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The Problems With CAD Tools: Vendors Address User Pain Points

Engineers also find productivity a stumbling block when moving between 2D and 3D CAD, as Autodesk has found. According to Andrew Anagnost, Senior Director of Autodesk’s Manufacturing Solutions Division, the company has recognized that their “customers need to support both 2D and 3D CAD, but they find it difficult to make an easy transition to 3D without losing valuable 2D data. They’ve challenged us to improve their productivity and IP reuse and access,” he stated.

While the basic user interface of most CAD systems has been improved, further simplification is always welcome by users. Said Milliken, “We currently have a project underway to make significant strides toward further simplifying the core modeling interface — things like adding simple push-and-pull commands to create solids from 2D sketches, and making the process of moving from 2D to 3D more transparent.”

“The idea of how things go together is still one of the more challenging parts of our system,” said McEleney. “That means assembly mates and mating conditions. It’s still very geometrically oriented and very challenging. There’s more work to be done.”

Another ease-of-use problem users experience with their CAD tools is interoperability. Many engineers and designers use more than one system, or use a combination of a CAD system, analysis software, and other programs. Making sure that data can be accurately and completely transferred from one program to another has proved to be problematic in many cases.

“Our users have fewer obstacles with interoperability between CAD systems than most CAD users,” said Robert Bean, Executive Vice President of Kubotek USA. “Our customers are dealing with larger, more complex files than ever before. Data is being received in various file formats created in different CAD systems. Working with those files has become increasingly important to delivering value within the supply chain.”

“We are finding that interoperability is something universally important to CAD users,” said Anagnost. “We are establishing partnerships with other players in the market to ensure that our users will not have to face the costly mistakes that accompany interoperability issues. We understand that large manufacturers may have multiple CAD programs to fit their needs, and it is our goal to make sure our software encourages integration with programs that are not in the Autodesk family.”

#2 Problem: Collaboration and the Internet

The way we obtain and share information — whether it’s CAD data or any other type of information — has changed completely since the Internet became ubiquitous. The Internet can be a valuable tool for collaboration of design and model data, but concerns about security remain. CAD users need to collaborate — with each other, their supply chain, and the enterprise — but the problem of securely sharing data is one that still exists.

“Customers need to quickly access information and easily communicate with co-workers, suppliers, partners, and customers,” said Campbell. “The Internet dramatically improves the way customers access information and collaborate by providing an efficient, lowcost infrastructure to connect people and information resources.”

Enabling users to easily access data also helps customers compete, said Jennifer Toton, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Autodesk’s Collaboration Solutions. “To compete in today’s economy, all key stakeholders — including designers, product managers, shop supervisors, customers, and suppliers — need both the access and tools to collaborate on product design information early in the process. Best-in-class manufacturers utilize digital processes, including the Internet, for collaborating at all points in the manufacturing lifecycle.”

“As the Internet became viable as a communication mechanism, technology vendors did a great job of confusing customers about the best way to use it,” said Scholes. “At first, there was a lot of talk about collaborating and designing in ‘real time.’ Now, companies are realizing that the most important aspect of collaboration is getting the right data to the right people quickly, securely, and in a format they can understand easily and interact with.”