How Poor 3D Data Translation Can Derail Project Timelines and Costs

Fri Aug 10, 2018

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.

On the surface, the design to manufacturing process may appear seamless. Indeed, the ideal is to have a digitally-intensive process for design and manufacturing, especially for highly complex designs (which are increasingly sought through additive manufacturing).

However, the reality of design and manufacturing domains alike is that different companies have different workflows. In turn, their respective workflows involve different CAD suites (e.g. the CAD market-leader, SolidWorks, controls 32% of the CAD market - leaving 68% to others). Thus, the probability of a part designer and part manufacturer using different CAD suites is likely.

Though to be expected, the use of different CAD suites between teams can result in major risks, not least the fact that one team could fail to correctly view the other’s CAD file. Such risks cause delays in project timelines and cost overruns, as noted below.

Escalated Complexity

One of the risks with opening a non-native CAD file format is that your reader may not correctly read that file’s metadata. This metadata can include, among other things, the part’s Product and Manufacturing Information (PMI). PMI could include the information necessary for producing the part, such as the part’s required resources or material.

Lacking PMI could force the manufacturing side to re-engage the design/engineering side, i.e. the client, in order to properly manufacture the product. The back-and-forth adds another layer of delays to producing the part by putting-off additional testing and quality control processes.

For the manufacturer, having to repair the 3D CAD file manually is costly, not only in terms of the engineering man-hours spent on the process, but sunk costs of maintaining idle production facilities and/or losing out on other opportunities (i.e. opportunity costs).

Finally, the part or final product is also at risk of a cost increase. Be it manual file repair work, the repetitive back-and-forth between the client and manufacturer, the possibility of incorrectly producing parts (due to a lack of PMI) and a host of other issues, such costs - especially when passed onto your customers - will make you uncompetitive.

Downstream Quality Control Problems

If your CAD reading suite is unable to read a CAD file’s history, such as design updates or design recommendations, the manufacturer is at risk of manufacturing the part incorrectly. Ideally, the manufacturer would spot this issue right from the start and, in turn, enable it to implement the necessary design, material and production processes to fix the part.

However, the worst-case scenario would see the manufacturer produce a large batch of a part that fails to fulfill the original requirement. Problems could manifest downstream, perhaps at the final assembly stage or, potentially, at the hands of the end-user.

Likewise, if the manufacturer is unable to produce the part correctly (according to the client’s design requirements), it would not be able to proceed with additional quality assurance testing, much less be in a position to offer design recommendations to the client.

Granted, a cautious manufacturer could identify and address a part’s quality problems early. However, in trying to fix the problem the manufacturer will have to spend significant time on re-engaging with the client and/or manually repairing the data.

The lack of PMI can also leave the manufacturer with insufficient supply chain information. For example, in order to manufacture the part in large batches, the manufacturer must place orders for the part’s inputs, such as its materials (e.g. metals).

If the manufacturer is stuck trying to just narrow-in on the correct design information, then it will not have the opportunity to order those materials. In fact, it could either run the risk of failing to order the right amount (for efficiency), or it could run a delay in the production process.

Combined, these issues could force the manufacturer to renegotiate with the client, which then opens them up to the risk of either losing the client or taking a hit on their revenue, potentially a loss due to having to pay for manual data repair work and incorrectly manufactured parts.

Idle Machines Cost Money

Manufacturers have more to worry about than just dealing with a specific part’s quality issues. Delays in the production process cause the manufacturer to keep its production site - i.e. its jigs, machining equipment and/or 3D printers - idle.

Such inefficiencies add to the manufacturer’s costs, either directly by having to keep systems active during a delay in receiving the design or as an opportunity cost (by missing other bids).

How Spatial’s 3D InterOp Helps

Combined, the aforementioned issues severely hamper a manufacturer’s competitiveness in terms of efficiency and time-to-market. However, developers and equipment vendors that are supplying solutions to manufacturers can leverage Spatial’s 3D InterOp software development kit (SDK) to drastically mitigate the risks involved in dealing with non-native CAD files.

With 3D InterOp, developers can build applications that can read the geometry and topology of non-native 3D CAD files, enabling manufacturers to reduce the time spent on manual file repair work and recovering from issues such as downstream quality control problems.

In other words, 3D InterOp equips your solutions to directly speak to the problems faced by manufacturers relying on your software and hardware. Contact Spatial today to see how 3D InterOp equips your offerings to stand-out in the manufacturing equipment industry.

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