WIDEBEAM targets an age-old problem

Some problems just never go away. For years, attempts have been made to ease CAD data exchange, but SMEs continue to encounter the same problems. As Geoff Hall of IIC Consulting says: “”I can remember dealing with IGES back in 1977… the software has imp

WIDEBEAM, a European Commission project, is attempting to address these problems by recommending areas of best practice for users and vendors.

One of the main problems is awareness of CAD formats. IIC found that many companies use CAD systems which do not support the standard STEP and IGES formats. The project recommends that users make sure what format their correspondent requires, and that they either invest in – or figure out how to use – `converters’. Proprietary formats must also be considered, in particular AutoDesk’s AutoCAD formats: DXF and DWG. There is a good degree of upward – but little downward – compatibility. So, it is recommended that higher versions of AutoCAD export files at a lower level (ie if sending files to AutoCAD 12 from AutoCAD 13 then save the latter files in AutoCAD 12 format).

The report also identifies data transfer over the internet as a cause of problems. And recommends either using floppy discs (or higher capacity media such as Iomega zip) or getting some training and using FTP instead of email.

The key is decent staff training and establishing a dialogue with the supplier, and in today’s competitive climate it’s not hard to find companies keen to develop after-sales relationships.

Take INCAT – formerly the IDC group – a company keener than ever not to be seen simply as a reseller of CATIA software.

Warren Harris (Chief Executive Officer) points to the success of INCAT’s customer Majestic Industries, a small progressive dye manufacturer, to illustrate this. With the help of what Harris calls a “process audit”, Majestic has replaced its 2D seats with CATIA, reduced its strip design time by 50% and won a number of new jobs from Chrysler.

GKN Westland Aerospace has also benefited from INCAT’s integrated use of product teams, CATIA solid modelling, Product Data Management and Digital Mock-up. The company estimates that the use of DMU (Digital Mock-up) has reduced the cost of tooling by 70-80% and made predictions to customers more accurate by smoothing the assembly process.