labels: engineering, it features
The third dimensionnews
18 May 2006

A single ''D'' can change the designing world, says Jeff Ray, COO, SolidWorks Corporation, a subsidiary of France''s Dassault Systèmes, and points out the enormous advantages of the new 3D CAD over its 2D ancestor..

Jeff RayThere''s an old adage that goes ''a picture''s worth a thousand words''. Similarly, in today''s fiercely competitive manufacturing markets, a 3D model''s worth a thousand 2D drawings. Seeing something as it''s meant to look obviously communicates more information and fosters a greater degree of comprehension than any number of abstract line representations can, but improved visualisation represents only the tip of a veritable iceberg of productivity gains attainable by migrating from 2D to 3D computer-aided design (CAD) tools.

Since the introduction of 3D CAD 30 years ago, many designers and engineers regard it in relatively simplistic terms. Solid models are ''cool'', ''neat'', and nice to look at, but are seen more as an ''optional extra'' rather than as a competitive necessity. This is why a large percentage of manufacturers continue to use 2D design systems. Other common misconceptions about 3D CAD are that it''s expensive, hard to use, and difficult to implement. This may have been true some years ago, but times change, technology evolves, and many product development organisations today are seeing the promise of 3D CAD fulfilled in dramatic fashion.

aDvantage 3D
A recent survey of more than 1,000 SolidWorks users confirms the greater impact, in actual terms of return on investment (ROI), of today''s 3D systems:

  • 95 per cent reported an increase in productivity
  • 69 per cent reported a faster time-to-market
  • 90 per cent reported one or more of the following:
    • Faster time-to-market
    • Reduced volume of engineering change orders (ECOs)
    • Reduced time spent on the average ECO
    • Reduced scrap from design errors
    • Reduced scrap from CAM integration

The results were consistent across different industries and previous CAD systems used. There''s no question that 3D solid modelling is a more efficient, productive, and competitive approach to product design. 3D technology has matured greatly since its introduction and now provides greater benefits to design organisations more quickly, because it mitigates or eliminates many of the obstacles and challenges that are a part of doing business in a 2D world.

India is one of the world''s fastest growing manufacturing centres and to achieve a competitive edge in the global market place, many Indian manufacturing companies are making innovation a core competency and investing in design capabilities to differentiate and stay ahead in the race. Designing in 3D allows for easy sharing of innovations with global vendors and customers, as well as collaborating with colleagues and partners. The goal in migrating from 2D to 3D CAD is to accelerate the rate at which information is processed throughout product development, from conceptual design through marketing.

By implementing a 3D package that supports the entire product development process, manufacturers can fully realise the benefits of 3D design. 3D solid models are more than ''pretty pictures''. They are the data thread that weaves its way throughout the entire manufacturing enterprise, producing the efficiencies and agility necessary to compete successfully in a competitive global market. That is why in today''s product development environment, a model''s worth a thousand drawings.

The India advantage
Indian industry, over the past several years, has done a lot of introspection, restructured itself and established its place in the global market. Most Indian manufacturers are now looking beyond the domestic market; many are opting for acquisitions abroad, making global MNCs take note of India''s emerging entrepreneurship, which is visible in several sectors. Second, we are witnessing a revolution in the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector, especially in the components industry. SMEs are good at technology absorption and have the capacity to produce what the market needs.

Moving from 2D to 3D can be a smooth, comfortable process that produces dramatic results. The ease of use of softwares like SolidWorks, combined with advanced 2D and 3D design tools, enables companies to unleash design creativity while completing more work in less time; 3D CAD is easy to deploy, use, and maintain, and lets engineers spend more time creating new designs and being productive.

More Ds means more dollars
The 3D CAD / CAM / PLM market is currently estimated at approximately $100 million. Till recently, 2D dominated the market, but recently we have witnessed a definitive shift towards 3D, owing to its long-term cost effectiveness, ease-of-use and powerful modelling capabilities. Designers have realised the tremendous reduction in product time-to-market cycles using 3D software, which has helped companies reduce their production cycles by almost 50 per cent. These are some of the main factors driving the 3D CAD boom round the globe.

SMEs take on MNCs
SMEs are increasingly adopting the latest technology to achieve greater cost effectiveness and efficiency. Engineers use various CAD / CAM software tools to design products ranging from a simple plastic toy to the most intricate part of an Airbus 380. Engineers design a solid geometric model of a component on a computer using CAD tools, analyse the design for stress, strain, vibration or fatigue using computer aided engineering (CAE) tools and, once the design is finalised, computer aided manufacturing (CAM) tools are used to plan the computerised numerical control (CNC) cutter path.

Today, in a world of ubiquitous connectivity, product design takes place in a collaborative environment, crossing geographical boundaries. Tier 1-3 suppliers collaborate with OEMs, and partners around the world and can now share information and implement changes online. The new 3D CAD is helping SMEs capitalise on opportunities, as the distinction between the capabilities of SMEs and MNCs is diminishing.

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