The stereotype is that engineers like to work alone. The reality is they can't. And why should they? Others can bring fresh ideas--or probing questions--to a project. But how do you collaborate with colleagues across town--or across the country or globe? Here, three major CAD companies debate why their way of enabling remote collaboration works best.
Discuss, change models in real time
Douglas Johnson, General Manager, CoCreate Software Inc. Shared Engineering Div.
One engineer working on a complex part is located in Boston using Pro/ENGINEER from Parametric Technology Corp. Another is responsible for the associated tooling and is in Los Angeles using CATIA from Dassault Systemes. Their deadline is tight. Using OneSpace, they can bring their data into a collaborative session and iterate on the actual model.
They are not simply viewing the data. They are making changes to the actual model in real time--over the Internet. That's critical because it eliminates misunderstandings and lets them jointly explore alternatives.
In today's complex and fast-paced business world, collaboration is necessary. Simply viewing a model is not enough. Engineers need the ability to make changes in real time, and that's what CoCreate's OneSpace lets them do.
Synchronous--or real-time--collaboration on an actual model is a requirement for probing for information, reducing misunderstandings, and getting joint agreement. More questions are answered and fewer misunderstandings arise. The same is true of collaboration on the geometry of a mechanical part. But, there are obstacles: STEP and VRML are the most common data representations for sharing information between different organizations. But, VRML lacks geometry fidelity, and STEP translations have accuracy problems. Networks are always cheap and fast within a company's campus, but not so for external networks; firewalls that protect against hackers also impede collaboration.
Through an innovative low bandwidth architecture, CoCreate's OneSpace enables design teams to collaborate over the Internet and across firewalls in real-time by working directly on the 3D solid model independent of their CAD system. Other industry solutions require higher bandwidth, get stopped at firewalls, or work in a single CAD environment only--also problems in a heterogeneous-supply-chain world.
OneSpace has been optimized for interactive performance over low-bandwidth network connections by employing advanced Direct Model graphics libraries. The Java-based user interface offers a customized personality for different types of users, from CAD experts to casual users. Rich annotation and collaboration-session, results-logging capabilities are included. A CORBA object layer accomplishes data integration.
The OneSpace collaboration system consists of a server and clients located anywhere in a global network. Any client can trigger an upload of data into the OneSpace server for synchronous real-time collaborative editing, viewing, inspection, and conferencing. Results of the session can download to local discs or be stored in a PDM system on the network. All upload and download requests, as well as all operations on 3D models, are under complete control of the configurable permission system.
Loading the model is a simple drag-and-drop operation of a local disc file or a PDM entry. The modeling kernel can accept data from Unigraphics, SDRC's I-DEAS, Dassault's CATIA, PTC's Pro/ENGINEER, CoCreate SolidDesigner, and other popular CAD systems. The system also supports VRML input.
OneSpace won the prestigious "Computer Productivity Tool of the Year" award as voted by the readers of Design Newsin December 1998.
Discuss and make changes to models in real time
Collaborate over the Internet
Drag and drop native data from CATIA, SDRC, Unigraphics, and Pro/ENGINEER, as well as STEP and IGES format data
Get the big picture
Stacey Lawson, Vice President, Product Strategy & Technical Marketing Parametric Technology Corp.
Collaboration has become an enterprise-wide endeavor. Sales and marketing representatives, program managers, manufacturing engineers, purchasing representatives, service personnel, and even suppliers and customers have joined the traditional design engineering staff in ensuring that fast-paced product development initiatives are on target and executed quickly.
Creating such an environment goes far beyond mechanical design, and it involves much more than inviting personnel outside engineering to participate in a design review. The company's principal goals are to speed time-to-market, increase product differentiation, lower overall costs, and ultimately enhance customer satisfaction. The enterprise won't meet these ambitious goals unless everyone collaborates over the entire course of the product life cycle and fully across the extended enterprise.
Manufacturing enterprises have long struggled with the question of how to best deploy information technology in support of these processes. The product engineering environment typically involves some combination of solutions for:
Engineering authoring tools, such as mechanical and electronic CAD/CAM/CAE and software development tools.
Workgroup data management. This software focuses on facilitating a collaborative working environment for engineers who use the authoring tools described above.
Enterprise product data management, including disparate enterprise applications such as PDM, component and supplier management, and maintenance, repair, and support.
In order to provide a collaborative environment for all constituents inside and outside the organization, solutions must effectively address this workgroup and enterprise complexity. A reliable solution for enterprise product modeling, like Windchill, will appreciate the big picture by offering:
Core data management that understands a digitally defined product's structure, form, fit, and function, so that different users can derive different views.
Gateways to the current engineering environment that make CAD and non-CAD data available to the enterprise.
Direct management of heterogeneous CAD data created by the engineering workgroup, such as an assembly with components developed in different CAD systems.
Automatic generation of deliverables, such as CAD-neutral viewable formats, VRML, PDF files, e-mail notifications, and web search indices, so that recipients get the right information in the right format at the right time.
Visualization, review, and markup of CAD-neutral product information, including intelligent geometry, via a web browser, and interactive product simulation that allows real-time collaboration among enterprise users.
Integrated applications that leverage information from the product and process life cycle, including PDM, CSM, content libraries, product configurators, and manufacturing process planning.
Because Windchill is based on the web paradigm, this powerful technology remains completely in the background, allowing enterprise users to interact via the familiar interface of their company Intranets.
CAD neutral--works with Pro/ENGINEER, CADDS, CATIA, and accepts data through IGES, STEP, VRML, plot files, PDF files, e-mail, and web-search indices
Enables visualization, review, and markup of models via a web browser, and interactive product simulation for real-time collaboration
Integrates PDM, CSM, content libraries, product configurations, and manufacturing process planning
Access native engineering data
Arnaud Ribadeau Dumas, Director CATIA Network Computing Solutions
Non-engineers can visualize product data at any stage of the development cycle using the same hardware they use for everyday business applications.
At the same time, engineers on deadline as well as managers can remotely access the most current native CAD information to perform advance analysis functions.
That's the advantage of recently announced CATweb Version 2.2. CATweb is a key component of Dassault Systemes' strategy for the digital enterprise, an information technology infrastructure enabling a company, its partners, and customers to create products through simultaneous engineering, to share and coordinate information about these products, and to graphically display related data throughout the company.
CATweb Navigator, CATweb Publish, and CATweb Space offer dynamic capabilities over any type of TCP/IP-based network including the Internet, intranets, LANs, and WANs of any CAD/CAM system available today.
Outside contractors, vendors, and other remote users with no prior CAD training can perform multiple measurement as well as critical clearance verification, accurate clash detection, and other calculations such as mass, volume, area, and center of gravity on the native data. 3D CATIA sessions, VRML files, or STL files can be manipulated. In 2D, the CATweb Navigator 2D viewer provides selection of CATIA models, CATIA-CADAM drafting models, DXF, DWG, HPGL, or CGM files.
CATweb Navigator runs in any Java 1.1-compatible browser. By its original code download mechanism, no administration is required on the client side.
The CATweb viewers download 3D and 2D data from multiple locations simultaneously in a streaming manner, which allows the user to work on the data before the download is complete. Renderings can be computed locally or remotely depending on user request.
Through a driver-based architecture, CATweb provides a generic mechanism to access the user-desired product structure with a unique CATweb front end. CATweb 2.2 allows customers using CATweb to replace or enhance their in-house PDM system without additional training. Users of Dassault Systemes' PDM II solution, ENOVIA, can browse configured data and obtain details about selected documents including heterogeneous CAD/CAM models under control of ENOVIA's security modules.
CATweb captures product structures, 3D models inside live applets, views, annotations, mark-ups, measurements, and comments, and instantly embeds them in ready-to-use HTML pages for e-mail, technical publication, marketing, catalog, design review, or engineering sign-off. "CATweb has reduced the time I need for market submission to a sixth of what it was before," estimates a CATweb user. He now publishes a web page of the part in 3D with dimensions for the supplier (who may be using a completely different CAD product) to visualize, manipulate, and provide immediate estimates of the manufacturing costs.
CATweb's role empowers such abilities to access the latest complete assemblies through the web and then locally manipulate parts anytime so everyone from executives to secretaries to outside suppliers can be key contributors within a digital enterprise.
Visualize product data any time in the design cycle
Remotely access most current native CAD info for analysis
Access live data, not a translated copy
Download 3D and 2D data from multiple locations simultaneously and work on it before the download is complete