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March 20, 2006
The True Value of Design Automation
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!

The True Value of Design Automation

by Paul Gimbel

You get a lot of varied reactions when you mention the word "automation" to people. Some people fear for their jobs, envisioning some robot working faster and smarter than they do. Some people see their inherently flawed process just producing more crap faster. Some people see salespeople putting garbage into the system expecting magic to come out the other side. The commonality is that people see a black box that magically turns specifications into designs instantly. A good automation program actually isn't all that far off from the black box, but the fears that people have about the box are actually the benefits of the automation tools.

The first fear that people have is being replaced by a machine. Well let's face it folks, in a lot of Engineer-To-Order (ETO) and Configure-To-Order (CTO) companies, we ARE machines. We take sales information and spit out quotes all day. I don't know about you, but I didn't barely make it through Thermodynamics so that I could just plug and chug numbers all day. Automating the non-value added tasks, like some pre-sales work, frees the engineers up to do what we were meant to do, tough engineering validations and more importantly, New Product Development (NPD). Handling incoming sales volume is important to bringing in money, but developing new products to tap into new markets brings in a
lot more money for the company.

The next thing that people say is that they're process is too tough to automate. Nothing can be done automatically because so much of it is manual. While it's true that you can't automate everything, the reality is that the process of adopting automation forces you to re-evaluate your process. Your current process is probably 30 years old or more. It's been tweaked a bit along the way, but it can't possibly take into account the latest 3D technology or the tools that are available for design automation. You can't just automate a process. You can't just apply technology to a process. You need to make the technology and the process flexible enough to create a new, automated process.

Another big problem today, that people feel will halt any efforts to automate, is that the salespeople that collect the information rarely get all of the information required to quote a job. In some companies, every quote request is followed by a call to the customer to get more information. Automation can solve this by requiring all of the information before a salesperson can request a quote. Automation tools today, and even VB.NET and Excel can be used to create user interfaces that help salespeople get complete and accurate information.

The information is accurate because automation tools have a benefit beyond automation. They generally do validation as well. This means that the rules that are put in to automate are also used to make sure that the design is possible. This would mean the end to salespeople selling things that cannot be manufactured.

But automation isn't for everyone. Some tasks require the art of the engineer. Some processes can only be partially automated, some completely automated, and some not at all. But the most important thing to remember is that the technology is new and you don't know what it can do to your process. If you're convinced that the way that you're doing things now is the ultimate way, don't automate. If you have an open mind, and are willing to accommodate technology and willing to bend technology to meet you halfway, then go for it.

This article was submitted by one of our readers and has stirred up a lot of excitement on the MCADCafé Web site. Mr. Gimbel directly and indirectly discusses probably the most important aspect of automation, regardless of whether its used for sales, production, or testing, and that's people. He asserts that many people (wrongly) think that automation will replace them. Just the opposite has been proven to be true in a majority of cases where automation has been placed. When processes are automated, productivity increases and results in a higher level of value for the people using the automated system, the system itself, and the things produced with the system.

People are required to create, optimize, and maintain automated systems - they don't operate totally on their own. Keep in mind that automation is merely a tool that when combined with a person's imagination can do great things. A tool does not and cannot replace a person's knowledge and expertise. Computers have not made our brains obsolete, but they have freed us up to pursue more creative endeavors, while they handle repetitive computational tasks and store information. Likewise, CAD/CAM/CAE tools have not lessened the need for engineers - actually quite the contrary. In an analogous way, automated systems are also good at repetitive tasks, as well as many that most of us would
consider dangerous.

Although it has gotten better over the years, I think automation still has a way to go to truly be regarded not as an enemy or threat, but as an ally and hope. It comes back to the people issue, because it is people who adopt and accept automated processes who will be more likely to prosper than those who do the opposite.

Nominations Sought for 2006 CAD Society Awards

The CAD Society announced that it is accepting nominations for the 2006 CAD Society Industry Awards.

The CAD Society Industry Awards recognize the contributions of individuals within the Computer-Aided-Design (CAD) and engineering software industry. CAD and related engineering software applications are used in the design of buildings, automobiles, consumer goods, and just about every manufactured product produced today.

"The three awards the CAD Society presents every year is our way of recognizing those who have contributed to the CAD/CAM industry in various ways," said Jeff Rowe, president of The CAD Society. "We are looking forward to hearing what the community has to say when they help us select the 2006 nominees."

The CAD Society presents awards in three categories:
  • Leadership Award: For outstanding technical and business leadership in the CAD industry, and focus and dedication to the needs of CAD users. Robert McNeel was the 2005 recipient of the Leadership award. Other past award recipients include: Tony Affuso, Tom Butta, Jon Hirschtick, Bernard Charl, and Frank Perna.
  • Joe Greco Community Award: For outstanding work in improving communication and developing community within the CAD industry. Lynn Allen was the 2005 recipient of the Community award. Other past award recipients include: Randall Rath, CJ Shirk, Kristine Fallon, Ralph Grabowski, and Amy Rowell.
  • Lifetime Award: For a lifetime of outstanding technical and business contributions to the CAD industry. Ken Versprille was the 2005 recipient of the Lifetime award. Other past award recipients include: L. Stephen Wolfe, Carl Machover, Dr. Joel Orr, Patrick Hanratty, and Jason Lemon.
  • The board members of the CAD Society will review all nominations on Wednesday March 29, 2006 and will determine the award winners for each of the three categories. Nominations should be sent to president@cadsociety.org and will be accepted through March 24, 2006.

    The recipients of the awards will be announced and posted on the CAD Society web site prior to COFES 2006 (Congress On the Future of Engineering Software). The awards will be presented at COFES 2006 held April 20-23 in Scottsdale, AZ.

    The CAD Society (www.cadsociety.org) is a not-for-profit industry association which has the goal of fostering community and encouraging open communication among those who make their living within the CAD industry. It has been a leader in creating interoperability guidelines that encourage software vendors to develop applications that can share data openly. Membership is free for individuals.

    COFES: The Congress On the Future of Engineering Software (www.cofes.com) is an annual business event created for the engineering software and hardware industry by Cyon Research Corporation (www.cyonresearch.com.) COFES 2006 is a unique conference with a difference: COFES focuses on intense sessions of discussion, argument, and debate, on issues that will affect your business as it invests in, and depends upon, engineering technologies. This years event, sponsored by Hewlett Packard, will be held in Scottsdale, AZ April 20-23, 2006.

    The CAD Society Contact:

    Jeffrey Rowe


    The CAD Society


    Email Contact

    As the president of the CAD Society, nominating recipients for the three awards is easy, but at the same time, also difficult. Easy, because there is no shortage of worthy recipients; difficult, because we can only choose one for each of the three awards. I'll be presenting the awards at COFES the evening of April 22. I look forward to actually meeting the award recipients because they're all great people and it is one of my favorite duties as president of the CAD Society.

    If you would like to nominate someone for a CAD Society award, let me know about it by emailing me at
    Email Contact.

    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.

    Autodesk Launches Manufacturing Community Site

    Autodesk has launched a new Manufacturing Community Web site designed to help professionals in the manufacturing industry access engineering models and parts catalogs, learn productivity tips from experts, and connect with peers. To access the Manufacturing Community site, or for more information, visit: http://mfgcommunity.autodesk.com. The Manufacturing Community site is a connection to the industry. Key features include:
  • Productivity Tips - learn from experts or users can contribute tricks to help peers
  • Discussion Groups and Blogs - ask and answer product specific questions, and hear the latest buzz from industry pros
  • Events Calendars - find local events to network with peers and interact with experts
  • Online Resources - links to manufacturing-related sites and resources
  • MachineWorks V6.3 Released

    MachineWorks Ltd, supplier of a simulation and verification toolkit for software and machine tools OEMs, has released its latest version, MachineWorks v6.3 that includes new functionality and enhancements that are designed to increase performance and improve accuracy. In addition, a significant part of the work was linked to enhancing usability of the application as a result of customers' requirements. The main features of version 6.3 include new methods for programming full machine simulation, enhanced forward kinematics, significant improvements to the performance of clash detection, support for rendering of non-simulation geometry, support for simulation of simultaneous B-axis turning,
    subtraction of electrodes, and Windows XP 64-bit platforms.

    Geometric Launches GeomCaliper V1.3

    Geometric Software Solutions announced GeomCaliper for CATIA V5 version 1.3, a design tool for the quick and accurate measurement of thickness in 3D models in the early stage design of consumer products, plastic injection molded parts, castings and powertrain part design. GeomCaliper provides advanced visualization capabilities for both 2D (in section) and 3D thickness to quickly focus in on areas of interest to users. It also features reporting tools in XML/HTML format. Version 1.3 is supported on CATIA V5 R12, R13, R14, R15, and R16. With this new release of GeomCaliper users can also clip a model at any section, precisely control the positioning of cutting plane for thickness analysis at
    section, check critical wall thickness at hidden areas in a model, and automatically locate critical thickness areas through innovative visualization.

    Dassault Systemes Announces Adoption Of 3D XML Technology Into Virtools Solutions

    Dassault Systemes announced the 3D XML format adoption in its "3D for All" flagship, Virtools Dev 3.5 platform. The "3D For All" strategy aims to make 3D technology available to users. This means that anybody from content creators to the product end user will have a set of solutions that allow them to imagine, share and experience in 3D. The adoption of 3D XML technology via a dedicated extension to Virtools' solutions is the first step toward re-creating the end user experience on virtual products, with real-time interactive scenarios. 3D XML is a universal, lightweight XML-based format that enables users to share live, accurate 3D content. 3D XML is suited for
    communication and provides unique features, such as multi-representational 3D content, and unmatched compression for complex, accurate geometry, enabling rapid communication, and shorter load times. Dassault Systemes already uses the 3D XML format in its entire product line: CATIA, DELMIA, ENOVIA, SMARTEAM, and SolidWorks.

    Direct Link Between CablEquity And IronCAD V8.0 Now Available

    IronCAD announced that TurboTools Corp. has released a direct link between its CablEquity product and IronCAD V8.0. TurboTools is focused on the automation design process of highly integrated electronic equipment, mechatronic systems, high-tech instrumentation, process and capital equipment, automotive, aircrafts, ships, power plants, oil drilling platforms, etc. The new version, CablEquity 2006, offers a host of powerful features including automated generation of all assembly drawings, schematics and bill of materials, "pick and drag" design sketching, full scale "nail board" drawing, enhanced schematics and bills of materials, fully integrated RoHS compliant components
    database, and customizable editing assembly drawings.

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

    This Week

    Lead Story
  • The True Value of Design Automation
    Product and Company News
  • Agile Announces Linux Support Plans For PLM
  • CSI Announces Concepts Unlimited v3 Release
  • Agile Announces Agile Advantage 2006, PLM Solution For Small And Medium Enterprises
  • CoCreate Strengthens Position In Electronics Market
  • Geometric Launches NestLib V18.0
  • UGS Helps Customers Evolve To 3D With UGS Velocity Series
  • Desktop Engineering Magazine Readers Choose Mathcad 13 As 2005 Product Of The Year
  • Delcam's CADCAM Software Provides High Accuracy On A Small Scale
  • Moldflow Ships Mold Mount Hot Runner Control
  • IronCAD Announces New Solution Partner TurboTools
  • Kubotek USA Releases White Paper On Working With Non-Native Files
  • Claas To Expand Its Position With PLM Products From IBM And Dassault Systèmes
  • Carbo Tech Composites Selects VISTAGY's FiberSIM
  • UGS Announces Teamcenter Environmental Compliance Solution
  • Cimmetry Introduces VAR Certification Program
  • Moldflow Appoints An Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm
  • Autoweb Launches "Fusion-DX" Product Data Management Solution
  • Fluent Releases Rapid Flow Modeling For Design With FloWizard V2.1
  • Emerging Display Technologies Adopts PTC Products
  • MatrixOne Deployed Inside Faurecia's Core System
  • UTC Selects Proficiency For Product Data Delivery
  • U.S. Digital Expects To increase Sales With Interactive Catalog Powered By 3D PartStream.NET
  • ANSYS Honored by Visit From U.S. Treasury Secretary
  • Second SolidWorks Sheet Metal Training Book Announced
  • Delcam Gives Ryetools The Edge
  • Amphenol-Tuchel Electronics Finds Key To Global Product Development
  • Intuitive Acquires SupplyWorks
  • Autoweb Launches Fusion-DX" For Product Data Management
  • IDES Unveils Vertical Search Engine For Plastics Industry
    Related MCAD News
  • Philip Bryans Wins IBSystems Award For February 2006's Most Read MCADCafe.com User Submitted Article
  • Process Improvement À Is Automation Always the Best Answer?
  • IBM Announces Express Advantage For Small- And Medium-Sized Businesses
  • Aerojet Earns Boeing Supplier Of The Year Award
  • Avnet Partners Continue To Expand Portfolio Through ISV Collaboration
  • Kia Motors To Build Its First U.S. Manufacturing Plant In Georgia
  • XVL-based Aftermarket Parts Service Drives Efficiency Improvements for Major UK Bus Manufacturer
  • Ford Aligns Quality With Other Core Business Operations
  • Boeing Selects Marotta's Pneumatic Weapon Ejection System
  • Oracle Introduces Oracle SQL Developer - Free Database Development Tool
  • EMC Documentum Content Services For SAP Software Helps York Accelerate Time-To-Market
  • The Wall Street Journal Announces Launch Of Technology Innovation Awards 2006
  • Microsoft Announces "People-Ready" Business Vision
  • IBM Achieves Fastest Growth Among Storage Software Vendors
  • CSM Automotive Production Barometer - March 2006
  • Failure Analysis Progresses To Predictive Condition Monitoring And Intelligent Maintenance Systems
  • Oracle Strengthens Security With Independent Evaluation
  • Analysis Shows That Many Atlantic European Fiber Optic Cables Reaching Full Capacity
  • Amerityre To Discuss Advantages Of Manufacturing Polyurethane Tires
    Corporate Moves
  • DaimlerChrysler Names New VP
    Upcoming Events
  • Magnacad Design Inc. Hosts "Streamline to Success" Seminars: Lower your Cost per Project and your Design Cycle Time
  • Latest GibbsCAM Interoperability Demonstrated at NDES
  • Agile Announces Sponsors and Additional Speakers to AGILITY 2006
  • RuleStream To Showcase At National Manufacturing Week 2006
  • Delcam To Show New PowerMILL At EASTEC
  • MSC.Software To Present At B. Riley & Co. Annual Investor Conference
  • MatrixOne To Host Seminars On Streamlining Processes For Medical Devices
  • MSC.Software To Present At Deutsche Bank 2006 Technology Conference
  • Weld Fatigue Seminars, April 11th & 12th 2006, MD, USA
  • Delcam To Feature Adaptive Machining Methods At Farnborough

    You can find the full MCADCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.