December 22, 2008
CAM Express Now Available With Synchronous Technology
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| by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Siemens PLM Software announced that CAM Express software with synchronous technology is shipping to customers worldwide. CAM Express, the core CAM component of the Velocity Series portfolio, incorporates Siemens PLM Software’s new history-free, feature-based design technology.
CAM Express version 6.0.1 includes additional model editing tools that leverage synchronous technology for more effective set up in preparation for NC programming. By leveraging synchronous technology, this latest release includes the ability to edit multi-CAD data as if it were native and to make those edits much faster.
“CAM Express is the first application beyond CAD in which we have implemented our new synchronous technology,” said Bill McClure, vice president of development for Velocity Series, Siemens PLM Software. “This fundamentally shows the extensibility of the technology as we expand its use into other areas of PLM.”
Modeling with synchronous technology is a key addition to the model editing tools in CAM Express. Other model edit functions include tools for wireframe, surface extraction, sewing, projections, trim/extend and simple solids. This complete set of model editing tools in this latest release allow NC programmers to make the changes they require without waiting for model refreshes or customer edits.
As a CAD-neutral CAM system, CAM Express is able to make edits faster than the authoring CAD system. The source of the model is unimportant. Synchronous technology enables intelligent selections with grab and manipulate features by topology.
“Synchronous technology will automatically discover geometric conditions apparent in the model and preserve them during edits,” said Dr. Ken Versprille, PLM Research Director, CPDA.
Velocity Series is a comprehensive family of modular, integrated solutions addressing the PLM needs of the mid-market. Consisting of a preconfigured family of digital product design, analysis and data management software offerings, Velocity Series leverages the industry’s best practices to provide significant breakthroughs in ease-of-use and deployment.
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
Earlier this year Siemens PLM Software announced a new CAD methodology that it claimed was the biggest MCAD breakthrough in a decade called Synchronous Technology. That’s a pretty bold claim, but the concept and its implications were pretty intriguing, but how does Synchronous Technology fit into the CAM equation with CAM Express?
Are CAD and CAM still that different from each other? In almost all cases I have to answer, “Yes, they still are considerably different from each other.” At first glance, CAD and CAM seem to be more similar than they are different, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. Sure, CAD and CAM share some similarities – you create something – one digital, one physical. However, in the final analysis, today CAD and CAM are still probably different in more ways than they are similar.
Features – In CAD and CAM there are two basic kinds of features – design features and manufacturing features. Design features are what define a part in a CAD system and can be additive or subtractive. Feature-based CAD packages display features and operations in history trees and parts and assemblies can be directly manipulated and modified using the history trees. Also, history trees can provide beneficial overviews to manufacturing because they provide insight into how a design was created, as well as help understand a designer’s intent. Manufacturing features, on the other hand, group geometry that will have manufacturing processes, such as machining applied to it.
Aside from the obvious, the major differences between CAD and CAM really come down to three things:
Manufacturing features can get complicated quickly, because although some are the direct result of a machining operation, just as many could be the indirect result of machining another feature. Synchronous Technology for this aspect of CAM will have a definite impact, but just how much remains to be seen.
Workflow – By its nature, CAM is generally much more process oriented than CAD, and the order or sequence in which different processes are performed can be critical in the CAM world. In other words, CAD defines a part, whereas CAM defines a part’s manufacturing processes and how the part takes shape from rough stock to final product. Therefore, workflow is more important to CAM. Also, the concept of time is an important aspect of CAM that really isn’t a factor at all in CAD. This situation is analogous to the importance of time in animated graphics, but of no concern to static graphics. Time is especially important on the manufacturing side because a part continually
changes with different machining processes over time. Again, Synchronous Technology for this aspect of CAM will have impact, but it’s a mystery of how much until implementation reports emerge.
Interoperability – Even with all the advances that have been made in the area of interoperability between CAD and CAM, this age-old problem is still a major issue today. Unfortunately, design intent is often still lost as design data moves from CAD to CAM. Data incompatibility is still a huge problem, costing in the tens of billions of dollars annually. Synchronous Technology for this aspect of CAM should have a huge impact.
While a few vendors of CAD products have managed to include CAM functions into their products, the more common approach is to have a suite of products for handling the CAD and CAM functions of design, management, and manufacturing. Although the situation continues to improve, there are still major compromises for whatever approach is taken. On the one hand, CAD users don’t want to be constrained by having to predict or simulate manufacturing processes. On the other hand, CAM users don’t want to be forced to produce parts that are either too expensive to produce, or can’t be realistically produced at all. So it’s a tough dilemma getting CAD and CAM software products
and practitioners to work together.
Using NX, Solid Edge, and now CAM Express as launch pads for Synchronous Technology, Siemens PLM Software has become the latest MCAD company to tout the advantages of non-history-based design methods.
Synchronous Technology was preceded by Direct Modeling (really, direct model editing) technology. While most parametric modelers, such as SolidWorks, Pro/ENGINEER, and Inventor rely on feature history, several do not. Some of the more notable non-history-based modeling packages include those from CoCreate, SpaceClaim, IronCAD, and Kubotek.
Today, many mechanical CAD products are still parametric, history-based applications. However, a history-free architecture can make it easier to import design data and make design changes to 3D models without the need to know how a design was originally created. Some users may not like the absence of the history at first, however, I think that many users will appreciate that changes can be made faster to a CAD design or CAM process without having to deal with its history.
Parametric history-based modeling can be a powerful design method, but it can also be complicated and make models created using this method difficult to work with, especially late in the design process, because of dependencies created earlier. This is what makes non-history-based packages attractive for design teams that perform design changes or reuse design data without having to worry about constraints, parametrics, and history-based feature trees. These advantages are what drew Siemens PLM Software into the fold, first on the CAD side, and now CAM, as well.
So, while Synchronous Technology sounds promising for CAD and now CAM, will history-based, parametric modeling disappear? A history-free design approach can provide benefits, but the history-based, parametric methods won’t be totally discarded. While there are benefits to history-based methods, they aren’t always the best methods, and it seems that a growing number of vendors are thinking along the same lines, now including Siemens PLM Software with NX, Solid Edge, and CAM Express.
2009 MCADCafe.com Monthly Topics
Every month during the coming year we will provide a focused look at a technology area that will be of interest to all of our readers. We will also provide coverage of some of the major vendor and industry shows and conferences that provide a pulse on our industry and where it’s going. Finally, we will review several MCAD-related software applications and hardware, such as mobile workstations as they are released throughout the year.
If there is anything that we missed and you would like to see covered, please contact me directly at
January – Using Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4) for MCAD applications
February – CAE Trends – analysis/simulation – FEA, CFD
Event Coverage – SolidWorks World 2007
March – Product Data Management (PDM) for SMBs
April – Visualization Software – Autodesk (DWF), Adobe (PDF), Anark Core, Lattice, etc.
Event Coverage – COFES
May – Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing
Event Coverage – SME RP/RM/RE
June – Engineering education programs – Autodesk, SolidWorks, PTC, etc.
Event Coverage – PTC Pro/USER
July – Robotics
August – Industrial Design – practice and trends
Event Coverage – SIGGRAPH (tentative)
September – CAM Trends
October – Mechatronics -- The merging and integration of MCAD/ECAD/EDA
November – Reverse Engineering/Inspection
December – 2009 Year In Review
Event Coverage – Autodesk University 2009
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.
RedEye, a business unit of Stratasys, unveiled the world’s first full scale custom motorcycle, created entirely from using rapid prototype parts, at Autodesk University 2008. Autodesk featured on large-screen monitors a contiguous process showing the timeline from initial concept through design, to rendering, ultimately leading to physical design verification in the form of a true full-scale Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) prototype chopper, which was lowered from the ceiling on cables. Autodesk announced that it is now possible to generate 3D prints like the motorcycle directly from within AutoCAD. This web service links to RedEye over the web, allowing prints to be created
then sent back to the AutoCAD user. The prototype chopper included many fully functional parts, including: articulating steering, illuminating headlights, and rotating wheels, demonstrating how the FDM process can give designers the functionality they look for in quality production parts. Built using ABS M30 high–strength, production-grade thermoplastic, the chopper’s exterior vibrantly displayed the designer’s true vision of color for each part.
Siemens PLM Software announced a computational breakthrough in implicit finite element analysis (FEA) technology. Using commercially available hardware, the current production version of the company’s NX NASTRAN software was able to solve a structural analysis problem with a half-billion equations “virtually overnight.” The analysis was conducted to simulate the behavior of an entire airplane wing structure undergoing a bending test. The resulting problem size of 500 million equations was successfully completed in less than 18 hours of elapsed time and shattered Siemens PLM Software’s previous record – announced in February 2006 – which was also set
by NX NASTRAN for a similar problem. To provide perspective, a structural analysis of an entire automobile body modeled with shell elements, could be solved with about 100 million equations. The FEA model solved by NX NASTRAN consisted of one hundred million grids along with approximately 98 million shell and 49 million solid elements. The resulting finite element problem consisted of 500 million equations and had more than 600 million global degrees of freedom when a linear static analysis with a single load condition was executed. The analysis required 1069 minutes, or 17.8 hours of elapsed time on an IBM Power 570 server. The computer contained eight POWER 6 cores at 4.7 GHz, 64 GB of
memory and 24 striped disks of 148 GB capacity each. The analysis used 42.4 GB of memory, executed 30.3 TB of I/O operations with a 2.26 TB disk footprint.
Dassault Systèmes announced the availability of CZone for Abaqus, from the DS SIMULIA brand, for simulating crushing of composite materials. CZone for Abaqus, a new add-on product for Abaqus FEA software, enables engineers to accelerate the design and evaluation of energy-absorbing composite components and assemblies. The new product provides the ability to study the crushing behavior of composite structures in automobiles, helicopters, aircraft, trains, and other transport vehicles to protect occupants and cargo from shock or injury during severe impact. Energy-absorbing composite structures offer the possibility of increased safety at a lower cost of both initial manufacture
and repair—for example, through modular, replaceable front and rear assemblies. Engenuity’s CZone technology includes direct implementation of crush-based element force generation and failure for defined “crush zones,” which are typically located at the forward edges of a product. CZone for Abaqus determines the extent of composite material crushing as well as other modes of potential failure—such as composite delamination, fracture, and buckling.
Altair Engineering announced that it will offer free technology training courses and licenses for advanced software to displaced engineers in Michigan who want to expand their skills in CAE as a way of increasing their marketability to employers. Altair's Professional Workforce Initiative pilot program, which supports Michigan's efforts to retrain and diversify the state's workforce as the regional economy evolves into new industries, will be launched in southeast Michigan. Each engineer may enroll in as many as four training sessions, including:
Update training in modeling and visualization
Linear and noise-vibration-and-harshness (NVH) analysis
Crashworthiness and safety analysis
Multi-body dynamics simulation
IronCAD announced the release of IRONCAD Version 11.0 by combining history-based parametrics and direct geometry manipulation into a single modeling environment along with the customer driven requests. Shipments to existing customers will begin in January 2009. An evaluation copy of the latest product version is available for download. All new customers buying IRONCAD today will automatically receive Version 11.0. Feature enhancements that have been implemented in this version include:
Assembly Performance Improvements with Load, Save, and Memory Usage
Support for 32-Bit and 64-Bit on both Windows XP and Vista
Search Browser for Advance Find Capabilities Within Scene Files
Many 2D Sketch Improvements in User Interface and Capabilities
Import/Export Improvements for Accuracy and Memory Reduction
3D Positioning Improvements with the TriBall Positioning Tool
Smart Assembly Improvements with Stronger Connection Options
Drawing Improvements Including Multiple Broken-Out Section Support
Visibility Updates for Shadow/Reflection Planes and Real-time Shadows
Updated Import/Export Formats Including CATIA V5, NX, and Pro/ENGINEER.
Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of
and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at
Email Contact or 408.850.9230.
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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.