Whizzing around the Web

There has been an explosion of CAD related information on the World Wide Web. Dave Wilson takes a long hard look at a few sites of interest to the design engineer

Equipped with a fast PC or Mac, a Browser such as Microsoft’s Explorer or Netscape’s Navigator, and a fast modem, designers can link into World Wide Web sites and gain access to a lot of CAD, CAE or CAM software product and application information.

A quick look around some typical sites can provide a lot of new product releases and technical specifications. With the World Wide Web, you can rest assured that whole unabridged product testimonials can be found at any given vendors home page. But at least you can familiarise yourself with it in the knowledge that no salesman will call. There is a lot of application information too: so if you are struggling to find the right software to help you do your job better, there is no better place to look.

Web enabled assistance is also becoming more popular. So if you are not hooked up to the Web soon, you may be missing out on gaining valuable and free advice on the best ways to use the software that you have. Even if a particular CAD vendor does not offer it yet, unless you have WWW access, you may not be able to take advantage of such features when they are rolled out in the future.

One company that already has such on-line assistance is Marlborough, MA based Baystate Technologies, suppliers of the CADkey `97 CAD package. For the CADkey user with access to the Internet, CADkey offers Web enabled assistance from the Help menu. While running CADkey, the user can hot link to the company’s Web site for the most current technical tips. The Help menu also links directly to a software library of new drivers, upgrades and special enhancement programs.

Aside from the usual CAD vendors like EDS Unigraphics, CADkey, SDRC and CADSi, the Web contains information on a plethora of FEA and CFD vendors as well. You can find plenty of information from vendors such as Enterprise Software Products and Fluent.

Aside from describing what is new from the company, Fluent has produced a page with some examples of CFD in use. So too has Structural Research and Analysis (SRA). Although the application examples at the SRA site tend to be quite brief, they do provide an insight into the usefulness of the software in a variety of applications such as sports, marine, and transportation equipment design.

On the EDS Unigraphics site, there is a company profile of the Caterpillar company. The Web site shows how that company has effectively made use of CAD, CAM and rapid prototyping techniques throughout the organisation. On the Engineering Sciences site, there are examples of flow field and surface data predictions, including a flow simulation for 3D pipe flow as well as a simulation of an industrial incinerator.

If you drop into the Algor site, you will be able to see how engineers at Applied Analysis and Technology in Huntington Beach, CA used Algor software to reduce the weight of three key components of an air refuelling mechanism for an aircraft by 50%.

Designers who require more specialised design packages are also well catered for on the Web. Designers interested in optimising mechanical motion problems, for example, can find details of kinematic software products such as Knowledge Revolution’s Working Model software – a motion simulation package for Windows/NT machines that now incorporates an interface to AutoCAD Mechanical Desktop and Integraph’s Solid Edge. You can even download a version of the software from the site to try out prior to purchase.

In addition, there is plenty to look at for the mathematically inclined on the Wolfram Research Website. Wolfram, vendors of the mathematical solver Mathematica provide a `what’s new’ page in addition to a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page that existing Mathematica users can turn to if they get stuck. Rapid prototyping vendors have also taken a stand on the Web. One such supplier, Solid Concepts, shows how it can offer preproduction tooling generated directly from stereolithographic masters supplied by its customers. Like Knowledge Revolution, Enterprise Solutions also give designers the opportunity to try out its software: you can register to receive a free demo copy of the FEMAP general purpose pre- and post-processor for finite element analysis. And, you can download a program from the Georgia Institute of Technology that will estimate how long a 3D Systems SLA machine will take to build a part by analysing the CAD file of your prototype.

On the other hand, if you are interested in more esoteric design software to help with the layout, design and optimization of optical systems, then look at the Focus Software or Breault Research Organisation sites. Alternatively, for information on analysing and designing cams and followers, go to the Saltire Software home page. Or stop by the Coade site if you are interested in software for calculating pipe stress, pressure vessel design and rating, and piping design and drafting. Used by many large oil companies, this software might also be useful to anyone who is involved in the power and process industries.

As an increasing number of suppliers hook into the Web, designers will not only be able to get up to date information regarding new CAD packages, but will also be able to view, specify, order and download drawings of OEM components directly into these CAD packages from Web sites.

Autodesk appear to be leading the field in this area. AutoCAD Release 14, for example, includes a demonstration of PartSpec On Line, an on-line catalogue of mechanical parts. Although PartSpec Online is currently a view-only sampler of over 500,000 parts from leading manufacturers, it will soon be enhanced to include DWGs of all the parts. For a preview of this feature, design engineers can register for PartSpec On line at the Autodesk WWW site.

Shortly, Web based virtual trade shows will allow designers to walk around and browse through the exhibits, `stopping by’ those vendors who are deemed to have something that might be relevant for a new design. The design engineer that complains that he has no time to visit shows will have no excuse in the future.

Figure 1: Sony designed this broadcast camera using the IDEAS software from SDRC. Details can be found at SDRC: www.sdrc.com

Figure 3: To find out more about Fluent’s computational fluid dynamics software go directly to their home page at Fluent:www.fluent.com

{{Table 1: Just some of the Web sites to look at for information on CAD/CAM/CAE and Patents

CAD VENDOR WWW ADDRESS

Algor www.algor.comStructural Research and Analysis www.cosmosm.comMacNeal-Schwendler www.macsch.comFluent www.fluent.comUnigraphics www.ug.eds.comAdaptive Research www.adaptiveresearch.comEngineering Sciences www.esi-al.comEnterprise Software Products www.femap.comKnowledge Revolution www.krev.comEngineering Mechanics Research Corporation www.emrc.comCOADE Engineering Software www. coade.comCADSi www.cadsi.comSDRC www.sdrc.comWolfram Research www.wolfram.comAEA Technology www.aeat.co.uk/cfxIntegraph www.integraph.comMicrocadam www.microcadam.comAnsys www.ansys.comAutodesk: www.data.autodesk.comIBM Catia www.ibm.comBaystate Technologies www.cadkey.comSolid Concepts www.solidconcepts.comMicrosoft www.microsoft.com/industry/cadcam/Concentra www.concentra.comThe Patent Office www.patent.gov.ukFocus Software www.focus-software.comBreault Research Organisation www.breault.comCoCreate www.cocreate.comInvention Machine www.invention-machine.comSaltire Software www.saltire.comDelcam www.delcam.comGeorgia Institute of Technology www.rpmi.marc.gatech.edu/}}