CAD data finds new use in manufacturing supply chain, support organizations

3D CAD data has many other uses outside the engineering function—in computer-based training tools, for example, as well as in marketing and maintenance manuals. But making use of 3D data for such purposes presents a challenge because often it's too technical for the nonspecialist user, thereby requiring costly transformations that undermine the whole logic of reusing the design data in th...

02/01/2008


3D CAD data has many other uses outside the engineering function—in computer-based training tools, for example, as well as in marketing and maintenance manuals. But making use of 3D data for such purposes presents a challenge because often it's too technical for the nonspecialist user, thereby requiring costly transformations that undermine the whole logic of reusing the design data in the first place.

As a recent study by Boston-based Aberdeen Group argued, manufacturers seeking best-in-class performance must make it easier for nonengineering functions to both access 3D design data and repurpose it for use in the documents they typically produce.

“While generic technologies have been available for nonengineering use for some time, our findings show that specialized CAD data repurposing tools and 3D authoring solutions are key to adoption,” says Chad Jackson, research and service director, Aberdeen.

One vendor aiming to offer just that specialization is Anark Corp. , a privately held supplier of advanced interactive 3D visualization and data management products to customers as diverse as Boeing, Panasonic Avionics, the U.S. Air Force, Microsoft, and Sony.

Alongside the Anark Media Platform that such customers have purchased, Anark now offers the Anark Core Platform, a tool for the rapid transformation and distribution of use-appropriate CAD data throughout a manufacturer's supply chain and support organizations.



"We perform a host of functions that need doing before 3D data is usable—things like collapsing product structures, removing unneeded features such as holes and fillets, and stripping out unnecessary parts."

—Scott Collins, VP of product development, Anark Corp.

There are two important differences between Anark Core and general-purpose tools like Adobe 's 3D-capable Acrobat Reader 8, says Scott Collins, VP of product development, Anark. “First, we don't just translate the data: We perform a host of other functions that usually need doing before 3D data is usable—things like collapsing product structures, removing unneeded features such as holes and fillets, and stripping out unnecessary parts. Once transformed, we can feed the resulting 3D geometry into Adobe—making it available to the supply chain.”

Second, Anark automates the process. “In effect, the user builds a recipe specifying the operations that were performed to transform 3D data for a particular end-use purpose—thus rendering it repeatable as required,” explains Collins.

Both Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin and Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Rockwell Collins are using Anark Core to transform 3D CAD data for sharing information with internal departments, partners, and customers.

“Anark Core enables us to translate native CATIA data in a quick and straightforward manner,” says Marc O'Brien, senior research engineer, Lockheed Martin. “We import native CATIA data, modify it by removing unneeded attributes, and then export it into the correct form for animated interactive visualizations without relying on engineering in the process.”

According to John Reasoner, principal multimedia engineer for simulation and training solutions at Rockwell Collins, “Trainees who can view and interact with realistic virtual assemblies in a 3D environment are better able to retain the relevant information and more quickly develop operational proficiency. Anark Core allows us to develop training applications with product data that has been supplied directly by our engineers, saving a significant amount of expense and time typically associated with developing training materials from scratch.”





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