This section was written by Associate
Editor Jean Thilmany
|Firm Sees Continued PLM Investment
The collaborative product definition management
portion of the product lifecycle management market grew 25 percent in 2001
to reach $3.6 billion, according to the consulting and research firm
Cimdata Inc. of Ann Arbor, Mich.
Despite the economic downtown,
companies continued to buy product lifecycle technology during the third
and fourth quarters of 2001, said Ken Amann, Cimdata's director of
research. Product lifecycle management technology allows business to
implement a common business approach and consistent business practices
across the entire organization. It lets users share product information as
they work on design to ensure that everyone involved in the process is
working together using the same information and with the same
Product definition management is a sector of a product
lifecycle management system that includes everything in that system except
for information authoring tools, such as mechanical and electronic
computer-aided design, computer-aided software engineering, and technical
publishing software. Product definition management focuses on engineers
collaborating, managing, and sharing product information, according to
Cimdata forecasts product data management technology growth
to continue at a strong pace over the next five years, to more than $11
billion in 2006.
|Parts Shopping Online Beats Catalogs
SMC Corp. of Indianapolis, a maker of pneumatic
automation components, or moving parts, admits it was drowning in its own
product catalogs. The company was producing two million hard copy catalogs
The catalogs included 8,900 products that could be
configured in 520,000 different ways. The catalogs were expensive to
print, according to SMC officials.
SMC publishes an online catalog
for its 8,900 products using 3DpartStream.Net technology.
The company recently implemented technology that allows it to publish
an online catalog of parts in a 3-D format. SMC's customers can use the
technology—3DpartStream.Net from SolidWorks of Concord, Mass.—to configure
product models based on their specific requirements and then download the
models into their product design. They can then purchase the actual
components when the product needs to be built.
Beckman Coulter, a
maker of biomedical instruments, uses the technology to select parts for
the more than 40 product designs that engineers develop each year.
Engineers estimate they've shaved about three design days from each
project by using the 3-D Web service.
They used to spend about two
hours modeling parts, using information from the printed catalogs. They
can now insert the models from the online catalogs into a design in
minutes instead of hours, according to a Beckman Coulter statement.
|Clarifying Wireless High-Speed Internet
Engineers at Pennsylvania State University in
University Park have developed software to efficiently manage radio
spectrum use to prevent interference on the wireless broadband systems
used for high-speed Internet access.
The finding could bring down
the cost of wireless high-speed Internet, according to Mohsen Kavehrad,
director of Penn State's Center for Information and Communications
Technology Research, where the software was developed.
high-speed Internet access capable of carrying MP3 files, video, or
teleconferencing is available mainly over networks connected by wires,
although wireless local loops are being introduced in some test markets,
Kavehrad said. But the wireless networks have to compete for bandwidth
space. They share bandwidth with cordless phones or even radiation from
The wireless local loops work much like cell
phones in that they function via a base station that sends the radio
signals carrying the Internet connection to customers who have an
appropriate antenna. But unlike cell phones, the traffic between the
customer and the Internet provider's base station flows unevenly. Like a
highway system, it's used little during sleeping hours and other times are
rush hours, such as when kids come home from school and download music or
So wireless local loops need software and hardware that
allow the network to respond to changes in traffic and make sure that
every frequency in the spectrum is used efficiently, Kavehrad
The software developed by the Penn State engineers allows a
subscriber whose signal has the least amount of interference to be
processed ahead of signals with strong interference. Because the amount of
interference on any subscriber's signal varies by microseconds, no
subscriber has to wait long for a turn, Kavehrad added.
technique, service providers could offer quality service to more homes
using only a limited span on the radio spectrum," Kavehrad said. "And if
providers can squeeze more customers onto the available bandwidth, it
could translate into lower costs for the consumer."
|Tool and Die Shop Finds RFQs Online
John and Brenda Baust run the B&M Toolworks
tool and die shop in Sedalia, Mo. When they started the business out of
their garage in 1995, they added business by word of mouth. They've now
turned to the Internet.
Recently, Brenda Baust discovered that the
company could bid on jobs online. She found it to be a way to look outside
their regular business providers. The company bids on requests for quotes
from around the nation via a Web site called MfgQuote. com, operated by a
Smyrna, Ga., company of the same name. For a fee, the site matches
suppliers with businesses seeking their services. B&M Toolworks has
won business from companies in Colorado, New Jersey, New York, and on the
West Coast, according to John Baust.
He said that the Internet is a new
and growing way for suppliers to answer RFQs.
"I believe this type
of online bidding will continue to grow steadily," he said.
business saved money by submitting quotes online because he didn't have to
travel to an original equipment manufacturer to submit the
Baust said he expects to see about $200,000 in increased
sales this year, thanks to his company's online bidding.
Meets CAM On the Range
American Stove Parts Co. of San Clemente, Calif.,
makes custom stove parts and parts for original equipment manufacturers,
largely through injection molding. It also assembles metal components for
commercial and domestic stovetops.
Because the company makes many
products of varying quantities, it recently implemented CAD and
computer-aided manufacturing technology that are integrated for
efficiency, according to Everton Cope, the company's president. Before
using the technology, the company got CAD designs from outside vendors or
from its customers' vendors.
Engineers at the company, which
implemented VX CAD and CAM software, now meet with customers to understand
application requirements. They then make three-dimensional models for
customer review. The step has eliminated stereolithography, which can be
costly, Cope said.
In the future, engineers will use the
technology, from VX Corp. of Palm Bay, Fla., to design molds and to send
part files directly to the suppliers who make the molds. The suppliers can
then directly translate the CAM code into their computer numerically
controlled machines, Cope said.
|Simplicity for Digital Thermal Analysis
ASML in Veldhoven, the Netherlands, manufactures
machines that make semiconductors. As part of a recent project, engineers
at the company used a software application designed to simplify a
computer-aided design file for thermal analysis. The analysis, carried out
within a separate software application, determined the thermal reliability
of a lithographic system while it was still in the digital stage.
Engineers at ASML used software
from Flomerics to simplify a CAD design of a lithographic system (top) and
then perform a thermal analysis on the design (bottom).
The lithographic, or imaging, system from ASML prints circuit
information on silicon wafers and is used to make integrated circuits. It
allows semiconductor manufacturers to continually shrink designs and
produce more chips per wafer with higher yield and performance. Heat
dissipation is an issue as the number of functions within the system
continues to increase, which means a rise in the number and power of
electrical and heat-dissipating components.
application that enabled engineers to simplify an existing CAD file is
called Flo/MCAD from Flomerics of Southborough, Mass. The software
automatically eliminates intricate details not required for thermal
analysis purposes. The CAD file for the control cabinet of a lithographic
system had been made in Solid Edge from EDS of Plano, Texas.
Before they had the simplifying software, engineers had to rekey
data from the original CAD files into a simplified format prior to thermal
After simplifying the CAD design, ASML engineers used
Flotherm thermal analysis software, also from Flomerics, to find out if
higher-power electrical components placed within the system would be
The Japanese automaker Mazda has developed new
virtual testing capability to test cars and parts for durability,
reliability, noise, vibration, ride, and handling before they're produced.
The testing software was developed with MTS Systems Corp. of Eden Prairie,
Minn., and two other companies.
As part of a venture called the
Mazda Digital Innovation Project, which began in 1996, the automaker
joined with MTS Systems, MSC.Software Corp. of Los Angeles, and nCODE of
Southfield, Mich., to develop virtual simulation technology in an open
software environment. The project allows test data acquired from
mechanical testing systems to be used in computer simulation and
The software developed as part of the project results in
what Mazda calls a virtual testing toolbox, which shortens vehicle
development time because parts can be tested before they're produced,
according to the company.
|Designers Keep Track Online
WMH Tool Group of Chicago has incorporated what's
called project collaboration software to make sure that members of its
design team can access up-to-date information at any time, regardless of
With the technology, Streamline, from Autodesk of San
Rafael, Calif., designers can collaborate online to keep product
development moving at a consistent pace, according to Bill McCann,
technical publications editor at WMH Tool Group. Design team members are
located in the United States, China, and Europe. Because the software
ensures that members are looking at the most recent design changes, it
helps reduce errors associated with keeping track of files saved on a
server, McCann said.
"With our design team spread among several
locations and working on more than 50 active projects together, it's
crucial to have the information organized and accessible by everyone," he
|Comput-erized Rocket Nozzle Dynamics
One of the most difficult parts of
pintle-controlled rocket design is configuring the nozzle so the gas
pressure at the nozzle exit equals the outside air pressure in order to
maximize thrust, according to engineers at Stone Engineering Co. in
The company carries out propulsion and structure
design for the U.S. Army Missile Command and its Space and Strategic
Defense Command. One of the engineering company's current projects is
designing a bipropellant gel rocket engine that uses an axial pintle to
control the throat area of the engine and thus the motor thrust.
The pintle rocket design helps overcome a basic challenge in
rocket motor design, according to Chuck Margraves, a Stone Engineering
mechanical en- gineer. To keep the pressure of the combustion gases at the
end of the nozzle equal to or close to atmospheric pressure, and thus
maximize thrust, engineers must change the geometry of the nozzle.
Stone Engineering Co. engineers use computational fluid dynamics
technology combined with physical testing rather than physical testing
alone on the current project to determine the best nozzle configuration
for rocket design, Margraves said.
"CFD allows us to look inside
our design to gain a far greater understanding than we were ever able to
achieve with physical testing results alone," Margraves said. "The result
is that we can see exactly where flow separation occurs for various nozzle
geometries and fine-tune our design to maximize thrust under a wide range
of flow conditions.
The company uses Fluent CFD software from
Fluent Inc. of Lebanon, N.H. In a recent experiment, the software analysis
showed engineers the forces acting on the pintle at various flow
conditions. The information helped engineers develop specifications for
the spring that controls the pintle, Margraves said.
A provider of hardware and software, NEC Solutions (America) of
Sacramento, Calif., has released PowerMate eco, which is a personal
computer with no boron in the monitor, lead-free solder, and recyclable
plastic. The computer also has no fan to disperse hazardous dust and
contains no other dangerous chemicals, according to an NEC statement.
CFX of Waterloo, Ontario, a maker of computer-aided engineering
software, has released CFX-5.5.1, the latest version of the company's
computational fluid dynamics software.
Resinate Corp. of Andover, Mass., a provider of automated
materials management software for discrete manufacturers, has released its
software application Resinate Material Advisor/Plastic version 3.0.
Spatial Corp. of Westminster, Colo., a maker of 3-D development
software, recently released two new products, 3D InterOp Exchange and 3D
Viz Exchange. The two have been released as separate components within
Spatial's InterOp product line.
Coade of Houston, a maker of engineering software, has released
Caesar II version 4.40, an updated edition of the company's software for
pipe stress analysis and design. Enhancements include updates to piping
code and an intelligent hydrostatic load analysis.
Proficiency of Marlborough, Mass., which makes engineering
supply chain collaboration software, has announced a partnership with
PTC of Waltham, Mass., which makes CAD, PDM, and other engineering
software. Proficiency's Collaboration Gateway software allows
collaboration on the design of products without the need for trans- lation
software, such as standard for the exchange of product model data (STEP).
NavisWorks Ltd. of Sheffield, England, a developer of
interactive viewing technology and of 3-D design review software, has
released an upgrade to NavisWorks. Version 2.2 of the software works with
Windows XP and includes upgraded features to aid collaboration.
Alibre of Richardson, Texas, has created a program for
value-added resellers to sell Alibre Design, the company's application for
3-D design, collaboration, and data sharing.
Delcam of Birmingham, England, a maker of manufacturing and
engineering software, has released a new version of its PowerInspect
software, which will support the inspection of models against simulation
and test language (STL) files.
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