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September 27, 2004
Materialise Releases Magics 9.5 For Rapid Prototyping
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on MCADcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
Each MCAD Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the MCAD industry, MCAD product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by MCADCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Materialise Releases Magics 9.5 For Rapid Prototyping

Materialise has released Magics 9.5 software. Driven by customer feedback, this latest release demonstrates Materialise' commitment to providing users with practical, innovative applications. Magics offers advanced and highly automated tools for STL manipulation. Using Magics you can interact directly on defective triangles and thus very quickly resolve any errors. It's the only software that is tuned entirely to the needs and characteristics of the rapid prototyping (RP), tooling, and manufacturing processes. Its powerful and efficient 3D tools of enable you to deliver high quality prototypes with the shortest lead times, while providing full documentation.

The key features of Magics 9.5 allow for:
  • Automating and simplifying the repair process of STL models - Use the Fix Wizard to step through the repair process. This interface delivers ease-of-use, thorough examination of your 3D model, intelligent advice, highly automated fixing algorithms, and feedback on errors.
  • Tailoring the measuring functionality even more closely to customer's needs. Now also available -- measuring wall thicknesses and measuring using default entities (X, Y, and Z planes and axes).
  • Generating measurement reports, such as for quality control.
  • Automated document generation incorporates on-screen measurements into a template customizable to needs.
  • Advanced, flexible manipulation of 3D models. For example, put logos or images on parts with the DXF import in the Label function or advanced fixing, re-meshing, editing on a selection of triangles thanks to the new marking functionality.
  • Some of the most significant changes in this new release come in the tooling and STL optimization related modules. These are the highlights of the enhancements to Magics' range of modules:
  • Ability to import CAD formats faster, including the latest versions of those formats - The import algorithms have significantly been improved, while the most recent CATIA and IGES file formats can be imported into Magics, too.
  • Ability to integrate Magics into your business system - The new Magics' ActiveX interface communicates directly with other software, such as business and/or quoting system databases, so that part properties are filled in automatically.
  • Save time by anticipating the need for electrodes and minimize scrap - The new "Mill analysis" produces clear visuals of areas in the milling process where the use of a certain mill diameter will not result in the exact geometry required.
  • Interface easily to CAM for drilling holes - IGES export of the center points of holes, which offers multiple benefits: you save time as the info is passed on directly to your CAM software; you eliminate human errors that occur when manually inputting the info.
  • Further customize the automatic parting plane creation with advanced filling algorithms - A wide range of new and enhanced options allow the creation of parting planes according to specific requirements (related to specific applications).
  • Generate comprehensive reports of your electrode design - you can easily import all information from the electrode design into a customizable template and let Magics generate a comprehensive document, complete with illustrations.
  • Optimize your surface meshes locally - This is extremely useful to further refine the surface mesh where necessary to ensure better FEA results. In addition, the improved UI makes working in the Remesh module simpler.
  • In a nutshell, using Magics 9.5 cuts time and costs. Many of the world's most advanced service bureaus and toolmakers, as well as automotive, consumer electronics, and aerospace companies use Magics to gain a competitive advantage in today's business environment.

    With headquarters in Belgium, Materialise started in 1990 in the rapid prototyping sector. Today, its software division develops applications enabling advanced use of rapid prototyping, tooling, and manufacturing techniques. Materialise is a software partner worldwide for companies in the automotive, aerospace and consumer electronics industries. Materialise has offices all over the world and the largest software development team in the RP sector.

    Unless you're involved with the rapid prototyping aspect of the product development process, you might not have heard about or be aware of Materialise. The company offers a comprehensive set of products and services specifically for the myriad processes directly and indirectly tied to RP, of which the Magics product line (consisting of 15 distinct modules) is a big part of. Materialise and Magics specialize in handling and manipulating STL data. While far from perfect, STL has evolved into sort of the lingua franca of the rapid prototyping world, although Magics can deal with CATIA and IGES data, along with several other data types, too. The Magics product line addresses a variety of
    processes, from STL handling and rapid prototyping, through optimization for FEA, to rapid tooling and manufacturing processes. Using STL files with the various Magics modules, you can do everything from visualizing, measuring, and manipulating designs within the files; to creating tooling directly from the STL design; to optimizing models for FEA purposes; to creating drawings of STL models. All in all, a broad range of capabilities for virtually all aspects of RP. As mentioned before, if RP is part of your workflow, you should take some time and check out what Materialise has to offer.

    Workforce Productivity Gains Too Good To Be True According To New Study

    Large corporations are not effectively using their workforces, and they are losing revenue and market share potential as a result. That's according to the results of a new study announced today by Convergys Corporation and conducted by Saratoga/ PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, in conjunction with the University of Michigan. Even though the U.S. Labor Department reports that the productivity of American workers rose at an annual rate of 2.9 percent last spring, 84 percent of executives surveyed admitted they were unable to take advantage of their workforce's full potential, and half of all HR executives acknowledged they did not have enough information about their workforce to remain
    competitive in their industry.

    For the 2004 Convergys survey, over 300 senior executives in HR, finance, and operations at U.S. and European companies with revenues of greater than $1 billion were interviewed both in person and via telephone. The in-person interviews were all conducted with Fortune Most Admired companies.

    65 percent of corporate executives surveyed said they face an increased demand for a flexible workforce to remain competitive in today's global market. Despite this awareness, the Convergys research showed that companies have trouble retaining key talent, don't have systems in place to identify skilled employees, and aren't providing more training and development for their most strategic employees -- all factors which contribute to low productivity.

    The Convergys 2004 "Workforce Agility" study outlines the major obstacles companies face in maximizing their return on human investment (ROHI). For example, the corporate executives surveyed admit that gaps between workforce strategy and business strategy are common.

    Moreover, the ability to mobilize their workforce to meet business demands with speed, precision, and agility remains an elusive goal. When asked to describe their company's ability to reallocate people to projects across lines of business or teams, over 45 percent of respondents rated their company as rigid, while only 16 percent rated their company as flexible.

    Even companies known for employing best practices estimate that they are overspending by at least 10 percent on their workforce, yet their employees are under performing by 10 percent. As a result, companies could be leaving a significant percentage of their revenue on the table. Example: For a $10 billion company, a 10 percent decrease in workforce costs and a 10 percent improvement in productivity would represent nearly $1.25 billion in annual savings. While these results point to the need for financial discipline in overseeing HR, only 27 percent of companies in the U.S. say they have a human resources controller.

    Most significant, the Convergys 2004 Workforce Agility study highlights a real gap between human resource needs and business goals. 55 percent of respondents claim that work structured around jobs versus skills and competencies is a major barrier to optimizing their key talent. In addition, 80 percent of senior executives emphasized the need to focus on retention and development of their strategic employees and most skilled talent. Paradoxically, less than 20 percent of HR executives rate their company as highly proficient at either of these.

    "Companies are beginning to recognize the need to put a stronger emphasis on more strategic HR processes to manage and retain key talent," said Philip Fersht, Senior Analyst at Yankee Group. "The tough business climate is driving many medium-sized and large organizations to scrutinize how they measure, monitor, and manage their human capital."

    In the search for competitive advantage, a well-trained and flexible workforce can adapt quickly and easily to new opportunities. Working within a structure that is clearly aligned with corporate strategy, companies can drive revenues up, keep costs down, and clearly differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

    Karen Bowman, president of Employee Care at Convergys said, "Aligning the workforce to business objectives is clearly top of mind among executives today. Convergys provides globally integrated HR solutions that help clients gain visibility into the trends and profiles of their workforce. This critical HR intelligence helps them accurately plan business initiatives and maximize their return on human capital investments."

    Conducted between March and August 2004, Convergys' Workforce Agility Study consisted of two parts:
  • In-person interviews with C-level and top human resources executives at U.S. and European companies in a wide range of industries. Each of these industry leaders is a Fortune Most Admired Company and was selected based on its reputation for using human capital and its overall financial performance. The survey, conducted by Saratoga /PricewaterhouseCoopers and the University of Michigan School of Business and Education Professor Richard W. Beatty, sought to determine best practices in workforce agility and alignment.
  • Telephone interviews of HR, operations, and finance executives at some 300 companies in the US and Europe. Each of the companies reports more than $1 billion in annual revenue and most have more than 13,000 employees worldwide. Respondents have responsibility for setting or executing workforce strategy; roughly 40% were HR executives; 30% were operations executives; 30% were finance executives. The survey sought to determine the degree to which these companies had adopted the best practices identified in the first part of the study.
  • As telling as the results of this study are for somewhat generic businesses, a study that focused on specific and overall aspects of product development would be an even more interesting undertaking, especially from an operations point of view. Interesting because I would venture to guess that in companies that perform product design/engineering/manufacturing, the productivity gains would be shown to be more real and not as exaggerated as was shown by this study. So many companies that create products are doing a lot more with less out of sheer necessity to survive and compete - from the design workstation to the factory floor. As a specific example, the huge automotive supplier, Delphi,
    is employing a couple of home-grown methods (although it now also licenses them), known as Horizontal Modeling (HM) and Digital Process Design (DPD). When combined, these methods directly tie associative product and process design into a cohesive and comprehensive system that is standardized and flexible. These methods have led to significant (and quantifiable) gains in product quality and time to market, while resulting in significant reductions in time and material waste. The success at Delphi is but one of an increasing number of successes that are being realized by other product manufacturers having to deal with an ever-increasing competitive environment.

    Jeffrey Rowe is the editor and publisher of MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached here or 408.850.9230.

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    You can find the full MCADCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.