Archive for July, 2009

Why Synchronous Modeling is a Significant Leap Forward in Productivity

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Before we get into why synchronous modeling is this significant leap forward in productivity, let’s review what the previous major milestones in the CAD industry were. There have actually been few major milestones in the CAD industry over the past decades. The first was the introduction of 2D CAD systems. These systems digitized the drafting board. I remember designers using drafting boards suggest that they could draw something faster using a drawing board versus a CAD system. However, as 2D systems matured their benefits were clear. They provided a fast means of copying and editing manufacturing drawings and in many cases were much more portable than their physical counterpart.

Later, 3D explicit modeling CAD systems were introduced. These systems added tremendous visualization benefits. It was easier to communicate ideas to people who couldn’t read blue prints. This level of CAD was beyond just being useful for manufacturing drawings. These systems had the ability to create and edit digital versions of physical models.

3D explicit modeling CAD systems were similar also offered a fast means of copying and editing models and were much more portable than their physical counterpart. One of the other benefits that eventually came from these 3D modeling systems was that drawing views could be extracted from the 3D model. This automated a significant portion of the manufacturing drawing creation process.

The next big step in the CAD industry was the introduction of parametric history-based modeling systems. These systems offered an ability to control geometry with geometric and dimensional constraints, rather than explicitly manipulating the geometry as you would with the explicit systems. Although it may not be readily apparent, history-based modeling systems have qualities much like programming languages. They have the ability to make large scale design changes of entire drawing packages by programming design intent into a model. However, for users to take advantage of these capabilities they typically require many years of experience with a given system and they must think like programmers, not just designers. This steep learning curve and skill requirement often forces businesses to miss out on one of this system’s most significant productivity benefits. What typically happens is customers do not take advantage of this design automation capability and don’t reuse data as often as they could.

The latest major milestone in the CAD industry is synchronous modeling, which combines capabilities of explicit and parametric history-based modeling. One of its major benefit is the reduced need to pre-program design intent into a model to make large scale changes more efficient during reuse. With synchronous modeling large scale changes can be made to an entire assembly similar to how it is done in an explicit based system. (e.g.: Drag a window around a portion of the model and the pull it to resize it).

What makes synchronous modeling systems so different is a fundamental change in the way the model is presented. Unlike parametric history-based systems, part models from a synchronous system are not dependant on a program-like list of features that are compiled in order and each feature is dependent on a previous model entity. Instead, the synchronous model is a flexible body that can be pulled and stretched with direct or parametric controls. That may not sound like much, but it is. This flexible body means top down design edits are much more easily performed without having to go through convoluted processes to create relationships within the assembly. It also means that imported geometry is much more editable and reusable.

Now there is more to Synchronous Technology than just the flexible body. A unique set of interface tools allow for fast and easy editing. Some allow you to directly control the model and manage edits. Some allow you to manage selections and create geometric and dimensional parameters. There are several tools and they will all have a learning curve. However, the learning curve is not so great. Especially when compared to the benefits.

You may think “So what, I can do the same things with history-based modeling and I already know how to use it to get my job done. Why would I want to change?” That was the same initial mentality some drafters using drawing boards had when 2D CAD systems came out, or the same mentality the 2D CAD users had when they first tried a 3D parametric history-based modeler. I have been using Synchronous Technology for several months now and I am amazed at its flexibility and efficiency. Someone said to me “Synchronous Technology seems so easy it feels like cheating.” Whichever way you look at it, Synchronous Technology is the latest major milestone in the CAD industry. It brings fundamental changes in the way you can create digital models with much more productively.

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