Sunday, 28 September 2008

Integrated Design Validation for Fit, Form and Function Using SolidWorks - Part I

Competitive scenarios are compelling companies take a re-look at the Designs of their Products to incorporate higher levels of functionalities and efficiencies while addressing cost and profitability pressures. It is important to delineate Design parameters in terms of and Fit, Form and Function (F-Cubed) and validate the same to achieve stated objectives.

To recall the definitions of F-cubed, Fit addresses the interchangeability of parts in assemblies and enables assessment of the dynamic interactions of tolerances placed on features of sizes and their influences on inter-part relationships that would define functional behaviour. Form defines shape, dimensions, mass and other attributes that essentially address the design space in the context of the assembly as unique characteristics of the part being designed. Function explicitly defines the intended performance during the operational life of the part.

Design Validation of Fit, Form and Function is important to achieve stated objectives. SolidWorks offers rich set of tools to Validate designs as they evolve giving the Design Engineers a choice of alternatives to make qualified decisions. SolidWorks tools that enable the user can be classified as follows:

1. Fit: Tolerance Analysis (Tolanalyst)
2. Form: Geometry Analysis ( Sketch Xpert, DFMXpress, Draft Analysis, Curvature Analysis)
3. Function: Kinematic Analysis, Finite Element Analysis and Computational Fluid Dynamics


Tolerance study inside SolidWorks for Real-world designs can be performed using TolAnalyst.

Using four simple steps, Stack-up Analysis can be performed on assemblies with ease.

1. Using DimXpert, dimension and tolerance part features either using manual or automatic mode.

2. Define Assembly Sequence for parts in order to assess dimensional chains that influence the outcome.

3. Establish Assembly Constraints to understand how each parts relates to the assembly.

4. Perform Analysis to Evaluate and review the minimum and maximum worst case tolerance stacks.


Design Validation for Form helps to arrive at a basis for the dimensions provided on the design, clarify critical dimensions that influence performance and ensure unambiguous understanding of part shape that would meet functional requirements.

Sketch level understanding of concept feasibility is easily achieved in SolidWorks.

Examples shown here of different mechanisms involving lower and higher order pair help understand the functionality of SolidWorks in achieving higher levels of confidence during the design process.

The sketches can be used in layout stage to exploit Top-Down approach in the detailed engineering design of individual parts either by an individual or as a part of a team for higher collaborative efficiency.

More in the Next article ....

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

CAD Obsolescence - Wither Pro/Engineer?

A nondescript Russian Genius created a monster in the mid '80s - shaking the Design World with a new Paradigm called Bi-Directional Parametricity. At a time when the CAD market was ruled by the likes of IBM and EDS, along came Samuel P. Geisberg - a mathematician - from Leningrad to the Great American Promised Land - to re-write the script and re-cast the deck with all Aces up his sleeve. Rest is history. Parametric Technology Corporation, known for its Pro/Engineer came, divided and conquered, much to the chagrin of prevailing well-established CAD Software houses.

Due credit should be given to PTC for creating a new market for a new technology - driven by the passion to perform or perish. Be it Technology - Created, derived or acquired, Sales, Marketing or sheer Grit, PTC had it all. It was a great American Dream of an Enterprise that started to conquer the mind and hearts of Engineers of all hues. Sure enough, there came a time when if you were not using Pro/Engineer you were perceived as a loser or a Not-Destined-to-Succeed type.

When Success gets to the head, it starts a downslide that only self-analysis can stop. PTC was no exception. The same innovation, that helped PTC scale great heights, proved to be its nemesis. With few innovations coming in, slower adoption of, by-now-ubiquitous, Microsoft Operating System coupled with easy-to-use functional modellers (read SolidWorks) breathing down the neck, PTC had already started to show signs of cracking.

Grapevine has it that, when PTC was downsizing to stay profitable, after the acquisition of Computer Vision, a Management representative was sent to CV's not-well-known Minnesota office to close it down. Flustered by an extremely warm reception accorded to him, he reviewed the work done and was taken aback by a new product that was under development. His initiative prevented the Division closure and, surreally, PTC's own. The product ? None other than Windchill.

A re-vamped user interface (relatively easy to use toolset - much to the chagrin of the Pro/Engineer loyalists), costly re-training efforts, stability issues, loss of focus, lack of innovation and loss of marketshare, lead PTC on a downward spiral, much to the frustration of its User community and fiercely passionate loyalists who would wage a World War III in its favour.

No company that does not listen to its Customers can survive. Not an unfamiliar adage? Still PTC chose to ignore them and with them their wads of Dollars that PTC just could not get. Is it a surprise that PTC was able to add only a fraction of new users Year-on-Year while contemporary CAD software corporations continued to grow with users at many orders of magnitude? Losing new orders, a shrinking client base due to attrition by vibrant new CAD products, and increased frustration amongst its own user community (who looked, with disdain, at PTC's stock getting flogged ) is perilous, however cash-rich a company may be.

Spending hard-earned dollars on acquisitions of Abortext (just because one of its large clients wanted a synergy between Pro/E and Abortext publishing), MathCAD, NC Graphics and, now, CoCreate, while losing focus on Mainstream product that took PTC to its dizzying heights added to the ills. Nevertheless, PTC was intent on playing its own requiem.

Now, PTC is up for sale, by its looking-to-cash-on-the-last-stop operatives. A relevant message for all CAD companies is apparently written on the wall.

Innovation, Improvisation, Hearing customers and Raising the Technology Bar are the Pre-requisites for any CAD Technology Company to survive and conquer. It is not the dollars in the bank that matters in the long run. It is the place in the broad hearts of the CAD users, aspiring to create new designs, that cements a permanent position. Money will come in with popularity and acceptance.

Alas PTC is scripting its own Swan's song for Pro/Engineer.... So long comrade ....