Category "Digital Engineering"

CATIA has many naming conventions and packaging options. In this post, we’ll be looking specifically at CATIA V5, with future posts examining CATIA V6 and 3DEXPERIENCE.

Version 5 began back in the late 90s as a complete re-write of the previous version. As development progressed, new releases were produced. A release indicates enhanced or new functionality over prior releases – however, still on the same version. A collection of bug fixes would be referred to s Service Pack, and specific bug fixes are referred to as a Hot Fix. Putting it all together we would see something like:

V5 R19 SP 9 HF 108

This would translate to:
Version CATIA 5, release 19, service pack 9, hot fix 108

Why is this important? Because many OEMs require their suppliers to deliver designs that specifically match their own.

Classic vs. PLM Express

When looking for a seat of CATIA, you would be looking for what Dassault calls a configuration. Configurations are commonly referred to by their trigram (a character letter acronym) that is specific to the type of design required. For instance, a mechanical designer would be interested in either an “MD1” or “MD2” – “Mechanical Design 1” or “Mechanical Design 2,” respectively – depending on level of complexity. We call these configurations Classic.

Later, to support their data management solution, SmarTeam, Dassault came up with new bundles called “CATIA PLM Express.” These bundles included licenses for SmarTeam, encouraging use by lowering the cost of entry. This also the first time we see the idea of roles. Rather than bundling functionality by the type of design, in CATIA PLM Express, the bundles are made more intuitive by considering the role of the designer. You could get these bundles, or modules, specific to Manufacturing Engineers, or Layout Engineers. The idea is to gather the modules required by the desired outcome (lathe machined parts, structural steel frames), rather than the methodology (mechanical design). You can build your own PLM Express here.

cat-1074657_1280There are a few additional terms to define when working with PLM Express. It all starts with the bundle called “CATIA TEAM PLM,” or in trigram speak “CAT,” which includes most of the basic design tools and some data management licenses. This is the base configuration upon which everything else is built.

The next level of bundles are called Enablers. Enablers form the starting point of the role-based package. A designer that needs to produce structural steel frames would start their selection in the “Layout Engineer” group of enablers, and would select the one named “CATIA Structure & Steelwork Layout,” or “SSE.” A tooling engineer would look at the group “Mechanical Product Engineer,” and the enabler of choice would be “CATIA Jigs & Tooling Creation,” or “JTE.” In the tooling example, the common way of referring to the package is “CAT+JTE.”

If enablers start the specialization bundles, the next level called Extensions round out. These bundles are very specific to a role or outcome. Case in point is “CATIA Composites Design,” or “CPX.” Another example would be “CATIA Electrical Cable Layout,” or “ECX” found in the “Layout Engineer” grouping, and could be added to the enabler “CATIA Layout & Annotations,” or “LOE.” That would create the final package of “CAT+LOE+ECX.”

A special note: in order to get access to an extension bundle, an enabler bundle must accompany it. In turn, to access an enabler, you must first start with CAT. Think of them as levels of a house: CAT, the base configuration, would be the first floor. The second floor consists of enablers, and the third floor are enablers. You can’t get to the third floor without the second. You can have any combination of enablers and extensions, regardless of the role grouping. So our tooling designer (CAT+JTE), may, for some reason, need access to the Electrical Cable Layout extension (ECX), found in the “Layout Engineer” grouping.

One final note, and this is a biggie.

When an OEM specifies a version level, say V5 R22 SP5 HF 16, they may also prescribe a classic configuration like MD2. This is not gospel. You may use a PLM Express bundle instead; both use the same file formats. They are both V5, and are interchangeable.

This can be extremely confusing, especially for new people just entering the CATIA world, and all these trigrams and bundles can be daunting. Our team can help you determine what you need and put together the bundle that makes the most sense for your situation. Just let us know how we can be of service.

Previously, my colleague Mark Van DeBogert touched in an earlier blog post on the business side of CATIA 3D Master. Today, we are going to go a little further into understanding what is available to purchase from the Dassault CATIA V5 product line. As with a lot of Dassault CATIA products, there are two levels of the Functional Tolerancing & Annotation offering.  The licenses are FT1 and FTA respectively.

The FT1 license allows you to easily create your 3D annotations, tolerances, and specifications, as it does provide a pretty comprehensive set of dress up features, text and flag note features. 3D Dimensioning can be done in both part and assembly levels.  You display and manage your annotations by simply setting up various annotation planes, and you can easily switch a mirrored annotation with the click of a button, as shown below.

The number one and most significant difference between FT1 and FTA is the Tolerancing Advisor.  The advisor guides the user through the creation of annotations and dimensions according to the selected geometrical element, plus an existing annotation and the selected standard (ANSI, ASME, ISO, etc.) the user is working to. For the novice user, it will usually prevent making gross mistakes; it’s pretty much the all-purpose tool for creating annotations, dimensions, and tolerances – it can’t necessarily do everything, but it certainly goes a long way. Everything created using the tolerance advisor is what’s referred to as Semantic.

In order for something to be Semantic it needs to meet two criteria: […]

In this blog post, we will look into the basics of surface development and gain an understanding of what continuity is. Years ago when I used to teach full time I would tell my students that I called it “continue-ity,” the reason being that you are essentially describing how one surface continues or flows into another surface. Technically, you could describe curves and how they flow with one another as well. So let’s get started.

G0 or Point Continuity is simply when one surface or curve touches another and they share the same boundary.  In the examples below, you can see what this could look like on both curves and surfaces.

G0 Continuity

G0 Continuity


G0 Curve Continuity

G0 Curve Continuity

As we progress up the numbers on continuity, keep in mind that the previous number(s) before must exist in order for it to be true. In other words, you cant have G1 continuity unless you at least have G0 continuity. In a sense, it’s a prerequisite.  G1 or Tangent continuity or Angular continuity implies that two faces/surfaces meet along a common edge and that the tangent plane, at each point along the edge, is equal for both faces/surfaces. They share a common angle; the best example of this is a fillet, or a blend with Tangent Continuity or in some cases a Conic.  In the examples below, you can see what this could look like on both curves and surfaces. […]

Space: the final frontier!

…at least that is how I am beginning to feel as design software and its features evolve. In this post, I want to talk about the basics – specifically the basics of component design.

The age-old question will arise at times: do I begin the design at 0,0,0 or do I design the component in its assembly position? Does it matter? Well, yes and no. With most CAD software packages, you have the ability to constrain or mate the feature to the component it is mating to. So technically, almost every component can be designed at 0,0,0 and then just assembled when you are done, as long as you have a mating condition to work with. This method is typically referred to as Bottom Up design. You see this most often in design of off-the-shelf items you would basically plug and play as needed, e.g. Fasteners, Tubing, Brackets, etc.



The alternative to this type of design is when you have a group of components that don’t necessarily mate together but need to come into the correct assembly position every time they are inserted. This method is typically referred to as Top Down design.  In the Automotive realm of design, all of the body panels are designed using a top down method.  Generally you will hear the term “designed in body position,” which indicates it is a top down design.

The key to working on a top down design is that every component is designed using a common axis system, aka common 0,0,0 location. The major systems in a vehicle that are used in other vehicles as well will be developed using a common axis system that won’t be the vehicle axis system.  For example, an engine would maybe have an axis system built at the rear face of the block and the centerline of the crank. […]

Laws are very useful when it comes to wanting to control something that has a known variance in it.  For example, if I were a designer and needed a linear surface that begins at one angle at one end of the guide curve and ends with a different angle. Without the ability to do this, you would have to create two surfaces and do some sort of transition surface in between them. In this video below, I will run a linear surface using a simple law on the angle value to take it from 15 degrees and one end to 45 degrees at the other end.

In this case I used a linear style law, and as you see, when I looked at the surface from a plan view (from above) the angle direction was linear from the 15 deg to the 45 deg.  Below, I will show what would have happened if I had done it as an “S Type” law by modifying the law.

In the image below you can see them if they are overlayed over each other. The surface highlighted is the S Type law and as you can see it definitely has an “S” shape for the transition in between the 2 knows angles.

Both Law Types

Both Law Types

You’re probably thinking, “What if I wanted a specific angle somewhere in the middle of the transition?” This gets a little trickier. In that case you would use an Advanced Law.

In order to used the advanced type law, you have to first develop it.  The easiest way I have found to do this is with a sketch.  In the example below, I am showing what the sketch would look like for the original linear law. […]

In today’s engineering environment, there are a plethora of design tools available. One question I often hear is “Why CATIA?” It’s a question that seems simple enough, but the answer is much more complex. CATIA generally involved a greater initial investment, but in terms of overall design cost, you may be surprised to learn that a CATIA license can be a real bargain.

Ask: “What are we trying to accomplish?”

What type of design work are you doing? Do you require the ability to create complex surfaces? Are you going to create a small number of models and small assemblies or will there be a large number of models and large assemblies? Are you sharing the models with customers or vendors? Do you start every design from scratch or reuse as much data as possible?

The list of questions above is certainly not complete, but you can see by the number of questions already posited, the answer is multifaceted.

Complex Surfacing

Let’s look at the creation of complex surfaces. Many CAD systems can create surfaces of some level, but what if your company needs to create complex shapes? Look at how many CAD systems can create complex surfaces, and the list gets shorter – much shorter. Next, how many systems can modify complex surfaces? One example of this is the actual morphing of a complex surface. One might use this ability to compensate for springback in a metal stamping or counteract warpage in a plastic part. Now the list is much shorter. CATIA can easily handle these operations.


Large Assemblies

Next let’s look at large assemblies – something on the order of 500-1,000+ models. While virtually all systems can create assemblies, what happens when these assemblies get very large? Can the system handle them? How are you going to manage these assemblies? Is the system still able to operate or has its performance degraded to the point that it is virtually unusable? CATIA can handle very large assemblies, entire automobiles, aircraft, ships, etc. With CATIA V6 the management of these models is OOTB. Again the list is short at this point.

Data Reuse

Lastly, let’s look at data reuse. […]

With globalization and distributed product development, adhering to a single CAD tool for the globally dispersed design teams and suppliers has become practically difficult. Business dynamics like mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, and flexible supplier selections based on direct material sourcing processes can also present a multi-CAD scenario to companies. In such scenarios, if the PLM tool isn’t capable of supporting multi-CAD, that can limit the overall engineering business flexibility of companies. It can either force them to take up costly, error-prone, risky, and time-consuming CAD platform migrations OR the global teams continue to work in isolation using a variety of different CAD tools, data, and processes. During that period, each design group generates and stores design data independently, lacking mechanisms to work as an integrated whole. Time-consuming and error-prone processes for finding and managing CAD data and assembling release packages cause design decisions to be often based on incorrect/out-of-date information. This results in design delays, as users can’t see each other’s design changes immediately, and inconsistent adherence to changes and approval processes.

Teamcenter, with its ability to manage more than one CAD system on the same platform, helps companies to mitigate both present and future multi-CAD challenges. It has out of the box integration to all major commercial MCAD tools like NX, Solid Edge, CATIA, SolidWorks, ProEngineer/Creo, Inventor and AutoCAD. Teamcenter’s CAD integration and data management capabilities are very rich, including embedded TC ribbon, standalone TC integrated CAD tool launch, advanced search, update/save to TC, update/synchronize data being worked on by others, change impact analysis, initiate changes, and save revisions – all directly from CAD without the need to open the Teamcenter application. Along with these functionalities, Teamcenter’s 4-tier architecture, optimized for high latency environments, multi-site, security and supplier integration solutions, helps global engineering teams to operate and collaborate at different levels of business integration, from a tightly integrated process mode to a loosely coupled on demand mode.multi_cad

In a multi-CAD environment, design groups receive designs from other teams and/or suppliers, created using different CAD tools. They have difficulty in aggregating CAD data from multiple CAD sources to visualize and analyze assemblies. Also, BOM structures aren’t adequately connected to visual content for Digital Mock-Up. This lack of connection undermines the timeliness and quality of decision making, and forces them to spend time and cost to aggregate, review, and validate designs and design changes. So it is key to enable designers to visualize and analyze product data from different CAD systems and conduct design collaboration reviews across geographically distributed sites. Teamcenter, with its industry leading visualization capabilities, provides the ability to visualize multi-CAD in a neutral JT format and then simulate various assembly modes for downstream engineering, manufacturing and service processes.

All of this leads to:

  • Improved productivity: Enable design teams and suppliers to use the tools they are most familiar with and use/reuse component designs created by other teams/suppliers on other MCAD systems
  • Accelerated product development: Find the right design information quickly; structured workflows enable development groups to work together as a single entity irrespective of location.
  • Increased quality: Find the right data and understand the dependencies to intelligently assess the impact of changes
  • Reduced costs: Modify and share component designs created by other teams/suppliers on your preferred CAD systems and incorporate it into multi-CAD assemblies or product design

Do you have any thoughts to add? Questions on how Teamcenter might apply to your design environment? Leave a comment and let’s chat.

When I think of the countless customers I have consulted with over the years, it amazes me how many don’t use parameters to control the design and capture design intent! What is a parameter, you ask?  A parameter can be thought of in two ways when it comes to CATIA V5. Parameters are built the moment you start a new part – as you can see in the image below, we already have parameters for the Part Number, Nomenclature, Revision, Product Description, and Definition created automatically. Parameters are being created each time you build any feature.  These types of parameters are known as system parameters.


You can and should build your own parameters to define your design intent. It’s every bit as important during the initial stages of a design to define your intent this way as it is to make sure sketches are constrained properly. In fact, it helps you in your sketch constraints (every constraint is a feature that has parameters associated to it). In this simple example of a piece of standard rectangular tubing shown below, there are constraints defining the height, width, wall thickness, and radii. Even though this is very easy to create, if I am a designer I would want to design it in such a way that I never have to waste any time designing a piece of rectangular tubing again. If I am a design leader, I feel the same and don’t want any of my designers doing this again in any design that involves any piece of rectangular tubing. The use of parameters will get us there!



The parameters I am talking about are user defined parameters. Simple to create but very, very powerful in their functionality.  The simplest way to create a user defined parameter in CATIA V5 is through the fx icon found on the Knowledge toolbar.


You might be thinking, where have I seen that icon before? Oh yeah, in Excel when I need to create a formula for my cell. That is the point we are making here! In Excel, I use this function to compute things for me and make it easy to come up with a desired result.  In CATIA, we will create some parameters and then, when necessary, assign formulas to them to come up with our desired result.  When you click on the icon, you get the Formulas dialog and when you click on the drop down list next to the New Parameter of Type button, you can see you have many, many options.



When I first started in the Design and Engineering field, CAD was used primarily by large OEMs and some large suppliers. Most companies’ design work was done on drafting boards with vellum and pencils, or Mylar and ink.


As the technology evolved, CAD became more affordable, and increasingly necessary if one wanted to do business with certain OEMs. But while the design work was being done in CAD, the official documents were still paper – actual paper, created in CAD, printed, signed off by hand and distributed through the purchasing departments.


Eventually the paper gave way to PDF files for distribution, at least from the OEM; most companies still used paper (some still do!) internally to manufacture and inspect their products. They still create, release, and distribute 2D drawings and balloon the drawings for inspection purposes.


Technology has reached the point where a 2D drawing is really no longer necessary for the manufacture of a part or assembly, yet many companies still create them, even if the OEM does not provide one. Typically, the 3D model is used for fabrication, unless it is being done by hand. The creation, release, storage, and distribution of 2D drawings is huge. I am sure if companies actually looked at what it is costing them they would be shocked.

Some OEMs and other companies have an electronic way to handle the storage and distribution portion which is huge but the creation unless automated is still quite costly. Then there is the interpretation of the 2D drawings which can lead to quality problems, which we know is very costly.
There is a better way. […]

Tangent Select1Autodesk Inventor now includes a new selection filter.  It can be accessed the same way as many of the other selection filters using the “right-click” Tangent Select3menu in Inventor.  Let’s look at an example and the associated steps and results:

  1. Set “Faces and Edges” as your selection filter.  This is typically the default while editing individual components.
  2. Select a face, right click, and pick “Select Tangencies.”
  3. Perform an operation (such as changing color) to all the faces at the same time.


Use the selection set of tangent faces to:

  • Delete the selection set with Delete Faces.
  • Assign an appearance to the selection set.
  • Add or remove thickness to faces, or create an offset surface from a part face with the Thicken/Offset command.
  • Copy a set of faces from one component to another (handy for tooling development)

The “Select Tangencies” option can also be used to select a continuous set of tangent edges on a component.

Use the selection set of tangent edges to:

  • Fillet or chamfer the preselected edges.
  • Review or check for tangency conditions or closed loops.

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