TechniCom tests Part 7 reveal key differences between Inventor and SolidWorks Design Automation Solutions

Design Automation

Continuing on with part 7 of our 8 part blog series dedicated to showing the differences between Autodesk Inventor Professional 2011 and SolidWorks Premium 2011 for digital prototyping workflows, we examine the ability to automate the design process by automating the creation of drawings for part families, creation of parts from parameters, and creating copies of an assembly constrained along a variable path.

This test looks at simplified automation examples, yet it provides a glimpse of this capability in both products.

  • Create a simple piece of stock lumber (2×4 board) and examine how a user can make that same part file represent several variations of lumber that could be used in a project.
  • Automate the variation of individual drawing views, scales, and annotations.
  • Automate assembly variations that vary by size and position.

Autodesk provided us with three movies showing Inventor completing the tasks. They also provided three STEP files of the frame, the assembly, and the curves to follow for the frame assembly resizing.

Key differences you will see in this test

SolidWorks has some of the same capabilities built into the core modeling system and by using DriveWorks Xpress, a 3rd party add-in delivered with SolidWorks. It can handle configuring a part when placed into an assembly, but updating it in the part model on the fly is not possible. It was able to create the multiple configurations of an assembly – although it required more steps than Inventor to achieve the same solution. SolidWorks Premium was unable to automate the creation of drawings for part families, which requires users to go through the manual process of creating a drawing for each instance of the family. SolidWorks’ third party partner, DriveWorks, offers software that can perform this process, although at additional cost. The no-charge version was not able to control the final drawings, as desired. We did not evaluate DriveWorks, although the extra cost versions of DriveWorks Solo and DriveWorks Pro appear able to perform this task, again, at added cost.

Autodesk Inventor includes iLogic and iCopy technologies that use rules to control the parameters of the part, assembly, or drawing and these capabilities were used to complete this test. Inventor created the lumber workflow, the frame resizing and the drawing scaling without flaws.

What’s Important for Design Automation

  • Engineers can capture design intelligence by using rules to embed design intelligence into parts, assemblies, and even drawings
  • Such design intelligence, in the case where repetitive designs or portions of repetitive designs are used, can radically reduce design time and produce more repeatable results.
  • What techniques are used to build the design intelligence (often programmatic)
  • How easy is it used to create new designs once the rules have been built
  • How such design intelligence is accessible and how it can be maintained in the future

Observations

Autodesk Inventor includes iLogic and iCopy technologies that use rules to control the parameters of the part, assembly, or drawing. Inventor controls the parameters of a part through a single dialog box that updates the model on the fly. It is also able to automate the process of creating unique assembly configurations by modifying the parts and sub-assemblies automatically for the user. iLogic also can use rules to drive drawings – from view placement to scales and annotations – for a family of parts or assemblies, which can save significant amounts of time in large scale projects.

SolidWorks has some of the same capabilities built into the modeler. It can handle configuring a part when placed into an assembly, but updating it in the part model on the fly is not possible. It was also able to create the multiple configurations of an assembly – although it required more steps. Without using extra cost third party software, SolidWorks is unable to automate the creation of drawings for part families, which requires users to create a drawing for each instance of the family.

For the stock lumber workflow, both Inventor and SolidWorks were able to capture all the variations within a single part file.

A family of parts or assemblies also requires a family of drawings to document their design intent. Recreating essentially the same drawing, which only varies by a few critical dimensions wastes time and effort. Inventor allows the user to easily automate drawings using iLogic functionality. Inventor drawings can be set up to automatically vary view placement, scale, and annotations for a family of parts or assemblies. SolidWorks, without extra cost third party software, is unable to automate the creation of drawings for part families.

Creating copies of a frame along a path using Inventor

Creating copies of a frame along a path using SolidWorks

For the frame variation example, Inventor allows the user to automate complete assemblies that vary along specified paths. SolidWorks was able to manually model the frames along a path, but took substantially longer.

See how an Inventor user solved the problems in this 3 part video series:

  

See how a SolidWorks user solved the problems in this 2 part video series – automating the drawing was unable to be done without additional cost software:

 

—-

The next, and final, blog in this series will examine Mechatronics – the ability to perform cable and harness design from an imported electrical wiring diagram. Stay tuned or sign up to be notified of my blog updates.

—-

Ray Kurland interviews Blake Courter, co-founder of SpaceClaim, about the LG Electronics win

On 22 Feb 2011 SpaceClaim announced that LG Electronics “is optimizing their engineering processes by using SpaceClaim to modify and manipulate CAD models.” This piqued my interest because LG Electronics is one of the largest electronics consumer companies in the world. I immediately placed a call to Blake Courter, co-founder of SpaceClaim, to find out more details. I was warned by their PR firm that they could probably not discuss any more details about the win, but I went ahead with the interview anyway to get Courter’s opinion of what drove the win and where SpaceClaim is finding success.

Q. SpaceClaim seems to have invented, or at least popularized direct modeling. Now everyone is trying to get in the game.

A. SpaceClaim did not invent direct modeling. It predated feature based modeling. We just realized that if we were going to get the rest of the world using CAD, it was not going to be with feature based CAD. We recognized that there was a market for the right tools [direct modeling] for specific users in specific markets and that was the way to go.

Direct modeling is the right way for most of the world to do 3D. Clearly the vendors have bought into this. Every one has a direct modeling strategy.

It’s great for all users to have these capabilities that are much easier to use than a feature based CAD system. For engineers doing certain jobs that do not require a history based or feature based system, such as simulation, manufacturing, sales engineers doing bid modeling, we have the best tool for the job. Rational companies are using SpaceClaim because we figured out how to make the right tool for this class of users. We are looking forward to having the opportunity to have that conversation with more customers as more users are introduced to direct modeling technology. This will be great for us.

Q. Clearly the market is agreeing with you and the vendors as well, considering that they are all introducing products in this area. Why did LG select SpaceClaim and where in their business do they intend to use it?

A. Can’t speak to anything outside the details shown in the press release, but I understand that they are using it for general use cases around manufacturing model preparation and manufacturing engineering.

Q. Was it a reseller closing the sale? Why can you not discuss any more details?

A. It was a direct sale. LG only agreed to let SpaceClaim disclose what was stated in the release.

Q. What is their current CAD system?

A. They have a CAD system; I think they have several and obviously have had and used CAD systems for a long time. For certain use cases they claim that SpaceClaim is a better tool for the job.

Q. Do you foresee that after they manipulate the models they would be brought back into the CAD model?

A. I cannot speak about LG, but can discuss how in general how customers use SpaceClaim as compared to how they use a detailed design CAD system. In general we see two workflows. One is doing concept models up front of traditional CAD. This uses existing CAD data plus new requirements. Users would bring all this together to create a new design. This is hard using history based systems because feature based constraints limit design flexibility. In SpaceClaim it’s a piece of cake. Users can sketch in SpaceClaim’s 3D environment to get a clear idea of what the new design might look like. Then they will release the SpaceClaim model to detailed design to develop all of the final details using a feature based design system.

Q Do you expect that detailed CAD design might directly read the SpaceClaim model or remodel the design?

A. It depends on the use case. For example, if the new design is heavily based on an existing design, SpaceClaim provides what might be needed for redesign or remodel. It is up to the user to make that decision. Dumb solids (non history based) are not so dumb anymore. Many detailed CAD systems can use non-history based solids as a starting point, can recognize features, and can even directly edit these models within the CAD system. In addition, many companies now outsource detailed designs, and thus do not even work with the detailed CAD model. Thus SpaceClaim is easier to use in many cases.

Q. What was the size of the LG order? Was it sizeable or just a handful of seats?

A. I cannot comment, except to say that is was a decent sized order. Not just one seat. In general, companies that we do announce have done a pilot and plan to use it SpaceClaim substantially in the future. We are not claiming that such customers plan to replace all CAD; instead the seats are additive for new users. For manufacturing engineering, SpaceClaim is a better tool than a detailed CAD system.

There are a lot of big name companies that use SpaceClaim software and there is a consistent pattern of where they see SpaceClaim playing a role. The usage is a different model than the traditional CAD usage we are used to. I can point to Tyco as an example. Customers like this have done pilots and intend to deploy. We are seeing a different world than the tightly integrated CAD system world, where it is  difficult to send data from one system to the other. We saw a need for all users and their supply chain to use the same system. Not having a history based system enables easy transfer of models. Most users want to visualize models, take measurements, do some what-ifs, investigate alternate components, and change some variables in the design. Feature based models are not right because they do not allow these questions to easily be answered.

We are seeing SpaceClaim used for bid modeling by sales engineers, concept modeling, simulation both up front and used with existing CAD data, and to cleanup and prepare models for manufacturing and to create tooling. That is the kind of use our customers are making of SpaceClaim.

I think it’s pretty clear that SpaceClaim’s direct modeling tools are the best tools for these uses. It does not matter whose CAD tool is in use at a company. If you want all these other people to be empowered with 3D then SpaceClaim is the best application than any other and I would welcome the chance to prove it. We are showing it over and over again to many types of companies in industries as diverse as: automotive, aerospace, defense, consumer electronics, and medical devices.

Q. Can you tell me anything about the company today so I can share how fast SpaceClaim has grown?

A. In 2009 the business was 3.5X the size in 2008, and in 2010 it tripled again. We are hiring and there are lots of job openings. However, we are a private company and are unwilling to release number of seats or revenue.

Q How many people are in the company?

A. We have about 50 in total, including development and are hiring for Concord, MA as well as some positions worldwide.

Q. Are there any aspects of recent SpaceClaim releases that drove this kind of business?

A. We have achieved a level of maturity now, with our recently shipped 7th release of SpaceClaim 2011. It’s now robust and stable – a very important factor for customers. We think we offer a more reliable system than traditional CAD vendors, which often crash a few times a day. Our goal is to be as reliable as Microsoft’s operating system.

We have several case studies available on our website that show how customers use SpaceClaim. Particularly interesting are the ones from Emhart Glass, Batelaan Plastics, and Schramm Inc. We believe that there is a high degree of pent up demand by customers looking for a tool that lets people get their jobs done without wrestling with the complexity of feature based CAD systems. This is the primary need driving the business.

Q. Do you see significant competition from CAD vendor direct modeling solutions?

A. These big beefy products are not what the customer wants. They are not appropriate for the customers we are going after. What does direct modeling in most CAD systems get you? You can edit imported parts better and easier. Is that useful for most users? Users will still need to use beefy CAD system to do their job along with a lightweight viewer. This is not the way I see things going; eventually people are going to be creating ideas in 3D, mailing them to each other and collaborating with customers and suppliers. To enable this, we are looking to remove all the CAD friction and help customers get products to market faster. SpaceClaim is the only tool able to do that – to enable really pervasive 3D. Maybe Autodesk might understand this, but other CAD vendors don’t seem to get it.

We figured out what most users want and made the best tool.

——

Click here to see the SpaceClaim – LG Electronics press release. Users can see more information on the SpaceClaim website, including case studies and self-running demos at www.spaceclaim.com.

——

TechniCom tests Part 6 show why Inventor’s digital prototyping outshines SolidWorks in Interoperability

Interoperability and Direct Modeling

Continuing on with part 6 of our 8 part blog series dedicated to showing the differences between Autodesk Inventor Professional 2011 and SolidWorks Premium 2011 for digital prototyping workflows, we examine the ability to import MCAD models from CATIA and to perform direct edits on the imported geometry. Finally we take a drawing off the final model.

As in the other blogs in this series, this blog includes videos of both systems being used to perform the test.

To examine interoperability, we tested the capabilities of the software by importing a CATIA part, modifying the imported part, and creating and validating the accuracy of a DWG drawing of the part for communication with vendors.

View of the bell housing used in this exercise

Autodesk provided a video of Inventor accomplishing this test, a DWG drawing of the bell housing, the bell housing in CATIA format and the bell housing in IGES format.

Key differences you will see in this test

Autodesk Inventor is able to import and export most common CAD formats as well as neutral formats. Working with imported data uses the direct modeling tools found in Inventor Fusion Technology Preview to make changes. Creating a fully associative drawing in DWG format requires no additional effort since Inventor uses native DWG as the file type for drawings created from the 3D model.

SolidWorks can also import and export from a variety of CAD formats but has no support for CATIA files, which must be translated into a neutral file format introducing opportunity for errors. It also has tools for modifying geometry with several functions like feature recognition and move face. Lastly, DWG drawings are not associative to the 3D model and may require a significant amount of time and effort to clean up translation errors prior to sending them to customers and vendors. In this test, the SolidWorks DWG associativity did not work, however, SolidWorks supported this capability in past releases. It did not work on TechniCom’s version of SW2011; it may work in other installations.

What’s Important in Interoperability

  • Directly reading the other systems data directly – in this case CATIA – rather than performing a multi-step and error prone process of intermediate data conversion.
  • Easily share design data with customers, vendors, suppliers, and other departments using different CAD systems.
  • Reading and writing native DWG files for production, and publishing designs in formats that customers can use in their own applications.

Observations

Importing CATIA Part

The desired result of this test was to import a CATIA V5 model into the software.

Autodesk Inventor read the CATIA data directly and was able to open the model with no issue.

SolidWorks was unable to read the model and requires a third party add-on at additional cost to import CATIA V5 models. To perform the later tests, an IGES format file was made available and was imported successfully. This is a major issue for automotive and aerospace suppliers and OEMs since there are many companies involved, many of which require data in native CATIA format! Oddly enough SolidWorks is owned by the same company as CATIA and yet cannot read the data directly.

Modifying Imported Geometry

This test examined the ability of each software system to make small modifications to the “dumb” solid created from the imported file.

Modifying the geometry in Inventor Fusion

Inventor made the necessary modifications using the free Inventor Fusion Technology Preview labs application. The changes were made successfully and then Change Manager was used to update the dumb solid in Inventor.

SolidWorks had no problem with the direct modification of the imported part. Feature recognition capabilities were used to modify the plates and the holes as required.

Modifying the geometry in SolidWorks

In this case it was easier than Inventor, which required back and forth interaction with Inventor Fusion.

Creating DWG Drawing

This test involved creating a drawing in DWG format, opening the DWG in a 2D viewer, and making a change to the 3D model and updating the DWG.

Measuring the resultant DWG created by Inventor

Measuring the resultant DWG created by SolidWorks

Note the incorrectly scaled dimension in the SolidWorks created drawing.

Inventor created the drawing in DWG format so no translation was required. The file was opened in AutoCAD and presented exactly as it was in Inventor. After making the change to the 3D model, the DWG version of the drawing updated automatically.

SolidWorks could create DWG files for export to vendors. It lacked the ability to be fully associative with the SolidWorks 3D model. Adding dimensions or taking measurements in the scaled view in the resulting DWG drawing were not scaled correctly with the view. In this case SolidWorks added a dimension that showed as 64mm instead of the correct 32mm.

See how the Inventor engineer performed the test: 

See how our SolidWorks engineer performed the test: 

—-

The next blog in this series will examine design automation and creating drawings from the resulting design. Stay tuned or sign up to be notified of my blog updates.

—-

TechniCom tests (Part 5) – Inventor’s digital prototyping vs. SolidWorks for Export to BIM

Exporting BIM Ready Models

Continuing on with part 5 of our 8 part blog series dedicated to showing the differences between Autodesk Inventor Professional 2011 and SolidWorks Premium 2011 for digital prototyping workflows, we examine the ability to export MCAD models to BIM. Not just the models, but models that contain smart information needed by BIM systems. Besides the images we have videos below of how our engineers used each system to perform the test objectives.

In this test, we started with a complex assembly that had already been designed in the mechanical system. The goal was to export a simplified version of the assembly for inclusion in Autodesk Revit software (BIM software). The software should allow the user to reduce the level of detail in the exported file to protect proprietary design information, to indicate to the BIM software the category (window, door, HVAC, etc.) of the exported data, to provide types and locations for plumbing and electrical connections, and to be able to control the orientation of the exported part or assembly.

View of the chiller unit used in this test

Autodesk provided a video of the chiller and the workflow performing the desired steps. Also provided was an IGES file of the chiller with all the model details.

The key differences you will see demonstrated below

Autodesk Inventor has a dedicated workflow that communicates a lightweight version of the geometry with critical information like connection points and component types while maintaining all physical and visual aspects of the design in a file format that can be easily handled by the most common BIM applications.

SolidWorks does not have a dedicated workflow. SolidWorks 2011 added the ability to exchange simplified geometry data, but with limited amounts of component information due to the use of a neutral file format. It was not able to provide connection points or carry physical and visual properties over to the BIM system.

What’s Important in exporting BIM Ready Models

  • Provide lightweight BIM-ready models which can be directly incorporated into the building design process
  • Mechanical models should include unique architectural and construction information

Observations

Model Preparation

The first step was to simplify the model by suppressing proprietary and unnecessary parts from the assembly and removing details such as small holes, grilles, etc. This eliminates exposing intellectual property and also reduces the level of detail, avoiding large file sizes.

Inventor was able to suppress all unnecessary components easily. A shrinkwrap feature simplified the assembly with native and non-native data by removing small features and patching small holes, reducing the file size.

SolidWorks was able to suppress unnecessary components without issue. Because this was imported data, SolidWorks was unable to further simplify the designs, although had it been native data it may have been possible. Readers should note that the Inventor data, however, was native and thus a somewhat unfair comparison.

Orientation for Import

The second step was to orient the part properly for use in BIM software. Ensuring that models come in with the correct orientation removes the frustrating process of reorienting every time the product is inserted into a design.

Inventor allows the user to create and assign a custom local coordinate system that can be specified on export thus eliminating this issue.

SolidWorks can create a custom user coordinate system (UCS), but cannot use it when exporting IFC files (a BIM standard file format). A new assembly needs to be created with the product placed in the correct orientation. This workaround requires additional time to create the new assembly and creates additional data to manage.

Define Connection Points

The third step was to define connection points to the assembly with sizing and connection attributes. Mechanical, electrical, and plumping (MEP) engineers need to know the location, size, and type of connections required for the product when designing piping or wiring for the building.

MEP connection definition in Inventor

Inventor allows the user to specify the location of connections along with information about pipe size, wiring, connection method, system type (i.e. hot water/cold water/120v/240v/etc.), and flow direction.

SolidWorks is unable to assign connection properties, instead requiring the data to be manually communicated, a minimally acceptable alternative.

Data Export

The final step was to export the assembly to a file format that can be read into BIM software with the necessary attributes assigned. Inventor exports file formats that can be directly read into Revit or AutoCAD and can be included in Building Information Models.

Inventor model of the Chiller as it looks in Revit

Component types assigned in Inventor were carried over so no additional categorization was required. Additional properties are carried over, such as weight, size, and appearance.

SolidWorks exports IFC 2×3 neutral format files that can also be directly read into Revit or AutoCAD. Component type can be assigned on export and are carried over into Revit. BIM designers are required to manually assign additional properties.

SolidWorks model of the Chiller as it looks in Revit

Videos of each system performing the test

Watch the video of Inventor performing this test:

Watch the video of SolidWorks performing this test:

—-

The next blog in this series will examine interoperability and direct modeling of an imported model, focusing on importing a CATIA model, modifying it, and creating drawings. Stay tuned or sign up to be notified of my blog updates.

—-

TechniCom tests (Part 4) – Inventor’s digital prototyping vs. SolidWorks for a clevis pin design/analysis

Assembly Design and Analysis

Continuing on with part 4 of our blog series dedicated to showing the differences between Autodesk Inventor Professional 2011 and SolidWorks Premium 2011 for digital prototyping workflows, we examine the ability to select and analyze the correct clevis pin for the assembly shown below.

Assembly with clevis pin indicated by orange dot

This test focuses on the design of a clevis shear pin and its related holes in this hydraulic clamping assembly. The pin needs to be optimized so that if a failure occurs, the pin fails and not the other components. We’ll seek a factor of safety of 2 for the clevis pin, and 4 for the rest of the assembly. The Clevis Pin shear pin must withstand 250 N force with a factor of safety of 2. The bending force on the pin is important. If it exceeds maximum allowance the pin cannot be removed. The pin should be sized to meet the forces at the designated safety factor and fit within the support structure. The pin should further be selected from a standard library of components and created with the size required. The design calculations should be stored for documentation.

Autodesk provided a Parasolid model of the above assembly and a video of Inventor performing the design and analysis to select the proper pin to fit within the clevis opening.

The key differences you will see demonstrated below

Both Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks can solve this problem; however there are important differences in the steps required to complete the exercise and the confidence in the engineering optimization.

Inventor executed all of the steps within one command sequence. SolidWorks uses separate commands for each of the three key steps. Both Inventor and SolidWorks seem to have an equally robust clevis pin library, and automatic sizing capability.

The engineering calculation is the differentiator in the example. For this problem Inventor designed a solution using its engineering calculations library for clevis pins. The only solution offered by SolidWorks was to use FEA, which in this case, proved to be difficult to verify and is a questionable strategy.

Inventor users have the ability to leverage standard engineering calculations shown below which are included in design accelerator tools. In this test we examine the clevis pin generator. The same concept applies to bolts, bolts, frames, shafts, gears, bearings, belts, chains, keyways, cams, splines, o-rings, and springs. Inventor does not require the user to know or learn the engineering equations; the software does it for you. In the case of using FEA, the engineer must be concerned with the accuracy (error) inherent to FEA methods, necessitating a higher skill set, and certainly more time. Inventor’s automation of standard engineering calculations provided a better solution and reduced design time.

What’s Important in Assembly Design and Analysis

  • Select the most appropriate purchasable clevis pin that meets the specifications
  • Weigh design decisions that affect cost, product reliability, and weight
  • Evaluate the performance of the final design

Observations

Inventor executes all of the steps (make the hole, insert the pin, perform the engineering calculation) required within one command (feature). SolidWorks uses separate commands for each of the three key steps. Both Inventor and SolidWorks seem to have an equally robust clevis pin library, and automatic sizing capability.

The engineering calculation is the large differentiator in the example. Both Inventor and SolidWorks offer integrated finite-element analysis (FEA). However, using FEA methods for this kind of problem is a questionable strategy. Autodesk prompted the user to determine the correct pin size by using its engineering calculations. SolidWorks does not provide this kind of functionality. SolidWorks’ concept was to have the designer select the pin size and then perform an FEA analysis in an iterative fashion to arrive at the correct sizing. SolidWorks was able to use its own no-charge Simulation Xpress to perform the FEA analysis. SolidWorks Simulation Xpress is a first-pass basic stress analysis tool that comes with every SolidWorks Standard and Professional software package, offering limited FEA functionality.

Design Accelerator in Inventor

SimulationXpress environment in SolidWorks

 

Standard engineering calculations (analytical methods) exist for this situation, making FEA methods unnecessary/overkill. The FEA boundary conditions necessary for this case present a convergence issue (singularity) for most solvers. This increases the expertise required to verify the accuracy of this FEA study with any level of certainty. Some FEA programs will simply never reach a reliable result for this case. This is typically referred to as a divergent case. SolidWorks Simulation Xpress did not allow us to individually manipulate the mesh to test for convergence.

See how Inventor solved the problem in this video.

See how our engineer solved the problem with SolidWorks.

Here are the calculations  Inventor uses to solve the clevis pin selection.

Engineering equations Inventor used for the clevis pin calculation

—-

The next blog in this series will examine exporting a mechanical design to a BIM system. Stay tuned or sign up to be notified of my blog updates.

—-

TechniCom tests (Part 3) show why Inventor’s digital prototyping outshines SolidWorks in Plastic Injection Mold Design

Plastic Injection Mold Design

Continuing on with part 3 of our blog series dedicated to showing the differences between Autodesk Inventor Professional 2011 and SolidWorks Premium 2011 for digital prototyping workflows, we examine the ability to design and validate molds, starting with a pre-designed part.

We show below, using videos from both systems,three major design aspects of mold design:  the ability to use a 3D model of a plastic part to create the core and cavity of the mold, designing and engineering the multiple components and systems of the mold, and validating the design to ensure it can manufacture high-quality plastic parts.

Simple mold design used in this workflow test

Autodesk provided us with a model of the handle to be molded, detailed specifications for the mold, and three videos of Inventor performing the desired tests showing the workflow for splitting core and cavity, engineering of the mold, and a simulation and validation of the mold.

The key differences you will see demonstrated below

Autodesk Inventor provides standard libraries of mold bases and components along with automated tools for splitting the core and cavity and for designing the runners, gates, and cooling and ejection systems. The inclusion of Autodesk Moldflow simulation software directly in the design workflow allows designs to be validated and improved upon until they will optimally manufacture products of the highest quality.

SolidWorks includes dedicated functionality for splitting the core and cavity, but that is where the mold design capabilities end. With no automated design tools and no libraries of components, the design of injection molds is entirely manual and inefficient. Without any built-in plastics simulation capabilities, mold designers must purchase third party software, such as Autodesk Moldflow, often at significant cost, to validate and optimize their designs to ensure quality.

What’s Important in Plastic Injection Mold Design

  • Balance of speed in designing the mold while ensuring high quality.
  • Accurate design of mold components including runners for injecting the plastic materials, cooling of the mold, and ejecting the finished part.
  • Iteration of the mold design with simulation to arrive at an optimal design.

Observations

Splitting the Core and Cavity

The desired result was to generate parting surfaces and complete the core and cavity operations.

Inventor parting surface generation

SolidWorks parting surface generation

Inventor used a mixture of automated and manual patching and runoff surface creation tools. Surfaces for simple holes and profiles were created automatically which increases productivity. Complex patching and runoffs were created using Inventor’s surfacing tools.

SolidWorks also assisted the user in splitting the core and cavity with automated and manual tools for defining the parting line and creating patching and runoff surfaces.

The two systems are comparable in capability. SolidWorks required a few more menu picks and interactions, but both came up with an acceptable mold core and cavity. SolidWorks generated an odd triangular shape in the area to be removed, but it was temporary and did not affect the final part.

See the video of Autodesk’s engineer using Autodesk Inventor to perform the core and cavity workflow using Inventor: 

See how our engineer used SolidWorks to perform the core and cavity operation:

Engineering the Mold

The tasks completed included: designing the runners, adding a submarine gate, inserting a properly sized mold base, inserting a sprue bushing, designing cooling channels, attaching pipe fittings for cooling channels, and adding ejector pins as specified.

Inventor completed this task using a built-in workflow for designing injection molds that includes libraries of mold bases and standard components as well as automated design tools for runners, gates, cooling channels, slides, lifters, and ejectors.

 

Automated ejector placement in Inventor

Manual ejector placement in SolidWorks

SolidWorks had no built-in functionality for designing injection molds. All standard components needed to be searched for and brought in from external content centers or supplier websites, a time-consuming process. All modeling was done manually as there are no automated design tools for the various systems of the mold. This made mold design in SolidWorks a tedious and labor-intensive process with low user productivity. SolidWorks was able to build the geometry required for the moldbase design, but it was a laborious process.

See the video of the Autodesk engineer performing the mold design:

See TechniCom’s engineer performing the mold design using SolidWorks:

Validating the Mold Design

To validate the mold design for manufacturability we needed to first determine the optimal molding conditions for the entire system as designed. Next, we performed a filling analysis to determine if the mold, as designed, could completely fill the cavity at acceptable quality. Then, we assessed the location of air traps and weld lines. Lastly, we performed a shrinkage analysis so exact figures could be input for core and cavity sizing rather than manually inputting generic percentages.

Inventor includes Autodesk Moldflow simulation built-in to the mold design workflow, which was used to simulate the filling phase of multi-cavity molds and their respective runner systems to validate manufacturability. A shrinkage analysis was also used to ensure cavities were sized based on the specific design, rather than relying on generic shrinkage factors from the material supplier.

Inventor validates the mold design.

SolidWorks has no built-in simulation capabilities and therefore had no ability to validate the mold design for optimum molding conditions or for a filling analysis that would help the user avoid manufacturing problems that can potentially result in huge expenses in both time and cost. SolidWorks was unable to perform any portion of this validation using its software or no-charge software, of which there was none available that we were able to find.

Users could use Autodesk Moldflow stand-alone software that would have the capabilities required, at extra cost. Our analysis did not include examining extra cost third party products. We only compared Inventor Professional to SolidWorks Premium. Therefore we do not have a video of SolidWorks performing the mold validation.

—-

The next blog in this series (Part 4) will examine designing and analyzing a clevis pin in a hydraulic clamping assembly. Stay tuned or sign up to be notified of my blog updates.

—-

TechniCom detailed tests (Part 1) show why Inventor’s digital prototyping outshines SolidWorks

Executive Summary (Part 1 of an 8 part series)

Last Summer (August 2010) TechniCom Group published a report comparing Autodesk Inventor and Dassault Systemes SolidWorks using our Delphi Expert Analysis methodology[1]. The results of this report were somewhat controversial; Autodesk Inventor scored better in all fifteen categories than did SolidWorks, including core modeling. The scoring for the Delphi Expert report was the result of a very detailed survey of eight expert users of the two systems, four experts for each system. The experts had comparable familiarity with their systems and comparable backgrounds.

Readers of that report evidenced hunger for more detailed information, one that might be less sensitive to opinions and be more factual. As a result, TechniCom worked with Autodesk to develop a series of tests between the two systems that might expose the differences between the two systems and perhaps highlight advantages Inventor might have as compared to SolidWorks.

We are publishing the results of this series of tests in an eight part blog beginning with this summary of the results. Every two days or so we will add the details of each test, concluding the whole series within the next three to four weeks. Videos and images of both systems performing the tests will be included. At the end of this blog series we will publish a pdf version of the complete report on http://www.cad-portal.com.

A little background up front:

  • Autodesk commissioned (paid for) the tests.
  • Autodesk specified the tests which it challenged TechniCom, using SolidWorks Premium 2011, to match the results.
  • The seven tests are in the seven categories where TechniCom’s Delphi Expert report showed Autodesk Inventor rated the highest.
  • Extra cost third party software was not to be considered. When we were able, we used no-charge third party add-ins for SolidWorks — none were needed for Inventor.

Deciding what to test

First we had to decide what to test and the scope of the testing.

Followers of the mechanical CAD market are no doubt aware of the term Product Lifecycle Management, often designated as PLM. Autodesk’s mechanical philosophy is to eschew developing PLM software in favor of digital prototyping.

The term “Digital Prototyping” has led to some confusion in the industry. One clear definition comes from IDC in a paper entitled “Digital Prototyping: Autodesk Strengthens Competitiveness of Worldwide SMB Manufacturers’, published October 2008. This whitepaper differentiates digital prototyping from PLM by noting that “PLM reaches from a product’s cradle to its grave. On the other hand, digital prototyping stops at the completion of the digital product and its engineering bill of materials . . . The beauty of digital prototyping is that designs can be tested out before they go to manufacturing.”

Thus, Autodesk’s definition of digital prototyping includes the basic functions of PLM — industrial design, design and engineering, data vaulting, and collaboration, without the post-manufacturing baggage.

Autodesk has been carefully steering its Inventor software product development over the past few years to enable workflows that take maximum advantage of seamlessly passing data among its built-in application solutions. Thus, what we see in Inventor today is a careful melding of technologies that Autodesk has acquired or built. Many of these technologies are not available as extra cost add-ons to the base software, but fully included as part of the Inventor software. Some example, of which you will see more later, include mold analysis software, mold base design capabilities, built-in advanced simulation, inherent design automation options, an intelligent part library, built-in engineering calculations, and many others. Not only are these available as an integrated part of Autodesk Inventor, but they are often combined to form workflows that aid in developing the digital engineering models.

Thus, when deciding the scope of what to test, we settled on a series of tests that focus on the areas in our Delphi Expert analysis where Inventor rated the highest. These areas include the following:

  1. Plastic Part Design
  2. Plastic Injection Mold Design
  3. Assembly Design and Analysis
  4. Exporting BIM-ready Models
  5. Interoperability
  6. Design Automation
  7. Mechatronics

Even deciding on these seven areas leaves a great many options to be tested. Autodesk decided on the detailed functions to be tested; Autodesk specified the seven tests in detail. They are aimed at comparing the two systems ability to perform common, real-world engineering workflows. These tests are not designed to be impartial; they are taken from standard demos used by Autodesk that were designed to represent a series of engineering workflows highlighting Inventor’s digital prototyping capabilities. Most of them, as the users will see from the blogs that follow in the next few days, are aimed at performing a complete design sequence. The complete eight blogs, including this summary, will cover the seven workflow tests we performed. We will include the details of what we tested, images and videos of the results, what we observed comparing the two systems, and our summary of how well each system was able to perform the desired workflow.

Tests specified by Autodesk

Autodesk provided TechniCom with the test definitions including videos of Inventor performing the desired task, starter geometry, related dimensions, and other relevant data, all described below within each test section. TechniCom’s task was to perform the same tests using SolidWorks Premium 2011. Because Autodesk provided much of the model data we were able to focus on the desired workflow details of each test rather than building geometry.

Autodesk commissioned TechniCom to perform these tests and to document the results.

Our approach

TechniCom, in collaboration with a Certified SolidWorks Professional (CSWP) performed and analyzed these tests during November and December 2010 using Inventor Professional 2011 and SolidWorks Premium 2011. To make the scope reasonable, we limited each vendor’s software strictly to what was included with the package or third party add-ins that we were able to find and download free of charge.

For the test definitions, we used the Inventor videos illustrating the work to be performed. We attempted to deliver the same results, as did Inventor, using SolidWorks Premium 2011.

As we publish the results of the seven tests, we will make available annotated videos of both Inventor and SolidWorks performing the tests on TechniCom’s blog at http://www.raykurland.com. Readers wanting to understand how the two products compared have the unique ability to review these videos along with reading our test summaries in this report.

We remind the reader that we compared Inventor Professional 2011 versus SolidWorks Premium 2011 with the restriction that extra cost third party software was not to be considered. When we were able, we used no-charge third party add-ins for SolidWorks — none were needed for Inventor.

Summary of the test results

We plan to provide more detail, including videos of both systems performing the tests, in a series of blogs beginning in the next two days.

Plastic part to be designed

In the first two tests, plastic part design and injection mold design, Inventor clearly outclasses SolidWorks. Whereas Inventor completed all aspects of the test, SolidWorks was unable to complete major portions of the analysis of the part and the mold.

Mold design used

Inventor was also able to design the mold significantly faster than SolidWorks due to the inclusion of automated tools for designing the various subsystems of the mold.

For the assembly design and analysis test, both systems were able to model the addition of a clevis pin. However, Inventor excelled in its ability to design the correct pin by coupling its engineering calculation library to the potential design. In other words, Inventor helped select the correct pin size because it was able to use its calculations concerning the required stress that the pin would need to perform correctly. This is subtly different than SolidWorks, which used its library to size the pin, but without taking into account its stress requirements.

Final assembly showing clevis pin

The SolidWorks approach was to design the pin and then analyze it in an iterative fashion using its built-in FEA solution until the specifications were met. In this case SolidWorks was unable to verify that its built-in FEA solution was correct. A more advanced version of the FEA solver would have been required; concomitant with more advanced engineering skills.

Chiller exported to Autodesk Revit

The latest release of SolidWorks added some BIM exchange capabilities, but Inventor’s BIM data transfer capabilities exceeded SolidWorks in key areas important to building designers. These included specifying connection points and component types that are carried over to the BIM-designer’s software. In addition, the mechanical designer using SolidWorks had a more difficult time orientating the model and simplifying a non-native model for export.

Bell housing

Our test of CATIA interoperability and direct modeling on imported models reiterated the widely known issue that SolidWorks does not directly import a native CATIA V5 file, even though both products are part of the same company. Direct modeling was comparable for both Inventor and SolidWorks, with SolidWorks being a little easier to use for the simple direct model changes we made. The SolidWorks drawing output in DWG format produced an incorrect dimension in a scaled view.

Copies of frame along a path

For design automation, our tests revealed two weaknesses of SolidWorks. SolidWorks with DriveWorks Xpress was not able to automatically scale drawing views to fit a part within the confines of a drawing after the size of the part was changed. Manual intervention was necessary. A second weakness was shown when scaling a copied assembly using 3D curves to define key points as the assembly was copied and scaled to other planes. Inventor was easily able to scale a copied assembly using drive curves; SolidWorks could, but required significant manual effort.

Electrical schematic and assembly

Both systems proved to be comparable in mechatronics where we tested the ability to build wire harnesses using schematic input from electrical software packages, albeit Inventor was able to do so with many fewer interactions.

Conclusions

Ray Kurland, President of TechniCom, knew that the tests were meant to highlight Inventor strengths, but was surprised that SolidWorks Premium 2011 was, in many tests, not able to do the work without adding pricey third party software. Duplicating Inventor’s capability on these tests with third party products will also make SolidWorks substantially more expensive than Inventor.

These seven tests underscore our contention from our previous Delphi Expert Analysis, that Inventor is a mature system that can more than effectively compete with SolidWorks and should definitely be considered for even the most complex situations.

The Inventor workflows illustrated in this series of tests are integrated and highly logical, enabling users to accomplish their design goals with minimal effort. Beyond that, we hope to have shown the value of Autodesk’s digital prototyping emphasis, which we expect will continue to evolve even further.

“I didn’t know that Inventor had this much functionality,” said TechniCom Group’s associate performing the tests, a CSWP. “I know that they acquired a lot of technology over the past few years, but I am surprised to see it all integrated so well into Inventor.”

Overall, TechniCom is most impressed with Inventor and the direction Autodesk is taking for the future. To keep abreast with our continued tracking of the industry and our reactions to Autodesk’s direction we advise readers to follow our blog and twitter feeds.


[1] “Comparing the Capabilities of Autodesk Inventor Professional 2011 and SolidWorks Premium 2010 Using TechniCom’s Delphi Expert Technique”, 9 August 2010, a paper by TechniCom Group, available at http://www.cad–portal.com.

PTC Creo, my thoughts and observations

29 Oct 2010: Yesterday, in downtown Boston and worldwide via the Internet, PTC announced Project Lightning, now renamed Creo. CEO and President Jim Heppelmann, noted that Creo is the Latin root of the word for creativity. The announcement lived up to its name. I was present at the live event in Boston. This gave me an opportunity to follow up with some questions in person.

By now you have probably seen or read about the announcement. If not, you can see more at http://creo.ptc.com. I want to give you my thoughts and observations on the product and how it might change the CAD game.

First I was surprised. I had expected a much more mundane announcement. What PTC did was fundamentally change the direction of their approach to CAD.

To put it simply, PTC is marrying its Pro/E, CoCreate, and ProductView technologies, mixed in with a connection to Windchill for managing complex BOM assembly configurations. It turns out the ProductView is a key element to the AnyData strategy. Similar to JT, ProductView enables storing summary and detailed model data from 130 or so data formats. This will form the basis of the common data model mentioned in passing by Jim Heppelmann at an afternoon press conference.

4 new technologies were described that net out Creo’s ambitions:

  • AnyRole Apps
  • AnyMode Modeling
  • AnyData Adoption
  • AnyBOM Assembly

AnyRole Apps approaches the problem of CAD being too difficult to use and train, except for power users. For most other users the power of a CAD system with its myriad of menus and options is too daunting even for less complex usage. AnyRole Apps approaches the problem by implementing a wide variety of applications, each with a simple UI, designed only for specific user roles. AnyRole Apps are expected to come from PTC as well as its partner ecosystem. This concept generated a variety of questions. What might the apps cost? Will they be customizable by customers? If similar in concept to iPhone apps, what developer systems will PTC offer? Will there be an app store?

Three partners at the announcement were able to answer some of the integration questions. Luxion, Simpoe and Vistagy, all third party partners, were able to completely integrate their applications within Creo and demonstrate it today, after only a three-week lead-time. I had a chance to view the Simpoe plastic mold flow application. It operated totally within the Creo UI and directly read and wrote to a common data model. Options windows opened to allow input to the application. Vistagy claimed s similar, easy to integrate experience.

AnyMode Modeling ties together parametric (history based), direct 3D modeling and 2D. The concept is to allow designing in either mode, or a mixed mode. Designs can “float back and forth with no loss of design intent or flexibility.” The difficulty is usually in working with direct models in parametric mode. The technology for AnyMode Modeling was not discussed and I was left with the impression that most PTCers I spoke with either did not know any details about how worked or were purposely vague about it. I questioned a few about how similar it might be to Autodesk Fusion which converts direct model changes to parametric models and the answer I typically got was: Creo’s direct-parametric modeling was more robust.

AnyData Adoption recognizes the proliferation and need for data from multiple CAD systems. PTC describes that as allowing all types of data to flow in. More than just understanding non-native CAD data, Creo “adopts” the data and treats it as a legitimate family member. The data is treated as much more than an unintelligent blob as most systems do. Using the beauty of direct modeling Creo can change the non-native data by recognizing and allowing alterations to its inherent geometry constructs. Modifications can be exported to the originating system. Originating system changes can be brought back into Creo, although it is not clear how this would work since Creo may have already modified the geometry.

AnyBOM Assembly optionally incorporates Windchill to allow serial number configurations. This should make the hardware vendors happy because this usually generates massive amounts of storage needs.

PTC is also rebranding the existing 3 technological apps as follows:

  • Pro/ENGINEER becomes Creo Elements/Pro
  • CoCreate becomes Creo Elements/Direct
  • ProductView becomes Creo Elements/View

Availability

PTC expects to ship Version 1.0 in the Summer of 2011 and Version 2.0 in the Fall, preceded by a Beta version in the Spring of 2011.

—-

Aaron Kelly explains the business model for DraftSight

What a shocker! The premier 3D MCAD software organization, Dassault Systemes, announced a pure 2D drafting product with the business side based on an open source software model that provides free software. To find out more about the why’s and wherefore’s, Ray contacted Aaron Kelly, the head of this new business unit. My explanatory comments are within the brackets [] .

Aaron Kelly

What is your new position?

My new position is to lead the DraftSight business unit. I report into the DS SolidWorks Brand and am the General manager for this business unit. [Aaron was in SolidWorks product management for many years and has been with SolidWorks virtually since its inception – 15 years. He is a well respected SW executive.]

Where does the DraftSight organization fit within the DS and SW company structure? Is DraftSight a stand-alone company? How big is it? How is it organized?

The DraftSight organization has its own P&L and is made up of DS employees around the world. The team is made up of about 24 people in training, customer support, technical support, development, QA, marketing, product marketing, and sales.

What is the sales model, considering that the product is free?

The sales model involves selling value added services and/or products that are compelling for DraftSight users. DraftSight is free, but we are offering a service called DraftSight Premium Service. The DraftSight Premium Service includes a concurrent network license, access to the API extension (and updates) and Technical Support directly from DraftSight. This service is offered through all the Dassault Systemes direct and indirect channels. [It costs $250 per user per year]

Who are the target customers?

The primary target customers are existing DS customers who have a need to work with 2D and DWG files. This is a need, up until now, we have not had a solution for.

What is the cost/benefit to proposed customers?

We are trying to make is easier for our customers to invest in 3D and related technologies. By offering a low to no cost 2D offering, our customers can invest money allocated for 2D and use it to invest in 3D. The important thing we are trying to achieve is a superior user experience. It starts with an easy to download, free to activate product, shaped by a free, vibrant community, and is rounded out by professional technical support options.

Is the DraftSight product meant to completely replace 2D software from other competitors?

No, not really. Many of our customers today use DS products and our competitor’s [2D] products side by side. We are happy we are solving our customer’s needs where we can. We want the opportunity to either offer new 2D to 3D users who need it, expand the usage of 2D to those users who need it, but maybe cannot afford it, or replace competitor’s 2D software wherever a customer sees value.

How does DraftSight interface with other DS products? With non-DS products?

Many products from 3D CAD (SolidWorks and CATIA) to PLM products from DS read DWG files that DraftSight uses.

A focus on 2D is new for DS. Why now and what’s to come?

We are trying to solve customer problems. Customers certainly need to 2D functionality and DWG file capabilities. We are trying to help our customers. I think you are going to see many improvements in terms of social innovation tools – we are going to listen to our users with better community tools, we are going to build DraftSight based on user feedback. [Aaron went on to discuss that he plans to use crowd-sourcing from customers to vote on and thus select enhancements that they want.]

Where does the underlying technology come from? Is it Graebert? What is the impact of the Ares announcement on DraftSight?

We have a partnership with Graebert to use the ARES platform with DraftSight. We are in a very close partnership with Graebert and endorse their products for sale that have a different value proposition from DraftSight. For example, ARES Commander has a richer API and 3D as well as other features that DraftSight does not include.

What is the product future of DraftSight?

DraftSight is in Public Beta today. We will be shipping a released product in the coming months as well as a Beta version of a MAC release and a Linux release. Each DraftSight version was written specifically for the platform intended – either Windows, Mac or Linux.

If it’s free, how do you make money?

We make money by enabling our customers to invest in 3D as well as offering services around the free DraftSight product (DraftSight Premium Services). [The product, released on 22 June, about two months ago, has already had in excess of 40,000 downloads. Many fewer have signed service agreements.]

Why is this different than other free CAD products that have failed to be successful?

Customers are looking for more than free software. They want a real product with a future from a solid company, along with a long-term commitment, performance, multi-language offerings, and global support. We are offering this.

Is it open source? How do third party developers work with it?

Open source is not what our customers want. We do not offer an open source version at this time. [Rather, customers under the subscription plan have access to the API’s for adding software. In my opinion, this will slow down the development since all new code has to be done by DraftSight’s limited development team. On the other hand, this allows complete control over the software for quality and makes for a simpler development process for DraftSight.]

What are the support plans?

We have free community support for all users. Users have the ability to post questions to the entire community for feedback. We also have a support offering today that will enable a user to call, e-mail or even request remote access when applicable to help them out.

For more information about DraftSight go to www.draftsight.com .

Ray posts whitepaper comparing Inventor and SolidWorks

10 Aug 2010: Yesterday I published a TechniCom Group whitepaper comparing Autodesk Inventor 2011 versus SolidWorks Premium 2010 to www.cad-portal.com. I suggest you read it carefully. The methodology used was a new research technology we have been exploring that uses our variation of the Delphi Expert Analysis. This technique has primarily been used in the past to survey experts, the aim being to predict the future. TechniCom adopted it to provide clarity in comparing complex systems such as CAD and PLM. We have also used a similar method to successfully analyze gaps in program plans that might reveal competitive opportunities.

More about this paper

This paper was not our original goal for this study. Rather, we were investigating the competitive positioning of Inventor’s upcoming (at that time) 2011 release as an internal project for Autodesk. Autodesk was particularly interested in exploring the fifteen functional areas shown in the paper, since they felt these were their strong points. Originally we proposed 24 Functional areas. I will share some of these additional areas with you below. Some of these, no doubt, would have shown SolidWorks scoring ahead of Inventor.

In any case, after the results of the expert scores were “normalized” and tallied we were surprised at the results; Autodesk also seemed surprised, but elated. Autodesk asked us to summarize and publish the results. We hesitated, but willing to stand by the results, agreed to write the whitepaper.

Other functional areas – not studied in this analysis

  • Ease of use
  • Installation
  • Third party offerings
  • No charge add-ons (not shipped with the product)
  • External user community
  • Sustainability design
  • Built in Content
  • Overall vendor support
  • Cost (initial and TCO)

Some independent comments on the web have called the report worthless. We could not disagree more. Take it for what it is – the subjective opinions of a limited number of experts familiar with the software. Several of the categories were so close that the voting could have easily gone either way.

Even more important, are that most scores of both vendors are well below the top score of 5. Reviewing these gaps shows that both of these leading vendors still have far to go before they are perfect.

11 Aug 2010: Clarification about the BIM functional area:

The study was not asking whether each system could perform BIM — rather the seven questions we asked the experts were focused on the interaction between a mechanical system and BIM. In essence, could mechanical parts be designed for use within a BIM system? Areas of focus included: managing the space requirements for the mechanical design within the building model, bi-directional data transfer, associative data management, and UI issues.

——–