3D CAD integrates with manufacturing

Tom Shelley reports on a few of the capabilities of PTC's latest version of Pro/Engineer, Wildfire 3



Faster, easier to use, and with improved collaboration tools, closely integrated with the PLM tools offered by the same company, PTC's Pro/Engineer Wildfire 3 has much to offer.

Pro/Engineer has always been noted for capability rather than ease of use, and even the company's Product Management VP, Michael Campbell said at the launch that, "Pro/Engineer is never going to be the easiest CAD system to use out there."

Perhaps for this reason, knowing that once users get used to a particular CAD system they tend to stick with it, the company is bringing out a Free Schools Edition with a US launch in March 2006 and a global roll-out starting September 2006.

Speed and ease of use have been enhanced in the new version by use of 'Dashboards', on-screen previews and drag handles. At the launch, we were shown how a jug could be imported as a 3D model, and then warped, stretched, sculpted and twisted. Surfaces could be removed from inside the handle, in order that it could be moulded solid, and we were shown how an area of the surface could be filled with a 3D pattern.

A 'Fast Sketch' facility includes a sketcher palette that automates the creation of common or standard shapes and supports Open Type fonts, working with a model in 3D. A 'Fast Assembly' facility includes an optimised workflow for assembling components, and real time collision detection, already available in many CAD products but new to Pro/Engineer. The system supports Windows XP-64 bit systems with their increased memory allocation and allows the multi-threaded retrieval of models for increased speed. Multi threaded regeneration may also be offered in future but is still being researched.

'Fast Drawings' includes the automatic clean up of drawing dimensions and the automated placement of drawing views. Shaded views may be placed in drawings. PTC is also one of the companies promoting the idea of annotated and dimensioned, shaded 3D drawing models as a communication aid, especially with the shop floor. Proven manufacturing processes in the form of an XML template may be attached to design geometry, so that manufacturing engineers may automatically extract proven processes from models.

'Fast Sheetmetal Design' includes various enhancements, including the ability to automatically include Mitre cuts while providing the necessary relief and avoiding overlapping geometry. Being built on full 3D models, it is also able to cope with potential problems such as non perpendicular holes.

As well as integrating closely with the Windchill PLM system, a 'Smart Share' facility allows models to be exported as a portable work space in a single, zipped file, which includes meta data and the permissions history. These can then be sent to a supplier or worked on by an engineer in a remote location. Because the management process comes with the model, unauthorised changes are prevented, and when returned, it can at once be seen what has been changed and when.

Prices are $5,000 for the entry level 'Foundation Advantage, $12,000 for 'Flex advantage' packages with some simulation or surfacing, or $20,000 for everything.

Wildfire 4, which will support 3D PDFs, is already under development, with its launch scheduled to be about 18 months away.

PTC
Pointers

* Ease and speed of use is enhanced by the wide usage of 'Dashboards', on-screen previews and drag handles

* A 'Fast Sketch' facility includes a sketcher palette that automates the creation of common or standard shapes and supports Open Type fonts

* Proven manufacturing processes in the form of an XML template may be attached to design geometry, so that manufacturing engineers may automatically extract proven processes from models

* Fast Sheetmetal Design' includes various enhancements, including the ability to automatically include Mitre cuts while providing the necessary relief and avoiding overlapping geometry.

Author
Tom Shelley

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