The numbers and issues caused by Multi-CAD interoperability, or in most cases the lack thereof, are huge. Many engineers spend over 10% of their working week repairing and rebuilding Multi-CAD files according to a survey by Lifecycle Insights and Longview Advisors. Their 2013 State of Collaboration and Interoperability report suggests that 14% of engineers spend more than half their working week repairing third party data. Interoperability issues cost the US automotive industry in excess of $1bn a year and delay the introduction of new models by an average of over 2 months. Working with Multi-CAD, in simple terms, means using CAD files from multiple CAD systems. The impact of this practice can be seen at 3 levels:
- Multi-CAD Part Interoperability Multi-CAD part interoperability is simply opening a part model built in a different CAD application. For many, this is done via neutral formats like STEP and IGES, which at times can be messy due to the differences in the geometry kernels used by different CAD applications.
- Multi-Cad Assemblies When suppliers design different parts of one product, you are bound to end up with designs in different CAD formats. The onus of cobbling together these parts lies with the product manufacturer. In the past, there were two ways to approach this problem. With CAD, users would import models via neutral formats, fix the geometry, and then create the multi-CAD assembly. Alternatively, 3D visualization tools, which could open models in multiple CAD formats, could be used to assemble those parts.
- Multi-Cad Data Management Traditionally, Product Data Management (PDM) systems have managed design data in only one format, giving companies 2 options; Models in other CAD formats could be managed as files in the PDM system, with information embedded in them unable to be extracted for use in Bills Of Materials and other downstream uses. Alternately, companies deployed multiple PDM systems, one for each major CAD format that is prevalent in their designs. This lets them extract the right information from those design models, but meant data was still fragmented and dispersed, with the management of each system requiring expertise and time. Multi-Cad Data management will be explored in a future article
On average, files from 2.7 CAD systems are used by companies. Files from legacy systems, mergers, customers and suppliers all contribute to the product development process. Using different CAD tools can make design challenging, but there is no denying that Multi-Cad is a part of life. PTC are working to simplify the issues surrounding Multi-Cad with their ongoing ‘Unite Technology’ policy. PTC Executive Vice President Michael Campbell, commenting on the Collaboration and Interoperability report said:
“One in two engineers spend over four hours every week fixing design data created by someone else. CAD software vendors can and should offer engineers a better solution. PTC is continuing to pioneer technology that enables teams to work with designs regardless of source, with no data repair needed. Design teams simply open and modify models from any CAD package, eliminating the need to spend hours each week fixing data because of CAD interoperability issues.”
PTC Creo has been expanded to make the use of Multi-Cad files easier and more productive, with a range of tools to make data adoption and reuse easier.
- Adoption of native file formats. With the release of Creo 2.0 in 2012, PTC brought in the ability to read in Solidworks and Inventor parts and assemblies. This ability has been added to Creo Elements Direct 19, and have been expanded in Creo 3.0,
- Import Data Doctor Creo’s Import Data Doctor is a task-based repair tool designed to repair, modify, or re-feature geometry imported into PTC Creo Parametric from external sources. Repair tools are used to make geometry solid or improve the quality of imported surfaces and edges. Modification tools support moving, replacing, and manipulating existing geometry within the imported data. Featurisation tools can convert non-analytic geometry to analytic geometry and create curves and surfaces within the imported data.
- Flexible Modeling Extension A powerful Extension to Creo Parametric which provides an easy-to-use, fast and powerful set of geometry editing tools that enable you to make the changes you want–without needing to understand, or fear losing, design intent. Edits made in the Flexible Modeling environment are recorded as features in the history tree, should you need to come back and change them later.
- Direct Modeling Direct modeling has the advantage of not requiring history trees or parameters, meaning that what a parametric system would view as a ‘dumb solid’ is fully editable, giving you the opportunity to add to or dramatically re-purpose existing geometry, quickly and without any risk of features failing. PTC have two direct modeling tools available: Creo Elements Direct – a fully featured, stand alone Direct Modeling suite, (formerly CoCreate), and Creo Direct – built on the Creo Common Data Model, any edits in the direct environment are recognised in the Parametric environment and added to the feature tree.
The Holy grail of Multi-Cad operations for Parametric modelers, the ability to pass files between systems and read and write to the original history tree, hasn’t been reached yet but PTC are taking significant steps to solve the Any Data Adoption issue. To find out more about any of the products in the PTC Creo suite or to see how they could help you solve the problems related to Multi-CAD, please get in touch via email to email@example.com or call us on 0845 453 4101