Robert Bean, COO, Kubotek USA
CAD systems often constrain engineers rather than liberate them to do their best and most creative designs, Bean says. Here are his thoughts on why that is, what's in the future, and what the hidden costs of CAD are.
Are engineers creative, or are they problem solvers? Actually, they're both creative and problem solvers. In fact, the two characteristics go together. Many are creative, but they also have to be problem solvers to get designs done right. They have to look at all aspects of the problem: form, fit and function; manufacturability; structural analysis; and much more in order to do the best job of creating solutions to design problems.
What stands in the way of engineering creativity? What stands in the way is that most CAD tools available are not focused on creativity. That's especially true of parametric modeling. There the tools are meant for documenting, not creatively developing a design. To create a parametric model, engineers need to "follow the recipe." Before they begin, they have to decide how they are going to develop the model and set the design parameters. If the design intent changes, or they "paint themselves into a corner" due to the limitations of the software, or poor planning, then they need to compromise their design or begin again from scratch. With geometry-based tools, like KeyCreator, they do not need to make compromises. They have the freedom to create the model that best fits their design needs, and they can change directions at any time.
Can CAD replace the proverbial paper napkin in the concept phase of design engineering projects? The inventors of CAD were looking for a way to replace paper and pencil with electronics, not a way to help engineers to be creative. Meanwhile, the proverbial napkin is simple; there's no advanced training involved, no barriers to true creativity. It allows the engineer free rein. They get excited about their idea and creative thoughts flow freely. Engineers need to work with CAD tools that they are just as comfortable with as a napkin.
What are the hidden costs when using CAD in engineering design? When I think of costs, I think of the three Ps: Personal, when designers leave and takes the design intent with them and the company ends up redesigning the model from scratch; Proprietary, when the company can't move a model, and the data needed to edit it, from one system to another; and Perishable, in the sense that the company wants to be able to access the data even 10 years from now. Geometry-based models can be easily modified at any time, and moved to another CAD application when it's necessary.
Looking at the future, where is industry going with CAD? The industry is working toward CAD that's able to truly enable creativity. Ultimately, engineers won't have to compromise their design due to limitations of the CAD system. In other words, software won't stand in the way of their creativity.
Reach Bean at firstname.lastname@example.org.