Developers Easing Move to 3D Design

DN Staff

April 18, 2005

3 Min Read
Developers Easing Move to 3D Design

CAD-software developers are working overtime to make it easy for engineers to break away from their dependency on 2D packages and make the move to 3D. Among the strategies companies such as PTC, UGS, Alibre, Dassault Systemes, and SolidWorks (a subsidiary of Dassault) are using are presentation of seminars on their own products and how to design in 3D. In some cases, developers are even including features in their software that mimic functions in 2D software.

There's good reason for the move to 3D, these developers say. Using 3D CAD gives engineers the ability to try more versions of their design concepts faster, see more clearly how the designs will look and work, and take advantage of downstream applications such as finite element analysis, among other things.

Latest development

In recent weeks, both Autodesk and Solid Edge have released new versions of software they say will make 3D migration seamless. Autodesk Inventor Series 10 includes "functionaldesign" features that the company says makes 3D more intuitive. Using built-in intelligent libraries full of predesigned gears, shafts, and other components, engineers can build their models faster, says Andrew Anagnost, Autodesk spokesman. "The features are parametrically driven and know when they are supposed to mate with something else," he asserts.

Autodesk acquired the functionaldesign technology from Mechsoft Inc. The libraries, says Anagnost, enable engineers to populate designs with components by dragging and dropping. "You pull out the information on, say, what torque you want, put a design parameter in, and get a part that meets your requirements." He admits that some other software enables that capability, but says Inventor 10 ties the part design to formulas in engineering handbooks. "We've made it very transparent," he says. "You don't have to be an expert.

The tie-in with handbooks means that the software includes mechanical calculators-interactive engineering formulas and theories used to design and validate mechanical systems. Component generators create parts and assemblies based on user input of real-world attributes and use conditions.

The weldment design and analysis capabilities in Inventor got an upgrade in Release 10 as well. And, says Anagnost, enhanced bills of material functionality automatically generates a BOM in assemblies, drawings, and presentations.

Developers of Solid Edge are aiming to make it easy for engineers to switch to 3D, too. And, as an added twist, they're targeting Autodesk customers and have included an Inventor migration wizard into their software.

The new release of Solid Edge, Version 17, has enhanced features from the previous version to enable hybrid 2D/3D design. "We let engineers create the product structure before committing to the geometry," says Solid Edge Vice President Bruce Boes. The software allows engineers to make changes to a part without concern for a history tree, something he says is unique.

Additionally, he says, the software enables large assembly representation, eliminating internal detail and displaying the results fast. "You can load the entire structure and only activate what you need," Boes asserts.

The software also includes an Apprentice Mode to further ease the transition to 3D. And, there is a Command Finder feature, which, Boes says, solves the sequence-of-command problems new users of 3D software might have.

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