While we’ve not focused on Catia for quite some time—the solids modeler from Dassault Systèmes (www.3ds.com; Auburn Hills, MI)—rest assured, it has not stagnated. Version 5 Release 16, announced November, 2005, packs a number of enhancements. Many of these apply to various products in Dassault’s product lifecycle management universe. Here are some of the enhancements related design and production.
The Catia 2D Layout for 3D Design product embeds 2D drafting into a 3D environment. This function lets conceptual designers sketch in 2D, 3D, or both. It is also a large step toward full-fledged 3D operations. Design and engineering departments can now work directly and primarily in 3D, and generate 2D drawings as required.
Quick Surface Reconstruction, used in reverse engineering, has been automated such that clicking a virtual button creates surface meshes from the point clouds generated when digitizing physical mockups. This function replaces tedious, manual surface recreation.
Functional Molded Parts modeling now includes commonly used core and cavity design functions, such as extrude, revolve, cut, thicken surface, rib, boss, pocket, grill, and shell. These features are particularly useful when designing plastic parts for interiors, like door linings and instrument panels. Built-in associative intelligence of functional bodies, volumes, and features, replaces the constraints in history-tree-based design operations. As a result, design changes can be made quickly and at any time during the product’s lifecycle by any designer—regardless of how the functional part was previously modeled.
Catia V5R15 includes three new machining products. One, NC Machine Tool Builder models the kinematics of numerical control (NC) machines, tools, tool changers, pallet changers, and other peripherals. The resulting model can be reused to create process plans, validate machining setups, detail machining operations, validate and optimize tool paths, perform post processing, and emulate controllers. Post processor and controller emulator information can be assigned for further post processing and simulation.
Two, NC Machine Tool Simulation lets NC programmers simulate selected machine tool paths, determine interferences, modify tool paths or machining operations, and generate ISO code. When this is put together, the programmer gets to simulate what really happens when machining parts, particularly material removal. As necessary, the programmer can modify machining operations to avoid collisions. This product also detects axis limit errors, which can be interactively corrected.
Three, DMU Dimensioning & Tolerancing Review gives users access to dimensioning and tolerancing information without their having to generate 2D drawings. This furthers 3D-only operations. This product provides two-way associativity between dimensioning and tolerancing annotations, geometrical elements, and features. It also provides 2D and 3D visualizations of tolerances between surfaces in a digital mockup.
Plus, Real Time Rendering got updated. This product lets designers create realistic, dynamic renderings and animations in real-time. At any time, materials, lights, and environments can be created and manipulated—and immediately viewed. Advanced rendering capabilities include improved reflections, ground shadows, and adaptive texture mapping. Together, these capabilities can display complex materials such as metallic car paint, varnished woods, and chrome materials. Users can define one environment image per material so that display reflections will exactly fit the object.
This latest version of Catia also improves upon Dassault’s 3D XML format. First, 3D annotations, animations, drafting, and tolerancing information can be saved in 3D XML. Second, Dassault’s 3D XML player is integrated into IBM Lotus Notes, and both SolidWorks and e-Drawings support the 3D XML format. All of this helps further 3D XML adoption.
Quite simply, concludes Olivier Sappin, Dassault’s Automotive Solution Leader, “The goal of V5 is to have an integrated platform for all Catia products. We propose a single desktop for the designer [rather than] a puzzle of several tools.”