Excellence in product design has become a key differentiator for manufacturers who must increasingly wrestle for their share of the market pie. When your product shares the same basic functionality and purpose of that of your competition, the look and feel or “design” of it can make the difference between success and failure in today’s market.
As a result, the role of design has taken on a much higher priority and become a critical part of business success today. In order to design better products and get them to market faster, manufacturers are increasingly turning to fully integrated apps that connect the various disciplines involved in the design and manufacture of products.
Integration Removes Barriers Between Designers and Engineers
Since the advent of 3D design tools, industrial designers tasked with the look of a new product often found themselves at odds with engineers who’s primary concern was the functional aspects of a proposed design. Industrial designers often find that they must answer to the business side of manufacturing company, who clamor to “see” what the next generation of a product might look like; long before actual CAD work has been initiated.
As a result, designers prefer flexible visualization and conceptual design tools that enable them to quickly flush out a multitude of early concepts of new product designs without concern for the more pragmatic, mechanical aspects of design.
The problem is that this conceptual design stage often becomes an isolated silo within the overall design process, and data created with these conceptual tools is often not used downstream when the actual mechanical design begins.
Manufacturers must understand that designers need a different type of tool, one with a much greater emphasis on the speed required to quickly create multiple concepts, while also having an intuitive interface that requires minimum training. These tools must also be able to create high-quality visualizations long before any actual product geometry exists so the designer can share, discuss, and debate proposed ideas with engineers, cost estimators, manufacturing personnel, and sales and marketing personnel to fuel design collaboration and obtain buy-in on proposed designs.
Since designers and engineers often are tasked with different objectives and use different tools, communication gaps often exist. When engineers recreate conceptual models in their CAD systems, designs often change dramatically. This disconnect between the design/styling team and the rest of the product development team often leads to loss of design intent as designs progress through the design cycle.
Choosing a conceptual design app that is tightly integrated with the CAD system and offers bi-directional interoperability can greatly reduce the risk of this communication gap. It also eliminates the need for engineers to reinterpret or re-create designers’ conceptual models, safeguarding design intent and facilitating the re-use of design data, which shaves off significant design cycle time and reduces the chance of errors.
When conceptual design tools and MCAD tools have interoperability with each other, mechanical engineers can simply bring approved 3D concept models into their CAD software, safeguarding the original design intent and speeding the creation and refinement of the model into a true digital model or virtual prototype that can be ultimately designed, tested, and built.
Tearing down the Walls Between Design and Manufacture
Computer-aided manufacturing has benefitted from CAD integration. Integrating CAD and CAM enables product designers and manufacturing personnel to work collaboratively and removes the interoperability barrier that has traditionally divided the two. Integrated CAD/CAM tools share the same underlying database so no data translation is required between systems, eliminating the chance of missing, corrupt or unsupported geometric entities, dimensions or notes.
With a fully integrated CAD/CAM environment, all machining calculations are defined, calculated and verified in the same CAD system. Geometries used for machining are fully associative so when changes are made to the CAD geometry, the integrated software automatically updates the corresponding CAM programming. All the data including CAD, toolpaths, fixtures, and tool library are stored in the CAD model, so there are fewer files to track or update when revision changes occur.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of integrated design apps is that is provides a common platform for designers, engineers and manufacturing personnel through which to collaboratively design and manufacture products through improved communication and lowered costs.
Image by mkrigsman