Today’s complex products require the careful coordination of multiple disciplines. Mechanical engineers tasked with creating the overall product, while the electrical engineers must simultaneously design and lay out the internal electronics that provide many of today’s products with their functionality. Once those subsystems are complete and packaging or enclosure design finalized, the product model must be passed downstream to the manufacturing engineers for final production.
Every step in the product development process requires that product data—whether it is in the form of 3D CAD models, 2D drawings, schematics, or manufacturing drawings—must be executed properly in order to avoid miscommunication between the various disciplines and costly delays downstream.
A smooth and effective transmission or communication of product data from one discipline to another greatly reduces the need to recreate data while increasing design reuse, saving significant development time. When miscommunications of design intent occur between various disciplines, valuable design cycle time is lost and downstream issues rear their ugly heads.
Flexible tools help
When designs are created using feature-based design tools, manipulating, changing and sharing models with others becomes more difficult. Though the mechanical engineers are experts at using these high-end design tools, other disciplines are not. Today’s collaborative design process requires the input and effort of many participants who are not experts in CAD.
Another bottleneck occurs when CAD designers are beleaguered with requests from other departments to help with CAD, whether it’s an analyst prepping the model for simulation or a manufacturing engineer trying to troubleshoot a production issue. This robs the design engineers of valuable time doing what they are paid primarily to do: design products.
When direct modeling tools are used, design reuse and design collaboration are both simplified because non-experts can manipulate and modify CAD geometry without the fear of a chain reaction of failures due to the model’s interdependencies. This greatly increases design reuse and enables other design participants to work independently without the assistance of the CAD engineer.
Flexible, direct modeling tools as well as 2D sketching also facilitates the capture and communication of concept designs. Having concept models in digital form—as opposed to drawings or sketches—means they are compatible with feature-history and direct modeling tools so CAD specialists can take the data forward and use them as the basis for new designs, without starting from scratch.
Upon further analysis…
Detailed CAD models passed to analysts for simulation and analysis often require time-consuming prep work to simplify the model or to recreate the model in the simulation tool. In order to assure that the simulation runs properly, some unnecessary pieces of geometry must be removed; risking issues with the rest of the model due to the interdependencies built in using history-based design tools.
Direct modeling tools enable analysts to remove geometry without triggering failures throughout the rest of the model, eliminating the need to recreate the model in the analysis tool. This significantly increases the speed with which models can be proven out, but also removes the burden of recreating models for simulation.
Passing designs to the shop floor
Once designs have been conceived, designed, and tested, they must be built. Manufacturing engineers plan out the production process and design the necessary tooling and equipment required to manufacture the product. Tooling design is often fairly straightforward and simple, and typically does not require the functionality of history-based CAD tools.
Manufacturing engineers can import product models into easy-to-use specialized software tools, but that breaks the associativity between the product model and the tooling model. Better options are 2D sketching and direct modeling tools to create the tooling geometry. This reduces the learning curve of learning complex history-based CAD tools and also ensures that product changes are propagated associatively.