Product Design

SpaceClaim 2012+: CAD for the CAD Indifferent

11 Oct, 2012 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

For engineers, designers, and even managers and business owners who need access to 3D CAD to get their jobs done but don't necessarily have "CAD user" as part of their job descriptions, a direct-modeling tool might be just the ticket. That, in fact, is the premise of SpaceClaim, a 3D direct-modeling solution for mechanical and product design, in its tenth release as of this week.

To most engineers, SpaceClaim asserts, CAD is just a tool that documents parts for manufacturing. Those users don't need or want a complex, expensive CAD tool, said Blake Courter, director of customer development. "We want to make it as easy to use solid modeling as it is to use PowerPoint."

Using features such as push-pull geometry editing and mesh remodeling, SpaceClaim users can sidestep the typically more arduous processes inherent in history-based modelers, recreating, modifying, or repairing parts in minutes or even seconds, Courter said. Moving quickly through the CAD process helps those users focus on the business at hand: manufacturing. "We just help their geometry problems go away. If they have to think about geometry, their day is a bad day. We would be happy if their problems were just solved and SpaceClaim faded into the background."

New Features in SpaceClaim 2012+

According to the company, SpaceClaim users can leverage existing 2D and 3D designs, including customer and supplier models, analysis and simulation results, mesh and STL data, and surface models, along with PMI and tolerance data. It can directly open and edit all leading 2D and 3D CAD file formats, as well as neutral file formats such as JT (with PMI), STEP, and 3D PDF.

SpaceClaim 2012+, available immediately, is certified for Windows 8 and adds new capabilities for manufacturing, simulation, concept development, and mesh remodeling. Pricing starts at $2,445 — the same as it has been for several years, Courter said.

Workflow enhancements. SpaceClaim 2012+ connects to Mastercam (CNC Software) and Esprit (DP Technology) CAD/CAM solutions and offers new annotation types such as weld symbols and semantic data, machinist-friendly measuring and positioning, broken and broken-out section views, and advanced sheet metal capabilities such as formed bends.

"We put a button inside Mastercam to access SpaceClaim," Courter said. "We've become really popular with the Mastercam community. They are excited because this shows we see CAM as the center of the world, and CAD as an add-on."

Mesh and STL data. New features have been added in response to the increasingly pervasive use of mesh data for entertainment and other applications, Courter said. They include the ability to compare a mesh to a solid, improved section curve fitting, plane and cylinder fitting, mesh splitting, and improved selection and coloring.

Core modeling. New features include significant performance improvements, radial move, curve filling, structure search, section properties, and xyz-based move.

SpaceClaim 2012+ adds a new Radial Move tool. In this imported assembly containing a hole pattern with bolts, one selection is all that's needed to move the location of the holes radially, along with each instance of bolt.
SpaceClaim 2012+ adds a new Radial Move tool. In this imported assembly containing a hole pattern with bolts, one selection is all that's needed to move the location of the holes radially, along with each instance of bolt.

SpaceClaim 2012+ includes new mesh-remodeling capabilities, such as the ability to compare a solid to a scan.  This technology is useful when recreating models from scan and STL data, as well as to compare scans of produced parts to as-designed parts.
SpaceClaim 2012+ includes new mesh-remodeling capabilities, such as the ability to compare a solid to a scan. This technology is useful when recreating models from scan and STL data, as well as to compare scans of produced parts to as-designed parts.

When remodeling parts from a mesh, it is often convenient to create curves through the mesh.  SpaceClaim 2012+ automatically fits curves through any arbitrary cross section, fitting lines, arcs, and splines as desired to the desired level of granularity.
When remodeling parts from a mesh, it is often convenient to create curves through the mesh. SpaceClaim 2012+ automatically fits curves through any arbitrary cross section, fitting lines, arcs, and splines as desired to the desired level of granularity.

Regarding upgrades to the overall performance of the new version, Courter explained, "SpaceClaim's new deviation-analysis tool is able to use all processors in parallel, taking full advantage of computer hardware. Although not all solid-modeling algorithms are parallelizable, SpaceClaim's ground-breaking architecture allows it to take advantage of modern computing architectures when possible."

New language support. SpaceClaim 2012+ is available in Polish, Czech, and Portuguese as well as English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Traditional and Simplified Chinese.

As announced in July, SpaceClaim also includes built-in, free product data management (PDM) capabilities using Microsoft SharePoint.

Typical Use

SpaceClaim is designed for companies specializing in CNC machining, tool and fixture design, injection molding, sheet metal, and production automation. Users are typically engineers whose primary job is design simulation using high-end software, Courter told Cadalyst. "They are not concerned with CAD."

According to its 2012 Customer Survey, SpaceClaim customers are using the software for a variety of applications, most often concept modeling, CAD data translation, general-purpose CAD, and model preparation for analysis and manufacturing. Model preparation for manufacturing is the greatest growth area, Courter said, where SpaceClaim serves as a "geometry editor for CAM users — like an add-on."

2012 Customer Survey Results

Improved Productivity

Approximately 80% of the time, customers reported in the survey, they move to SpaceClaim from a feature-based 3D solution such as SolidWorks or a 2D solution such as AutoCAD.

SpaceClaim asked users to estimate how much the software has improved productivity, compared with previously used CAD solutions. More than 70% reported a one- to ten-fold increase in productivity, and another 5% reported an increase of greater than ten-fold. Approximately 19% reported no change, and approximately 3% reported a decline in productivity.

One customer, ZeeVee, uses SpaceClaim in its design of electronics enclosures. The company was paying a contractor to prepare models using a feature-based 3D CAD solution but, after adopting SpaceClaim, was able to bring the work in-house, where it is now completed by a company vice-president.

Another customer, Salzgitter Mannesmann Forschung, designs tools used to produce seamless and welded pipe. The German company uses SpaceClaim to lay out and optimize geometry. "Before SpaceClaim," said Alexander Hase, a structural mechanics engineer, "it took four or five hours to completely clean up and prepare a model. Now we can do this job in five minutes."

HighVoltage.dk, a Danish engineering firm, uses SpaceClaim to model and optimize wind turbines. Casper Falkenstrom Mieritz, a consulting engineer, said, "We used to spend a lot of time and resources in making our customers deliver the CAD drawings with the required level of detail, which was a time drain and ineffective. Now with SpaceClaim, I can continue to make edits and perform simulation as a continuous loop until we're satisfied with the results. This has saved us at least 50% in time-to-model."

Courter said, "A 50% savings in time-to-model is a very common thing I hear." The improvement comes via easier and faster model preparation, he explained, as opposed to faster simulation processing.

I asked Courter if he believes there's still a place for feature-based CAD tools. “There are a lot of things we’re not trying to do with SpaceClaim, places you still need feature-based modeling,” he responded. “The truth is, the people who effectively use tools like SolidWorks and Pro/ENGINEER make using CAD their career. They often don’t see the need to make the switch” — not unlike suggesting a switch from using a PC to a Mac, he said. “We’re not going after the guys who have made a career out of using CAD tools. We’re making better businesses by enabling everybody else to communicate in 3D.”

Partner Relationships

In addition to appealing to a wider range of end-users with this release, SpaceClaim is continuing to expand its partner and OEM channels. New Solution Partners include fluid-simulation experts Simerics, EDM provider First Trace, and 2D drafting provider SofTech. AMC Bridge is a new Software Development Partner offering services to develop SpaceClaim customizations for end-user customers and partners.

The company reports that its direct-modeling technology better serves independent software vendors, as it is easily adapted to specialized and proprietary tools and processes. In addition, the company describes the SpaceClaim API as the most flexible 3D platform for third-party customization and the fastest route to market for ISVs. Also introduced this week is the production release of version 10 of the SpaceClaim API, which adds mesh support, animation handlers, custom window support, the ability to replace panels, asynchronous threading to update custom objects in the background, and the ability to add custom items to the structure tree.


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