Product development pros: SpaceClaim offers CAD-neutral modification; Ansys explores engineering knowledge manager

Vendors demo new design and engineering capabilities to expand organizational and individual productivity as more people impact product development across the manufacturing enterprise.
By Manufacturing Business Technology Staff September 28, 2007

SpaceClaim shows progress with CAD-neutral modification system

At a major auto manufacturer, 34,000 employees have license to access the product life-cycle management (PLM) system. Of those, only about 5,000 are CAD users.

Michael McGuinness, COO of SpaceClaim , says that ratio of nearly 7:1 is indicative of users’ appetite for product information. Today, the 3D product model is the depository of record for that information, so it’s fair to infer that organizational and individual productivity will improve if more employees interact directly with 3D models. The amount of training required to master most CAD systems makes that unrealistic.

SpaceClaim released its first product—SpaceClaim Professional 2007, described as a “CAD-neutral modification system”—in March.

SpaceClaim’s approach, says CEO Michael Payne, has three main advantages. First, it makes it easier for a more casual user to interact with 3D data models. Second, as indicated, it is platform-agnostic. And finally, it overcomes many of the limitations inherent in parametric feature-based systems.

Payne, a cofounder of both PTC and SolidWorks, says while the advent of parametric-based design was undoubtedly a breakthrough, today it is constrained by limits in computing power that no longer apply. SpaceClaim’s approach, which could be described as “dynamically parametric,” delivers more freedom within a design’s evolution.

Projected uses of SpaceClaim Professional include exploring design concepts; design analysis, efforts aimed at manufacturability; design review; and engineering change management.

Since its March introduction, SpaceClaim has raised additional funding, acquired 98 customers involving more than 500 software licenses, and inaugurated relationships with more than 20 resellers in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

Ansys , vendor of simulation software used in product design, completed its acquisition of Fluent , a provider of simulation solutions based on computational fluid dynamics, in May 2006.

Eric Grald, Ansys director of technical services, says the combined companies are further integrating product lines in recognition of current trends in analysis software, and software systems in general.

Given increased computing power, it’s now possible to do analyses that look at several parameters simultaneously—e.g., fluid dynamics and structural analysis. Moreover, the size of the models involved has risen to include tens of millions of cells, and might encompass an entire aircraft. Finally, analysis processes, says Grald, can be compressed so as to examine how a product will perform over time and widely varied conditions.

Yet with so much freedom in analyses, says Grald, there are more data management challenges involved.

For that reason, Ansys is working with select customers on an “engineering knowledge manager” that will eventually be available as a solution. The system 1) defines who has access, can modify, and reuse analyses; 2) standardizes processes related to knowledge capture; and 3) supports data mining and search. The solution can in turn be integrated with product life-cycle management (PLM) repositories, which are optimized for managing 3D and other kinds of information.