August 01, 2005
Autodesk Inventor Used To Design Innovative Alternative Energy Systems
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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As the world searches for new sources of energy, governments and companies are using Autodesk Inventor, the world's best selling 3D mechanical design software, to realize ideas in renewable energy. Renewable energy pioneers, including Marine Current Turbines and Kopf Solardesign, have forged new paths to cleaner, more efficient energy resources through innovative engineering using Autodesk Inventor software.

Energy consumption is expected to rise about 26 percent during the next 20 years in the United States, and likely to grow at least as quickly worldwide, according to the United States Department of Energy. As such, major innovations in alternative energy technology are necessary to support not only economic growth, but also to prevent environmental devastation. Autodesk is at the forefront of software providers helping engineers turn their visions of creating machinery that generates renewable energy into reality.

Marine Current Turbines Limited, located in the UK, is using Autodesk software to design turbines that generate energy from ocean currents. With the help of Autodesk Inventor, Autodesk Vault, and Ansys for Finite Element Analysis, Marine Current Turbines has reached development of a pre-commercial demonstrator system in less time and with half the costs of doing it in 2D. Since the software is widely used in the industry, it was easy for Marine Current Turbines to exchange ideas with engineers and subcontractors outside the company. "We are working towards a recognized design certification and the fact that Inventor stores and manages all CAD data with Autodesk Vault, and integrates well
with our Ansys system for FEA, for example, is really helping us reach our goals here," said David Ainsworth, Project Manager. This flexible solution helped move the innovation process along quickly.

Another renewable energy pioneer, Germany-based Kopf Solardesign, constructs solar boats using Autodesk Inventor for the design of all components. Designing in 3D simplifies communication with suppliers around the world because the visually intuitive medium transcends language barriers and reduces errors and miscommunication. Autodesk Inventor has helped the manufacturer to harness the power of the sun for cleaner, more efficient catamaran-style boats. Today its engineers rely on Autodesk Inventor for 3D modeling and analysis that goes farther than paper sketches, drafts or 2D design alone can to bring new ideas to life.

Autodesk is proud that its software enables innovators to create, manage and share designs that will become new sources of renewable energy. Autodesk Inventor improves ROI and shortens the learning curve for engineers, making them more productive. Using Autodesk Inventor, customers can lower the costs of renewable energy sources, making alternatives to non-renewable energy sources more viable.

I don't know exactly which version(s) of Inventor was/were used for these projects, but the application has made some pretty good strides forward in the past few releases. The current version, Inventor 10, is part of the Autodesk Inventor Series (AIS) that also includes Mechanical Desktop (MDT) 2006 and AutoCAD Mechanical 2006 for 2D work, and Autodesk Vault for managing and synchronizing design data. Inventor is also available in a package called Autodesk Inventor Professional (AIP) that includes everything in Inventor Series, plus additional specialized tools for electro-mechanical routing (wire, cable, tube, and pipe), stress analysis, and the ability to import printed circuit board
files for placement and packaging purposes. Although you can't purchase just Inventor alone, it's not too bad a deal, especially if you're a current AutoCAD user who wants to migrate to 3D while still retaining the familiar 2D tool.

Like all CAD packages, parts are constructed of sketched collections of features and Inventor has five types of features that are edited to modify a part's shape. The different types of features have different requirements, representations, and functions. Features also have parent/child relationships, where one feature controls another, and this can be both a good and a bad thing.

When creating parts in Inventor 10, the Feature Generator provides a new way for editing extruded, revolved, and swept features. With it you can drag and drop predefined and custom features from Inventor's Content Center (basically a content library of features and parts). You can also modify a feature sketch with new 3D grips, as well as see a preview of the effects of modifications.

Similar to most other 3D CAD applications, in Inventor, you place components (parts) that act as a single functional unit into an assembly. In the assembly environment, you can add parts to an assembly or use sketch and part tools to create parts in the context of an assembly.

Autodesk spent a lot of time and effort in the area of drawings for Inventor 10 with good result. In Inventor 10 you can create drawing views of both surfaces and 3D sketches.

Since the competition continues to look to current AutoCAD users as converts to their 3D design packages, Autodesk is mounting a counter-offensive with Inventor 10. MDT models and drawings, for example, can be imported and reused as parts, assemblies, and drawings, where the original design intent, constraints, and drawing relationships are maintained after being imported into Inventor.

While it does have some work to do in the areas of surfacing and some aspects of interoperability, Inventor 10 is reaching a level of parity with its competitive rivals, and is worth a serious look this time around.

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 five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

UGS Corp. and Tata Consultancy Services, a global technology services firm, announced the availability of Teamcenter FDA Accelerator for the medical devices industry. This solution, built on the Teamcenter open PLM foundation enables TCS to bring its vertical solution capability to market on the industry leading PLM platform. Teamcenter FDA Accelerator allows customers to manage digital product information across the lifecycle in accordance with FDA regulatory requirements and provides improved reliability and enhanced product quality at reduced costs and at the same time fulfilling FDA requirements for new product introduction. Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) - 21
CFR Part 820 calls for process and organization control to ensure authenticity, integrity and confidentiality on all product records from design, manufacture, testing, packing, storage, installation, service to retirement of medical devices. 21 CFR Part 11 provides rules for acceptance of electronic records and signatures. Teamcenter FDA Accelerator provides a quality assurance environment to create, manage, control, track, and distribute all electronic product records associated with the lifecycle of a product.

PTC announced that INA-Schaeffler KG in Herzogenaurach, Germany, a supplier of rolling bearings and other equipment for the international automotive industry, has expanded its relationship with PTC and is deploying 1,000 seats of Pro/ENGINEER throughout the company worldwide. Schaeffler first implemented the PTC software in 1999 and has decided to use it as the standard MCAD tool for the entire group. Schaeffler estimates that within the next two to three years Pro/ENGINEER will replace the company's remaining 2D and 3D systems.

Dassault Systemes and IBM announced the implementation of a new channel management model designed to improve organizational efficiency and help IBM Business Partners better capture the growing PLM opportunities in the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market. While IBM will continue to provide end-to-end, global PLM solutions, Dassault Systemes will be responsible for operation of the sales channel of IBM PLM Business Partners in the SMB market in selected European countries and the U.S. This is the first of a series of agreements aimed at strengthening and transforming the IBM-Dassault Systemes partnership to maximize the value of their PLM offerings. This will help
customers, including SMBs accelerate their on-demand business transformation of which PLM is a key component.

MSC.Software Corp. announced certain financial information for the second quarter ended June 30, 2005. As previously disclosed, MSC.Software will restate its financial statements for the periods subsequent to December 31, 2000. Since the Company is unable to quantify the exact impact of the restatement on its financial results at this time, the Company can only give limited information regarding its second quarter. Cash, cash equivalents and investments at June 30, 2005 stood at $109.6 million compared to $89.5 million at March 31, 2005. The company continues to work in conjunction with its independent
registered accounting firm to complete the financial restatements for the periods subsequent to December 31, 2000. The company is committed to thoroughly and accurately completing the restatement as quickly as possible. While no assurances can be provided at this time, it is currently anticipated by management that the restatement will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2005.

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-- Jeff Rowe, Contributing Editor.

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