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Computer solutions starred at National Manufacturing Week.

National Manufacturing Week, held recently in Chicago, brought together three shows that would have filled the wish list of anyone wanting the latest computer hardware and software for automating design, analysis, and manufacturing operations.

Along with the usual CAD/CAM news--and there was plenty--the National Design Engineering Show turned the spotlight on some related technologies. And throughout the show, you could find evidence that some formerly high-end computer tools are now becoming appropriate for a broader user base. Look, for instance, at the new low-cost "reverse-engineering" system with tooling-maintenance applications. Or consider an easy-to-use CAE package from the makers of Patran finite-element analysis (FEA) software: It promises to give a wider variety of users the kinds of analysis abilities that were once the province of specialists.

Across McCormick Place at the Control Engineering and International Integrated Manufacturing shows, Allen-Bradley Co., Highland Heights, Ohio, discussed a new generation of its control software, called Proset 700, which now runs on a new 486-based industrial touchscreen computer. Other A-B products were also on hand, such as recent machine-vision inspection systems with optical character recognition (OCR) and new controls for automating SMC presses.

CAD/CAM NEWS

With CAD/CAM vendors seemingly coming out with new versions and enhancements every time you turn on your workstation, it's not surprising that much has happened even since the AutoFact show in Chicago last fall. For one thing, Euclid 3 from Matra Datavision, Inc., Tewksbury, Mass., has become commercially available in a new release since then. Version 1.1 combines previously separate solids- and surface-modeling modules into a single seamless package with a common database, whereas past versions required a conversion process to go from one to the other.

With the new "Adaptive Shapes" capability, users can work with "free-form models," which do not depend on a given construction sequence and do not need to be fully constrained until the end of the design process, explains v.p. George LeBlanc. Adaptive Shapes also provides Euclid's new feature-substitution abilities, where even the model's initial, or base, features can be easily changed at any time. In fact, all the model's features are easily changed because they exist in, and move relative to, global space rather than being tied to previously defined features, according to LeBlanc.

Another new capability called associative filleting automatically reconfigures fillets to keep pace with changing surface topologies. Also included in the new Euclid are an IGES viewer that lets Euclid work with files from other CAD/CAM systems; improved CAM and reverse-engineering functionalities; and "Mold Maker," which parametrically builds up models from a D-M-E mold-component library and even compiles a bill of materials automatically.

Cadkey of Windsor, Conn., announced a new, lower pricing structure for its latest release, Cadkey 7. Now the system will be available to new customers for $495, to Cadkey 6 users for $99, and to earlier customers for $250. Sporting a new Motif-like user interface with button icons and floating tool bars, this release integrates surface-modeling capabilities through FastSurf, includes a new drafting module from Baystate Technologies, Marlborough, Mass., new LISP programming interface, and a 3-D input device called Space-Controller. Cadkey runs on a 386 or higher DOS platform.

Parametric Technology Corp. of Waltham, Mass., talked about the imminent release of ProEngineer Version 13, which was due out last month. According to application engineer Peter Scherman, the new release reportedly simplifies selection of draft angles by providing a visual representation. You just point at surfaces needing draft, plug in the draft angle, and wait for the system to confirm whether your choice is feasible. In the past, the user had to scan through model information to check draft angles. Also, the company recently added Hasco standard and metric mold bases to its library of mold components.

Intergraph Corp. of Huntsville, Ala., showed its new EMS 3 CAD/CAM/CAE software. Though first introduced at AutoFact, the company recently started to deliver the first systems. EMS 3's enhancements include a new "solver" for thermal analysis and "Smart Sketch," which lets users constrain solid models by sketching on them. The company also has embedded EZ Flow, a simplified plastic flow-simulation package from AC Technology, Ithaca, N.Y., into EMS 3.

SIMPLIFYING CAE

PDA Engineering of Costa Mesa, Calif., showed a new "meshless" analysis software that offers a more intuitive approach and faster problem set-ups than traditional mechanical-analysis packages. Called P3/Team, it solves simulation problems with the boundary integral method--or what the company terms "Trimmed Element Analysis."

PDA business development v.p. Hayden Hamilton explains that Team lets the CAD geometry itself--such as the model's faces--take the place of the meshing that breaks problems into discrete portions for finite-element and boundary-element analyses. Working directly from a variety of CAD files, Team can perform stress, strain, and load analyses and will have some thermal-analysis functionality in subsequent versions. Hamilton notes that Team won't displace FEA altogether since the new method works best on models that have low surface-to-volume ratios.

For now, Team is available only to users of the company's high-end engineering software, or Patran 3. But Design Simulation, a simplified CAE package still in the prototype stage, will also incorporate Team to bring mechanical simulation to a whole new audience of designers and even some analysis newcomers. "Design Simulation will be for casual users wanting to better understand, rather than validate, their designs," says Hamilton.

PDA also announced a significant plastics-oriented development for its five-year-old M/Vision materials-selection software. Through an alliance with Plastics Design Library of Morris, N.Y., PDA has beefed up the software's plastics databank to augment the resin-property information PDA has already collected from other sources in the past. According to Doug Marinaro, director of materials software operations, the data in Plastics Design Library goes beyond the typical list of short-term physical properties to include data on chemical resistance, compatibility, and creep.

Aside from linking directly to Patran 3, workstation-based M/Vision can send materials data directly into CAD systems for use during the design stage. Thanks to a flexible user interface, designers have the ability to search for and present resin information graphically--as in shear-rate/viscosity curves--or through customized "engineering spreadsheets." During the creation of "materials models," the system even lets users extrapolate and interpolate from the graphs to fill in any gaps in existing information.

In addition, BASF Corp. Plastic Materials, Parsippany, N.J., weighed in with its own software for simulating snap-fits. The best news of all: it's free.

EASY REVERSE ENGINEERING

As at AutoFact, Faro Inc. of Lake Mary, Fla., showed a mechanical 3D digitizer called the Metrecom. Looking like a simple mechanical arm, the Metrecom actually contains precision encoders to determine a probe's position in 3D space. Probe-wielding operators click a button to collect data points from the surfaces of any object within that space. Because the device's operating-system software supports a variety of file formats, the data can easily become a CAD/CAM computer model or can be downloaded to a rapid-prototyping system.

To show the system's versatility, Faro brought along several third-party software developers that have written interfaces to the Metrecom. These companies let the digitizers serve, for example, as the basis for reverse engineering or toolpath generation. One such package, RevEng from Design Automation of Raleigh, N.C., lets users build up a model in Cadkey from a physical part in minutes. Another product, Hyperspace from Mira Imaging in Salt Lake City lets non-specialist users turn the digitized information into a 3D model. The Metrecom can also generate toolpaths directly when using SurfCAM from Surfware Inc. of San Fernando, Calif.

In its most interesting application, the Metrecom is seeing some use in maintaining thermoforming tooling and injection molds. According to Faro marketing director Dan Buckles, some molders are using the digitizer to check for wear or any dimensional changes to molds and cavities. Buckles adds that the system will work in place of a coordinate-measuring machine in a host of quality-control applications. For instance, popular inspection software, such as Micromeasure III or Geopak 500, let users compare molded parts to nominal dimensions contained in a CAD/CAM file. (In fact, the system got its start in the aerospace industry, measuring the placement of composite cowlings in jet engines.)

System accuracies are |+ or -^0.003 in. on the high-end Silver Series models and |+ or -^.012 in. on the lower-cost Bronze Series units. Metrecom prices range from $14,000 to $76,000, and a Bronze series digitizer and reverse-engineering software would together cost less than $20,000.

NEW INSPECTION TOOLS

A recently introduced Allen-Bradley machine-vision system suitable for inspecting parts and printed decoration (Pennzoil has been using a similar system to look at the tops of blow molded oil bottles) has undergone some changes of late. According to marketing manager Mike Kenney, CVIM 2 is faster and has more image memory than its predecessors. It also accommodates up to six cameras, compared with two cameras on the CVIM 1. For inspecting printing, the system employs a new OCR feature called the Trained Font System, which has autoscaling capabilities and can work on a curve.
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Title Annotation:Special Show Preview: NPE '94
Author:Ogando, Joseph
Publication:Plastics Technology
Date:May 1, 1994
Words:1510
Previous Article:Lower cost analytical instruments aim for the Q-C user.
Next Article:Injection molding.
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