Product Data Publishing-Streamlined

13 Dec, 2006 By: Sara Ferris

Seemage targets automotive, aerospace users with new tools that keep CAD data current in downstream applications

Chris Williams, president of Seemage, visited Cadalyst editors recently to discuss his company's approach to 3D publishing. Williams explained that the typical Seemage customer is someone who needs to describe some function relative to a product -- for example, how the product works or how to use it. He cited an example of one company that uses the product on the factory floor to illustrate assembly problems for engineers.

Williams referenced a study by Aberdeen Group that found that 62% of manufacturers reuse design data in downstream publishing. The Seemage Publisher application collects data (both geometry and metadata) from various sources, including all CAD applications -- it can even handle large assemblies. It supports document publishing in a number of formats, including PDF and HTML.

Williams noted that PLM software from any vendor includes a publishing component. In traditional manufacturing workflows, publication takes place at the end of the design process. "CAD/CAM shortens the design process," Williams said, "but publishing still takes the same amount of time." Seemage's goal with its Publisher product is to make the publication work concurrent with the design. The publications remain fully associative with the CAD model, so any changes to the design are reflected automatically. Seemage Publisher also has the advantage of being a desktop tool, so users don't need to change work processes to use it.

Seemage was founded in France in 2002 and released its first product in 2004. It has around 55 customers, mostly in France, Williams said. Interestingly, Seemage founders Eric Piccuezzu and James Dugalais share a structural engineering background -- both previously worked for structural software developer Graitec.

The company's products are based on XML (extensible markup language), so integrate easily with enterprise solutions. In addition to Publisher, the Seemage suite of authoring tools includes Mockup, Viz, Secure 3D and Rights Manager.

Publisher is the authoring tool that imports files from various CAD applications and other programs and generates lightweight, secure files for use in downstream applications. For example, a user could combine a bill of materials from an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system with 3D geometry from a CAD application to create assembly instructions. Williams demonstrated a Web-based maintenance manual that used animations to show how to remove and replace various parts. The manufacturer had developed a number of icons to represent common tasks to minimize the number of words needed to describe the procedures. The goal was to reduce the cost of translating the instructions into different languages.

Seemage Publisher enables technical illustrators to create exploded views and animations from almost any CAD file.

Viz is the viewer component. Mockup is designed for engineering users who want to combine multiple CAD files for clash management and other digital prototyping tests. Secure 3D provides security tools to help prevent reverse engineering. Users can alter geometry, cull voids, paint over areas and blur features.

Seemage is currently targeting aerospace and automotive companies, Williams said. Among its customers are John Deere, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Renault F1, Faurecia, Delphi, SNECMA and Thales. Alcatel Alenia Space, a manufacturer of satellites, reports that it used Seemage technology to cut the time required to generate assembly instructions and design test configurations by 25%.

Seemage has been aggressively courting customers of other software developers, most recently offering a competitive trade-up to users of ITEDO products after PTC acquired that company. Seemage is equally aggressive about publishing opinions of various topics related to product development, posted on its 3D Mojo blog. The blog also offers animations suitable for playing on an iPod, updated every week or so.

About the Author: Sara Ferris

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