Design Automation Myth

“Design automation tools are just configurators for finished 3D models and 2D drawings.”  Wow, if only we could get the Mythbusters to take a look at that one.  Nothing would explode, but that myth would certainly be busted.  Design automation goes far beyond the simple configurable design, and automation need not wait until a design is completed and fully documented to be valuable. 

The biggest fallacy in the Design Automation Myth is the idea that automation tools are intended only to automate 3D modelers like SolidWorks.  While they do this quite well, and considerable effort is targeted there, what is really being automated is the engineering know-how and design intent that enters your new product.  Automation is there to enforce that the wall thickness always satisfies the ASME Section VIII code calculation and that the material of the bearing is selected based on the shaft and some proprietary logic.  There’s a lot of design that should take place before the solid models are even started (despite what they tell you in the demo).  Automation tools allow you to have this design completed before you start creating any geometry.

Following this thought allows you to implement design automation tools as engineering tools within and outside of the Engineering department.  Since most of these tools can be web-based, it’s very easy to create a browser-based version of your project and insert it directly into a SharePoint site.  This will allow anyone that needs to use the engineering know-how to put in their inputs and receive answers to their design questions.  “How big will a container have to be to handle this volume?”  “Can a unit of this size be made in this material?”  These are very valid questions that can be automated, allowing those outside of Engineering to help themselves, freeing up designers to pursue new product development.

But even moving these tools inside of Engineering, design automation can be utilized to drive designs, and even 3D models, before the design is complete or when the design can’t be fully automated.  Automation tools can be used to create the basics of a design that can be finished through the capable hands of a designer or engineer.  If we know that the product is going to contain a cylindrical pressure vessel with hemispherical heads, but from there, it’s going to be wacky, then use the automation tool to correctly size and build the base vessel.  This interaction can also come in the middle of the design process to build individual components.  If you know that you will need a power transmission at some point, utilize the automation tool to create your transmission.  Enter the shaft sizes and rotational speeds that you need on input and output, and let the tool do the rest.

With the advent of the fully associative MCAD system (change it anywhere, and it updates everywhere), there is no reason to live in the old “toss it over the wall when you’re finished” world.  Since this is true, there’s no reason that downstream deliverables like 2D drawings, 3DVIA Composer work instructions, and even simulations cannot be created and automated at any point within the process.  If the design changes, all of these deliverables can be updated quickly and easily.

So why wait?  Start capturing your engineering know-how today to free your design resources for more creative tasks.  Every bit of know-how should be available to everyone, and design automation is just the way to do it. Now stop reading and start automating!  Or contact us to learn more about how you can get started with simple design automations to improve your knowledge sharing.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2010 at 11:14 am and is filed under Business Process Improvement, Design Automation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
  • Scott Frangos

    Thanks for a great article, Paul