MCAD Tech News #92 (Mar. 13, 2003)

12 Mar, 2003 By: Joe Greco

For starters, this year's show was much better than it was in 2002. While attendance was down again, there were a number of CAD vendors showing this year that didn't make it last year, including veterans such as PTC and relative newcomers such as ImpactXoft. In addition, there were several small, upstart companies with exciting technologies--something that has been missing in the last several events.

One such company is QSSolutions out of Royal Oak, MI. The company presented icedCAD ( ), which uses built-in knowledge to read a Bill of Materials to automatically build an assembly. I was impressed by the demo, but users should be aware that setup is required and some manual intervention may be needed. However, icedCAD can probably do 80 to 95 percent of the work in most cases, thus potentially saving users with part libraries hundreds of hours.

Another time saving program is actually a service, from a new company called XPress3D ( ). This company premiered last fall as a service bureau that promised fast turn around of rapid prototyped (RP) parts created in SolidWorks, with pricing based on an accurate quoting system they built. However, the limitation was that it had only one RP device (a Z Corp. model) so users needing other types of RP output (SLA, SLS, FDM, and so on.) couldn't use its service. Now, Company President Rick Chin (a former SolidWorks employee) has made changes that leads to an entirely different business model and a more useful system.

It works like this: Let's say you are creating a model in SolidWorks (Inventor is also supported and Pro/E Wildfire support is coming in April) and need to get it rapid prototyped. Usually the process would be to send the model--perhaps containing important intellectual property--to several service bureaus and wait while they return quotes. However, with the XPress3D service, all the user needs to do is click on the XPress3D tab added under the SolidWorks PropertyManager and pricing information is displayed. In the demo I saw, this data came from seven different service bureaus.

Xpress3D Inc. accomplished this because it has already surveyed various bureaus regarding how they price their RP services and built a database of information from the data collected, which is constantly updated. When the user clicks on the aforementioned XPress3D tab, the information is pulled from this remote database via the Web and the quotes returned, based on the current model's parameters, such as surface area, overall size, and volume. Then it is possible to sort the quotes based on price, delivery date, and so on, all without having to leave SolidWorks or send the model off. Overall, it is a very quick way to get RP estimates, without the usual hassles.

QSSolutions and XPress3D probably had the most innovative solutions at NDES, but there were many other vendors to see. PTC ( ) was back in full force, with a huge booth, showing its new Pro/E Wildfire software. Its new solution is easier to use and tightly integrated with the Internet. (Check the April issue of CADENCE for a full review of this product).

I was also happy to see that ImpactXoft ( ) had a booth to show the latest enhancements to its IX SPeeD Suite. The update provides a "subscription" capability that delivers automatic notification regarding changes to any elements in the design that a project member has subscribed, such as specific functional features or key metrics. ImpactXoft demonstrated this new functionality by using its Project/Product Manager module to allow a fictitious project manager to specify, subscribe, and get automatic updates on project parameters and/or key product metrics. For instance, in the demo, the design called for a tank to have a certain weight and volume. Parameters such as these can now be stated as a design goal and tracked, with graphs, throughout the course of the project.

Autodesk, SolidWorks, and EDS were also at the event, demonstrating their flagship MCAD applications. However, of these three, EDS stole the show with its new Solid Edge 14 software. For those who haven't seen Solid Edge in a while, EDS has made some impressive changes and additions. The program now features robust surface creation that can be interactively edited using the new Dynamic Edit command. In addition, another new feature called Systems Libraries, which essentially speeds the creation of assemblies. In a demo of the Systems Libraries capabilities, a component was brought in, and Solid Edge automatically added the bosses required to attach it to the rest of the assembly.

I found two products that are more closely related to CAE than CAD impressive as well. They were MechSoft and Resinate. MechSoft ( ) was showing the latest update to its powerful knowledge-driven engineering tool of the same name, featuring a designer mode, which simplifies the software for users who are not professional engineers. There are also new calculations for bolted connections, O-rings, and cams. Resinate ( ) had RMA, a robust database of plastic materials that integrates with Inventor, SolidWorks, and Pro/E. Due to all of the properties that are included in the database, users can make decisions based on a material's strength, thermal capabilities, chemical resistance, price, and so on.

While NDES 2003 didn't feature the "Innovative Technology Pavilion," as I had wished for last year, it was good to see some new players there. Maybe next year I will see you there.

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