Has CAD delivered on its promise?

CAD (computer aided design) was a major boost to engineering productivity in the early 1980s. The capability of having drawings in digital forms, ability to overlay layouts to ensure form, fit and function were key enablers. As the usage of these software programs matured, the demand on additional features increased as well.

This led to the development of 3 D modeling capability; 3-D modeling was a huge step forward as it allowed for creating parts and assemblies and ability to
(1) Parametric modeling
(2) Capture design intent
(3) Associativity
(4) Finite element analysis capability
(5) Enhanced cam capability
(6) 3d rendering
(7) Interference / clearance checking

Over the last 10-15 years, the capability and maturity gaps between high-end and low-end CAD packages have reduced significantly. There has been some level of consolidation in the CAD space and software vendors have started creating more software packages to manage data (PDM, PLM) etc.

In my opinion, very few companies have mastered the art of the product data management specifically CAD data, which has resulted in lower re-use of existing components and wasted time and resources on recreating product data. Why is that?

Despite the promise of computer aided manufacturing (CAM) combined with the powers of comprehensive 3D modeling, very few companies have transitioned over to drawing less systems by utilizing CAM capabilities. Why is that?

Why is adoption of ASME 14.41 lagging? This standard supports the creation of 3D drawings with annotations and tolerance symbols. My $0.02, this could save $$$ in time and resources spent on creating product documentation via drawings.

I have long been a proponent of a single platform for product development using a single CAD tool. But this is an uphill battle in most large companies as companies go through acquisitions or relinquish control over product data management resulting in different groups using different platforms! This forms a major challenge to seamless collaboration. There have been a few promising software packages which allow for digital mockups by creating assemblies from different CAD packages. The major challenge here is that the mockups and changes done are not passed back on to the original CAD package. How can we enable cross platform collaboration?

Seamless integration with PLM/ERP

As the usage of PDM and PLM applications is increasing, there is an increased focus on the need product structure creation and maintenance. I would like to see complete integration between CAD and these applications so that editing of product structure (BoM) and attributes is seamlessly transferred in a bi-directional manner.

There has been some effort in analyzing part geometries to quickly identify if similar designs exist and promote re-use. This capability needs to be enhanced and promoted through out the user community.

In summary, we have come a long way but we can do more to improve how use the tools! We must innovate to try and identify more opportunities!

More postings on this topic to come...

"Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are my own only and in no way represent the views, positions or opinions - expressed or implied - of my employer (present and past) "
"Please post your comments - Swati Ranganathan"


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