Multi-CAD engineering environments are the norm. Knowledge workers — whether outsourced, contracted, offshore or down the hall — use the software that best enables them to meet deadlines and beat the competition to market. At least that's how it is supposed to work.
In reality, designs go back and forth among different MCAD, CAE, CAM, PDM and PLM solutions, requiring translation into a format understandable by the receiving engineer's toolset. Most MCAD systems rely on IGES or STEP, neutral file standards, for data translation. These standards can handle your data translation requirements, until your requirements demand high-quality data translation. Lost in neutral file format translations are design intent, surface definitions and, often, even geometry.
Consider this: Before it switched to a modern data translation solution, the Renault Formula One race car team experienced a translation failure rate of more than 80 percent when converting files from one MCAD system to another. And a major Asian OEM was motivated to make the switch to modern data translation software when it learned 70 percent of all its non-native file imports failed because of poor data translation.
Such dismal failure rates mean engineers must inspect, repair and restore astonishing percentages of imported files before innovation can begin. This process can be as arduous as it is massive. Still, perhaps the worst characteristic of poor data translation is when one engineer ships a file to the next, the cycle of failure repeats itself.
Neutral file standards and the engineering practices of your staff or design chain partners are not to blame. Rather, it is simply that each MCAD system is inherently different from the next. These differences between systems are what make them special but, at the same time, they are what make each MCAD system an island of specialization. Proper data translation functionality to link together your design chain is not the MCAD developers' strategic concern.
It's easy to see that all this manual repairing of files between MCAD environments inhibits design reuse, wastes innovation time, prolongs design cycle times, damps your competitiveness and balloons your cost of doing business. This is not the way the digital revolution is supposed to play out, yet the delays and costs attributable to poor data translation are so ingrained that we hardly notice them.
Modern data translation solutions bridge the MCAD islands of specialization. They are as specialized for complex data translations as your best-in-class MCAD or FEA toolsets are for specialized design or analysis. Through robust algorithms and APIs, translation solutions understand the operational nuances of supported MCAD software and automate almost all your file conversions, including healing, data checking and validation. High-level solutions are scalable and tailorable with a suite of modules that address the range and volume of complex data conversion needs.
Modern data translation solutions bring the digital revolution closer to reality. Companies such as Renault Formula One, Ford and Toyota have found they can close the gap between how the digital revolution is supposed to be and how reality-based the multi-CAD environments really are. In doing so, they bridge the digital divide and save a great deal of product development time.