by Amy A. Rowell
It’s always a bit difficult after any conference to stop and look back and ask, “So what did I learn and what’s worth passing along? Is there anything particularly new or innovative that shows promise, even if it isn’t proven technology yet? Were there any particularly effective strategies or approaches presented that might pave the way for others looking to reduce costs or increase profitability? Any 'best practices’ to be shared?
Well, if you’re hoping to read about the next 'big thing’ – whether that means the next Autodesk, the next PTC, or the next SolidWorks – each of which, in effect, transformed the CAD industry through either technology leaps or value-based pricing—I wouldn’t say that there were any definitive 'new industry leaders’ unveiled at this year’s National Design and Engineering Show (NDES) exhibit and conference, held in conjunction with National Manufacturing Week in Chicago during the week of March 3rd -6th. The conference did, however, offer more than a few interesting tidbits – some of which relate to product enhancements and new product introductions, and some of which simply fall under that category – 'wow, that’s really clever. Is anyone else doing this?’ Perhaps even more importantly, there seemed to be a sense of urgency regarding the need for innovation and productivity across the manufacturing enterprise to enable companies to compete more effectively in a global marketplace.
In terms of truly 'new’ products, there was actually one very interesting CAD program that caught my eye. Iced*CAD, short for 'intelligently created engineering drawings from CAD’, enables users to 'automatically’ generate a drawing or assembly model directly from BOM data, working alongside all of the popular CAD programs such as Pro/Engineer, AutoCAD, Solidworks, CATIA, and Unigraphics. Developed by a company called QSSolutions, which has worked for several years on this concept, the secret behind Iced*CAD is the underlying layer of programming that makes this intelligent 'rule-based’ system work. At this stage, Iced*CAD doesn’t come cheap – a custom system could cost your company as much as $400,000 or more. But if the ability to generate assemblies on-the-fly from bill of materials information makes it faster and easier for your company to do business, and at the same time frees up your design engineers to focus on more valuable tasks– like new product development, it might be worth considering. QSSolutions just might be onto something big here. To learn more, see
In terms of 'new and improved’ products, EDS PLM Solutions introduced SolidEdge v14 (
www.eds.com) with its advanced surfacing capabilities and systems libraries, and PTC was showing Pro/E Wildfire (
www.ptc.com), the 'new and improved’ version of Pro/Engineer that features built-in Web connectivity and greater ease-of-use. Autodesk (
www.autodesk.com) not only reiterated its commitment to desktop PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) with its 3D modeling Inventor 7.0 software and web-enabled PLM system, Streamline but also announced the acquisition of the assets of three software companies – trueEInnovations, Inc., VIA Development Corporation, and Linius Technologies, Inc. VX Corporation (
www.vx.com) was also debuting its latest – a new graphical CAM interface integrated directly into VX CAD/CAM to provide greater control over the manufacturing process and ImpactXoft (
www.impactxoft.com), which recently announced a strategic partnership with IBM/Dassault Systemes, was showing the latest enhancements to its IX SPeeD software for simultaneous product development. Building on the success of the retraining program that it launched last year, SolidWorks (
www.solidworks.com) announced an innovative new 3D training program, called the SolidWorks® 3D Skills program, which includes free SolidWorks software, plus introductory training and support. And Elysium, (
www.elysiuminc.com) a leading provider of digital design data exchange software, announced the CADpdm synchronization tool, for correlating all the product structure information that must be 'synchronized’ when different PDM systems must 'talk’ to one another.
Beyond the latest developments in CAD modeling and related product data management software and services, it was also interesting to see the progress being made in the area of connecting buyers to suppliers, particularly with respect to streamlining what can often be a very time-consuming task, the quoting process. Here, rapid prototyping specialist, Xpress3D (
www.xpress3d.com) has come up with a fast, simple, and secure means of quoting rapid prototyping services without leaving the CAD environment; MfgQuote.com (
www.mfgquote.com) has made some inroads with both buyers and suppliers in the manufacturing marketplace and is hoping to further extend this with its new 'supplier discovery’ capability; and Resinate (
www.resinatecorp.com), makers of Resinate Material Advisor (RMA) for rapid selection of plastic materials, is now planning to offer an ASP service, which will allow the user to access the material database over the Internet.
Also, on the other side of the aisle, at the National Enterprise IT show and conference, Microsoft was promoting its Industrial IT Alliance – a manufacturing IT solution that extends from the 'shop floor to the top floor’ through partnerships with such companies as EDS-PLM Solutions, ABB, Intel, Accenture, and SAP.
Interestingly, in spite of the flagging economy (or perhaps because of it), attendees at this year’s NDES conference and exhibit seemed to be more engaged than ever, and more informed as well. Translation? This year, it seemed, attendees came to NDES to get the answer to one basic underlying question – how can our organization be more competitive? Are there any new tools or technologies that we need to know about? Are there any strategies that others have used in our industry that our company should consider using? Is there some magic way to reduce our design and manufacturing costs?
In upcoming issues of MCAD Weekly Review and as part of our ongoing efforts to continually add to our resources on MCADCafe, we will attempt to address these and other questions related to the challenges facing mechanical engineers involved in product design and development today. So, stay tuned. And please let us know how we can best serve your needs, as we continue to expand our coverage of the latest MCAD tools, technologies and 'best practices’ across the industry.
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Amy Rowell is the managing editor of MCADCafe, and the editor of MCAD Weekly Review. She may be reached at: