A solid range of future technologies

Tom Shelley reports why engineers should make time to visit this year's Solid Modelling Show

Almost all engineering design now depends on CAD, most of it in 3D, at least in part. For this reason, a lively attendance and participation is expected at this year's Solid Modelling Show, on March 31st and April 1st, despite the minor inconvenience of the original venue being seriously damaged by fire.

However, most clouds have silver linings, and the Pavilion at the NEC will be much more spacious, airy and easier to walk to from Birmingham International Station than was the National Motorcycle Museum. Those coming by car will also find the venue convenient since if they head for the NEC S3 car park, it is only 300m away from the exhibition. For the truly lazy or heavily laden, there will also be the usual NEC shuttle buses.

Highlights of this year's show will undoubtedly be presentations by SolidWorks about the use of their software to design the robot arms on the successful Mars Rovers (see our cover feature story) and what can be done with the latest Adobe PDFs. Acrobat 6.0 played a crucial role in the robot arm story, and Adobe is going to install a mini-theatre to showcase Acrobat 6.0 Professional and the PDF format. Over the past ten years, use of the format by the engineering community for sharing and archiving drawings has made a major impact on the sector, without any major push from Adobe. Now, Adobe has developed specific features for engineering users.

Free seminars to rest the feet and stimulate the mind

The seminars too will once again form an extremely useful - some people will say the most useful - part of the event. One benefit from the changed venue will come from the fact that both show and seminars will be contained within the same single-floor hall. For the first time at Solid Modelling, exhibits, demonstration suites, restaurant, bar, coffee area and seminar theatre will all be closely integrated.

Day 1, March 31st, will be address topics nominated by end users. Nominated topics include: workstation optimisation, getting the most out of your CAD hardware; data translation and legacy data and managing data from disparate CAD systems; 2D documentation, portable data formats and documentation tools; real time visualization and rendering and bringing designs to life earlier on in the design process; knowledge-based design, knowledge capture , re-use, and engineering to order; best practices, systems integration and engineering business processes; viewing and collaboration and sharing engineering data across the enterprise; implementing a PDM system and avoiding the pitfalls; and data security and protecting your intellectual property within a collaborative environment.

On day 2, April 1st a full day of classes is to be hosted by the Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing Association. Topics covered will include: Rapid Prototype Systems, to be presented by Graham Tromans of the University of Loughborough Rapid Manufacturing Group; Rapid Prototype Applications by Joel Segal of the University of Nottingham; Rapid Casting by Richard Rogers of Rolls Royce; and Medical Applications by Richard Bibb of the University of Wales.

Morphing for manufacture
Delcam will demonstrate an extended range of morphing and whole model editing options within its PowerSHAPE hybrid modeller. Additional options within the latest release include: a new morphing method based on a control surface, the ability to retain the shape of features wrapped onto an underlying surface that is being modified, and the ability to undertake multiple morphs of different types on a surface or solid.

Morphing allows rapid styling changes to be made in a single operation that would otherwise require extensive, time consuming modification of the separate elements in a design. It is, therefore, ideal for the "what if" stage of new product development, when designers need to quickly generate a number of variations on a new concept.

In the new control surface method, the distance for which the model follows the new surface can be specified, as well as the decay curve through which the modified shape transitions back to the original model.

The Komfort cruiser, a car safety seat designed by Ove Industrial Design of Toronto is said to showcase the capabilities of PowerSHAPE. Senior designer Stacey Gay said that the client wanted to progress from seats made of cut foam to a formed product with a flowing design that would wrap round the child.

She explained that solid modelling is great for building rough models of internal components, but, "When you want something that's more organic and curvy, then the surface side gives you more freedom to shape the model." Using solid modelling alone, without the surfacing tools on a project like the Komfort Kruiser, "Would take you much longer."

Autodesk offer 'superior' alternative to PDFs

As well as demonstrating the latest versions of their mainstream CAD software, Autodesk will be promoting its DWF Writer, a free downloadable application that gives designers the capability to create Design Web Format files from any CAD or Microsoft Windows application, including Bentley Microstation and SolidWorks. The software is freely downloadable from www.autodesk.com/dwfwriter and allows users to publish multi-sheet designs into a single DWF file. It is also to form a key component of soon to be released Autodesk DWF Composer, which will additionally provide view and mark-up capabilities.

Project wall helps with management

Alias, partnering with reseller < ahref=" www.annextechnology.co.uk">Annex Technology, will be showcasing its StudioTools product range for design, styling and surfacing including DesignStudio, Studio and Image Studio, and also PortfolioWall. The latter is a large scale project management tool to allow teams to effectively view, share, annotate, manage and made decisions on visual digital assets. All visitors to the stand will be allowed to enter a free prize draw to win a copy of Alias Sketchbook Pro, a pen based sketching package for Tablets and Tablet PCs.

Software uses intelligence

Much time and effort can be saved by using software that captures design and engineering knowledge as rules in order to automate the design process. A low cost software package that does this very well is DriveWorks. Enthusiastic users include Whale Tankers and The Rossendale Group, makers of 'Safelift' lifting equipment. A large proportion of the company's product design work is based on rules. At the time of the software investment, Rossendale's Managing Director, Simon Bamford said, "We expect to reduce the time taken from design input to output of manufacturing drawings, materials lists and calculations for standard products from an average of 16 hours to 1 hour. We also expect the output to be more accurate, comprehensive, consistent and reliable." Four months later, Sarah Clegg, who uses the software on a daily basis said, "To start with, we captured the stress and strain rules for spreader beams. We can now apply the equations for each individual product and in one recent example, we were able to specify a 340 tonne spreader beam in just 10 minutes. In the past, it would have taken half a day to do the calculations and drawings by hand and so as a result, the greatest spreader beam that we would have quoted for would probably have been 150 tonnes.

"The output from DriveWorks includes all the drawings, 2D and 3D, the cutting list, bill of materials and manufacturing data required."

Data fixed with increasing sophistication

TranscenData Europe will be demonstrating CADfix 6.0. John Meaney, Sales and Marketing Director at TranscenData Europe comments: “In a dynamic and visual industry like solid modelling, exhibitions are a great place to launch something new. CADfix 6.0 is a mature and feature-rich data interoperability solution, which will match and often exceed expectations of capability and performance. We know we’ve got something worth shouting about, and Solid Modelling gives us the opportunity to do just that.”

As well as CADfix, visitors can discuss DEXcenter, for engineering supply chain integration, CADIQ, for model data integrity and quality testing and IGESworks, for 2D and 3D IGES file flavouring.

Emphasis on PLM

UGS PLM Solutions, the product lifecycle management subsidiary of EDS, will be exhibiting its recently launched Solid Edge version 15 software, as previewed in Eureka's February 2004 edition. Version 15 unites web and product data management software to provide tools that enable access to information while maintaining control of accuracy, integrity and currency of data in a secure manner. It is the first application of its kind to support Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services and SQL Server 2000 to give advantages in performance, scalability, and administration.

Solid Modelling 2004 show and seminar programme

Tom Shelley

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