CATIA-ing for an easier life

IBM/Dassault’s latest version of CATIA, a full PLM upgrade, takes a vast number of mouse clicks out of the design process, with more than seven new products and 100 enhancements.

The most striking aspect of CATIA Version 5 is that the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. The software’s major focus seems to be on saving the user tedious work and irritation. There are sexy marketing terms like ‘knowledge capture’ and ‘data reuse’, but the bottom line is that it just makes the user’s life easier.

At its lowest level the number of mouse clicks to perform complex operations has been reduced. Applications like shape morphing allow non-CAD specialists to build complex geometry very quickly. And Knowledgeware has been further harnessed to introduce new and higher levels of automatic, associative design adaptation.

True to its product-lifecycle management commitment, when IBM announced CATIA V5 R11 it came among the R11 announcements for SmarTeam, Enovia and Delmia. All the PLM components upgraded together – now there’s a novel idea.

V5 R11 improves process coverage for the automotive, aerospace, consumer goods and electrical and electronics industries, with seven new products and more than 100 enhanced applications. The new products are across the board and include: CATIA Shape Sculptor 2 (morphing), Generative Dynamic Response Analysis (CAE), FEM Solid (CAE), Composites Design 3 (CAD/CAE), Structure Design 1 (modelling) and two new MultiCAx plug-in products to enable users to incorporate proprietary data from third-party systems for design-in-context and visualisation.

If you browse the list of enhancements you could be forgiven for thinking that IBM/Dassault was taking on Alias/Wavefront head on. Apart from the morphing tools there are shape editors, shape optimisers, sketch tracers, not to mention three Photo Studio rendering products. All this in a drive to encompass more of the process, particularly for automotive styling. And the more process is captured the less data translation is required.

Shape Sculptor 2 is a bit like the SensAble Technologies Freeform sculpting product. It provides modelling tools to create, edit or enhance a shape from a concept or an existing physical model in record time. This allows non-CAD specialists in the automotive and consumer goods industries to manipulate and test 3D virtual models.

The objective is to enhance collaboration between design and engineering through a fun and easy-to-use sculpting tool. It certainly takes a lot of the ‘black art’ out of surface modelling and it complements and reinforces the existing surfacing tools of Freestyle Shaper and Freestyle Sketch Tracer, particularly when the surfacing is very complex. It can be used to generate a shape from curves and surfaces, to add details on a model, to sculpt and then copy and paste features from an existing model to another, or simply to work on a polygonal model.

The enhanced Generative Shape Optimizer 2 takes shape design and styling even further with process-oriented features that accelerate global shape morphing and productivity. You can easily deform existing shapes through defined constraints, such as targeted points and curves and fixed areas. With this functionality you can design complex automotive body-in-white surfaces in a few mouse clicks.

CAE improvements include the new Generative Dynamic Response Analysis application, which offers designers interactive functions to compute and analyse the dynamic responses of systems for all industries.

The new FEM Solid module offers enhanced solid meshing capabilities with advanced control of mesh specifications and a tetrahedron-filler for complex solid parts meshing that is particularly relevant for automotive powertrain.

The new Composites Design 3 module sits between design and analysis. It enables manufacturers, especially aerospace companies, to significantly reduce the time taken to design composites parts. Composites Design covers the preliminary and detailed design phases, while at the concept stage using Knowledgeware to take into account finite element analysis and the manufacturability of the part.

The entry-level P1 products have been ‘tuned up’ for better performance particularly in large assembly management through automatic selective loading of data. It uses ‘selective semantic unstreaming’ (smarter, local part-to-part relationships) which allows local assembly modifications without having to load all the assembly data.

The new Structure Design 1 allows you to create linear and curved structures, and plates simply and quickly using standard or user-defined sections. This is particularly relevant to jigs and fixtures design. It has fully associative design in context capabilities and can link into Knowledgeware to allow the structure (jig) to adapt automatically if the objective part (body panel) changes.

SmarTeam ‘immersive’ integration has been extended at R11. New SmarTeam commands such as file open, insert component and user feature have been integrated into the V5.

The support of V5 contextual links through SmarTeam improves relational design capabilities and facilitates full lifecycle management. V5R11 integrates the CATIA V5 MultiCAD products into the SmarTeam environment resulting in an associative Digital Mock-up that references MultiCAD assemblies or parts.

The MultiCAD capabilities are extended in standard format handling, healing assistance and new shape tolerant modelling features to automate processes in heterogeneous environments and to minimise the time spent fixing data.

The enhanced Healing Assistant 1 detects more duplicated geometries, non-manifold situations and small surfaces. The IGES Interface helps you to identify invalid geometries, such as open surfaces and edge errors or auto-intersections.

CATIA V5 has come a long way in a very short time and in so few releases. It not only incorporates more serious functionality than there was in Version 4, but it has established a modern development ethic that is hard to beat and very difficult to argue with: that of making the computer do the work by capturing knowledge via Knowledgeware and introducing high levels of design automation so that data can be reused and that designs adapt automatically to changing circumstances. One day all CAD systems will be like this.

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