Manufacturing

MCAD Design Collaboration

1 Jun, 2004 By: Don LaCourse

Tools and tips for connecting design teams


DESIGN COLLABORATION IS ONE area of MCAD technology where the dreams and wishes of designers are actually coming to fruition. Designers have traditionally had a hard enough time collaborating with a partner in the next cubicle, let alone working with a sales rep across town or supplier across the Atlantic.

This month, I'll share with you a few exciting design collaboration solutions that can make your design cycle a little easier. I look at an online solution, CoCreate's OneSpace.net; a third-party solution, ImpactXoft IX SPeeD V5 Suite; and an integrated solution, Solid Edge Insight. Each option brings new and exciting pieces of the design collaboration puzzle together to the benefit of hardworking designers like you.

A special thank you to these developers for taking the time to share information about their design collaboration solutions. Without their innovative minds, the dreams of the past would simply be forgotten.

CoCreate OneSpace.net

OneSpace.net ( www.onespace.net ) is a lightweight tool for online project collaboration among members of product development teams. It combines familiar concepts such as organized projects, secure messaging, presence awareness, and real-time online meetings. OneSpace.net provides a rapidly deployable solution that enables design teams to share ideas and resolve problems across the Web no matter where they are located (figure 1).

 Figure 1. CoCreate OneSpace.net allows attendees to use application sharing to eliminate the need to travel for face-to- face meetings.
Figure 1. CoCreate OneSpace.net allows attendees to use application sharing to eliminate the need to travel for face-to- face meetings.

OneSpace.net's application-sharing capability lets you view any application on another team member's desktop. This means all team members can see and comment on designs regardless of the original CAD or design platform (figure 2).

Figure 2. Online presence and instant messaging features enable team members to quickly start and join online meetings with OneSpace.net.
Figure 2. Online presence and instant messaging features enable team members to quickly start and join online meetings with OneSpace.net.

OneSpace.net's Model Explorer lets you accurately visualize, interrogate, and mark up engineering data such as 2D and 3D models. It supports standard design exchange formats so that you can work in a multi-CAD environment.

Optional CAD converters load into the Model Explorer 3D models from popular MCAD systems such as I-DEAS, Pro/ENGINEER, Unigraphics, CATIA, and SolidWorks.

OneSpace.net requires Windows 2000/XP, Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher, and a DSL or faster Internet connection. Visit www.onespace.net for more information or to download a trial version of OneSpace.net.

ImpactXoft IX SPeeD V5 Suite

IX SPeeD V5 Suite ( www.impactxoft.com ) is a third-party CATIA V5 collaborative 3D design environment that lets you implement, share, merge, and communicate design changes more quickly and efficiently during the highly iterative work-in-progress phase.

For several decades now, designers have relied on the classic design tree or parametric modeling approach. Though effective, this approach lacks the flexibility of emerging methodologies that speed up product development by removing bottlenecks and tie-ups. In addition, most designers today still rely on tools that are not fully Internet-enabled, thereby losing the time-saving benefits the Internet offers (figures 3a and b).

Figures 3a and b. Here’s an example of a design team using IX SPeeD V5 Suite. An industrial designer is creating a sleek exterior for a part (a). He or she joins a collaborative workspace to share any changes with other members in the design team. When satisfied with the shape (b), the designer can share the top and bottom cuts with the part designer and packaging designer.
Figures 3a and b. Here’s an example of a design team using IX SPeeD V5 Suite. An industrial designer is creating a sleek exterior for a part (a). He or she joins a collaborative workspace to share any changes with other members in the design team. When satisfied with the shape (b), the designer can share the top and bottom cuts with the part designer and packaging designer.

ImpactXoft's concept of SPD (simultaneous product development) addresses long-standing challenges in the design industry, such as:

  • 1. developing products and delivering them on schedule ,
  • 2. coordinating real - time communications between suppliers and partners ,
  • 3. managing the product lifecycle , including design requirement planning through field service and retirement ,
  • 4. encouraging product innovation and quality ,
  • 5. minimizing design and development cycle time and cost , and
  • 6. using emerging technologies.

The methodology behind ImpactXoft's solution is represented by two unique technologies. IX Functional Modeling lets you focus on defining design behaviors and functional rules in an order-independent manner while the software automatically generates a geometric model. Order independence means that you can create features without worrying about the order in which you build them. IX Instant Participation is a method based on parallel design that significantly shortens design cycles by letting you transmit design changes via e-mail and wireless devices and instantly share and merge those changes.

Solid Edge Insight

Solid Edge Insight ( www.solid-edge.com / insight) integrates CAD, design management, and Web-based collaboration into a single tool that's easy to implement and manage. Insight removes perceived barriers to PDM implementation while still providing the fundamental capabilities that companies need to successfully manage design data (figure 4 p. 44).

Figure 4. With Solid Edge V15 with Insight, you can easily access, view, and mark up a variety of design-related documents, making sure that data is secure and workflow continues.
Figure 4. With Solid Edge V15 with Insight, you can easily access, view, and mark up a variety of design-related documents, making sure that data is secure and workflow continues.

Insight manages product information in a manner that is unobtrusive in your daily CAD work. The foundation for this product, Sharepoint v2 from Microsoft, makes a leap forward from the previous version in terms of performance, scalability, and administration. In V15, Solid Edge Insight capitalizes on these improvements.

Solid Edge V15 also introduces new capabilities to its design management client, Insight Connect. Users can access, view, and mark up a variety of design-related documents, facilitating engineering workflows and making collaboration easier, while ensuring that data remains managed and secure.

Solid Edge V15 also introduces a new PCF (packaged collaboration file) format that packages multiple documents into a single file (figure 5).

Figure 5. PCF files that you create with Solid Edge V15 can contain multiple documents from different sources so that you can collaborate in a secure and managed environment even when you send design information by e-mail.
Figure 5. PCF files that you create with Solid Edge V15 can contain multiple documents from different sources so that you can collaborate in a secure and managed environment even when you send design information by e-mail.

You can access visualization data, including all required parts, assemblies, drawings, and relevant nonCAD documents, from a predefined folder, or send it via e-mail to team members. You and your team can view the files using a free viewer or through Insight Connect's new review, measure, and markup capabilities.



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The PCF file retains original links to CAD documents in the Insight database and contains all the information required to make any changes that result from the collaborative process. For example, when you send a new product for customer review and then receive the PCF file back with suggested changes, the program launches the Lifecycle Assistant to edit the Solid Edge design and continue the revision and approval process.

Current and Future Trends

Solutions that use wireless and mobile technologies will provide greater freedom for companies to communicate product knowledge. Whether it's from the shop floor or from an airport, this capability is becoming ever more critical in getting the right product to market more quickly.

Sixty-six percent of U.S. manufacturing companies currently outsource some part of their design, whether to a vendor in another state or another country. This provides access to reduced cost structures, specialized skill sets, or proximity to emerging markets. Design collaboration tools overcome communication obstacles that teams face while working across locations, firewalls, and time zones.

Design collaboration solutions will become more tightly integrated with your desktop, reinforcing collaboration as part of the regular workday.

Existing software systems in companies today are silos of information. Companies are moving toward an interconnected enterprise where these systems are linked together via XML and Web Services, further enabling the sharing and exchange of information across the company.


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