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.
In the latter, there is a reasonable probability that different workflows are in play between the designer (client) and manufacturer (supplier). Arguably, the use of different CAD software is a major challenge when trying to make these design-to-manufacturing processes work.
The challenge stems from the risk of one party’s CAD suite being unable to correctly read the 3D CAD files given to it by the other. Granted, design firms have every incentive to guard their intellectual property (IP) by withholding certain metadata, but leaving insufficient data for one’s manufacturing suppliers is also a problem (e.g. higher cost and slower time-to-market).
The following are seven common manufacturing problems caused by incomplete 3D CAD data and/or 3D CAD data file translation errors.
1. Incorrectly Manufacture Part(s)
When a non-native CAD file format is opened, the manufacturer could come across a number of 3D file translation errors. These errors typically take the form of geometric inaccuracy, which can then result in incorrectly manufactured parts (if that incorrect data is processed further).
There are several impacts. First, the manufacturer will not be able to properly test how that part interacts with other parts in the system, preventing it from finding potential areas for optimization and improvement. Second, it cannot conduct proper quality assurance testing of that part.
The result for the manufacturer will be delays in fulfilling the order and, potentially, adding to the cost of producing the part. The latter could return the client or force the manufacturer to reduce its profit (if not take a loss) as a result of the contract.
2. Fail to Use the Right Material
Non-translated Product & Manufacturing Information (PMI) could leave the manufacturer without critical information, such as data regarding the part’s material. For the manufacturer, this lack of information can be a significant problem on a number of fronts.
Not possessing the necessary information to manufacture the part would basically result in not producing the part. Having to engage the designer on this issue could trigger delays, be it as a result of more back-and-forth or pushing the process of testing, optimizing and issuing material orders (e.g. for the necessary metals or composites) back.
In cases where multiple materials are involved, there is a risk of the manufacturer missing one of the necessary materials or not using them in the right ratio, which can result in quality and/or reliability issues for the overall system down the line.
3. Damage Machining Systems
In subtractive manufacturing processes, the machining equipment (e.g. cutters, drills, etc) could get damaged as a result of applying incorrect 3D file data. In such processes, the machines run very fast and are already enduring high-temperatures, velocities, and impact.
If a cutter is told to cut based on incorrect geometrical data, the cutter could potentially break. Similarly, incomplete PMI could also see the manufacturer use the wrong tool (e.g. a cutter for drilling) and, in turn, permanently damage the cutter as a result.
For the manufacturer, not only would this delay them in fulfilling the client’s order, but it could also result in additional costs (to replace broken machining hardware).
4. Delayed Time to Market
To the manufacturer, errors in reading 3D CAD files can result in spate issues ranging from it incorrectly manufacturing parts to damaging its own machining systems.
However, the impact of these issues cause inefficiencies such as delays in the manufacturer’s ability to fulfil the order, conduct tests and order the necessary materials for producing the part.
Not only do these delays consume time, but they consume fiscal resources and escalate costs as well. Be it the additional engineering man-hours spent manually repairing geometric data to fixing broken hardware, someone (i.e. the client, manufacturer or end-user) will have to absorb the cost at some point in the product’s development or lifecycle.
5. Fail to Properly Integrate into System
Incorrectly made parts could have trouble interacting with other parts and, in turn, fail to fit with the overall system. If unavoidable, the manufacturer should at least be able to identify and deal with this issue early on (prior the manufacturing a large batch of parts). However, having to test, alter, re-make and retest new parts is a very costly process, especially if it is done many times.
6. Opportunity Costs & Losses
Having to deal with 3D file translation errors is a time and resource-consuming process that not only poses a risk to the manufacturer’s bottom-line, but potential opportunity costs as well. The manufacturer could have had other - i.e. simpler and more appropriate - projects to handle.
Besides the costs involved in manually repairing the file, dealing with delays and/or building and retesting incorrectly made parts, there is also a cost to maintaining idle manufacturing lines (that are not being used to due to delays in receiving the certified, final part design). In other words, a project could result in net-losses to the manufacturer.
7. Lose Changes in Translation
Some manufacturers are equipped to closely analyze a part and provide recommendations to the original designer. However, a manufacturer using a different CAD suite from the designer may not readily have the means to display its recommendations.
As a result, data valuable for improving the quality of the original part design could get lost in translation between the original designer and the manufacturer. Alternatively, the process of manually preparing CAD files during such exchanges may consume too many resources.
How Software Can Make a Difference
If you are developing CAD software for manufacturers, or potentially even manufacturing tools - be it subtractive (e.g. machining) or additive (3D printers) - you should examine the potential a change in software can have in improving the design to manufacturing process.
Spatial’s 3D InterOp is a software development kit (SDK) that enables you to equip applications and hardware to correctly read geometry and other relevant data in non-native format CAD files.
Contact us today to discuss how you can incorporate 3D InterOp in your solutions and, in turn, differentiate the solutions you offer to manufacturers.