This post was originally created in January 2017.

With all the buzz about Additive Manufacturing, or 3D Printing, in the manufacturing world today, there is a lot of mystery and confusion surrounding the common practices and techniques. So, this week’s blog post will address a common type of 3D printing known as Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS).

What is Direct Metal Laser Sintering?

DMLS is actually part of a broader category, commonly referred to as a Granular Based Technique. All granular-based additive manufacturing techniques start with a bed of a powdered material. A laser beam or bonding agent joins the material in a cross-section of the part. Then the platform beneath the bed of material is lowered, and a fresh layer of material is brushed over the top of the cross section. The process is then repeated until a complete part is produced. The first commercialized technique of this category is known as Selective Laser Sintering.

The Selective Laser Sintering technique was developed in the mid-1980s by Dr. Carl Deckard and Dr. Joseph Beaman and the University of Texas at Austin, under DARPA sponsorship. As a result of this, Deckard and Beaman established the DTM Corporation with the explicit purpose of manufacturing SLS machines.  In 2001, DTM was purchased by its largest competitor, 3D Systems.

DMLS is the same process as SLS, though there is an industry distinction between the two, so it is important to make note of this. DMLS is performed using a single metal, whereas SLS can be performed with a wide variety of materials, including metal mixtures (where metal is mixed with substances like polymers and ceramics).

What Are the Advantages of this Process?


When working with our customers, from time to time, we’ll get questions on why they see unexpected results in some of their searches. This typically happens when they search without wildcards (I’ll explain later). In this blog post, I hope to shed some light on what can be a confusing experience for some Vault users.

The search engine in Vault operates on a on a general computer science principle called general Tokenization. This process essentially chops up the indexed properties into chunks called tokens. When a user searches in Vault (either quick search or advanced find), the search engine will attempt to match the tokens in the search string to the tokens in the appropriate properties.  Before going further, I’ll explain how Vault does the slicing and dicing.

First, there are three categories of characters (for our purposes, at least); alpha [a-z, A-Z], numeric [0-9], and special [#^$, blank space, etc.].  Vault will parse the string and sniff out groups of characters belonging to a category.  For instance, ABC123$@# would be tokenized into 3 individual tokens:

  • ABC
  • 123
  • $@#

Again, what happened is that Vault saw the first character, A, and understood it to be an alpha character. Vault then asked “Is the next character an alpha, too?” to which the answer was yes, so the token became AB. C was then added to the initial token, as it too was an alpha character.  However, the answer was “No”, when it came to the character 1.  Vault finished its first token and began the next one, now that it sensed a different category of character. Vault continued this line of questioning with the subsequent characters.

Another example might be a file name like SS Bearing Plate-6×6.ipt. Here, we have 8 tokens:

  • SS
  • Bearing
  • Plate
  • 6
  • x
  • 6
  • ipt

Now, you may have caught the missing period. Vault will only tokenize six special characters – all others are ignored. These special special characters (sorry, had to do it) are:

  • $ (dollar sign)
  • – (dash)
  • _ (underscore)
  • @ (at symbol)
  • + (plus)
  • # (octothorpe, aka number sign)

So now where do the unexpected results come in? This usually happens when an incomplete token is used without wild cards. For example, a user wants to find a specific mounting bracket. This user then types in “mount,” expecting that to be enough. In our hypothetical Vault environment, the results would return “Fan mount.ipt” but not “Mounting bracket.ipt” like they intended. Why? Remember that Vault is trying to match exact tokens (again, without wild cards).

If the user had entered mount*, the results would return the expected “Mounting bracket.ipt” as the user intended.

Moral of the story?  Always use wild cards…always.  No, really, all the time.  For everything.

There are great engineered products and then there are commercially successful products. Many variables factor into the profitability of a product: innovation, satisfying customer needs and delivering a great customer experience with product performance help companies to drive sales, command price premiums, and boost their topline results. While product development engineers are focused on the form, fit, and function of their designs to drive innovation and a great customer experience, often the product cost impacts of their decisions to drive profitability from the expense perspective are overlooked.

Engineers seldom have visibility to the cost impact of their decisions; they can’t optimize their design parameters for cost in the context of other design parameters, as they don’t have the required information. The biggest challenge to optimizing cost is understanding different cost parameters, and that requires a detailed knowledge of manufacturing processes and cost drivers.

Product Cost Management (PCM) allows product development companies to design for cost by providing early visibility to the cost implications of design decisions. Using PCM processes and tools they can systematically simulate and evaluate different scenarios to develop an ideal “should cost” model that is based on a detail-oriented cost parameters of materials, manufacturing processes, supply chain , regulatory compliance, product support and service. This helps them to identify cost saving ideas like changing materials, simplifying designs, combining parts /functions, or changing production locations.

There are different PCM techniques. Feature-based techniques look at the characteristics of a design to eliminate unnecessary, high-cost design features. Bottoms-up approaches based on Bill of Process (BOP) calculate more accurate cost models based on the manufacturing processes including labor, equipment, tooling, setup, and other production information. It enables companies to perform a “what if” analysis by modeling multiple production scenarios.

The benefits of PCM are not only for manufacturing companies to design their products for optimal cost by receiving feedback on the cost impact of the design decisions – they also help companies that rely on their supply chain to source for optimal pricing. Even though Direct Material Sourcing processes introduce a price competition, they are seldom based on optimum cost. Using PCM, original equipment manufactures (OEMs) can simulate their suppliers’ production costs. Even if no supplier can match the ideal “should cost” price point, it allows supplier selection with the knowledge that they need OEM help to produce at the ideal cost. This again drives continuous investments towards cost improvement in the supply chain; that’s a win-win scenario for both OEMs and Suppliers.

In my next post, I will show you how PLM supports PCM.

This post was originally written in January of 2017.

With all the buzz about Additive Manufacturing, or 3D Printing, in the manufacturing world today, there is a lot of mystery and confusion surrounding common practices and techniques. This week’s blog post will address a common type of 3D printing known as Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM).

Laminated Object Manufacturing or LOM works by joining layers of material (usually paper or plastic sheet) with an adhesive while a knife or laser cuts cross-sections to build a complete part. Parts are typically coated with a lacquer or sealer after production.

What Are the Advantages of this Process? […]

Everyone knows that a PLM journey can be a long and expensive path, with frustrations at every turn. The question an organization often asks is: is it worth trying to walk that path?

Effective and correctly implemented PLM can significantly impact several business costs, resulting in large organizational savings. Take a look at the list below and consider how your costs look right now – you may be able to answer your own question.

10 Business Costs Directly Impacted by PLM

  1. Factory Rework and Scrap. These costs can be substantial in a manufacturing organization. Not all rework and scrap is caused by insufficient or miscommunicated engineering and design, but a sizeable percentage is traceable back to this root cause. An effective PLM setup will reduce engineering-originated errors by providing timely and accurate information to the factory floor.
  2. Supplier Quality. Getting timely and accurate information to your suppliers can ensure that they deliver quality parts to your production line. PLM correctly configured can make this happen.
  3. Expedited freight costs. How many times does a product get out of your factories late? In order not to incur penalties, the shipping is expedited at a huge premium. Can any of these incidents be traced back to delayed engineering data? Then a PLM system can help.
  4. Effort to process bids. To win business, you need to respond to RFQs by preparing bids. This effort does not directly generate revenue, and so the preparation process must be as streamlined as possible. Are your key people distracted by bids? Automating the process with a PLM system will reduce the effort required.
  5. Time to create reports. Management requires reports that need to be reviewed. Are these created manually from disparate sources? Why not use a PLM system to generate these reports automatically on demand? There are huge time savings to be had from this enhancement.
  6. Time preparing data for downstream users. How much time does your valuable engineering resource spend extracting, converting, and transmitting engineering data to downstream users? Hours per week? This cost can be avoided completely by setting up a PLM system to deliver this data with no effort from the engineers.
  7. Effort to process engineering change. Your company struggles to process engineering change requests and notices. Many are late and require multiple rework cycles. A PLM can fix that by automating the process and ensuring accurate information.
  8. Cost of physical prototypes. Do you spend a lot of money on building and testing physical prototypes as part of your design process? Do you have to build them all or could some be eliminated by better engineering tools and virtual simulation? A leading-edge PLM system can reduce this dramatically.
  9. Your suppliers deliver parts that require rework. You are constantly getting incorrect parts from your suppliers. But do your suppliers have the right information to begin with? PLM technology can bridge this gap
  10. Wasted development effort. Do you spend funds developing products that go nowhere? This problem can be addressed by a PLM system that manages your development portfolio more accurately.

Do you have more than three of these costs that concern your or that are out of control? Then you definitely need to take a serious look at implementing or reworking your PLM system. We can help – just let us know.

This is an exciting post for me! Dassault has just come out with a couple of new bundles that blow the doors off anything I have seen previously.

CATMEE – Mechanical Engineering Excellence

The first package is named CATMEE; this would be the “Mechanical” version of the package. In Classic terms, previously for this purpose I would have recommended an MD2 trigram.  In PLM Express bundles, I would have recommended a CAC+MCE bundle to these types of users. They are typically heavy on the mechanical solid modeling portion of CATIA, and do not do very much surfacing.  CATMEE is a CAC+MCE on steroids! It includes CAT3DX (which I talked more about in my last post) AND also includes bundles for FPE (Fabricated Product), JTE (Jig and Tool Creation), PRX (Animated Product Review), FTX (3D Master), and TRE (Technical Specifications Review).

CATMEE Package Bundle

I realize that this sounds like a bunch of trigram soup. What does it really mean in CATIA V5? Well from a workbench standpoint, the CAC+MCE add-on looks like this:

CAC+MCE Workbenches

From a workbench standpoint, CATMEE looks like this:

CATMEE Bundle Workbenches

Take a closer look: you get Sheet Metal, 3D GD&T functionality (the good one, FTA!), Mold Tooling, Structure Design, and also DMU! In fact Kinematics, Space Analysis and Fitting Simulation alone can get expensive as an add-on, but here it comes with the bundle. Imagine cutting a section and it actually still being there when you click OK, and being available in the specification tree and updates when you change your part, as well as clearance checks, interference checks, etc.  MD2 and/or CAC+MCE users know exactly what I am talking about!

If you are in the market for a new seat or two this year and you are a mechanical customer, you should talk to your account manager and ask about this package; the new configurations not only help your productivity, but also help you expand your capabilities of what kinds of parts and markets you can get into.

CATMSE – Mechanical and Shape Engineering Excellence

This package is where you will really get your bang for the buck! CATMSE is a package we would have previously bundled as either an HD2 (Classic) or CAC+MCE+HDX (PLM Express). It is designed more for the mechanical and surfacing (Hybrid) type of role as a designer. Traditionally CAC+MCE+HDX overall gave you the GSD version of the Generative Shape Design workbench (better sweep functions, laws, etc) as well as a DL1 (Developed Shapes Toolbar in GSD) and a light version of Freestyle workbench (FS1). […]

My last post outlined how an integrated product lifecycle management (PLM) and service lifecycle management (SLM) tool framework can benefit both Product development organizations (Brand owners) and customers (Asset owners) by  enabling higher quality service at lower cost, resulting in an increased product/asset utilization and productivity. Teamcenter as a leading PLM platform supports this vision. With Teamcenter SLM solutions, the service and support phase of the product lifecycle is included in your overall PLM vision. Teamcenter bridges the gaps between the engineering, logistics, manufacturing, and service communities. OEMs and service providers can drive more efficient service operations with a single source of knowledge for both products and assets

For OEMs, Teamcenter enables them to reuse design and manufacturing data to enhance service content and incorporate service feedback to support Design for Serviceability and other product improvement initiatives. This holistic approach to the full product lifecycle helps the OEM compete successfully in the service market.  Teamcenter unifies SLM with PLM to support bi-directional collaboration between product engineering and service operations. Service teams can capitalize on the re-use of product knowledge from engineering and manufacturing to improve service planning and execution. In return, service teams can provide feedback to engineering to improve product designs for serviceability and reliability.

For the third party service provider, the service data management and applications allow them to efficiently execute service activities in a global marketplace through a single service platform. Using configuration-driven BOM management, Teamcenter delivers a fully linked, full lifecycle BOM environment that includes the EBOM, SBOM (Service BOM), and Asset BOM to configure accurate information to support services. Different service disciplines can share a common understanding of support requirements and  Service teams can coordinate operational activities for greater compliance, faster service, and lower costs.

The highlights of the solution include:

Maximize Service Knowledge Management and Value

With Teamcenter as the core of your SLM strategy, you have one source of service knowledge management. You can perform service activities with a full understanding of physical product /asset configurations, status and service history. You can order the correct parts, ensure that the proper training is done, and access all the appropriate information necessary to manage service operations

Create Effective Service Plans

Service plans are the key to profitable service operations. Teamcenter provides you with the fundamentals to author and publish service documentation as the source of work scope definition. You can drive service operations by providing all the detailed information that teams need to track and understand asset health, such as service requirements, task-by-task procedures, necessary resources and utilization characteristics. Your technicians have a complete understanding of service needs from Teamcenter, so they are prepared to perform reactive, proactive and upgrade service activities

Optimize Service Work with Schedule Visibility

With the detailed service plans in Teamcenter, you can schedule service activities with a complete understanding of the work scope, in order to meet customer expectations for product availability and reliability. Work orders generated from service plans are used to create service schedules. It is the visibility into the schedule and resources provided by Teamcenter that allows you to optimize service events and ensure that the right resources (parts, qualified people and tools) are reserved for the work

Empower Service Technicians with Work Instructions

Service technicians are a limited resource. When you provide them with complete, intelligent work packages, technicians can execute service work efficiently, accurately and compliantly. With Teamcenter, you can deliver service work instructions, safety/hazard notes, and service procedures (text, 2D/3D and animations). You can also include asset configurations and data collection requirements. Technicians can enter data, observations or discrepancies, and digitally sign off on work, which automatically updates the service schedule.

FIRST Robotics Team 1706, the Ratchet Rockers, will compete this weekend (April 26-29)
in the FIRST Championship in St. Louis, MO.

The Ratchet Rockers completed in 2 events this year. In Huntsville, MO they qualified #4 out of 50 teams but lost in the quarterfinals. In their other event in St. Louis they qualified #2 out of 52 teams and ended up winning the regional which qualified them for the Championship in St. Louis.

Team 1706, the Ratchet Rockers

The robotics team is based in Wentzville, MO (just northwest of St. Louis) providing the opportunity to the kids in the Wentzville School District and pull students from 3 different high schools. They have approximately 50 students on the team and 6 full time CAD students as they started the school year.

One of our accomplishments this year is a great shooter

FRC mentor Mark Roberts was looking to expose the entire team to Autodesk Inventor and to address the learning needs of the existing experienced CAD users on the team. Mark planned on running a classroom led “Inventor 101” class but was in search for a solution where the students could access and learn independently after their class.

i GET IT and Tata Technologies are proud to be able to sponsor the Ratchet Rockers and provide the much needed training material. Supplying the team with 50 i GET IT Autodesk Annual Subscriptions, the entire team had the opportunity to learn Autodesk Inventor and any of our other Autodesk offerings independently and at their own pace.

One of our accomplishments this year is a great shooter. I believe we are somewhere around the 20th best robot in the world (approx. 4500 teams) when it comes to scoring shooting fuels (balls).”  said Mark Roberts of his team.

Following their regional win the team prototyped new and better functions for the robot so they can improve their chances against the 400-500 teams that will compete this weekend.

Here is video of this year’s game. Look for robot 1706, the one shooting all the balls.


Good Luck this weekend Ratchet Rockers!

One of the first things I typically discuss with customers concerning file management is the relationship between files in their engineering data.  This is especially the case when working with data from 3D CAD systems like Autodesk Inventor. When you have Assemblies, parts, drawings, and presentations all with linked file relationships, it can be extremely challenging to manage this data without a tool that understands and maintains all the file links.  Simply renaming a single file can cause all sorts of problems if done in Windows Explorer.  Here are some of the areas where file relationships matter.

  1. Part, Assy, Drawing – As previously mentioned, 3D CAD data can be a challenge to manage.  Simply understanding where a file is used (or linked) can be tremendously helpful.

    “Where Used” within Autodesk Vault

  2. Copy Design – There is a “copy design” tool in Autodesk Vault that can make it much easier to reuse existing designs in the creation of variants based on the original.  This also reduces the amount of duplicate data in Vault because so much more is reused rather than recreated.
  3. Renaming – In many workflows, files are initially created using descriptive filenames.  These files then need to be renamed once a design is approved and will go into production.  With Inventor data, renaming files in Windows Explorer will break the links between parts, assemblies, and drawings. The files then have to be manually relinked, which can become extremely troublesome if a file was used by more than one assembly without knowing it.  When someone opened up the other assembly, the file would be missing and very difficult to locate.  Vault simply fixes all the file references whenever a file is renamed so this isn’t a problem.
  4. Moving – Files that are moved in Windows Explorer can cause the same problems as renaming, but usually because of the way Inventor uses project files. Using Autodesk Vault with a single Vault type project file eliminates many of the challenges in moving files to more relevant or common locations.
  5. Attachments – Attachments in Vault can also be tracked.  One example might be a design specification document that might apply to a whole class of components.  The design spec can be attached to the relevant designs.  If the design spec document changes, you can simply do a “where used” from it to see which files will be impacted by the specification change.

“To specialize or not to specialize, that is the question.”

The question of specializing vs. generalizing has arisen in so many aspects: biology, health, higher education, and of course, software.  When one has to decide between the two ends of the spectrum, the benefits and risks must be weighed.

muskrat_eating_plantAs environments have changed over time, animals have had to make a decision: change or perish. Certain species adapted their biology to survive on plants – herbivores – others, meat 0 carnivores.  When in their preferred environments with ample resources, each can thrive.  However, if conditions in those environments change so that those resources are not as bountiful, they may die out. Then comes the omnivore, whose adaptation has enabled them to survive on either type of resource. With this wider capability of survival, there comes a cost of efficiency. The further you move up through the food chain, the less efficient the transfer of energy becomes.  Plants produce energy, only 10% of which an herbivore derives, and the carnivore that feeds on the herbivore only gets 10% of that 10%; i.e. 1% of the original energy.

Three hundred trout are needed to support one man for a year.
The trout, in turn, must consume 90,000 frogs, that must consume 27 million grasshoppers that live off of 1,000 tons of grass.
— G. Tyler Miller, Jr., American Chemist (1971)

doctor-1149149_640When it comes to deciding on a course of action for a given health problem, people have the option to go to their family doctor, a.k.a. general practitioner, or a specialist. There are “…reams of papers reporting that specialists have the edge when it comes to current knowledge in their area of expertise” (Turner and Laine, “Differences Between Generalists and Specialists“)., whereas the generalist, even if knowledgeable in the field, may lag behind the specialist and prescribe out-of-date – but still generally beneficial – treatments.  This begs the question, what value do we place on the level of expertise?  If you have a life-threatening condition, then a specialist would make sense; however, you wouldn’t see a cardiologist if your heart races after a walk up a flight of stairs – your family doctor could diagnose that you need some more exercise.

graduation-907565_640When it comes to higher education, this choice of specializing or not also exists: to have deep knowledge and experience in few areas, or a shallower understanding in a broad range of applications. Does the computer science major choose to specialize in artificial intelligence or networking? Or none at all? How about the music major?  Specialize in classical or German Polka? When making these decisions, goals should be decided upon first. What is it that drives the person? High salary in a booming market (hint: chances are that’s not German Polka)? Or is the goal pursuing a passion, perhaps at the cost of potential income? Or is it the ability to be valuable to many different types of employers in order to change as the markets do? It’s been shown that specialists may not always command a higher price tag; some employers value candidates that demonstrate they can thrive in a variety of pursuits.

Whether you’re looking to take advantage of specialized design products (for instance, sheet metal or wire harnesses), or gaining the value inherent in a general suite of tools present in a connected PLM platform that can do project management, CAPA, and Bill of Materials management, we have the means. A “Digital Engineering” benchmark can help you decide if specialized tools are right for your company. Likewise, our PLM Analytics benchmark can help you choose the right PLM system or sub-system to implement.

Specialize, or generalize? Which way are you headed and why?

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