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Testing the latest 3D CAD developments by Andrew Stockdale
Over the last decade or so we haven’t seen any real big changes in 3D CAD modelling software. Computers have become more powerful and there’s been some added functionality and pretty ribbons, but no real showstoppers. Until now. So when we were approached by Dassault Systemes to assist in the ‘Lighthouse’ development programme for the next 3D modelling game-changer SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual – we jumped at the opportunity.
At Cambridge Design Partnership we use SolidWorks as our primary modelling tool, although ProEngineer and Alias are also used when necessary. SolidWorks is a parametric solid modeller; ‘parametric’ means the models can be adjusted after they are complete by changing dimensions which cause the models to automatically stretch. This allows the design to change during development with minimum rework. ‘Solid’ modelling means the programme can distinguish between material and space. This sounds obvious but means when you manipulate shapes it can correctly calculate the result both at the surface and inside the material, which is essential for engineering design.
As an innovative and forward thinking company, Cambridge Design Partnership was one of only a handful of companies worldwide that were selected to go through the ‘Lighthouse’ development programme. One of the main attractions that led to us getting involved was the development that SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual has already undergone to progress the role that 3D modelling plays in the design process.
The software has been developed from the base up, with more instinctive tools to harness both the flexibility of pen and paper and the flexibility of computer aided design for concept generation. SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual gives the designer the ability to quickly sketch a potential design and then check the motion characteristics to ensure it is feasible. If the concept has merit it can be quickly progressed into a 3D model, developed further with the 2D mechanism motion underlying the design. Further product validation can be carried out by structural simulation to ensure adequate strength and stiffness.
SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual has been developed not only with the designer in mind, but also for others who are likely to be engaged in the design process; in our case that could be a client, so that we can innovate in unison. Working together in this manner is referred to as the ‘collaborative’ element to the software, which allows others to get involved in the design process along the way. This can include marking up the CAD model and adding it to an online discussion thread to create a design history file that everyone on the project has access to. The latest CAD data and design files are available whatever your location as the system is run from The Cloud. This allows access only to those with permission and a gives a whole new level of flexibility to the 3D modelling process.
At Cambridge Design Partnership, we take pride in involving our client through every stage of the design procedure and this software could help to promote a closer relationship by giving access to designs 24 hours a day, from any part of the world.
Our involvement in the programme includes creating new concepts and taking them through the design process whilst testing the new platform at different stages of its development. By providing this feedback to SolidWorks, it allows the product to be developed using real world testing and input, so that they can ensure what they are offering is an optimised solution. We are pleased to be partnered with SolidWorks on helping to develop what should be a step change in 3D modelling, with a positive impact on the design process.
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