Category "Digital Engineering"

This is Part 3 in my series on the hidden intelligence of CATIA V5. To quickly recap what we have already talked about, in my first post I discussed the importance of setting up and using parameters and formulas to capture your design intent and quickly modify things that you know are likely to change. We took those principles a bit farther in my second post and discussed the value of building a design table in those situations when you may have a design with parameters that will vary and that you want to use many times. In that case you could see that we had our rectangular tubing part and could modify its wall thickness, height, and width to make several iterations of basically any size of tubing one would ever need! You would simply keeping doing a Save as… and placing those parts in your working directory to be added into an assembly at some time (I assume).

This methodology would work fine, but today I want to focus on a very cool spin on this theory by building a catalog of your most commonly used parts which are similar enough to be captured in a single model. Using our tubing model, and picking up where we left off, we have a spreadsheet that defines the parameters that change. All we would need to do to build a catalog of each iteration of the design table is add a column to the spreadsheet named PartNumber just as I have it with no spaces in the name and then associate that to the ‘Part Number’ intrinsic parameter that is created automatically when you being a model.

Let’s get started.  I will open both the model and the spreadsheet, edit the spreadsheet with the column, and then add in some part numbers.

Part numbers added

When you save the file, the field should appear in CATIA when you click on the Associations tab. […]

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). […]

“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?

Today’s topic will focus a little on the licensing side of CATIA – namely CAT3DX and the theory of what it is here for.

Several years ago, Dassault changed the way they were packaging CATIA V5 by introducing PLM Express as a way to buy it; my colleague Jason Johnson explained this in a previous post. As he had mentioned, this was referred to as CATIA TEAM PLM and was really designed to allow for connecting current CATIA V5 users of their new PLM offering, which was ENOVIA SmarTeam.  He also wrote briefly about the configurations and trigrams that make up the software.  The easiest way to think about a trigram per se is to know that a group of trigrams make up a configuration, and trigrams by themselves give you access to particular workbenches – or in some cases only add toolbars to existing workbenches.

Why does this matter? Because there is a new sheriff in town called 3DEXPERIENCE. Much more than a PLM system, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform suite of tools will assist the user in management of their daily work, projects, processes, BOMs, documents, CAD, etc.  While an old CAC (CAT) license – which was the base configuration for PLM Express – would give you access to SmarTeam by bundling in TDM and TEM trigrams, the new CAT3Dx will now give you all of that, as well as access to the ENOVIA 3DEXPERIENCE Platform, by giving you the PCS and CNV trigrams as well. These are the minimum trigrams needed to connect to the platform (the price for admission).

The Dassault idea is still the same – help CATIA v5 users move away from file-based, directory-based storage (which has always presented its own challenges) and help companies regain control of their data via the new platform. The only caveat to this is that you would install ENOVIA to manage your data, which is not as simple as throwing in a set of discs like SmarTeam was. ENOVIA requires the setting up of a database using SQL or Oracle, and then configuration of the various pieces (web server, authentication, java virtual machine, etc.).  Once this has been configured, the base PCS, CNV combination gives you the ability to vault your data and set up workspaces for where and how it will be stored, as well as do some level of change management on it. (set up Change Requests and Routes for how your data will be routed) to get it through its life cycle to release.

Creation Menu


The ENOVIA applications that come with the PCS, CNV combination are Classify & Reuse, Collaboration & Approvals, Collaborative Lifecycle, Design IP Classification, Exchanges Management, My Collections, My Issues, My Route Tasks, and X-CAD Design. These are plenty enough to help your team begin to get to a single source of truth – meaning, never having to guess what state the latest data is in.


You also have access applications for business intelligence information. This includes access to the latest technology of Dashboards.  Dashboards are ways of viewing data configured to your liking.  Not at all unlike the old igoogle portal which allowed you to customize your view of news, etc. In 2012 Dassault acquired Netvibes.


Information Intelligence


This is a second look at the hidden intelligence of CATIA V5. Our topic today will focus on the creation and use of design tables. As I talked about in my last blog post, parameters and formulas can be used to drive your design from the specification tree based on your design intent. We will continue on using the rectangular tubing part and build several variations of that tubing that can be driven from a spreadsheet.

Design Table Icon

Most of the work has been already done, and although it is not necessary to have pre-defined parameters and formulas existing, the process is faster. We will begin by again looking at the Knowledge toolbar, this time focusing on the Design Table icon.

When the command is selected, a dialog appears asking for the name of the design table and also gives you a choice on whether or not you want to use a pre existing file or create one from the current parameter values.  The differences being whether or not you have an existing spreadsheet filled out already with all the tabulated values of what changes in each iteration of the design.

Design Table Dialog


In our case, to show the functionality we will choose the create with current parameter values option. Once that is decided, you choose which parameters you want to be driven by the spreadsheet.  In our case, we had some already created, so we changed the filter to User parameters, chose the values that were NOT driven by formulas (INSIDE and OUTSIDE RADII) and moved them to the inserted side by highlighting and clicking the arrow.

Parameters to Insert

At this point, we have defined that we want a spreadsheet to use columns for Height, Width, and Wall Thickness based on the current values in the model as it is at this moment. When we click OK on the dialog, it will ask us where we want to save the spreadsheet. I suggest that you do this in a place where anyone who uses the model can has at least read access to (i.e. a network drive).  Note that I can also change the type of file to a .txt if I do not have access to Excel® or any other software that can edit .xls files.

Read Access Directory


Once this has been defined, your design table is created, linked to your 3D model, and ready to be edited to include your alternate sizes. This is confirmed by the next dialog. To add in the other sizes, simply click on the Edit table… button and your editor (Excel or Notepad) should launch and simply fill in rows with your values.

Linked and ready to edit

Once you have edited and saved the values, you can close that software and CATIA will update based on your values.

Excel Modifications


CATIA Updated

Now you would just pick the value set you want and click OK for the change to appear on the screen.

File Updated

At any time, you can always go to make the changes by finding the Design Table under the Relations section of the specification tree and double-clicking on it.

Design Table under Relations

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to create a design table and drive your parametric file with multiple values. The world of CATIA V5 is all about re-use of data and capturing business intelligence we already know exists in all companies.  How can we help you? Tata Technologies has helped many companies time and again.

Stay tuned for Part 3!







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. […]

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