thinkdesign v915 Aug, 2004 By: Don LaCourse
Hybrid modeler continues to innovate.
Think3, an emerging leader in the midrange mechanical design market, offers an integrated product development environment for 2D and 3D MCAD design, PDM (product data management), and surface and solid modeling. The company started in Italy in 1979 and is currently headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, with offices in Europe, Asia, and North America. The current think3 suite comprises three modules: thinkdesign, thinkiD, and thinkteam.
The company's flagship mechanical CAD product, thinkdesign, provides 3D design functionality, 2D-to-3D migration tools, a complete 2D drafting environment, integrated sheet-metal tools, and large assembly management. By adding thinkiD, industrial designers can perform complex free-form shape design using think3's GSM (global shape modeling) tools (figure 1). Thinkteam is the company's out-of-the-box PDM solution that gives engineering administrators the tools to implement PLM (product lifecycle management).
Figure 1. Watch designs created with thinkiD incorporate style and engineering in one consistent model.
Think3's business structure is based on an annual subscription fee. Customers receive unlimited support, maintenance upgrades (one or two per year), and ongoing education for one annual fee. This approach minimizes risk and initial investment for those adopting the software.
Hybrid ApproachThink3 has taken the time to develop and continuously enhance its own proprietary hybrid modeling kernel. Hybrid means that the kernel is not limited to solids. You can mix wire frame, surface, and solid tools to best address the task at hand.
A good example of this is the ability to import a set of free-form surfaces, modify them, add your own surfaces, and then turn them into a parametric solid. You can still access the underlying curve and surface geometry that makes up the solid. This means that you have more tools to choose from to control geometry.
Figure 2. The new associative capping feature fills complex multisided holes with a single surface. It automatically creates a four-sided trimmed surface to fill the G2-continuous specified region.
Version 9 includes new hybrid modeling tools such as blending shapes, associative capping, and G2 filleting (figure 2, p. 38). Blending lets you connect two or more shapes in a single operation while maintaining control over G1 and G2 continuity and automatically fixing existing discontinuities as needed. Associative capping lets you create a multisided surface while controlling continuity—up to G2—with adjacent shapes. For example, you can fill an n-sided hole by controling continuity at mating surfaces. With G2 filleting, you can create styled fillets with lead-in control while maintaining G1 or G2 continuity. Although thinkdesign is not the only hybrid modeler on the market with these surfacing tools, the implementation in thinkdesign excels at fixing discontinuities and achieving G2 continuity across multiple surfaces.
Figure 3. With thinkiD's GSM, you can create rapid variations, modifications, and refinements at any time on any dataset while maintaining associativity. In this example, the green boundary curve represents the design change.
Global Shape ModelingGSM (global shape modeling) technology makes it easier for industrial designers to make post-design modifications (figure 3, p. 38). You can globally change the free-form shape of a design without worrying about how the model was constructed and without looking at the history tree. History is not required—you can perform GSM on native or imported models.
GSM requires only two sets of constraints. The preserving constraints define the extent to which the existing model can't change, and the target constraints specify what the desired shape looks like or satisfies.
Zone ModelingVersion 9 of thinkiD adds new zone modeling functionality to GSM. Zone modeling lets you perform a GSM construction on a localized zone anywhere on the part and define it in the history tree as a historical feature (figure 4, p. 40). This lets you make changes that might otherwise require rebuilding portions of the model. The part can be a solid, a set of open free-form surfaces, any imported geometry, and any subset of the part. It can be a single face or part of a face, and it can span multiple faces and edges.
Figure 4. The model shows data imported into thinkiD as a static solid (STEP or IGES). The transparent color indicates proposed zone modifications that can be implemented without acting on single surfaces.
Data ManagementThinkteam v9 includes the standard check-in, check-out, and data vault procedures, along with some extras that you might not find in other built-in PDM applications. A thinkparts manager creates catalogs of design standards that can include models and drawings from thinkdesign, other applications, and parts libraries.
Thinkteam v9 includes a Product Configurator application that ties thinkdesign and thinkteam together by letting you configure product assemblies based on predefined engineering knowledge. It automatically generates the BOM, 3D assembly, and 2D drawings needed for a tailored configuration of a design.
System RequirementsTo run thinkdesign you need Windows NT 4 SP5+, 2000 Professional/Server SP2+, 2003 Server, or XP Professional/Home SP1+. If you plan to run thinkteam and thinkdesign at the same time, use Windows NT4.0 Server, 2000 SP2, or XP SP1. Be sure your machine has at at least a 600MHz Pentium III or equivalent, 512MB RAM, 500MB virtual memory, 250MB hard disk space, 32MB OpenGL graphics card, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 SP1. For best results, think3 recommends a 1GHz Pentium III or equivalent with 1GB of RAM, 2GB virtual memory, and 128MB OpenGL graphics card.
FOR AUTOCAD USERS
Bottom LineI've used many 3D products over the years, and I've always liked those that provide designers with more control over the underlying geometry. Thinkdesign is one of those products. The hybrid modeling approach lets you work with curves, surfaces, and solids with greater flexibility. This approach seems to be catching on. Other nonhybrid modelers recently beefed up their curve and surface capabilities. The thinkiD GSM and zone modeling functionality will be received well by today's industrial designers.
The annual subscription model pricing structure gets you started with less upfront investment. If you like the product and it fits well with your engineering requirements, the successive annual subscription fees are comparable to the maintenance fees for other MCAD products. Be sure to plan for that annual investment and you won't have to worry about additional support and maintenance costs. The thinkdesign online support site is among the best. Thinkdesign is a good product worthy of a serious look. Highly Recommended.