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3D CAD Implementation – Stage 1
Implementation of 3D CAD in your business can be broken down into a neat 9 point plan, briefly covered below in two stages. The main sections earlier cover the plan in detail. Importantly, remember to tailor the best bits most suited your business. Innovate and make variations on the themes and ideas that best work for you.
Leadership and Senior Management Support
As mentioned earlier in this section, successful 3D CAD implementation needs strong senior management commitment and support. Employees need to know this is an initiative backed from the top.
Organise and Plan how 3D CAD will fit into your development process
Carefully consider how specifically you see 3D CAD fitting into your business processes. Identify which engineers would benefit from it and how they would use it. Consider suppliers and others outside the business too.
Cultural Change: Get your Employees believing in the benefits of 3D CAD
Before the change takes place, get the message out there, explaining change is on its way. Use noticeboards, meetings and presentations. Focus on the benefits people can expect. Tailor the message for the audience, for example manufacturing advantages for production staff. Request feedback and encourage people to ask questions.
Draw on CAD Supplier Expertise
Your CAD Vendor has an import role to play in implementing and embedding 3D CAD culture within your business. Tap into their practical experience with numerous companies in a wide range of industries. They’ll also be able to give you and your engineers’ practical help to overcome day-to-day issues
IT Preparation: Hardware, Networks and System Requirements
Take advice from your CAD vendor about the system requirements necessary to successfully run 3D CAD within your business. Considerations include requirements for your network, server, workstations, RAM and monitors. Also think about graphics cards and peripherals. Take into account data storage, backup and security. Also identify who has responsibility for what.
3D CAD Implementation – Stage 2
Training: Rapidly Embedding Core CAD Skills in Your Business
Consider sending some of your design engineers on an intensive course to soak up the knowledge. Then get them to coach others. Supplement this with web-based training, tutorials and books. Concentrate on speed and accuracy. Take advice from CAD vendors about training, implementation and schedules. Alongside 3D modelling also identify the best Product Data Management (PDM) set-up for your needs. Actively encourage your design engineers to use the support service that typically comes with CAD purchases. Get into the habit of documenting best practices for your business.
Pilot Projects: Rapid Productivity Gains and Return on Investment (RoI)
Consider using pilot projects to spearhead the rapid take-up of 3D CAD. As the project is new, there are no concerns about legacy data still in 2D. Pilot projects enable freshly trained engineers to practice and embed their skills, becoming faster, more proficient and increasingly productive. Pilot projects allow the tangible advantages of 3D CAD to be demonstrated very quickly. They also facilitate a rapid return on investment, as the speed, reduced defects and rapid time to market can all be calculated in hard currency.
Rolling out 3D CAD more broadly throughout the business
Start with the rest of the design engineering team who haven’t been involved and then roll it out to other areas of the business. Other teams that can benefit include sales and marketing, production, service and maintenance. Take advice from your CAD vendor. Different departments may benefit from specific features within the software or add-on modules. For example, photo-realistic rendering for Marketing and CAD/CAM for Production. Carefully consider the timing of the rollout.
Remember to Review your 3D CAD Implementation
Learn the lessons and continually improve.
3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing)
3D Printing enables engineers to refine and prove-out designs, before committing to costly manufacturing and production tooling. What’s more it is relatively inexpensive, widely available and plenty of help exists. Importantly, it is also quick and entry level skills and knowledge required are low. All you need to start is a 3D CAD model. As such, the benefits for small manufacturers are significant.
3D printing is sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing, as parts are built up by adding layers of material on top of one another. 3D printing during product development is sometimes referred to as rapid prototyping. For final production parts, it can be described as rapid manufacturing. 3D Printing has a number of benefits, including speed, low cost and no expensive moulds or tooling. Other advantages include the ability to create complicated geometry, the production of multiple part assemblies, as well as a broad range of materials and very little waste. Prototypes can be used at various stages of the product development process and a range of design tips exist to help engineers.
A number of common 3D Printing technologies exist for prototyping and production-ready parts, using various materials. They include SLS, SLA, FDM and DLMS. 3D Printing bureaus offer a convenient outsourced service. These are ideal for small manufacturers who haven’t made the investment decision yet, or alternatively cannot justify the outlay. Most Bureaus pride themselves on good customer-service and ease of use. They are quick and convenient, offering a range of 3D printing technologies and are happy to advise on their respective pros and cons. Bureaus provide an opportunity to ‘try before you buy’ for those manufacturers considering bringing the capability in-house.
Finally the Wohlers Report is published annually and provides a thorough review and analysis of all 3D Printing technologies and their global adoption, together with trend information.
Consider this; plenty of small manufacturing businesses and engineers have successfully adopted and fully exploited 3D CAD and its derived technologies. Are they savvier or better than you? Of course not! You’ve got plenty going for you, particularly in your specialist area. Isn’t it time you built on these advantages, by taking your CAD capability to the next level?
3D CAD Engineering is an exciting, highly relevant branch of manufacturing. The best manufacturers, small and large, are fully adopting and embracing it. As a result, many are increasing their competitiveness and thriving. High-value advanced engineering increasingly relies on the application of 3D CAD data throughout the product development and production lifecycle, as well as the supply chain. For individual engineers, these are some of the most sought after skills in industry. They can make a dramatic difference to your company’s competiveness and to your personal employability.
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