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Check it Out: Watch CAD for Manufacturing and Sheet Metal

By Anthony J. Lockwood


Watch: CAD for Manufacturing and Sheet Metal

Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:

I failed my ballroom dancing class. Utterly. I could lie and say that I bombed because I have a bum leg and a beer gut. Truth is, I ain’t got no rhythm. But, you see, I understand rhythm in theory. Why, I can even rhyme bawdy words with benign melodies. Ergo, rhyming movements with music is a simple mechanical adaptation of a similar skill I possess. Right? Egad. Disaster at step two, if I got that far. Teacher, with eyes begging “no,” said I could repeat the beginner’s class if I imagined it would help.

Being competent in one sphere and understanding the theory of a second does not mean you can make theory practice. Take traditional history-based CAD. It can confound the finest machinists. Each requires different mind and skill sets. CAD’s constraints and dependencies may be understood by machinists in theory, but they’re a minefield when most try to make minor modifications to a model for machining purposes. The short of it is that many a machinist flounders with parametric CAD because it operates like a designer thinks, not as a part maker thinks.

This why direct modeling is a beautiful thing for machinists. I asked Blake Courter, the Director of Customer Development at SpaceClaim, about why SpaceClaim Engineer, newly released in its 2012 version, has been so embraced by machinists. “It’s a very hands-on approach to modeling inspired by working in the shop,” he said. “Most machinists want to make parts, not sit behind CAD workstations all day. We want to get the geometry done so we can get on with work.”

In practice, this means you can open parts in most any CAD format then manipulate geometry. SpaceClaim has de-featuring tools for creating in-process models for machining operations, and you can design jigs and fixtures around models quickly. It has automated repair tools such as stitch and missing face for cleaning dirty geometry, and you can create a hole from a dimensionless, imported part with a few clicks. For that matter, machinists using SpaceClaim who discover something unmachinable can get on the phone then tweak parts collaboratively with clients and keep the cycle moving. All without the weight and rebuild errors of traditional CAD or the wait for the CAD slinger to make the change.

In other words, SpaceClaim Engineer 2012 seems to think like a machinist. It works with whatever CAD your clients toss at you, lacks traditional CAD’s complexity, yet lets you do CAD stuff when needed. Think of what that means: Machinists and CAD dancing cheek-to-cheek like Astaire and Rogers.

Today’s Check It Out is a short video demonstration of what SpaceClaim offers manufacturing and sheet metal work. I’ve neglected sheet metal, which is ironic because SpaceClaim 2012’s new features for it — and the SketchUp conversion capabilities — are a big part of why I recommended DE highlight this release. Anyway, check out the video here.

Thanks, Pal. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering

About Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Digital Engineering's Editor-at-Large. Contact him via de-editors@digitaleng.news.