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Comprehend the manufacturing, marketing and after-sales advantages
3D CAD also offers significant benefits for manufacturers and production engineers. For some (often lucrative) contracts, the ability to handle CAD data, as specified by larger customers in the supply chain, is a prerequisite. Internally within the business 3D CAD files can drive machine tools through computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM) and computer-numerical-control (CNC). CNC can power a wide range of manufacturing processes. Alongside this, 3D CAD equips the manufacturing engineer with the means to quickly design tooling, jigs, fixtures, custom gauges and components for work holding. Inspection can be enhanced by checking physical parts against CAD models. Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM) can check accuracy, based on CAD data.
Subcontracting becomes an easier option. As the CAD model is the source of the manufacturing data, the design intent is preserved and the dimensional accuracy is retained. Tooling, moulding and component suppliers can be simultaneously sent CAD data from anywhere in the world, for quotation and the production of components. 3D CAD enables you to automatically generate bills of materials, giving the option of quick multiple quotations for outsourcing. 3D Printing, in the form of rapid manufacturing, enables production-ready parts to be quickly and directly produced.
Technical illustrations can be quickly produced to a professional quality. These can be used to assist marketing, sales and obtain commitment from finance and senior management. For after-sales service, technical documentation can be used in service and maintenance manuals. Manufacturing, assembly and training instructions can be rapidly produced. These can include exploded views, CAD animation and 3D CAD viewers, which enable feedback for engineering change orders.
Senior management backing and alignment to business objectives
OK, so clearly 3D CAD Engineering has significant benefits for all aspects of small manufacturing businesses. However, in order to make the investment in software and training, it is vital to obtain senior management commitment. Whereas technical benefits are well documented, it is crucial any investment decision is aligned to the objectives of the business. What are the objectives, aims and circumstances of your business that 3D CAD Engineering could make a solid contribution to?
Do any of the following small business objectives resonate? Do you aim to slash product development cycle times by a certain percentage? Do you want to launch a number of products on the market by a given date? Do you wish to modernise and professionalise your product development process with the adoption of new technology? Do you aim to offer increasingly customised products with a greater number of variants? Are more complicated high-end products required by your customers? Do you want to dramatically reduce mistakes and waste, moving towards a ‘right first time’ design process? Try to quantify any of these as much as you can.
3D CAD Engineering can make a direct and significant contribution to all these objectives. Be sure to adopt this technology for strong commercial, as well as technical reasons.
Key drivers for adopting 3D CAD and overcoming common barriers
Key business drivers for adopting 3D CAD are underpinned by two broad themes. These are; increasingly tough commercial conditions and limitations of traditional solutions like 2D technical drawings. The following represent specific reasons why manufacturing businesses adopt 3D CAD; better quality products, reduced product development cycle, supply chain demands, development of more complex products and offering customised products to meet customer demands.
There remain a number of perceived barriers why small manufacturers are reluctant to adopt 3D CAD. However when looked at more closely, there are answers and solutions which can help set the record straight.
Firstly, 3D CAD is expensive, right? Not anymore! Entry level free downloads are available. Student additions and free 30 day trial versions exist. You can lease software by the month. Limited functionality 3D CAD viewers can be downloaded and the cost of full licenses has also fallen.
Next, access to 3D CAD training is limited, right? Not really! Training is now very widely available via multiple sources. YouTube and web-based tutorials are accessible by all. Training from CAD vendors includes tutorials and can be classroom based or supplied at your place of work. Local colleges and textbooks offer step-by-step training too.
Another perceived barrier is the belief simple products only need 2D CAD data. The problem is this ignores the advantages 3D CAD offers throughout the design and manufacturing cycle and beyond. For example simple 2D sheet metal parts can be 3D modelled and the data quickly and accurately used by CNC punches, without reprogramming.
Finally there persists a view in some businesses, where they have survived with 2D drawings for years, so they don’t need 3D CAD. The problem with this is past results are no guarantee of future success. Once upon a time it was the most progressive manufacturers who adopted these technologies. Now businesses are striving for competitive advantage just to survive. In just about all industry sectors competition is becoming fiercer and this is happening at an ever faster rate. Sticking your head in the sand frankly is not an option. Countless businesses and indeed whole industry sectors simply are not there anymore, basically because they didn’t modernise. Don’t let your firm join that list.
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