Putting the "I" in Integration

Parametric Technology Corp.'s (PTC, Waltham, MA) aggressive upgrade of Pro/ENGINEER (Pro/E) and its sibling design/analysis/manufacturing tools contain hundreds of enhancements.

Parametric Technology Corp.'s (PTC, Waltham, MA) aggressive upgrade of Pro/ENGINEER (Pro/E) and its sibling design/analysis/manufacturing tools contain hundreds of enhancements. Not the least of which is seamless, incredibly intuitive associativity, making team-oriented product development a relative breeze. Here are the highlights:

Pro/ENGINEER 2000i: Among the new and improved features of PTC's flagship software system is a behavior modeling capability optimizes the design process by basing designs on engineer-driven criteria. The example I was shown was that of a cube that needed to shrink from 6 in.3 to 4 in. 3, and needed to fit into an assembly of parts. Instead of redrawing every line, all the engineer did was indicate what he wanted the new dimensions to be, and how much liquid he needed the cube to hold. The system then remodeled the cube, graphing its progress as it went along. Once the software found the optimal way to meet these requirements, a finished part model—that looked suspiciously like a gas tank—was generated.

behavioral modeling technology
behavioral modeling technology
Both the gas tank and the crankshaft would traditionally be designed using geometric iteration and reieration to achieve design objectives. With the behavioral modeling technology, design engineers let specific requirements and functional behavior drive the model.

Animation is another key enhancement to the new system. The Mechanism Design function enables motion simulation based on the behavior of an object or component. With it, engineers get a good idea of how something will move within the assembly and design constraints assigned to it. (My example was that of a pin joint rotating within an assembly of parts.) Full animation tools can be used to set up anything from general motion simulations to mock-ups of large assembly sequences.

While we're talking large assemblies, 2000i has a "Shrinkwrap" function that lets users group parts in an assembly together to provide a good idea of the mass and volume of the parts as a whole. It may also be a nice way to provide assembly data to other links in the supply chain without giving away proprietary design data.

Pro/NC: PTC's group of computer aided manufacturing (CAM) tools has been enhanced to include Expert Machinist. The software is able to take 2000i solid models or imported design models and to break them down into machining-specific features using general shop-floor practices as a starting point. From here, the engineer applies to the model whatever strategies work best. It then converts the final draft to G-codes so it can go right to the factory floor. In other words, the NC programmer creates toolpaths based on the geometry of a part, and the software communicates these instructions to the CAM software. It's not a generative NC program software system so much as it's a diplomat or translator between the programmer and the CAM system.

According to PTC, the big difference between this system and others is that PTC acknowledges that NC programmers know how to remove metal and uses that knowledge to do so in the most optimal way. Other programs try to duplicate the knowledge of the programmer, a feat PTC feels can never really be done because software can never copy an individual programmer's knowledge of the machines on a particular factory floor and what they're capable of.

The Association Game: Pro/E's Associative Topology Bus (ATB) integrates all of the software tools so that you can move product creation from one step to the next without batting an eyelash. ATB allows geometric, topographical, and other pertinent product data to float from one PTC application to another without loss of integrity. Not only does this include from one Pro/E module to another, but to other PTC software applications like CADDS5, Pro/DESKTOP, and ICEM/Surf as well. And to ensure that data entering the Pro/E system remains intact, the Import Data Doctor function verifies and repairs CAD data coming from other systems.

All tools in the i-series are also web-enabled, improving person-to-person associativity. A Java-based object-oriented programming toolkit called J-Link is included within 2000i. It lets users publish designs to the web, greatly increasing the effectiveness of collaborative engineering projects. Any of the popular Web browsers can be used to access and view the pages, which can include hyperlinks to more detailed information.

Also falling under this web-enabled category is DesignSuite, the one PTC tool that truly wouldn't work without the Internet. It's a database of 3D CAD data of more than 300,000 standard components that can be used to complete assemblies. Simple drag and drop functions let users select, say a fastener, and insert it into a design where desired.