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December 8, 1998

4 Min Read
CAD/CAM veers toward tool design

What segment of the market for computer-aided engineering requires good part design, great translations, excellent surfaces for machining, and rhymes with gold? Yes, mold designs are now being mined by software developers, especially those at the Computer Technology Solutions show (formerly Autofact) in Detroit several weeks ago. Many CAM vendors are targeting tool design, which they see as a growing market with specific needs, by tailoring or enhancing existing packages. On the other hand, CAD developers are working at the part design level to ensure easier translations with mold design ware, better surfacing features, and more tools to aid design for moldability. In addition to these trends, IMM also spotted a greater number of low-cost viewer packages for communicating design data to all parties involved in product development without the need for a CAD system.

CAE Tools for Plastics

Cimatron's focus is squarely on CAD/CAM for tooling, and president & CEO Dan Marinac reports all R&D efforts now stem from this goal. Not surprisingly, the company announced improvements to its MoldBase 3D module. More than a 3-D solids mold-base library, the package offers object-oriented parametrics for the mold designer and includes complex parting line capabilities, automatic bill of materials, parametric editing for all components, and automatic NC on mold plates. Look for more improvements in the next version of Cimatronit, which contains a direct data interface for Catia files. Pricing information was not available at press time. Phone: (905) 639-0802.

SolidWorks 98Plus, the sixth release of the popular Windows-based 3-D modeling system, includes new part modeling and assembly features that plastics designers should find helpful. A function called Shape adds more free-form capability by letting users manipulate faces with pressures, points, and curves. Another new item displays nonplanar parting surface options for mold design with a simple pick-and-extrude mouse click. Snap-to-fit function lets designers drag a part into the assembly view, where it snaps into one of several positions automatically or is placed by the user. Like previous versions, the package sells for $3995. Phone: (800) 693-9000.

Delcam's PowerShape, says Steve Sivitter, vice president-North America, is a new generation of surface modeler that bridges the gap between solid modelers and toolmakers' needs. Features include flexible 3-D wireframe and surface modeling for faster designs and modifications; automatic separation of core and cavity surfaces; and automatic generation of split lines, draft surfaces, and run-off surfaces. The real gem, though, involves rapid repairs for imported models, such as converting a wireframe into surfaces, adding missing surfaces and fillets, and correcting poorly trimmed surfaces. Prices start at $8000. Phone: (519) 974-8088.

Baystate Technologies' Cadkey package for the PC has definitely grown up in the past few years, and the '98 version is no exception. The software of choice for many toolmakers because of its ability to bring in pure geometry from multiple CAD systems, Cadkey 98 boosts its surface capabilities by adding a rolling ball surface function for better blending of spline faces and other knotty items. With FastSolid now integrated, users can modify and verify imported 2-D and 3-D data as if the files were created natively. Cadkey Design Suite, a package that also contains FastSurf, lets mold designers modify solids, surfaces, or wireframe models without constraints, and generates associative, 2-D engineering drawings. Cadkey 98 with integrated Acis 4.0 and FastSolid is priced at $1995; Cadkey Design Suite will be sold for $3995. Phone: (508) 229-2020.

Unigraphics, known for its automotive/aerospace affiliations, came up with a Windows-based solids package not long ago that reaches beyond heavy industry. Solid Edge version 6 incorporates a lip function that creates an interlock on mating plastic parts along with a feature that supports cavity design by subtracting a body from the part. Advanced surfacing tools such as swept and lofted surfaces and projecting a curve onto a surface appeal to free-form plastics designers. Prices were not available. Phone: (800) 807-2200.

MSC, another aerospace industry provider, debuted MSC/Nastran for Windows NT, a midrange package ($10,000 to $15,000) that performs FEA using a midplane mesh. A second analysis option, MSC/InCheck, can be embedded in Autodesk's AMD, SolidWorks, and Solid Edge and ranges from $2500 to $7000. Products are based on MSC's Nastran solver and Patran analysis system, which offer direct access of Catia geometry without translation. Phone: (213) 258-9111.

Designs with a View

Solid Concepts released version 3.2 of SolidView, software that makes it possible to view 3-D designs on a PC, regardless of their source. Now supporting OpenGL, a widely used 2- and 3-D graphics interface, the package offers more advanced rendering features and colors as well as 2-D annotations to 3-D geometry. Upgrades are free for existing SolidView 3.0 customers and run $198 for 2.1 users. Phone: (805) 257-9300.

Actify offers 3D View 3.0, a Windows 95/98/NT viewer with large model assembly management and native Catia and SolidWorks file import. Features include dimensioning, measurement, real-time cross sectioning, and secure e-mail exchange for models and views. Users can rotate solid models within Powerpoint presentations, export them to web pages, or build product catalogs with 3-D rotation. To try a free copy for 30 days, check www.actify.com. Prices are $140 for 3D View, an additional $50 for SolidWorks import, and $355 more for Catia. Phone: (415) 647-6504.

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