Manufactured products — from airplanes and automobiles to kitchen appliances and sports equipment – are increasingly complex. New strategies in design and manufacturing are necessary in order to accommodate this complexity, while at the same time, enabling companies to lower cost and increase quality.
For most design and manufacturing firms, this requires a collaborative design environment, where no matter what design change is made, information is always up to date on the entire product model. 3D CAD modeling enables this type of downstream communication, including Product and Manufacturing Information (PMI) such as tolerances, dimensions, and special annotations directly within the model itself.
This “single-source” of truth keeps all stakeholders fully informed. 3D models serve as a master data, depicting design intent better than any 2D CAD drawing could ever do. As 2D drawings are phased out and 3D models take over, all of the product definition, geometric dimensions, tolerances (GD&T), datum features etc. are visually highlighted on the 3D model.
Benefits of 3D modeling for design and manufacturing include:
- More accurate interpretation of designs for fewer errors during manufacturing
- Eliminates time required to manually update an entire series of drawings for a design change
- Improves product quality through “virtual” inspection process prior to manufacturing
- Speeds manufacturing time because fewer, if any, manufactured prototypes are required
The added PMI information is one aspect of 3D modeling that contributes to the power of 3D modeling. For instance:
- The more comprehensive upfront analysis is possible
- Dimensions can be checked, as well as tolerances
- Suitability of the manufacturing process can be confirmed
- Costs can be more easily calculated prior to the start of manufacturing
Design to Cost
The ability to calculate accurate costs prior to manufacturing has led some firms to embark upon a DTC (Design-To-Cost) approach to manufacturing. DTC is a systematic approach to controlling the costs of product development and manufacturing. The basic idea is that costs are designed “into the product”, from the earliest stages of conception and design.
By making the right design decisions as early as possible during concept and design, unnecessary costs during manufacturing can be avoided. What this means is that cost becomes a design parameter equally as important as geometric dimensions, tolerances, and other traditional PMI.
3D CAD modeling brings unparalleled sophistication to basic design functions, empowering design engineers to pay extensive attention to detail. By trying various design and manufacturing solutions within the virtual model, engineers are free to let their imaginations soar, coming up with unique ideas that may have been unheard of even a few years ago.
As 3D CAD modeling techniques gain popularity and become more sophisticated, manufacturing stands on the brink of changes that require design intent to be part of the conception of every new product design.
Design intent provides a “perfect world” representation of the component that enables future revisions and changes of one section within the model to be interpreted throughout the design so that the engineer can see the results of the change in the overall design, rather than just as a basic shape change in one section. As designers are required to consider the consequences of any changes they make, we’re betting design and manufacturing will make unimagined strides going forward.