Excerpt from OEM Off Hwy “Design on the go”
October 11, 2013
by: Sara Jensen
As technology continues to advance at an accelerated rate, engineers are having more constraints placed upon them during the development process. “But at the same time, timelines and budgets don’t grow,” says Noah Reding, Automotive and Aerospace Product Manager at National Instruments (NI, company information, 11151299), Austin, TX. “The teams aren’t necessarily larger and their timelines aren’t getting longer, so these engineers have to innovate quickly and their development cycles have to be very efficient.”
Companies like NI are continually looking for new technologies and methods that will speed up and simplify the design process for engineers. One of the growing trends is to make the design process more mobile so engineers are not limited to when and where they can work on a project. As a part of this, the use of mobile devices has grown throughout the engineering community, which has been made possible through increasing web and remote accessibility to design tools.
An easier component selection process with a Mobile CAD App
CADENAS PARTsolutions, in Cincinnati, OH, develops 3D part catalogs and catalog management solutions for manufacturers. The catalogs provide 3D views of all the parts available from a manufacturer and allow users to adjust various attributes to more easily find the right part for a design.
If searching for a hydraulic cylinder, for example, engineers can begin by looking at a base model in the catalog and select the various parameters necessary to meet their design needs, such as specifying the bore size of the cylinder. Each time an aspect of the part is changed, a new part number is generated that the engineer can use to order the part. In addition, the PARTsolutions system accounts for how a part actually moves in the real world. “Products as we deliver them are of the highest quality, as if a designer actually sat down and modeled [the parts] themselves in their native CAD systems,” says Jay Hopper, Chief Operating Officer of PARTsolutions. “We sometimes call them smart parts because they know how they’re supposed to behave and all critical engineering and purchasing data remains intact.”
Once a part has been appropriately configured to meet the needs of a design, a 3D model can be downloaded into whichever CAD program an engineer is using. Hopper says the company’s 3D catalogs support over 150 native and neutral CAD and graphic formats. Being able to provide part models in the exact same format as the design software engineers use reduces the risk of information being lost due to incompatibility of the files, thus minimizing the amount of time that may have otherwise been spent making the model work accurately with the design program. “Eighty percent of design engineers say they want to receive the product in the native format of the system they use,” he says. “We give the engineer an environment where they can get this product and in the exact format of the system they use to do their job and be confident that it’s exactly right.”
“The trend is that eventually every component manufacturer is going to have to offer this capability because it’s what engineers are demanding,” adds Jay Hopper, Vice President of Marketing at PARTsolutions.
Typically accessible on a manufacturer’s website, PARTsolutions has also begun making its 3D catalogs available in mobile app form on both Apple- and Android-supported devices. The app allows engineers to configure and preview various parameters of a part to get an orderable part number just as they would in the online version of the 3D catalog. Additional features can be included in the app as well such as the ability to scan QR codes, having news pages linked from a company’s website and distributor maps the help find the nearest distributor based on a user’s location. “This is a bit of an evolution,” says Hopper. “Nobody would have ever thought 10 years ago you could have a device that fits in your coat pocket that could do this 3D modeling and people could see all this [information].”
As the world continues to become more mobile, so will the engineering community as the availability of various design tools increases online, in app form and through various current and future mobile technology platforms.
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