Hi, I had the pleasure to interview Matt Lombard, a SolidWorks expert and the author of [SolidWorks 2007 Bible] just published by Wiley. I know there is no need to introduce Matt to this newsgroup.
If you don't know Matt, not only he is a SolidWorks guru, he also deeply understand the problems and the processes of mechanical design. During the interview he discuss a few interesting topics such as:
The reasons for the slow transition from 2D to 3D * The evolution of parametric feature-based CAD systems * The emerging new CAD technologies, such as SpaceClaim
In my opinion it's a very interesting interview, very technical. I would recommend it to every mechanical CAD user. You can read it on the Novedge blog; here is the link:
"Why are 3D CAD systems taking so long to replace 2D CAD systems?"
Matt replied, "I think it comes down to economics. If an industry is going to save a lot of money by switching to 3D, they have probably already switched. There are probably very few pockets left in industry where great savings are being left on the table due to factors such as CAD users simply not adopting the new technology. Management would force the change if there were substantial savings to be seen. "
Unfortunately, sometimes what I've seen for an answer to switiching to
3D is "interia", which can include the fact that certain managers have internal reasons not to upset the apple cart & the owners won't force the issue. I saw one general manager who was less than 2 years from retirement, and "no change" was his unwritten mantra, which is similar to "I don't understand it, won't study up and talk to people, so I won't do it."
Other managers I have heard fret over "the transition". Not whether it is good, profitable, and beneficial in so many ways to the company, but again "the transition" means a lot of study, work, and extra training & software-hardware costs.
I do NOT think any individual or company which designs machined or molded and assembled products would benefit from 3D can make a viable case for not doing it. Error Reduction alone, can ultimately be a HUGE payoff. Better design decisions are another reason, but hard to quantify. The uptake on SolidWorks from a user using 2D is not large, particularly if it is organized right with help from the likes of Matt Lombard or other trained professionals.
On an individual user basis, I think most engineers and designers can get up to speed on SolidWorks on all the basics within a month's self- training in their free time. SolidWorks for anyone who has already used 2D in any form & a PC is just not that difficult to learn, if you do it step by step through the tutorial to start on "good ground".
Bo, I kind of disagree with you. In my experience parametric feature-based system like SolidWorks can really have a huge impact on productivity, quality, etc. But this is true only for "smart", well motivated, and well trained users.
Many times companies prefer to hire low-qualified 2D CAD users than hi-professional 3D CAD users. To replace an AutoCAD LT users is a lot easier and cheaper than replacing a "good" SolidWorks users. (No offense to 2D users here!)
What an old-school designer will choose between (a) leading a small group of 2D draftsmen working on 2D systems and (b) doing design and modeling by himself on a more advanced parametric feature-based system? I know that many people, if asked, will go for option (a).
I agree with Matt on economics being a driver to implementation. However, there are other issues that will keep SW and it's ilk out of a lot of 2D spaces. One of these is performance in both assemblies and parts. Something like an automobile engine would be a big challenge to most 3D packages. When I implemented SW at an RV manufacturer in 97 we could not make a reasonable model of any type of towable or self propelled product with the detail needed and performance that met industry standard for speed (and that was on a 166Mhz processor). SW is still in that same hole as are others. One of the reasons is that
3D generally requires more detail and allows fewer shortcuts in communicating than 2D. This is a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it reveals problems that 2D won't catch and a curse because of the extra time required.
The company I worked for still used Anvil I think. They work 2 1/2 D. Some factions went to ACAD. You can't beat ACAD or the other 2D packages because you can get a set of drawings out very quickly. Of course you end up redoing things two or three times, but that is partly because of the changes they make on the line for "manufacturability" which engineering has to document.
At any rate, I don't think SW is any better suited for that type of large assembly work now any more than it was in 97 with the 166 Pentium as evidenced by the underwhelming lack of motion in the direction of 3D by most RV manufacturers.
Still, I do remember one of this Usenet group noted his firm did a megayacht using SolidWorks for all the internals, and that must have been 10 x the number of drawings as an RV. I also remember that Buycrus Erie did a large tracked shovel w/10,000+ parts a couple years back.
Those examples makes me think that creative designers & engineers do efficiently make use of SolidWorks, with special techniques, no doubt.
Hence, I suspect part of "what works" in large assembies is keeping any one assembly down to manageable size, and only working large assemblies in special cases and without all the unseen "internals" to keep the speed up.
I would like to see the outline of how Buycrus & the Megayacht projects were organized.
Unfortunately, companies buying better hardware and software with the hope of skimping on engineering costs is nothing new. Some predict that the 70M baby boomers that are all about to retire in the next 5 years and are going to be replaced with the next generation, (about
42M) that there is going to be a considerable shortage of "good" engineerers and managers.
Many of the managers that we have now are not very strong technically and are easy pray for fast talking sales folks.
We just visited a company that purchased a CNC milling machine that is way over kill for their work and purchased CAM software that is twice as expensive as what they need and one of the other fellows on the tour said that he knew the company and they wanted to only pay $15 per hour, (I hope he was exagerating) for engineers. The longer the tour went on the clearer it became that the company was hoping that the machinery and software was going to replace the engeering talent that was really what they needed.
Some predict that over the next 6 to 7 years that a lot of companies are going to go broke because they don't recoginze the importance of good engineering talent or experience. While the companies that do understand that good people is the the real value behind technology and they will do quite well.
The good news is that for anyone who really knows their stuff, they should do quite well. However, there are going to be some companies that will continue to try to skimp and some capable folks that will be taken advantage of.
Unfortunately, I've seen managers who are also so lazy as to just blindly announce "We can get it cheaper in China." And they refer to engineering, mold design and building and such. I have a friend who designs products here in So.Cal. and must do 4-6 trips a year to watch over and correct mistakes. The owner is based in Hong Kong, and uses China for sourcing, but the Chinese engineers can handle the unknown or tough problems the company faces.
So in the end the products are not as inexpensive as it seems.
I have proposed new designs which "stretch" the limits of what some see as possible and then others say "tool it in China", and my reply has been, "You need to work with the toolmaker hand in hand all through the process to make sure he doesn't skimp & cut corners literally where it will cause problems." Otherwise you rebuild the tool over and over, and the time delays can be the most costly of all.
That all gets back to my post talking about top managers not getting themselves truly educated enough with their engineering managers to make the best choices in each case rather than blindly assuming either "hardware & software" or "China" will solve all problems.
There are no panaceas. Each problem is different. True commodity items can move to Mexico or China, but development work has a real time nature to it that can't be easily outsourced to a "solution".
The difference there is something euphemistically known as RV fast. While BE and the yacht people may think they were moving fast, they probably weren't in RV terms. And they didn't have to deal with manufacturing telling them how to build it after they had released prints.
I'm doing K&E paper drawings with mylar leads as fast as I can along with Kohinoor pens on mylar for publication, measuring things after the fact to document what has already been done and the Columbia 43 is already in the water.
Pres says "ship it" & productions does. I am just helping on this project, while I work on the Columbia 57, and another designer is doing most of the work (Jim Allen, rip) and the Pres & Ch. Engr push him to the point of breaking. Earlier when Jim says "your laminate is too thin and the flat sections are going to oil-can" the Pres. responds "I told you what to do now do it."
Yacht-fast? Well the early Columbia 43's zoomed out the door (after being 9 months late and killing the Columbia 50's higher priced more profitable sales), and then the shit hit the fan.
The very first Mid-Winters race resulted in busted forward bulkheads all over the place along with midship seat bonds.
All 43's came back to be retrofitted with end-grain balsa-core. Finally the new boats shipped with balsa-core stiffened laminates. Every designer knew what would happen & the Pres overrode them & the alcoholic Ch. Engr (also rip) went along with the Pres. Influential owners told the Pres to replace their busted up 43's with new boats built from the ground up.
Suits hired people who knew engineering and boat and then ignored them and created a nightmare, and eventually all the suits lost their jobs. Company execs who think they can make the world run on their own opinions are just nuts but they are all over the place. They start thinking they are God.