Design Apps to Speed the Design Process

Design software vendors are continually releasing new applications to hurry design and shorten the distance and time from idea to final manufacturable blueprint, helping design engineers accelerate their companies’ speed to market for new products. Here are a number of apps that streamline the design process with the goal of getting the products to end-users as quickly as possible.

Mobility and tablets

While mobility may seem to be an odd value proposition for the traditional design engineer hunched over a workstation, on-the-go design is gaining traction. “There’s a push toward mobility and tablet-based design software because it’s quite simply the most agile solution for design engineers,” Alistair Munro, director of business development at Lean Design Canada, told Design News. “It also facilitates the important bond that should exist between design and manufacturing.

Munro notes that mobility helps the design engineer capture quickly a concept or an idea from inspiration acquired on the factory floor. “The closer the two camps of design and manufacturing can mesh and collaborate, the better the world of manufacturing will be.”

He points to a couple of recent products that support mobile design. “From a pure design perspective, the main two candidates come down to Autodesk’s AutoCAD 360, with its Force Effect apps, and Siemens Solid Edge ST8,” said Munro. “Both camps have expanded the abilities of their software to easily create concept designs while also being cloud and mobile capable.”

He notes they also offer subscription-based licensing, which he believes will likely become the standard pricing model in the coming years. “Also, both parties are collecting myriad smaller app companies with a variety of capabilities. They’re integrating these into their latest products,” said Munro.

Munro points to a number of other mobile apps that can be used in collaboration with full design programs that have specific niche purposes. “A good example is the Weight Reduction Material Selector (WeRMS) app, which is a tool for lightweighting exercises,” said Munro. “WeRMS allows your design team to quickly input desired performance or strength variables and then compare a wide variety of materials to achieve your weight and cost goals.”

Solid Edge ecosystem

Solid Edge software from Siemens PLM has been churning out new native applications. “We have over 200 technology partners in the Solid Edge ecosystem, and we are definitely seeing more demand for add-on apps, especially as the traditional definition of mechanical CAD broadens into other areas and intersects with more functions within a business,” John Fox, vice president of marketing for mainstream engineering at Siemens PLM, told us.

As an example, Fox points to Quadrispace, which offers add-ons for Solid Edge that take a 3D model and produce technical documentation that can be used by manufacturing, marketing, and sales. “Users can easily produce illustrations, exploded views, and assembly instructions and publish them in PDF form or on the web in HTML5,” said Fox. Another app in the ecosystem, Dynamic Designer, embeds advanced simulation capabilities into Solid Edge with full associativity. “With this app, users can apply different loads to a model, change aspects of the design, and really understand the physics behind the model before it’s manufactured, reducing errors and saving time and money,” said Fox.

In another example, Zuken’s E3.series integrations with Solid Edge enable users to integrate the worlds of electrical CAD and mechanical CAD. “This is more important than ever as product designs increase in complexity and space is at a premium,” said Fox. “All the connections defined by the electrical design are brought directly into Solid Edge, where the designer can tackle the mechanical placement and routing.” The goal is to streamline the process of producing an integrated design and removing bottlenecks created by handoffs between departments.

Autodesk Inventor

Carl Smith, manager of professional services manufacturing solutions at Imaginit, an Autodesk reseller and trainer, notes that Autodesk Inventor’s ability to use tools built into the software to capture and exploit engineering rules, or tribal knowledge, is one of the most compelling aspects for most designers. “I can write a set of rules that define a design concept like Heavy Duty or Off Road that allows the parameters and properties of the models and assemblies to configure themselves automatically,” he said.

Smith also points to a new app within Autodesk Inventor called Shape Generator. “In a nutshell, the designer supplies the constraints and design goals to a model, for example a 25% weight reduction, and Inventor will generate a shape that meets the criteria,” said Smith. He notes that this function alleviates the repeated model-test-model-test cycle. “It will be fun to see where this concept goes in the future,” Smith said. “Wouldn’t it be cool to have the technology query for manufacturability or cost reduction and suggest a solution?”

Comsol Application Builder

Another new app to help boost design is Application Builder from FEA and simulation software developer Comsol. Application Builder in the Comsol Multiphysics package enables users to build an intuitive interface to run with any model.

As an example, when dealing with power, you need to be mindful of how much current you can safely transfer. This is heavily dependent on the geometry of the wire and the loop. “One function of the app we created uses a parametric sweep to show how the number of wires affects the peak wire temperature at a set current,” said Brice McPherson, a senior staff engineer at APEI and a Comsol user. “Previously, we had to look these values up using tables that we generated from many sweeps in Multiphysics.”

McPherson notes you can now get that data without requiring an engineer. “The results are more accurate than what we would have achieved using the Multiphysics tables, since the information provided in the app is generated on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Application Builder allows Multiphysics users to run simulation on the go. “We provide tools to create simulation apps. The simulation has a lot of settings that allows you to answer questions such as: Can we make an interface wider to carry more current on a connector? You need more current, so you want it wider,” Valerio Marra, Comsol’s technical marketing manager, toldDesign News. “You can change the geometry of the interface. What if you could build a simplified interface so anyone could use it, not just an expert? So we change it in a simulation until it can carry more current.”

Changing the design in order to reach the product’s required parameters has typically been a long and drawn-out process, according to Marra. “Before, we had to look at all of the complexity. We would have to change the parameter and test it again. With Application Builder, we can test something three times wide with a simple simulation app. We build apps for this that you can use as a template.”

(Source: Design News)


Comsol corrugated horn antenna results

Model of a corrugated circular horn antenna. Simulation results show the electric field and radiation patterns around the antenna.
(Source: Comsol)

Assembly validation


Dynamic Designer Motion for Solid Edge enables complete motion validation of Solid Edge assemblies ensuring that designs work correctly and efficiently before they are built.
(Source: Siemens PLM)


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