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mortgaging itself in 2006. He showed GM’s crushing debt and compared it to Toyota, which has virtually no debt. Mercer’s Business School 101 solution to the current problems: “Companies facing cyclical markets should not carry a large burden of debt, in order to survive downturns.”
For the future, Mercer forecast that demand for vehicles will return to normal, but it will take time; The Detroit Big 3 will move to a Big 6 with the “Europeanization” of the North American automotive manufacturers; GM is probably OK unless it backslides, Ford is likely to gain market share thanks to its product development offensive, and Chrysler’s fate
hangs on Fiat. His final thought was that if there is one lesson from the fall of the North American auto makers, it might be that it is time to abandon management by slogan in favor of management by facts.
The presentations on mechatronics tended to focus more on the electrical/electronic (E/E) side of the equation for design and modeling process improvement. One of the biggest challenges for collaborative mechatronics groups is the ability to support, reconcile, and integrate the roles and efforts of all parties. I got a new appreciation of dealing with the complexities of mechatronics designs that involve requirements, feature architecture, functional architecture, software architecture, and embedded software. I also learned about different types of data management. For example, object-level data management manages objects individually, whereas configuration management employs
“containers” that are the key for sharing and reusing objects. The containers don’t really contain anything, but are anchor points linked to the objects they contain, and are the key to managing systems of systems. Overall, efforts for developing mechatronics systems are getting more complex, but processes and tools are evolving that ensure the validity and integrity of the systems. The challenges facing mechatronics development processes are just now being properly understood and addressed, and will ultimately be viewed as part of bigger business processes.
This was a thought-provoking conference with a high quality of presentations and presenters discussing important topics directly and peripherally impacting the evolution of product lifecycle management.
For more information on next year’s event:
Wohlers Report 2009
With the advent of online resources, there is no shortage of technical and practical information available for just about any technology imaginable. However, just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, accurate and objective information on technologies available for product design and manufacturing are increasingly vital.
A technology area that continues to grow and evolve, rapid prototyping/manufacturing (RP/RM) is comprehensively covered in what I consider the best resource for this information – The Wohlers Report 2009 – State of the Industry. Now in its 14th edition, Wohlers Report 2009 provides a global overview and detailed analysis of the technologies and applications of additive manufacturing (AM).
AM technology is used for modeling, prototyping, tooling, and short-run production applications. Additive manufacturing refers to a diverse group of technologies used for builing physical prototypes, patterns, tooling components, and production parts – all from 3D CAD data, 3D scanning systems, medical scanners, or video games. Unlike machining processes, which are subtractive, AM systems join together liquid, powder, or sheet materials to form objects. AM can produce parts that may be difficult or impossible to fabricate by any other method; and can produce plastic, ceramic, composite, or metal parts.
A broad range of industry experts assist Terry Wohlers in producing the book. Wohlers Associates, Inc. is an independent consulting firm that works with manufacturing organizations to identify the best approaches to rapid product development. As the company's principal consultant, Terry Wohlers constantly tracks new methods and technologies to determine a strategic direction that gives companies an edge. His views and opinions come from years of collecting and analyzing market data, coupled with work as an advisor to major organizations in the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South Africa.
I've known Terry Wohlers for several years and his annual Wohlers Report is a well-researched and continually updated "bible" of the rapid prototyping/tooling/manufacturing industry, or simply, additive manufacturing. I've also contributed to the book in the past, respect Terry for the ongoing improvement of the annually updated book, and highly recommend it for the information it presents on the technology, analysis, and business case aspects of additive manufacturing. There’s also an excellent section in the book devoted specifically to the state and direction of MCAD technologies.
For more information on Wohlers Report 2009:
Design & Manufacturing Midwest
The Design & Manufacturing Midwest Exposition and Conference was held in Rosemont, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. It’s sort of a one-stop shopping event because it has several industries co-located with their own respective vendors and attendees, such Electronics Expo, Quality Expo, and Green Expo. The show promoter was expecting as many as 2,000 exhibitors and 40,000 attendees, although I’m pretty sure the numbers were lower than that.
Although I spent the vast majority of my time on the exhibit floor, at the Medical Design and Manufacturing track, Richard Runnells, Autodesk Industry Solutions Manager, made a presentation on the topic of “ The Dramatic Impact of 3D Design Software on Medical Technology: The Cochlear Sound Experience.”
Medical technology may not be strongly associated with CAD technology, but Cochlear, a Swiss-based developer of hearing restoration solutions, discovered that 3D modeling could be an enormous help in creating a digital prototype to master all the tiny details necessary for its hearing implants before their manufacture. Cochlear – which has 55,000 users worldwide - found that 3D design tools were well-suited for managing the small tolerances involved in hearing implant development, and for working with parts in hundred’s and thousandth’s of a millimeter. While Cochlear engineers had found it a challenge to view these parts with software programs they had used previously, in 3D it
worked much better.
In his presentation, Runnells described Autodesk’s role in helping Cochlear engineers design the next generation of implantable bone conduction hearing devices. He examined the unique challenges involved for Cochlear to create products that not only enhanced hearing restoration, but also created sound processors that were pleasing to the eye and easy to wear. He discussed how the Cochlear motto “Hear now and always” factored into the Autodesk collaboration, underscoring the fact that sound processors connected to implants are a lifelong commitment to those who wear them, meaning that equipment on all models must be fully maintained and supported.
Shows like Design & Manufacturing Midwest are becoming rarer these days, but there is nothing like pressing the flesh and meeting vendors and customers face to face.
For more information on next year’s event that will be held September 28-30, 2010:
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.
Improving the machining efficiency of turned and mill-turned parts, Edgecam 2010 R1 continues the enhancing and updating work started in 2009 R2. Offering significant efficiency gains with single-point cutting, the Finish Turning cycle minimizes user input by automating all finishing strategies. For example, following a roughing operation, or the application of a cutting tool too large to access certain design features on the part, the Finish Turning cycle will now automatically detect remaining stock on the component and write the code to machine just those areas with a finishing tool. This removes the need to manually select start and finish points or run through “air
cutting cycles.” Grooving is often considered the most troublesome turning operation. Addressing this, Edgecam 2010 R1 features additional controls added to the Rough Grooving cycle. These are designed to improve material removal rates and prolong tool life. A new peck across option allows grooves to be generated in incremental layers, which improves the chip flow effectively stopping the swarf stringing together and forming a “bird’s nest” on the cutting tool. Improved feed rate controls have also been added to the castellation cutting operation, making this highly efficient turning method even quicker. Edgecam 2010 R1 will support the new Windows 7 operating system for 64-bit PCs.
Solido, a developer of 3D printers is working at expanding its customer base in new markets. Following recent investments and partnerships, Solido announced another partnership with NUOVAMACUT of Italy. As the head of group with 12 subsidiaries in Italy, NUOVAMACUT supports more than 5000 manufacturing and mechanical companies, providing design technologies. The SD300 Pro, Solido’s 3D printer uses layers of firm but flexible engineered plastics. The finished models highly resemble injected plastic parts and can be drilled, sanded, joined together and painted as needed. The detail, compatibility and the accuracy of parts in the finished model have allowed designers of
intricate machinery to create working parts straight from the 3D printer. Other benefits of the SD300 Pro include simplicity and ease of use, low initial cost, low total cost of ownership, quality and integrity of parts, the ability to produce living hinges, and the compact size and portability of the machine.
ANSYS announced HFSS 12.0 software for 3-D full-wave electromagnetic field simulation. The product, part of the Ansoft suite, helps engineers design, simulate and validate the behavior of complex high-performance RF, microwave and millimeter-wave devices in next-generation wireless communication and defense systems. HFSS 12.0 is a major step forward for three-dimensional full-wave electromagnetic field simulation. The software includes updates in mesh generation, solver technologies, and enhancements to the user interface and the modeler. A new, faster and more robust meshing algorithm generates higher-quality, more efficient tetrahedral meshes. Other important enhancements
include mixed element orders, curvilinear elements, and adjoint derivative computation. Ease of use and automation in the user interface have been improved and include additional modeler capabilities such as sheet wrapping and imprinting.
Autodesk announced that Autodesk SketchBook Mobile is available on the App Store. Autodesk SketchBook Mobile is a new paint and drawing app that offers a full set of sketching tools in a user interface designed specifically for the iPhone and iPod touch. A combination of high-quality digital pencils, pens, markers and airbrushes, as well as an artist-friendly, gesture-based user interface, enables users to create everything from quick sketches to print-quality production artwork. Content that is created in SketchBook Mobile can be saved as a picture and opened in SketchBook Pro. As a result, artists, designers and anyone who likes to sketch or create artwork can create a drawing at
any time with SketchBook Mobile, and continue building on their idea in SketchBook Pro. SketchBook Mobile App is available for $2.99 from the App Store on iPhone and iPod touch or at
. A free Autodesk SketchBook Mobile Express App is also available on the App Store. Key features in the SketchBook Mobile App include:
- Layers - Drawings can contain up to six layers.
- Brushes - The software comes with 25 preset brushes and completely customizable brush settings.
- Color selection - Customizable color swatches and a color wheel with RGB sliders provide a virtually unlimited palette.
Kubotek announced that KeyCreator Version 9 will be available this fall and will provide significant improvements in the 3D placement of smart dimensions on solids. This furthers Kubotek’s dimension-driven editing capabilities, creating an environment for precise, unrestricted, direct editing of mechanical solids. This new approach also provides a simple and intuitive alternative to traditional solid modeling which constrains models based on how they were constructed. Additionally, KeyCreator Version 9 will include these noteworthy performance and productivity enhancements:
- Faster loading and more efficient memory use when opening large non-KeyCreator files
- New file size
optimization routines create smaller CKD files
- Improved graphics algorithm for faster frame rates
- New display options for improved visual display and performance
- Windows 7 support
- Enhanced associative part mating functionality
- New dynamic 3D handle operator for moving entities
- New detailing options.Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of
MCADCafé 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.