3D computer-aided design (CAD) files are integral to today’s manufacturing processes. On the surface, the idea is sound: an engineering team will design a part and, in turn, will send the necessary 3D CAD files to the manufacturer to produce the part.
Manufacturers rely on 3D computer-aided design (CAD) files provided to them by design and engineering teams. This could occur internally (within a company possessing both design and production capabilities) and across different companies.
To manufacture a design, the engineering or design team must send its computer-aided design (CAD) files to the manufacturer. In turn, the manufacturer would rely on the CAD file to feed its machining (subtractive) or 3D printers (additive) systems, which would produce the part.
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Due to different workflows, it is not uncommon to find companies collaborating with one another (e.g. a design/engineering firm and manufacturer) utilize different computer-aided design (CAD) suites. However, the risk with such processes is that both sides involved in the project will have difficulty reading non-native CAD files.
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Following the design and analysis phase, computer aided design (CAD) files are usually converted into polyhedra file formats for preparation and manufacturing in 3D printers. STL (STereoLithography or Standard Tessellation Language) is the most common polyhedra file format, having originally been developed to translate CAD files into a readable format for 3D printers in 1987.
Since launching in 1995, SolidWorks has emerged as a widely adopted computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided engineering (CAE) suite. In fact, as of March 2016 SolidWorks had captured 32% of the CAD market, making it the leading CAD suite in use.
Since its introduction in the 1980s, IGES (short for “Initial Graphics Exchange Specification) was the main computer aided design (CAD) format used for enabling the sharing of CAD files.
The main phases involved in additive manufacturing are that of design and the manufacturing process. Practically, the design work is done on a computer aided design (CAD) suite such as SolidWorks (and others), while the physical production phase - i.e. 3D printing - is facilitated by exporting the CAD file (e.g. SLDPRT) to STL, a format that can be read by 3D printers.
The use of additive manufacturing is growing in high-tech industries. According to the market research firm MarketsandMarkets (M&M), 3D printer production and additive manufacturing outputs grew in value to $3.5 billion in 2017. The leading adopters of additive manufacturing were the medical devices, aerospace and automotive industries.
In our interview with Spatial’s Director of Product Management, Ray Bagley, we discuss how 3D printing and additive manufacturing as a whole are changing the manufacturing industry.