SpaceClaim 2008 is a new and innovative design tool that hides its mammoth power beneath an uncluttered and easy to use interface. The more I delved into the software the more I appreciated the elegance of its design, its ease of use, and its ability to take mechanical design processes to the next level. This feature packed tool can help virtually any designer increase his or her productivity, and in many cases, can pay for itself the first month out of the box.
At its most fundamental level, SpaceClaim allows designers to virtually grab a model and interact with it in an intuitive and real world way. You create and modify geometry using an adaptive modeling approach by pulling and moving directly on geometry while also building associations or design intent into the model.
When using other weightier mechanical design tools engineers work on a sketch then hit regenerate and hope that what they’ve changed is what they really intended to change. With SpaceClaim there’s no finger crossing or breath holding, you see the 3D model transform visually as you’re manipulating it and you instantly know when you’ve achieved the desired outcome.
Working in 2D Drawings with 3D Compatibility
Many designers are accustomed to working in a 2D drawing environment, and since SpaceClaim is mode independent they can work on a design equally in SpaceClaim’s Part, Assembly, Drawing Sheet, or Mark-up environments. The boundaries between 2D and 3D designing are transparent and switching between the two is only a mouse click away.
With SpaceClaim’s 2D/3D capability you can work with 2D legacy data and then easily export 3D data for machining. Watch this machining demo to see SpaceClaim in action: View the 2d design video.
In the below two screenshots, from one of SpaceClaim’s many video tutorials, a 2D assembly was simply copied from the drawing and pasted directly into the 3D design environment where it was converted and then reinserted into a drawing in it’s 3D form complete with dimensions and notations.
Design Re-use and Collaboration
SpaceClaim allows you to work with bits and pieces of geometry brought in from virtually any system and then modify and interconnect them as if they were native. Yes, you can create intuitively directly in SpaceClaim, but you can also import designs and components directly from the likes of Pro/Engineer®, CATIA®, SolidEdge®, SolidWorks®, and Inventor®. You can then manipulate them, add them to your work, and then export your final amalgamated design in a wide array of industry standard formats. You can also export your design as a SpaceClaim XML file (.scdoc) that’s perfect for collaboration and that allows third parties to get the information they need from SpaceClaim without talking directly to the SpaceClaim API.
A great example of SpaceClaim’s ability to re-use designs is shown in one of their many online videos. In this one the designer begins with a miter saw model, then adds a saw blade casting and sawdust filter designed in another CAD system, and then modifies it in SpaceClaim.
I highly recommend watching this video if you want to get a very quick overview of SpaceClaim’s capabilities and see how you’ll use it in your work environment. Download and watch the Miter Saw video.
Working with and Designing Sheet Metal Assemblies
Full sheet metal 3D design and manufacturing optimization capabilities are built into the latest 2008 SpaceClaim release. You quickly design a sheet metal assembly in your choice of metal thickness, add the appropriate bends and through-holes, and then unfold the bended piece and make adjustments to ensure that your design unbends with no overlaps so it’s ready to be machined and manufactured.
You can quickly change and fix troublesome corner junctions, reliefs, bends and bend allowances or work in the bent or flat state and see your changes in both. Using SpaceClaim you’re able to speed the manufacturing process by splitting a single part into multiple parts at critical junction areas saving time and money during the manufacturing process.
Space Claim in the Real World
To do this review I rolled up my sleeves and immersed myself in the tool starting with the basic ‘make a bracket’ exercise and working my way up to complex assemblies I’d fabricated using assemblies and parts designed on a wide array of high-end mechanical design tools. I then added and modified new geometries of my own.
I jumped into SpaceClaim 2008 as a complete novice, and within a few minutes was creating my own simple designs, and today, after just a week, I’m a proud ‘SpaceClaimer.” Who would have known?
But, a critical part of this review was my need to understand how SpaceClaim is used in the real world. To meet this need I first interviewed Dan White, president of Keuka Studios who design and fabricate custom metal railings. And then, as luck would have it, I realized that one of the world’s foremost industrial product design firms. Nicholas Talesfore’s 1D3D Design, was in the same building as us. I introduced 1D3D to SpaceClaim, arranged for a demo, let them work with the tool, and then asked Nicholas and his lead mechanical engineer about their experience. Both these interviews are summarized below to give you valuable insight from a user’s point of view.
Dan White – Keuka Studios ( www.keuka-studios.com)
Keuka Studios does custom architectural iron work and its founder and president, Dan White, has more than twenty-five years experience as a mechanical engineer with an in-depth working knowledge of 3D, CAD, animation, renderings, finite element analysis, injection molding and CNC machining. The firm manufactures architectural signage and a line of cable railings that are made by CNC machining, laser cutting, and molding.
Dan told me that, “In addition to the tech side of things, we also incorporate hand forged thousand-year-old processes into our work and blend the two. We first design something on a CAD platform, CNC machine it to shape, and then take the assembly to our forge where we’ll add the artistic work to it. We use both our artistic and technical skills in the process which makes us stand apart from competitors who just fabricate to architect’s drawings.”
I asked Dan what he liked best about doing his design work on SpaceClaim and he said, “I like the graphical feed back. When I’m trying to do something, rather than having to push ten buttons to see what it does or whether it fails, I see what it’s doing and this helps me quickly understand what the commands do. More importantly, I really like the whole non-history based aspect of the tool. Being able to slice and dice, and do what ever I want without having to ‘play chess’ with a CAD tool or think about how it operates allows me to focus on creation”
“You can really design on SpaceClaim.” Dan said, “People using other systems think they’re designing, but they’re really just firming up their design because they have to plan everything out and do a lot of conceptual work sketching on paper and thinking outside the CAD system. And, if they don’t do this ‘out of the CAD’ system planning they get penalized for it. In SpaceClaim there are no penalties. You just jump in and work on whatever you’re thinking by chopping and manipulating geometries into whatever they evolve into. This ad hoc approach, versus trying to pre-think everything out, tends to yield better designs – they evolve into things you could never even dream of. You can be more creative by far with SpaceClaim.”