The rapid growth of so-called value-priced CAD—software
that sells for approximately $5,000 per seat—shows the trend toward the use of
3D solid modeling for design. Cambridge, MA-based research firm Daratech asserts
that sales of the value-priced CAD products are growing almost twice as fast as
those for the higher-end packages. Among the reasons: "A key factor is the
ability to make use of the data for downstream applications such as analysis and
NCF machining," says Tom Shoemaker, an engineer and PTC's director of MCAD
product marketing. Others say the growth is due to the lifelike product
representation, clearance-checking possibilities, and opportunities to see the
impact of size, thickness, and weight that 3D affords.
Engineer Jon Gribble explains the use of 3D in his company: "It saves me time and prototypes, and our manufacturing group says we're giving them better designs," he says.
Gribble, vp of engineering at Taylor/Dunn, which manufactures industrial and commercial vehicles, uses Inventor from Autodesk. In a recent project, he and his team converted a three-wheel personnel carrier to four-wheel. Making sure the steering mechanisms would work and ensuring clearances around the sheet metal in the front of the vehicle became key issues. "The three-wheel design is like a bicycle with the fork holding the front wheel attached to the steering mechanisms," he says. "We had to account for the linkage driving two wheels and let the wheels move for proper contact with the ground." They also needed additional clearance for the front-end sheet metal to enable the two wheels that would be in the front to turn in a tighter radius.
But it was the time savings from 3D that may have been one of the biggest aids . "Using 2D would have taken 40 percent more time plus additional prototypes," he says.
Gribble's experience has been replicated in numerous companies. Of course, as PTC's Shoemaker says, there are applications for which 2D is now and may remain a sufficient solution—some AEC work, plant layout, and schematic design—to name a few. Still, says Daratech's Tim Hickey, "There's a lot of value to 3D and engineers are migrating to it."