20, 1998 Design News
DESIGN IN JAPAN
In Japan it's CAM/CAD, not CAD/CAM
Designers don't have the
detailing responsibilities common elsewhere
Adele Hars, Contributing Editor
If your company is a supplier to a Japanese
manufacturer, you may shake your head from time to time
as the raw CAD data for a new part comes in. How
are you supposed to use this? Holes don't match
up, surfaces are broken. How could they release
The reason is that the way design engineers
use CAD in Japan is very different from the way North
American users apply it. The Kingpin of Japanese
industry is manufacturing, which has an enormous influence
on the role of CAD and the engineers who use it.
"Typically, the data coming out of the design
teams is very rough and approximate," says Christian
Nardin, managing director of Dassault Systèmes KK, the
Japanese subsidiary of the makers of CATIA. "It
needs extensive rework by the production engineering
teams, which have high expertise and know-how, a perfect
understanding of the design intent, and a strong focus
on quality of execution and reproducibility."
This focus on manufacturing means that designers are
often absolved of detailing responsibilities that their
U.S. counterparts might have. As Frank Kovacs, SDRC's
director of marketing for Asia Pacific, notes, "2D
is still used by more than 80% of the companies in Japan
because the drawings are still the release mechanism
and are considered to be 'art.' I think this process
allowed Japanese companies to be very successful in
the early '80s for improved quality and manufacturability
compared with the U.S."
It also encouraged the use of manufacturing criteria
in design decisions, says Marc Halpern, director of
research, engineering, manufacturing and design, D.H.
Brown Assoc. Inc. And, it was a key to keeping a tight
reign on the bottom line. "The strong focus on
minimizing manufacturing costs has significant benefits
because they are eight to 10 times higher than design
costs," he notes.
However, it has also meant that designers have traditionally
not been given advanced 3D tools. Clearly, this is changing,
especially in leading-edge industries. Scott Ikeda,
a spokesperson for Fujitsu, notes that while 2D is still
deeply rooted throughout Japanese industry in general,
the automotive, electronics, and precision engineering
industries are taking the lead in moving to 3D.
Ned Denison, senior director of Asia/Pacific sales
and marketing for Autodesk postulates that the evolution
in the tools used by designers is dovetailing with the
changes in how they are delivered to the desktop. "CAD
was considered as a design-capture tool within a computer-integrated
design and manufacturing context," he says. "It
was built on a mainframe and was not integrated with
the main computer system. Now that more CAD systems
are based on networked PC technology, CAD is becoming
an integral part of the design/manufacturing computer
CAM first. CAD systems that are fully
integrated with CAM systems remain very much the exception.
But use of CAM is very advanced, and arguably much more
sophisticated than it is in the U.S. Denison says that
this stems from the willingness of Japanese companies
to invest internal programming resources to create custom
CAM solutions based on packaged modules.
Until recently, at least, this has created a large
schism between the worlds of CAD and CAM. Japanese manufacturing
engineers are reputed to be among the most demanding
anywhere. A proliferation of Japanese vendors, recognizing
the importance of the domestic CAM market, have focused
on perfecting their CAM applications.
This has left room for American CAD vendors, especially
those with high-end 3D packages, to make inroads. Companies
like Fujitsu, which is a major vendor in the Japanese
CAD/CAM market, rely heavily on reselling 3D CAD software
from companies like MICROCADAM, Unigraphics, and SDRC,
primarily for the high end, while its own ICAD series
is a big player for the mid-range.
Manufacturability drives analysis.
The focus on manufacturing has also driven the analysis
(CAE) market. Like CAM, CAE is an area where the Japanese
may be ahead of the Americans. Many major companies
that are still using 2D for design have nonetheless
invested in sophisticated 3D systems for CAE.
"For years, Japanese companies have embraced the
CAE portion of engineering and seen the benefits more
than their U.S. counterparts," notes Kovacs of
SDRC. "They have seen the advantage of simulation-based
design to reduce costly prototypes, and the value of
this based on increased quality and reliability."
Nikon, for example, has been using CATIA/CADAM DRAFTING
(CCD) in 2D for core CAD, but I-DEAS for CAE in 3D for
several years. While the company has not yet determined
what 3D CAD package it will use, it will decide soon.
"CCD and I-DEAS have had a great impact on cycle
reduction time," notes Yoshihiro Fujino, manager
of the Technology Systems Center. "However, both
systems were not as efficient as expected in slashing
cost. 3D becomes mandatory."
What is still rare in CAE in Japan is putting the tools
in the hands of the designers themselves, a trend that
vendors are now pushing in the U.S. The electronics
giant Sharp is an exception in this area. The new Viewcam
video camera marked the first time Sharp designers used
SDRC's analysis tools. They did quick shock checks on
components, a strength analysis on the cassette cover,
a deformation check for a cylinder, and a plastic flow
analysis of the cabinet prior to final design completion.
The models were then used for rapid prototyping and
The result? A 30% smaller camera developed in 75% less
time. "Sharp reduced unnecessary processes by using
the same data from design to molding," notes Hideaki
Kata, manager of the CAE Center in Sharp's Product Engineering
But what about all those companies who are using 2D
for CAD and 3D for CAE? Does it make sense to build
a complex 3D model just for analysis, but not for CAD
or CAM? In fact, says Halpern, engineers do not have
time to build complex computer models. Instead, he says,
"Resourceful engineers with years of design experience
build very simple finite element models that provide
them with 80% of the information they need. These simple
models capture the essence of the physical behavior
that the engineers want to study. CAE technology is
effectively used to identify well-defined laboratory
tests that can be performed quickly to satisfy their
remaining design information requirements."
Another factor that affects the way CAD is used in
Japan is the way industry in general is organized. While
U.S. companies have cut back drastically on the number
of T1 suppliers, big Japanese firms still work directly
with thousands of subcontractors, says Autodesk's Denison.
"Japanese primary contractors use a huge number
of subcontractors for detailed designs and manufacturing
of components," he notes. "Subcontractors
are usually small companies and cannot afford to have
various CAD systems to exchange data with primary contractors'
data. So standard data exchange format is very important."
But while data exchange is important, many times it
doesn't even reach that point, as Dassault's Nardin
points out. "Paper drawings, and to some extent
tapes, are the norm for exchanging data with suppliers,"
Of course, it makes it easier if everyone is using
the same software. Big, leading-edge companies tend
to have their suppliers working on-site, with everyone
using compatible software. "These close relationships
and working teams have different implications compared
to the supplier OEM relationships in the U.S.,"
says Kovacs of SDRC. "Geographically, U.S. suppliers
are typically more dispersed than their counterparts
Japanese suppliers have to ensure that their CAD solutions
can meet the needs of worldwide corporations. Hirotech,
for example, develops and manufactures doors and other
equipment for Mazda. Nobuhiro Konishi, an engineer in
the tool design section of Hirotec says his company
has been working in 3D using AutoCAD for six years.
"Many companies have it, and it is used worldwide,"
he says. "We have engineers in the U.S. I'm using
the Japanese version, and the U.S. members of our team
are using the English version." However, he uses
English only for annotations.
2D/3D. 2D clearly remains the design
norm in Japan. This is changing, but most industry observers
say not to look for a 3D revolution. "In Japan,
the manufacturing process is based on 2D design data,
and the transition to new design processes is slow,"
says Fujino of Nikon.
The exact ranking of CAD vendors
in Japan by share depends heavily on how the
market is counted. In this case, Dataquest tracks
direct, indirect, reseller, and OEM software
Dassault's Nardin explains that while there are some
exceptions, there is typically a coexistence phase between
2D and 3D to facilitate the transition. This is in part
due to cultural mores which include a respect for tradition,
constant evolutions but no revolution, a bottom-up decision-making
process, and conformity with accepted methodologies.
Kovacs of SDRC says, "The early adopters of the
3D technology seem to be those companies with very large
complex assemblies (copiers, for example) and very expensive
prototypes to find errors in. The benefits of 3D can