Full-blown mobile CAD might not be quite ready for prime time, but there are plenty of mobile apps out there that are being used today to improve engineering workflows. After all, engineering, and product development specifically, entail more than just creating CAD models. There’s concept development, design collaboration, data management, bidding, supplier sourcing, and on-site inspection, among many others.
Use of mobile apps on the rise
The computing power, ease-of-use and convenience of portability are just some of the reasons why these pint-sized platforms are making such a splash in the market and becoming so pervasive in the personal and work lives of a growing number of people worldwide. Mobile apps, while considered software, are more dedicated and task-oriented to specific tasks, making them ideal for engineering apps.
There’s definitely been an uptick in the use of mobile apps in organizations worldwide as markets become more global and workers become more mobile. A recent study conducted by International Data Corp. predicts the worldwide mobile workforce will reach 1.3 billion by 2015, representing 37.2% of the total workforce.
Let’s take a look at some of the areas in which mobile apps—either on tablets or smartphones—can make engineers’ work lives a bit easier while also cutting time out of the design cycle.
Quick concept sketches. Though it might seem archaic, engineers still scribble on napkins to sketch out rough drawings of new products ideas during concept development sessions. Tablets, along with the gesture-based user interfaces common to mobile apps, provide the perfect form factor for creating and capturing quick concept drawings.
On-site customer meetings. Mobile devices now support real-time collaboration, making it much easier to interact with customers regardless of their location, speeding up the approval cycle. Whether it’s a video chat, a virtual walkthrough of a building or product, or simply showing the effect of a quick design change in real-time to a customer in their office, these mobile apps can cut significant time out of the design cycle.
On-the-go data management. By remotely accessing product data management (PDM) programs, users can search and view information on parts, documents, CAD documents, problem reports, change requests and variances. Users can access Windchill PDMLink data via mobile devices to receive and complete workflow tasks and view Creo View 3D mechanical data to keep projects on track, even when they are on the road.
Design costing. Mobile devices also provide a great mechanism through which engineers can remotely access standard parts. By using their tablets or smartphones, engineers can remotely view and download any of thousands of quality 3D CAD part models via online catalogs and communities.
In-the-field inspections. Going on-site to inspect and report on projects requires users record and document information, typically through handwritten notes, then compile that information into documents for colleagues. Instead mobile video apps can be used to capture conditions and then be shared and discussed in real-time on the shop floor or at a customer site, vastly improving communication.