Model Checking for Autodesk Inventor20 Nov, 2008 By: Jeffrey Rowe
Automated model checker iCHECK ensures design data and standards compliance.
Many steps are involved in turning an idea into a reality, and this sentiment is highly regarded, not to mention respected, in the mechanical design community. These steps, especially if they are performed by a dispersed design team, can introduce errors into a design if standards are not adhered to and models are not checked. And, while 3D is a great design innovation, it has also brought with it new challenges. For example,
This need did not go unnoticed by INCAT, a software reseller and engineering services company. INCAT researched and identified several challenges to using Autodesk Inventor productively and addressed them by developing iCHECK, its proprietary data quality and integrity analysis software application. The software is an Inventor-certified CAD model checking tool for ensuring dimensional accuracy, geometric integrity, and conformance to predefined standards so design discrepancies can be corrected.
The software is equipped with approximately 70 standard checks that can be performed, and each check can be custom configured to account for a company's particular standards. Checks can be run either individually or as a collection, depending on how they are configured. Some examples of checks include navigation of sketches that are not fully constrained, working with assemblies with adaptive features turned on, and manipulating drawings that contain override dimensions. In each of these cases, a designer's productivity can be compromised by obvious and not-so-obvious problems or deviations from standards, but with iCHECK, each of the conditions can be verified and resolved if problems are detected. A couple of the obvious things I often find myself doing with Inventor -- not constraining a first sketch to an origin and not fully constraining a sketch -- are caught, reported, and resolved by iCHECK.
A Spellchecker for Models
In effect, iCHECK is analogous to a spellchecker during the design process to automate compliance with corporate standard design practices and methodologies. You can use it to build, implement, and enforce 3D CAD standards, ensuring consistent design deliverables throughout in-house design departments or from outsourced designers.
I downloaded a free trial version of iCHECK and briefly ran it through some of its paces. I was impressed by how well integrated it was with Inventor 2009 and how interactive it was within a CAD session. I also liked how it could be used to check and maintain standards across all types of Inventor files, including .IPT, .IAM, .IPN, .IDW, and .DWG for parts, assemblies, and drawings. For enforcing quality, the software can be configured to perform specific checks on file functions from within Inventor, such as Save, Save As, Save Copy As, File Exit, or on demand.
ICHECK is basically a three-step process: configure, check, and review. The only step in which intervention is really required is during configuration. This is when you set up the options of what you want checked with the iCheck Administrator via a standards directory (that specifies the directory where the iCheck standards files will be located) and report directory (that specifies where the report files resulting from a check will be located). Before you can use iCheck, you have to create standards for it to use, and the Administrator creates and edits the standards. Each check is described in detail and includes what constitutes a passing condition and failing condition.
One of the things I like most about iCHECK is that it not only identifies problems, it can actively fix standards in noncompliant CAD data when you click the AutoCorrect functionality, bringing it into compliance.
When running a check, the software displays a progress bar that shows the status of the procedure. After running a check, it displays a report that can be studied for standards compliance on the screen or exported as an HTML file for reviewing with Internet Explorer. ICHECK also has an automated batch reporting capability that is handy when checks are run on several Inventor files. Periodically, creating a composite batch report across a company's data would provide a good QA mechanism for analyzing the quality of its CAD data.
Solving Business Problems
I can think of a few business goals a model checker such as iCHECK can help achieve, for example:
- ensuring that designs and drawings meet originally intended design requirements
- promoting good modeling practices
- ensuring company-wide compliance with CAD standards
- improving overall productivity
Poor-quality CAD data is a costly proposition, especially the further you get into the product-development cycle, downstream applications (CAM and CAE), or reusing the data. In a nutshell, iCHECK can help users minimize the risk of poorly produced design data.
Although checking for model quality may not be first and foremost on a designer's list of stimulating things to do, it is emerging as one of the more important aspects of the product-development process. In fact, the quality of CAD data is playing an increasingly crucial role for accelerating the design process and, ultimately, better quality products.