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Siemens UGS' Synchronous Technology: Will be as Good as they say?

Siemens UGS' Synchronous Technology: Will be as Good as they say?

 

Siemens at its two-day PLM Conference in Boston this week highlighted many case studies, but the one by rail freight car maker National Steel Car (NSC) jumped out at me.   First, I am a lifelong rail fan and like such products. The other reason was that presenter and NCS CAD Administrator Cory Goulden spoke from the heart in characterizing the challenge of implementing and using 3D CAD. Designs ultimately have to yield profitable products, but there’s lots of frustrating design steps before they enter production. According to Goulden, those steps include “concept, iteration, iteration, iteration, rework…(and finally) production.”

 

Based in Hamilton, Ontario, National Steel Car is a privately-held 100-year-old maker of container, pellet, steel coil and box cars. Every car is modeled using Siemens UGS Solid Edge PLM software which has assembly files of 5,600 parts, almost all made of steel.

 

NSC is embracing Siemens UGS’ new Synchronous Technology which promises to accelerate design and make it more flexible. I do not fully understand this new heavily- hyped technology, but if you’re willing to do the research, Siemens UGS has the mother lode of information at its web site, including a white paper and videos. Beware of superlatives. They get in the way of quickly telling you what it is.

 

But one concrete thing Goulden liked about Synchronous is the average 17% file size reduction that makes design less taxing on computer hardware and memory.

 

“You always have to be aware what you’re asking the system to do. You yell at your screen and the mouse does not respond,” he quips. “I am part therapist and tell the users it’s going to be ok…but, I don’t deal well with emotion.”

 

He also said Synchronous Technology will get reduce rework in the design process and allow the company to forecast design times more accurately. A big emphasis of Synchronous Technology is how it eases the interaction between design history and making changes. “Fewer steps mean a faster process,” an UGS executive said in one video. Put another way, UGS asks “How can I make changes as fast as I change my mind?” That’s the promise. anyway.

 

To Goulden, the ability to compress the design phase ties directly into steel ordering, production and ultimately profitably per freight car. He named another 3D CAD system which NSC tossed out, but in fairness to that product, I would not identify it until I hear their side of the story. I will give them a call and report back.

 

Goulden was very complimentary of the Siemens UGS presonnel he works with. After all, this was a Siemens UGS conference. But he was believable and clearly his hosts were delighted hearing a customer relate how it tossed out a competitor’s product and replaced it with a Siemens UGS system.

 

   

 

Design Tools: The Human Side of 3D Design

Design Tools: The Human Side of 3D Design

May 20, 2008
Spotlight Story:
The Human Side of 3D Design
Digital human modeling software extends the 3D model, allowing companies to evaluate ergonomic and safety factors around products and production environments earlier in the development process. Full Story
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Green Engineering

Green engineering features measurement and control techniques to help you design, develop, and improve products and technologies resulting in environmental and economic benefits. Learn about the green engineering practices that are being developed and deployed with National Instruments technologies to help you conserve energy, identify process inefficiencies, increase uptime, and reduce scrap. Download the free E-Kit.
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Defining the DDM and Rapid Tooling Matrix

Join Dan Mishek of Vista Technologies and Jeff Hanson as they define the DDM and rapid tooling matrix on Wednesday, June 18 at 1 p.m. EST. The one-hour webcast will define the difference in volume, complexity, materials, quantities and delivery relate to direct digital manufacturing and rapid tooling. Register Online Here.

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Alibre Chairman Paul Grayson and CEO Greg Milliken provide their take on the "Personal CAD" market now that low-cost tools are in reach of engineers working at home. Listen Now
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Dive into Direct Digital Manufacturing - WEBCAST In partnership with Stratasys
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The Human Side of 3D Design
SolidWorks Acquires CircuitWorks for ECAD-to-MCAD Bridge
3D Technology an Rx for Custom Implant Design
Maple 12 Upgrade Showcases Improved CAD Connectivity
GreenSoft Tackles Green Compliance Data
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Beth Stackpole,
Contributing Editor

As 3D models and images take root in engineering departments and beyond, all variants of design tools are building bridges to integrate with traditional CAD packages. There's integration with electrical engineering tools, with mathematical programs and even with specialty applications that manage compliance data. What bridges does your engineering department require in the CAD world? Drop me a line.



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Fuel, Food, Security - Pick Two

Fuel, Food, Security - Pick Two

At MIT, the graduate students live by the following adage: “coursework, research, sleep – pick two.” I toiled under that mantra for six years, believing things could not possibly get worse. Silly me, I traded grad school for an assistant professor job where the governing adage is “research, grant writing, teaching, service – pick two, but excel at them all.” Note that in this job, sleep doesn’t even make the list.

This month, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) recommended that developed countries eliminate subsidies on domestic biofuel production, and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) suggested a moratorium on biofuel production. Both measures address the escalating global price of food, which is linked to increased demand for biofuel feedstock material in the wake of higher oil prices.

However, even as CGIAR and IFPRI are calling for reductions in biofuel production from food crops, President Bush is pushing for increased domestic ethanol generation from corn. According to the AP article, “Food scientists say stop biofuels to fight world hunger,” the President’s push to increase biofuel production arises from his national energy security policy and a desire to mitigate record-high fuel prices.

So, what do we do? We can starve our neighbors (and ourselves), save the environment, or secure our national energy supply; but we can’t do them all. The classic conundrum of having too many necessities and not enough resources to devote has escalated into a global problem: fuel, food, security - pick two.

Materials & Fastening: GM, Ford Engineers Use New Adhesives to Cut Weight

Materials & Fastening: GM, Ford Engineers Use New Adhesives to Cut Weight

May 19, 2008
Spotlight Story:

GM, Ford Engineers Use New Adhesives to Cut Weight
Auto engineers love carbon fiber and other advanced plastics, but will make more extensive use of lightweight and thinner metals as core weight-reduction strategies for cars.

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GM, Ford Engineers Use New Adhesives to Cut Weight
Durable Goods Will Drive Growth for Bioplastics
Bridges Expand for Bikes, Pedestrians
Failures Result from Incorrect Materials Selection
Integrated Electronics Expand RFID Range Over Smart Labels
Steep Prices Are Still Soaring Despite Economic Slowdown
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Doug Smock,
Contributing Editor

A reader emailed me with this question: "I have an application where I have to bond soft and rigid PVC. I need soft glue like silicone because the application requires that any bending wouldn't damage the bond. Do you have any suggestions?" Send me your ideas.



Engineering Plastics Blog

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Mechatronics Expo: A Summary of a Great Day

Mechatronics Expo: A Summary of a Great Day

I am convinced there’s as many definitions of mechatronics as there are practitioners of the design philosophy underpinning this buzzword. It’s a “multi-disciplinary” approach to design. It’s “intelligent systems design.” It gives equal weight to control, software development and electrical and mechanical engineering throughout the design phase of a product if not its entire life cycle.

The one I liked among so many that popped up at Design News’ day long Mechatronics Expo this week came from Ed Nicolson, development director at Yaskawa Electric America. Mechatronics, he said, is about controlling motion. I thought hard about that. The `mech’ in mechatronics really means motion. Maybe we should call `motionatronics?’ Interestingly, Nicolson’s talk was not about motion at all. Rather, he focused on networks that control industrial automation whose end product is motion. Therein lied his point: what controls and enables the desired motion are electronics, software and control.

Motion is what Design News is all about. We cover electronics from the standpoint of motion. We cover materials from a motion perspective although there’s many more considerations to materials than motion, of course. But the engineering of motion is the core concept of our coverage.

Nicolson and about a dozen of others spoke at our second Mechatronics Expo, this time in Santa Clara, Calif. which is ground zero in Silicon Valley. If you need proof, Yahoo, WebEx, McAfee, Intel and Cisco are within spitting distance of the Santa Clara Convention Center where our event was housed. I was privileged to serve as master of ceremonies where 150 engineers came to learn about how mechatronics can help them in myriad projects.

The day also confirmed something I‘ve known all along: even if mechatronics did not exist in name, engineers would be practicing it anyway. In other words, mechatronics is a catch-all buzzword to describe multi-disciplinary engineering projects involving motion. A colleague calls it total systems design.

Another interesting presentation came from mechanical engineering Prof. Tai-ran Hsu from San Jose State University. He did a great job juxta-positioning nanotechnology, micro-mechatronics and full size mechatronics. And he identified markets we do not typically associate with mechatronics – healthcare and medical diagnostics. His slide of a tiny gear that fit on an ant whisker drove home his point – mechatronics will be huge in sub-micron environments.

Keynoter Geoffrey Orsak, dean of the SMU engineering school, inspired the assembled by making a case for his twin passions: solving social problems through engineering and engineering education. Geoffrey, a very inspirational speaker, grabbed the audience with his causes. His slides of sprawling and ever-expanding slums next to remarkable wealth in India were striking. Taken a bit further, it’s been called the double bottom line.

In other words, companies and engineers have a fiscal AND social responsibility in everything do.

We heard from several design tool companies that provided hands-on tutorials about how mechatronics is being implemented in their products. And a contingent from California State at Chico explained how only accredited undergraduate mechatronics program in the country is structured. Supposedly, Georgia Tech is about to launch one.

The most dramatic event of the day came from Stanford Ph.D candidate Gabe Hoffman who’s been very involved with the Stanley and Junior autonomous vehicles featured on Nova covering Darpa’s Grand Challenge. His demo of his autonomous “quad copter” at lunch had danger written all over it (see video). Would this one kilogram phenom crash into diners as they dipped into their pudding? Alas, the demo went smoothly although the quad copter stayed safely away from head tops.

Alas, it was great day. And stayed tuned. Our next Mechatronics Expo will focus on automotive and will be in Detroit in September. And we’ll have audio webcasts from Santa Clara up shortly.

Here's a Rating of Materials' Environmental Claims

Here's a Rating of Materials' Environmental Claims

There’s a rising flood of new materials that are said to solve a whole raft of environmental problems. The two biggest categories are materials that are recyclable and materials that are biodegradable. Most materials are theoretically recyclable. But is it cost-effective? Is there a proven recycling stream? If the answer to both of those questions is no, then it’s very possible that recycling is more of a marketing strategy than an environmental solution. One of the new claims is for a roof that is recyclable.

 

Several new plastics have been launched that are biodegradable. This runs against the normal requirement that products remain intact. Some environmental groups want packaging that breaks down when disposed of. The problem is that materials don’t break down in landfills, which are designed to be anaerobic so that toxic waste does not leach into aquifers. And there are virtually no commercial composting facilities to handle biodegradable packaging.

 

But there are some real winners, like toys made with waste agricultural materials.

 

Here’s how I grade some environmental claims, with an A representing some real potential environmental value and an F indicated a way overblown marketing claim:

 

►Toys made with waste agricultural byproduct:: A

 

►Biodegradable kitchen utensils: D

(These would make sense only if you take a picnic in the forest, and then just dump the utensils on the ground)

 

►Recyclable plastic fuel tanks:  D

 

►Recyclable roofing materials: F

 

►Film made from sugar feedstock: B

(This gets a good grade because Brazilian sugar cane is an economically competitive feedstock that replaces oil, and has no adverse effect on food supplies.)

 

As I see announcements come in, I’ll grade them here. Feel free to send me suggestions at doug.smock@reedbusiness.com.  I have no ambition to become the kosher rabbi of materials’ environmental claims, but I would like to see a little more sensibility.

Toxic Toys Give Way to Wood Waste Composites

Toxic Toys Give Way to Wood Waste Composites

Toxic toys were a major story last year. The Chinese toy scare stirred up a lot of new business for wooden toys made in the United States. That feel good story is now getting even a little better. Two American toy manufacturers are rolling out this year toys or games made with “thermoplastic biocomposite compounds”. These compounds are made of waste agricultural products such as discarded rise hulls and recycled plastics held together with patented additives developed by the National Research Council of Canada. The new coupling agents are a powerful moisture absorber that allow a tight bond between the wood fiber and the plastic. The toymakers are Sprig Toys of Fort Collins, CO and Rolco of Kasota, MN. The materials supplier is JER Enviortech International of Vancouver, BC.

The Bad Driver List

The Bad Driver List

There are more idiots on the roads these days than good drivers. When you find yourself in a near fender-bender with a wannabe Mad Max, what recourse do you have other than exchanging rude finger gestures and putting as much distance as possible between you and the driver training dropout?

I’ve decided to do my part to help rid the roads of unsafe drivers. From now on, whenever I have a near accident with someone who should clearly not have a driver’s license, I am going to post as much information as I can about the incident on this blog. Like a modern day scarlet letter, I am going to publicly shame bad drivers who cross my path into changing their unsafe ways.

How does this topic relate to alternative energy? There are a couple of excellent articles, “Take it slow and save big on gas” and “Drive 55, save gas — get flipped off”, espousing the energy-saving benefits of driving a little more slowly and with a little more care.

As more people feeling the pinch of $4 gas begin to employ these techniques to improve their cars’ fuel economy, you idiots who think the highways and byways are your own personal autobahn are going to find it much more difficult to break the sound barrier in rush hour traffic.

Incident #1
Date/Time: 5/15/2008 @ 7:45pm
Perpetrator: Texas License Plate Y43 NMB
Location: I-35E Southbound, State School Road Onramp, Corinth, TX

I was in the right lane of this two-lane highway. Emerging from behind a bluff in the road, I saw a continuous string of cars merging onto the freeway about a quarter mile ahead. The only opening to prevent hitting the merging cars was a quick move into the left lane, which was clear. I signaled and began my move left. Just then Texas License Plate Y43 NMB, a tan SUV, came barreling down the left lane at about 90 mph and cut off my access. He then slowed, pinning me into the right lane. I had to drive for about a quarter mile in that imaginary lane between the right and left lanes to prevent hitting the merging cars. The cherry on top was once Y43 NMB finally let me slip in front of him into the left lane, he gave me a nice middle finger salute as if the accident his reckless driving nearly caused was my fault. Hey Y43 NMB, when I got home, I called the Corinth Police to report you, but apparently they are looking for you anyway. Maybe you should turn yourself in.

DN Reader Builds His Own EV

DN Reader Builds His Own EV

Design News reader Chris Gaylo worked with his son to convert a 1991 Volkswagen Cabriolet to an electric vehicle (EV) with a 50-60 mile range and a top speed of 75 mph. Gaylo, who used lead-acid batteries on his EV, contends that our article about the difficulties facing EV battery makers was skewed. “It should not take nearly the level of effort that’s being professed,” he wrote. See Gaylo’s EV on his website

What We Must Learn from the Big Dig Collapse

What We Must Learn from the Big Dig Collapse

Engineers made several errors that resulted in the Big Dig tunnel collapse two years ago.  That conclusion Is not mine; it comes from Myer Ezrin, a longtime polymer failure analysis expert who studied the materials in the public docket of the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.  “The message still hasn’t adequately penetrated enough that when engineers are dealing with new materials, they should use caution with the sources that they rely on,” says Myer Ezrin, a failure analysis expert and former researcher at the University of Connecticut’s Institute of Material Science. “Engineers working with material they have little or no experience with—particularly if it is a life and death matter as it was in the Big Dig—have to investigate the choices and then confirm that investigation.”