A majority of the manufacturing organizations employ 3D CAD systems for their product design and development needs. However, there are still organizations that perform design operations using 2D drafting tools.
Although, 2D drafting is an efficient approach in many applications, the benefits of 3D cannot be ignored. It might be easier for manufacturing firms to select the best available 3D CAD platform today who already have been using 3D from past decade.
However, it is often difficult for firms that are planning for their first ever 3D system purchase. To make the purchase worthwhile, it is critical to identify the capabilities of the system comprehensively as it will be affecting the overall product development strategy.
Some of the key questions one should ask while choosing 3D CAD system for product design and development are listed below to have a better idea on a major investment you are about to make.
How good are the 3D capabilities of CAD system?
The central idea behind any modern CAD system is its ability to develop a 3D model that can be accessed across the departments with multiple formats easily. This includes the model’s flexibility to be used for design, testing, CNC manufacturing as well as marketing purposes. The software should also be capable to include all the 3D tools that meet your requirements.
As an example, if your process includes sheet metal design work, there has to be a tool to develop 3D sheet metal parts to simplify and reduce the design time.
How much compatible the CAD system is with other CAD platforms?
In a modern manufacturing environment, the design process often involves interaction of multiple vendors and suppliers who working collaboratively across different CAD platforms. It is evident in such cases that the design information may include multiple CAD formats which are required to be centralized and converted to manufacturer’s supportable format. The new CAD should thus have the ability to recognize and support such multiple formats accurately without deviation in the design.
Does the software include all the required drafting tools you need?
Even if you encourage 3D across the product development cycle, at some point 2D drawings are always required. The shop floor guys will need 2D drawings with required information about dimensions and tolerances, and as such the new system must have the required tools you need to extract 2D drawings. Ensure that the software supports popular 2D formats such as DXF, DWG or PDF.
How much learning time is required to operate the new system efficiently?
The new system must be easier to operate with easy to learn tools, so that users can get familiar with the system quickly. Select the system that maintains a consistent GUI and has a familiar layout with easy design logic from start to finish. There are many CAD systems that are poorly designed with no logical design approach, causing users to stuck at multiple occasions and unnecessarily increase the design time.
How reliable and stable is the system to handle large and complex geometries?
It is important to determine the CAD system’s ability to handle large and complex geometries. Since 3D is much more complex than 2D CAD, there is huge number of lines of code written to perform 3D operations. Some systems as such may not respond properly or crash when dealing with large assemblies and geometries developed with many features.
To select the right system, it is important to identify the support team and vendor’s commitment to fix bugs. You can search in forums or ask other customers for their feedback and proceed further accordingly.
How good is the customer support service?
There are many CAD software packages available today that promise to be fast and cost-effective but have poor customer support service or have hidden costs to provide support. Look for software vendors that provide everything that you need in a complete package without any hidden cost. Identify the dealer strength in your area and the training and additional support services they provide.
About the Author:
Gaurang Trivedi is engineering consultant at TrueCADD. He has applied his engineering expertise across several highly complex and big scale projects, consequently managing to flawlessly deliver as per the client requirements.