While increased demands for quicker time to market, advanced technology, and downsizing make system design and team work critical, computers and software packages make it possible.
PCs allow many engineers to participate simultaneously in huge assembly projects, says CoCreate's Gary McCormack. "The computer serves as today's electronic cocktail napkin."
Simultaneous input means less prototyping. As much as 50% less, says McCormack, because an engineering team reaches a consensus before a prototype is built.
However, there is a need to control the potential chaos. CoCreate's WorkManager, a JAVA-based product data management system, allows engineers around the world to work collaboratively on a project, while providing a company with the ability to manage changes and who makes them.
Eliminating the prototype means getting to market faster, says William Carrelli, vice president of marketing for SDRC (Milford, OH). However, a prototype must represent a product or system, not just a part.
Recognizing this need, SDRC expanded its VGX technology into the world of assembly, allowing an engineer to grab and position parts into a full system. The company also expanded its analysis capability to assimilate entire assemblies. New part meshing and structural analysis functions in the SDRC I-DEAS software permit an engineer to place a load on a product to gage distribution, and determine if it's over designed or under designed.
Optimize analysis. Designing systems in a team environment is one thing. Analyzing and optimizing them is another. Valery Tsourikov, CEO and chief scientist of Invention Machine (Boston, MA) developed a family of Computer-Aided Innovation (CAI) programs to perform system analysis for the engineer. For example, says Tsourikov, suppose you want to improve oil flow in a design by reducing the viscosity of the oil.
One of Invention Machines solutions modules, Effects, provides a function called "change fluid flow." An engineer can select from several effects and examples to accomplish this. Moreover, by linking to other effects automatically, the software will generate entire processes associated with fluid flow, such as pumping mechanisms and effects that change pumping pressure, and supply the pumps with fuel.
However, if you are willing to consider that your oil-flow system may be inherently flawed, says Tsourikov, you'd start with another module that performs function analysis. This module develops an abstract graphical structure of the system. The program essentially interviews the engineer, who provides critical details through the interface. The procedure is akin to a conversation:
Computer: What kind of objects do you have in your system?
User: I have a petroleum product, pumps, seals, and a network of pipes.
Computer: What is the function of each of these objects?
User: The function of seals is to maintain pressure.
Computer: Are you satisfied with performance of each object? Is the function productive?
User: Not quite.
Computer: Describe the degree to which certain functions are not adequate.
User: The pressure is only half of its theoretical value.
After the user answers all the prompts, the software graphically displays the complete system with associated functions and components. It will offer an assessment, such as:
Computer: The problem with your system is not the pumping pressure. Instead, add a polymer to the oil, thereby reducing the eddy currents that impede the forward motion of the flow.
The generated process chain will then show the engineer how to create the necessary polymers, and add them to the system.
Another engineering software program, Intent!T from Heide Corporation, operates like a spreadsheet for engineers, capturing rules that define configurations, objects, and assemblies, plus their relationships and dependencies. Users enter part and configuration parameters and relationships between objects. Intent! automatically tracks the parameters and constraints among objects. Because the objects are organized in a product structure tree, Intent! can capture all assembly/subassembly relationships.
For more information
Call 1-800-828-6344, x 011 and key in the specific Product Code below:
WorkManager from CoCreate (C): Product Code 4342
VGX or I-DEAS from SDRC (C): Product Code 4343
Effects from Invention Machines (C): Product Code 4344
Intent!(TM) from Heide Corporation (C): Product Code 4345