Jennifer Herron, CEO of Action Engineering, interviewed David Hornsby, Senior Product Manager of Spatial Corp., for this featured blog about 3D CAD collaboration and interoperability. Action Engineering appreciates Spatial’s generous support as a Signature Sponsor of the 2017 3D Collaboration & Interoperability Congres + Quality Information Framework Summit, being held in Golden, Colorado on October 2-6, 2017.
Spatial Corp., a Dassault Systèmes subsidiary, is the leading provider of 3D software development toolkits (SDKs) for technical applications across multiple industries. Spatial’s 3D modeling, 3D visualization, and 3D interoperability SDKs help accelerate 3D innovation and expand what is possible. Customers are able to maintain focus on core competencies, while reducing cost and time-to-market. For over 30 years, Spatial’s 3D SDKs have been adopted by many of the world’s most recognized software developers, manufacturers, research institutes, and universities. Headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, Spatial has offices in the USA, Germany, Japan, China, and the United Kingdom.
David Hornsby, Senior Product Manager at Spatial Corp.
David Hornsby is a Senior Product Manager at Spatial Corp. where he is responsible for the translation functionality in Spatial’s 3D Interoperability solution. David has 25 years of experience working in the CAD industry having worked in the development teams at Parametric Technology Corporation, SolidWorks and in the 3D ACIS Modeling development team in Spatial. He has been involved in a wide range of development areas, including geometry, drawings and translation. While being part of 3D InterOp he has worked with application developers to understand how they use CAD data in their products. David has a first degree in Engineering from Cambridge University, UK and a Masters in Computer Science.
JENNIFER HERRON: As you know, the ability for enterprises to use and re-use their CAD is at the very heart of 3D CIC. How does Spatial fit into 3D CAD collaboration and interoperability?
DAVID HORNSBY: Spatial has always had at its heart the ability to provide tools to work with 3D geometry. Providing the geometric representations and operations as a component allows 3D application developers to innovate in their areas of expertise while we take care of the geometry. There are not many 3D applications that exist in isolation; therefore, it is natural for us to extend our products to allow the transfer of data between applications.
Of course, Spatial is part of a corporation with huge Engineering experience, and our customers have traditionally been making applications used in Engineering processes. The ability of these applications to fit into general Engineering processes requires that they have to be able to re-use the CAD data with complete confidence in accuracy of the geometry and access to the manufacturing information.
This interoperability also extends to the ability to use different modeling kernels, where the rules defining how the geometry is defined can be different. Our knowledge of geometry gained over 30 years of development means that moving data between kernels produces output that is as good as if it were created there originally.
JH: Is there a particular size of company that your products are geared towards or work best for? small (1-200 people), medium (200-1,000), large (>1,000)
DH: As our products are Software Development Toolkits (SDKs) (aka components), they get built into a wide range of applications. Therefore, they have to meet a very wide range of functional requirements depending not only on application functionality but also on how they are deployed. This means that we use parallel algorithms for scalability; we support deployment on different operating systems and for use in desktop, cloud, and mobile environments. Our SDKs have been used in all the environments you mention, and it is hard to define whether they are best suited to any one of those in particular.
One of our customers is in fact our parent corporation, Dassault Systèmes, which means that we support a wide range of applications targeted at large companies. However, it also means that we are able to leverage a wide range of technologies from within the corporation.
JH: How long has Spatial been involved with 3D CIC?
DH: Spatial has been involved with 3D CIC and been a supporter of 3D CIC right from its inception. We believe that translators are an enabling technology for the digital thread and the requirements we can generate from 3D CIC discussions and topics of interest are very useful in driving the direction of our products.
JH: Do all of Spatial’s products enable CAD interoperability?
DH: 3D InterOp is the product that supports the translation of the CAD data between applications. More importantly, from an application point of view, 3D InterOp will create 3D geometric data in the geometry kernel of the application that is importing a CAD file, together with translating the other model based definitions held in the CAD file. The integration between Spatial’s translation and modeling SDKs is seamless so that the application does not really have to get involved in the movement of data between the CAD file, the modeling kernel, and the visualization; that is all done automatically. In short, all of Spatial’s solutions either enable CAD Interoperability or are tightly integrated to it.
JH: As you know, for Action Engineering, robust Model-Based Definition (MBD) is essential to begin the digital thread that supports smart manufacturing. Could you tell me how Spatial supports MBD?
DH: Whilst 3D InterOp started out with the complex goal of being able to move geometric data between applications, we have been involved in increasing the breadth of data translated over the years. Obviously, assembly structure and visualization data are a core part of the translation, but it is the addition of Model-Based Definition data that means our customers are able to build applications that are tightly integrated in the whole lifecycle of the design.
Our translation provides support for the Product and Manufacturing Information (PMI) built into the design by the originating CAD system, including all the data required to make full use of that information in Engineering processes (for example, dimensions and geometric tolerances, including the definition data and the geometric entities to which they links). We have customers working in a wide range of areas down the digital thread that you mention (manufacturing applications and CMM applications, for example), all of which can use this manufacturing information to automate the inputs to their process according to the original design specifications held in the CAD data.
JH: How do your products help companies communicate information from engineering to the shop floor?
DH: There are two aspects to translating PMI: the visualization data and the semantic or definition data. Usually, computers read the semantic data and use it to check virtual representations against physical ones, or generate other mechanisms for humans to understand those definitions.
The visualization or display of this PMI is rigidly defined by standards like ISO 16792:2015 – Technical Product Documentation, so CAD systems have the functionality to add PMI conformant to the standards, and designers tend to have very strong rules to follow to place the PMI and apply tolerances. Providing accurate translation of this visual PMI is essential to convey the information in a form that is clear and unambiguous on the shop floor.
3D InterOp provides both the semantic and visual definitions of the PMI data, as well as the links between them for full automation in applications.
JH: Do you have software tools that support the digital twin concept, and if so, how?
DH: Spatial is especially involved in the virtual side of the digital twin concept; however, we also offer handles for applications to attach to so that they can implement the physical side of the twin and maintain that attachment.
I think that one interesting point about digital twins and the digital thread is that the thread is not necessarily a linear process. You do not just design a model in a CAD system that then works its way down the thread going through each step in turn. Many times one of the steps will require a design tweak from a virtual simulation. For example, a stress analysis result shows a model needs to be thickened, or a manufacturing tool path shows that the physical model cannot be manufactured reliably, so the design has to be changed. Spatial provides tools to help applications automate re-use of the data with these design changes so that when the new model restarts the journey down the thread, almost all the steps from the first time can be automated. This mechanism offers the potential of huge time saving to end users.