Over the course of the past year, Autodesk has gotten heavily involved with the CAM side of product development.
As a case in point, relatively recently, Autodesk has made it clear that it intends to become a major force in CAM to round out its Digital Prototyping philosophy that also includes design and simulation. As examples to this CAM commitment, in the past year or so it has acquired HSMWorks (a relatively small step in CAM), and more recently announced its intention to acquire Delcam (a relatively giant leap in CAM).
It was really big news when, Autodesk announced its intention to acquire Delcam, one of the world’s leading suppliers of advanced software for manufacturing. The companies offer complementary ranges of software, with Autodesk’s programs for design (CAD) and engineering (CAE) able to be combined with Delcam’s strengths in manufacturing (CAM).
On completion of the acquisition, Delcam will become a subsidiary of Autodesk. It will maintain its focus on continued growth of its market share in the manufacturing sector, counting on added strength that will come from becoming part of a larger organization.
Both Delcam and Autodesk invest heavily in product development, and this will likely continue after the acquisition, as there is likely to be little overlap and duplication of effort.
Delcam is a publicly traded company and will be purchased with cash that Autodesk has stashed outside the U.S., keeping it there most likely for advantageous tax purposes and for opportunities for transactions like this one.
GibbsCAM and Autodesk Inventor Interoperability
Cimatron Limited, a developer of integrated CAD/CAM software for toolmaking and manufacturing, announced this week that its GibbsCAM software has been certified for Autodesk Inventor 2015 under the Autodesk Certified Apps Program. This marks the fourteenth consecutive year that GibbsCAM has been certified under the program.
GibbsCAM directly opens Autodesk Inventor part models, allowing CNC programmers and machinists to program machine tools from the models, extending cost reduction and efficiency through the programming and machining processes. GibbsCAM provides integration with Autodesk Inventor, by directly reading Autodesk Inventor IPT (part model) files, preserving all color information, features and attributes assigned within Inventor to provide continuity in recognizing and communicating part and feature attributes. Alternatively, with the GibbsCAM Autodesk Inventor Add-in, Inventor users can transfer files directly into GibbsCAM with the “Transfer to GibbsCAM” menu option of Inventor software running on the same workstation. Once machining processes are defined in GibbsCAM, they are automatically updated when the Inventor model is revised.
“We are gratified for our continuing partnership with Autodesk and for Autodesk’s recognition of GibbsCAM interoperability with Autodesk Inventor,” said Robb Weinstein, Senior Vice President of Sales and Strategic Planning of Gibbs and Associates, a Cimatron subsidiary. “Our commitment to joint customers around the world remains unchanged, despite changing marketplace dynamics, as we continue to optimize the CNC-programming power and flexibility GibbsCAM provides Autodesk users.”
“We are very pleased to have Gibbs and Associates affirm their continuing dedication to interoperability with Autodesk Inventor through Inventor certification for GibbsCAM,” said Carl White, Senior Director, Manufacturing Engineering, Autodesk. “Having companies like Gibbs and Associates as partners is highly beneficial to our manufacturing customers.”
In 2008, Gibbs and Associates merged with Cimatron Ltd., and is now operating as a wholly owned subsidiary.
The GibbsCAM product line supports 2- through 5-axis milling, turning, mill/turning, multi-task simultaneous machining and wire-EDM. GibbsCAM also provides fully integrated manufacturing modeling capabilities that include 2D, 2.5D, 3D wireframe, surface, and solid modeling. GibbsCAM is either offered or endorsed by a number of leading worldwide control and machine tool manufacturers, including GE Fanuc, Infimatic, Siemens, Doosan Infracore, DMG MORI, Haas, Index, MAG, Mazak, Mitsubishi, Okuma, and Tornos.
Over the years, and with considerable interest, we have observed the ongoing consolidation of the technical/engineering software industry, and it continues unabated today. The consolidation occurs primarily through mergers and acquisitions, whether in whole or in part, but consolidation marches on.
We’ve witnessed consolidation in CAD, CAE, and more recently, CAM, and Autodesk has been a major participant in this consolidation. Relatively recently, Autodesk has made it clear that it intends to become a major force in CAM to round out its Digital Prototyping philosophy that also includes design and simulation. As examples to this CAM commitment, in the past year or so it has acquired HSMWorks (a significant, but relatively small step in CAM), and just last week announced its intention to acquire Delcam (a relatively giant leap in CAM).
Virtually since its inception, the CAD/CAM industry has always had its proponents, detractors, champions, pundits, and naysayers, and this diverse group of industry watchers continues to flourish today.
One of the most heated and opinionated debates that I’ve seen in quite some time came when HSMWorks was acquired by Autodesk a little over a year ago. Rumors circulated that HSMWorks was toast because Autodesk was going to kill it, owing to the fact at the time that the vast majority of HSMWorks CAM customers were also using it as an integration with SolidWorks. Well, as often happens, the rumors turned out to not exactly be as disastarous as claimed (or hoped for).
When it comes to machining, Swiss-style is quite a different animal because of the degree of precision and pace the process it is expected to maintain. Swiss-style lathes and turning centers provide extreme accuracy, capable of holding tolerances as small as ten thousandths of an inch.
A Swiss-style lathe holds the workpiece with both a collet and a guide bushing and is almost always used under CNC control. The collet sits behind the guide bushing, and the cutting tools are located in front of the guide bushing, holding stationary on the Z axis. To cut lengthwise along a part, the tools move in and the material itself moves back and forth along the Z axis. This allows all the work to be done on the material near the guide bushing where it is more rigid with little chance of deflection or vibration.
Swiss-style lathes and turning center are very efficient, as these machines are capable of fast cycle times, producing simple parts in one cycle with no need for a second machine to finish the part with secondary operations. This makes the Swiss style ideal for large production runs of small-diameter parts.
Additionally, as many Swiss lathes incorporate a secondary spindle, or sub-spindle, they also incorporate “live” tooling. Live tools are rotary cutting tools that are powered by a small motor independent of the spindle motor(s). Live tools increase the intricacy of components that can be manufactured by a Swiss lathe.
Spatial Corp. recently joined CNC Software Inc. in announcing that the 3D ACIS Modeler and 3D InterOp power the latest release of Mastercam Swiss Expert 2012. Designed to control a variety of Swiss-style NC machines, Mastercam Swiss Expert is used in a range of applications such as watch-making, medical device, dental, automotive, and electronics companies — all known for requiring extremely small, but very precise parts.
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.
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.
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.
Last time we discussed lean manufacturing and applying it to factory floor processes. This time we’ll discuss applying it to other parts and processes of a manufacturing entity.
The primary goal for any business is making a profit. The factory floor and processes which are huge portions of manufacturing companies, however, are not profit centers, they are cost centers. This cost is a variable that may but probably does not carry over to all aspects of a company. To work on an enterprise level, mechanisms must evolve that foster lean principles. But, because a factory floor and a business as a whole have different problems, different requirements, different ways of thinking, just having the mechanisms in place for lean principles isn’t enough. Also in many cases what works on the factory floor may not necessarily translate and work in other parts of a company. Buy in by all parts of an enterprise is an absolute necessity for lean principles to work.
For applying lean principles throughout a company, it helps to think of an office as analogous to a factory, only the main product it creates is paperwork or digital information. Like raw materials that are transformed to a finished product, paper and information also go through a series of process steps, but end up spending the majority of its life waiting for someone in the chain to act on it. One of the most applicable areas of lean principles in paperwork and digital information is rework where the wrong data has been entered or is missing – error proofing.
Acceptance of lean principles is not always universal, but resistance is often a matter of misunderstanding. For example, there is a perception by some that all lean principles do is reduce inventory and employment levels. Actually that is a misperception because ideally, lean principles can unlock workers’ hidden talent and increase their capabilities to improve the overall business.
The place where it all began, Toyota, has been hard at work to extend its TPS to other parts of its business beyond the factory floor. However, it’s proving to be a challenge dealing with non-physical inputs and outputs, and protracted time frames with multi-year product development cycles. Indications are, though, that the company is making progress in its Japanese and North American facilities.
The biggest challenge for any manufacturer trying to adopt lean principles is to deploy it beyond the factory floor. While an increasing number of manufacturers are succeeding in applying lean principles on the factory floor, applying them to the balance of the organization still has a long way to go.
We’ve all heard now for many, many years that lean manufacturing is one of the keys to remaining competitive if you want to stay in manufacturing. However, can some of the principles of lean manufacturing be applied to other parts of a business beyond manufacturing? That is a question that a growing number of companies are attempting to answer, especially in today’s super-competitive marketplace.
The phrase “lean manufacturing” is an English invention that was coined by James Womack and used to summarize Japanese manufacturing techniques, specifically, the Toyota Production System (TPS). The phrase is used to describe Toyota’s approach for expanding peoples thinking beyond basic tools and tasks.
Since I learned about lean manufacturing (or production) a long time ago, a comprehensive definition has evolved in my mind over the years. Lean manufacturing is one of those things that can defy definition.
Ask 10 people what it is and you’re likely to get 10 at least slightly different answers. Basically, lean manufacturing is a combined philosophy, initiative, and method for continually reducing waste in all areas and forms to improve the quality and efficiency of a manufacturing process. An even simpler way to define lean manufacturing is a method for producing products using less of everything (material, time, energy, etc.) compared to mass production.
Lean manufacturing isn’t just as simple as doing more with less. It is a very complex methodology with many dependencies. It is a comprehensive methodology that seeks to minimize the resources required for creating and manufacturing a product. Although lean principles strive to make things simpler, these principles actually add a layer or level of complexity to processes.
I think that to this point, and somewhat ironically, lean manufacturing concepts have tended to focus strictly on the processes occurring only on the factory floor. Ironic, because to truly exploit all that lean processes have to offer can and should be deployed throughout a company — from the factory floor to the top floor. Obviously, that’s easier said than done, and that’s what we’ll discuss next time in the MCADCafe Blog.
There are several types of CAE-related manufacturing applications for optimizing the use of materials, tools, shape and time, and machine layout by simulating and analyzing specific manufacturing processes. However, probably the most common method for getting CAE into a manufacturing environment, finite element analysis (FEA) for parts and tooling.
FEA is a numerical technique for calculating the strength and behavior of structures. It can be used to calculate deflection, stress, vibration, buckling, and other behaviors. Typical applications for FEA would include minimizing weight and/or maximizing the strength of a part or assembly.
In FEA, structures are divided into small, simple units, called elements. While the behavior of individual elements can be described with a relatively simple set of equations, a large set of simultaneous equations are required to describe the behavior of a complex structure. When the equations are solved, the computer and FEA tool displays the physical behavior of the structure based on the individual elements.
FEA tools can be used for innovating or optimizing mechanical designs. Optimization is a process for improving a design that results in the best physical properties for minimum cost. However, optimization using FEA tools can prove difficult, because each design variation takes time to evaluate, making iterative optimization time consuming. On the other hand, FEA tools can really shine when seeking new and unique ways of designing things – the most crucial aspect of innovation.
Before committing to any CAE tool, however, be sure it is compatible with your existing CAD and CAM tools, the types of parts and assemblies you design, and your general workflow.
Keep in mind that there is no one tool that serves everyone’s needs. Some will be interested fluid flow, others in structural mechanical properties, and still others in thermal issues. Get input from as many groups within your organization as are likely to benefit from CAE tools. When evaluating CAE tools, make sure you evaluate them with your models; not just models supplied by a vendor. That way, you’ll be able to objectively evaluate different CAE tools that best suit your needs in your environment, and not be overly swayed by what a vendor wants you to see. Obviously, it’s in your best interest for objectivity to use the same parts or assemblies with different CAE tool vendors.
Finally, a word of caution. Don’t expect CAE tools to solve all your problems with all of your parts. Like CAD and CAM tools, they should be used in conjunction with experience and common sense to arrive at optimized and innovative designs. Calculating return on investment when using CAE tools can be as complicated as performing analyses on complex assemblies. However, you can probably count on estimating ROI from time saved during the design process, lower material costs, reduced numbers of physical prototypes and ECOs, and possibly greatly reducing the number of product liability lawsuits. CAE tools cannot perform miracles by themselves because they still require a significant human element, but employed wisely, will likely improve your workflow and provide tangible benefits.