Technology overview

Computer technology requires a completely different methodology of engineering design. It has revoludonized the speed and efficiency of the plasdc design functions. The more the entire design function is studied, the more repetitive tasks are uncovered in that function. The computer's ability to perform these tasks untiringly and with blazing speed is the basis for these productivity gains.

The computer continues to provide the engineer with the means to simplify and more accurately develop a design timewise and costwise. It provides a better understanding of the operating requirements for a product design, resulting in maximizing the design efficiency in meeting product requirements. The computer is able to convert a design into a fabricated product providing a faster manufacturing startup. Other benefits resulting from the computer technology include (1) ease of developing and applying new innovative design ideas, (2) fewer errors in drawings; (3) good communications with the fabricator, (4) improved manufacturing accuracy; and (5) a faster response to market demand.

Many of the individual tasks within the overall design process can be performed using a computer. As each of these tasks is made more efficient, the efficiency of the overall process increases as well. The computer is suited to aid the designer by incorporating customer inputs, problem definitions, evaluations, and final product designs.

Computer-aided design (CAD) uses the mathematical and graphic-processing power of the computer to assist the mechanical engineer in the creation, modification, analysis, and display of designs. Many factors have contributed to CAD technology becoming a necessary tool in the

engineering world, such as the computer's speed at processing complex equations and managing technical databases. CAD combines the characteristics of designer and computer that are best applicable to the design process.

There is also the combination of human creativity with computer technology that provides the design efficiency that has made CAD such a popular design tool. CAD is often thought of simply as computer-aided drafting, and its use as an electronic drawing board is a powerful tool in itself. The functions of a CAD system extend far beyond its ability to represent and manipulate graphics. Geometric modeling, engineering analysis, simulation, and communication of the design information can also be performed using CAD.

In every branch of engineering, prior to the implementation of CAD, design has traditionally been accomplished manually on the drawing board. The resulting drawing, complete with significant details, was then subjected to analysis using complex mathematical formulae and then sent back to the drawing board with suggestions for improving the design. The same procedure was followed and, because of the manual nature of the drawing and the subsequent analysis, the whole procedure was time-consuming and labor-intensive.

For many decades CAD has allowed the designer to bypass much of the manual drafting and analysis that was previously required, making the design process flow more smoothly and much more efficiendy. It is helpful to understand the general product development process as a step-wise process. However, in today's engineering environment, the steps outlined have become consolidated into a more streamlined approach called concurrent engineering. This approach enables teams to work concurrently by providing common ground for interrelated product development tasks.

Product information can be easily communicated among all development processes: design, manufacturing, marketing, management, and supplier networks. Concurrent engineering recognizes that fewer alterations result in less time and money spent in moving from design concept to manufacture and from manufacturing to market. The related processes of computer-aided engineering (CAE), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), computer-aided assembly (CAA), computer-aided testing (CAT), and other computer-aided systems have become integral parts of the concurrent engineering design approach. Design for manufacturing and assembly methods use cross-disciplinary input from a variety of sources (design engineers, manufacturing engineers, materials & equipment suppliers, and shop floor personnel) to facilitate the efficient design of a product that can be manufactured, assembled, and marketed in the shortest possible period of time.

CAD, CAE, CAM, CAA, and CAT are the directions all types of plastics product design, mold or die making, and the fabricating line. The number and complexity of plastic products being produced are greater every year, but the number of experienced product designers, mold/die designers, and fabricators generally have not kept pace. The answer to this "people power" shortage has been to increase "design to productivity" through the use of CAD/CAE/CAM/CAA/CAT.

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