services on or near the manufacturing floor. Although some would argue that technologically enhanced professions are just as valuable, a good toolmaker/machinist is still a true asset and value-added provider today. If nothing else, these toolmakers have been instrumental in the quality level and success of manufacturing in North America for 200+ years.

As if offshore outsourcing weren’t enough of a problem, there is also the problem of money. Let’s face it, tools are expensive to make and toolmakers generally don’t get paid until a job is complete. In fact, many toolmakers are forced to wait for months to be paid until the customer is satisfied with the quality of parts that a tool is producing. During this period, however, toolmakers’ bills must still be paid to keep their businesses running. This payment lag also can make it difficult for toolmakers to obtain bank loans to either allow toolmakers to grow their businesses, or merely keep them afloat until payment is finally received.

So what does this all mean and where is it all going? Is there a direction or solution for tool makers? That’s what we’ll discuss next time.

Tool Maker Survival – Part 2

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

It’s no secret that many tool makers have experienced and are still experiencing difficult times.

By necessity, the tooling industry is transforming from its roots as a craft to a future as a complex business. For this transformation to be successful, the tooling industry as a whole must realize that it is not just undergoing a temporary downturn in business, but a radical restructuring. This restructuring is evident in not only mergers and acquisitions (consolidation), but also in cooperative and collaborative practices taking place between small- and medium-sized tool shops. Additionally, new business models are being developed by innovative toolmakers for supporting their ability to compete today and tomorrow with just about anyone, regardless of geographic location.

Restructuring an industry, however, is an extremely tall order because it involves cultural change as much as it does developing new business models. One of the toughest cultural aspects that must be recognized and addressed is the fact that although tool making historically has been regarded as a craft requiring high degrees of skill, unfortunately, it is increasingly becoming regarded as a commodity.

What, a commodity with no real distinguishing characteristics?

To a certain extent, yes, (although there are notable exceptions) because what was done by hand and eye by a select number of tool shops can now be performed by just about any shop anywhere, due to technologies (3D solid modeling, rapid tooling and manufacturing processes, high-speed machining (HSM), etc.) available to just about anybody who chooses to employ them. There is a remedy to this commodity perception; however, by seeking out niches and having outstanding product, material, process and customer knowledge, and many North American tool shops are embracing these practices.

Like virtually all other aspects of manufacturing, integrating technologies in tool making assist in becoming more competitive, but in the end, it is the creativity and adaptivity of people (both on the production floor and in the management office) to an ever changing business climate, in concert with appropriate technologies, that will ultimately win the battle and more business.

Autodesk PLM 360 — Social PLM For Everyone?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

This morning, Autodesk presented and launched Autodesk PLM 360 (fomerly known as code name Nexus at Autodesk University).

Participating in today’s presentation and launch were:
Brenda Discher, Vice President, Manufacturing Strategy & Industry Marketing
Buzz Kross, Senior Vice President, Design, Lifecycle & Simulation (new title?)
Steve Bodnar, Vice President, Data Management

The underlying themes for the presentation were “PLM for Everyone” and “Always On.” The presenters consistently stressed that Autodesk PLM 360 is more than just file sharing. It was made clear that PDM (on premise with Autodesk Vault) is for the design department, whereas PLM (PLM 360 and the cloud) is for the enterprise by providing crowdsource capabilities for sharing data and supporting business processes. It was made clear, though, that you do not need vault to use PLM 360 — it will work with any PDM system.

The phrase that kept coming up throughout the presentation was that Autodesk PLM 360 is, “Insanely Configurable.” That borrows pretty heavily from the late Steve Jobs’s product introductions at Apple, and I’m not so sure that PLM 360 is in that league, but time will tell. The fact that it is customer configurable, however, is noteworthy in and of itself. It was also said that no beta user took more than three days to get PLM 360 up and running. No details here, but that’s easy to follow-up on and confirm.

Autodesk claims that its PLM 360 will completely change the PLM landscape, primarily because it costs a fraction (10%) of legacy systems, and requires no special hardware, consultants, or programmers for implementation. Of course, this needs to be proven, but those are pretty heady claims when compared with the competition.

Even though it admits it’s entering the PLM market late, Autodesk is hoping to take advantage of current PLM customers who are dissatisfied with what they have. The company also is claiming that, “The cloud is the perfect technology for PLM” and “If you can use a browser, you can use Autodesk PLM 360.”

As far as pricing goes for PLM 360, the first 3 users are free for all access, and this will resonate well with really small businesses. Additional regular users are $75/month/user. What Autodesk calls participants (casual users) are $25/month/user — although it’s a little unclear what distinguishes a participant over a regular user.

Regardless of price, security has historically been one of the biggest barriers to wider PLM acceptance. Autodesk assured us that that piece has been thoroughly addressed, as well as data backup, and disaster recovery. All good things.

Autodesk PLM 360 is available now and cocnsists of ~140 apps (modules for specific functions?). According to Autodesk, it spent a lot of time and effort maximizing the user experience and minimizing the learning curve. Kross said, “The user experience is key, because the UI for most software [including PLM] has not really progressed since 2000.” I’ll agree there.

When asked what distinguishes Autodesk PLM 360 and other competitive cloud offerings, Kross responded, “Ours is real and we are in the market.”

So, will Autodesk PLM 360 fulfill the promise of “PLM for everyone?” Will it be where business apps meet social apps for social PLM? That’s hard to say at this early stage, but it seems like Autodesk has a lot of the pieces in place. I’ll reserve judgement, though, until I actually experience PLM 360 hands-on myself.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

For More Information: www.autodeskplm360.com

SolidCAM: Surprising Advantages of Integrated CAM Webinar 10/19/2016
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