It’s that time of year again, where Design News designates standout products and technologies as part of its annual 2011 Golden Mousetrap awards.
Despite the broad array of tools and the variation in functionality, many of the finalists and winners in both the Analysis & Calculation Software and CAD/PDM/PLM Software categories shared a common theme. Much like mainstream enterprise business software, engineering and design tools are continuing down the path of integrating core functionality into a single application portfolio, freeing up engineers and designers from being reliant on one tool specific to their particular job function that is siloed and disconnected from what goes on with the rest of the product development team. By broadening the focus of core design tools, there is more opportunity for collaboration across heterogeneous design teams and less chance of error because data is more seamlessly interchangeable between platforms.
Consider the winner in the CAD/PDM/PLM Software space: SpaceClaim Engineer 2010. The CAD tool, announced nearly six years ago, has evolved not just on the merits of its 3-D direct modeling capabilities, but on a range of new functionality built into the program over the years that free up users from having to rely on a handful of programs to get their job done. SpaceClaim 2010 has a pretty healthy mix of built-in sheet metal capabilities, in addition to enhanced 3-D sketching functionality, and the program has steadily broadened its functionality so it can serve as a tool to prepare CAD models for analysis instead of requiring users to learn feature-rich CAD program or rely on others to do the prep work.
Similarly, FloTHERM 9, the winner in the Analysis & Calculation Software category, integrates additional critical thermal analysis functionality into a single toolset to transform from being a simple observation platform into a full-fledged thermal design problem-solving tool. The Mentor Graphics program leverages patent-pending mathematical technologies to provide both Bottleneck (Bn) and Shortcut (Sc) fields in one tool, letting electrical engineers identify for the first time not only where heat flow congestion occurs in their designs, but identifying thermal shortcuts to efficiently rectify the problem.
While no one is looking for one tool to do it all, creating stronger synergies between previously disparate design platforms can only make things easier for engineers who are already struggling to keep up with the challenges of a cross-discipline design world.