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Monday, August 26, 2002

Software change design department

LET us go down the memory lane and try to recollect the appearance of a design department of manufacturing unit. We would be reminded of the office being full of massive drawing boards with drafters attached to it. However, visit the same design department today and you will find computers loaded with latest software for product designing.

The field of Mechanical Computer Aided Engineering (MCAE) is changing rapidly with advances in computer hardware and software. In most of the industries, there is a tremendous pressure to continually shorten "the time to the market", while increasing the quality and the response time to the customer. This can best be achieved by increasing the productivity at the very beginning - the design stage.

Over the years there has been a gradual yet dynamic evolution of the software that have simplified the activities of design engineers and today, a design engineer can actually visualise the product being designed through simulation in 3D. Software that are in use are Micro Station, Auto CAD, Pro Engineers, I DEAS ETC. Each of these provide unique features of their own.

Drafting There is a major trend to carry out analysis early in the design cycle, combined with quick prototype to verify the design. Due to this, it has become important that the design engineer not only has to capture the geometry but also has to take care of changes and reflect the same on a real time basis. Starting with solid modelling, especially when making isometric and section views, it can generate drawings more quickly. Also 3D modeling helps in reducing the time considerably for designing jigs, fixtures, patterns, dies etc.

Testing In the traditional engineering design process, testing was done mainly to qualify the design after manufacturing. Through modern-day design software, the design engineer can analyse problems related to tolerance and interference in assemblies to save the cost of reworking and thus is able to identify and set right any assembly problems, if any. The software is able to give a fair idea as to how the design is going to perform as a product.

Simulation The designer can envisage the effect of structural and thermal loads on the product. Under structural simulation, software can calculate the deformation and the stress distribution due to loading conditions. Thermal simulation calculates the temperature distribution as a result of thermal loading and heat transfer.

Manufacturing The fundamental reason for designing a product is so that it can eventually be manufactured. In the traditional design cycle, manufacturing was often considered a step that came only after the design was complete. However with the application of the concurrent engineering software at an early stage in the design, the engineer can get answers to the such questions like "which process is best suited to produce this component" or "does the product need any geometrical changes in order to make it easier for manufacturing"

Development of CNC programs As the design progresses, software are able to develop the CNC programs for the product and the designer just has to define the choice between Sinumerik or Fanuc CNC system and the software does the rest. Also the option of integrating design to manufacturing results in optimising tool paths that cuts down the time for programming and machining. The precision of manufacturing of the product can be high as the software can generate highly accurate programs.