The good news for potential adopters is that they can benefit from the wisdom and experience of engineers who have been using 3D methods for 10 or 20 years. The following is a compilation of five criteria that users of 2D CAD should consider when shopping for their first 3D system.
The centerpiece of 3D CAD is a 3D master model that’s used for all aspects of manufacturing: product design and verification, drafting, tool design, numerically controlled tool programming, and inspection. The 3D model must accurately represent every part in your company’s products and the relationships among them. To maximize efficiency, designers should be able to design in 3D with as few steps as possible without compromising product quality.
Compatibility with customers and suppliers
In today’s world, few manufacturers are vertically integrated. Most rely on a community of suppliers for parts, tools, subsystems, production equipment, and design services that frequently span the globe. Whether your company is a supplier or a customer, it can benefit from exchanging 3D CAD files with customers and suppliers. When possible, choose a CAD system that’s popular in your industry and supplier community. This choice will eliminate the need to translate files from one system to another. Translation takes time and sometimes introduces errors.
Even though you’ll be designing in 3D, your suppliers and factory workers will need drawings. A clear drawing shows information that isn’t obvious in a 3D model: critical dimensions and tolerances, material and surface-finish specifications, and notes about processing such as curing or heat treatment. Be sure any 3D CAD system you buy can make drawings to your current standards for dimensions, tolerances, lettering, and parts lists. And be sure your drawings can be exported in popular formats such as PDF, DXF, and DWG.
Reliability and stability
3D design systems are more complex than 2D drawing systems. With all that code, it’s harder to get the bugs out. Unfortunately there are no standard measures of reliability for CAD as there are for many types of systems and machinery. Browse customer forums for frequent reports about instability or software bugs. Ask companies that own 3D CAD in your city or industry how often they crash or lock up.
Believe it or not, some of the greatest sources of friction between buyers of CAD software and their customers are the nontechnical business aspects of the relationship. Just as some airlines annoy customers with extra fees for checked baggage, flight changes, drinks, and blankets, some CAD suppliers levy hidden charges for software and services that most customers need. To avoid aggravation and lower your costs, look for suppliers who offer straightforward software packages that have everything you need. Look at the terms for floating licenses that enable designers who don’t need CAD full-time to share licenses. And be sure your best designers can use the software both at work and at home without hassles.
Choose Solidworks and NCCS for all your 3D cad needs.