This article is for those who have not yet made their choice, but want to understand by what criteria to compare 3D systems and what characteristics of products are the most important.
1. 3D capabilities and efficiency of internal processes
First of all, the 3D model should mathematically accurately reproduce every detail in the composition of your product and the relationship between them. And for the maximum efficiency of the project process, it is necessary that the 3D model is created in as few steps as possible (of course, not to the detriment of the quality of the project). Considering the capabilities of each system, try to understand how well it copes with modeling exactly the type of products that your company produces. For example, if your product includes sheet metal parts, ask if the system is able to simulate flat parts and automatically generate sweeps. If style and design are important for your products, pay attention to tools to create surfaces of arbitrary shape and smooth transitions between them.
2. Exchange of information with partners and suppliers
Find out what opportunities the system has for sharing 3D models with other organizations involved in the project. These features will be useful no matter what role your company plays in the supply chain: the contractor, the customer, or both. If it turns out that to transfer models to other systems, you need to convert files from one format to another – this is cause for doubt: the conversion can be time-consuming and does not always complete successfully. The ability of several teams to work together on projects in 3D helps reduce development costs while improving product quality.
3. The availability of tools for drawing and design drawings
Even if you purchase a system for three-dimensional design, your partners, for example, manufacturers of components, may need classic drawings. A correctly designed drawing can instantly convey information that is sometimes difficult to extract from a three-dimensional model. Find out if the system in question is capable of generating 2D drawings from models and designing them according to current standards, including dimensions, tolerances, labels and specifications.
4. Means of engineering analysis and calculations
Give preference to software systems that help not only design or draw, but also test the structures for strength, simulate the kinematics of mechanisms and simulate the behavior of the product in real conditions. Testing physical prototypes is expensive and time-consuming, and the capabilities of engineering analysis help reduce the need for full-scale testing, replacing them with experiments on digital models. Choose a system that has built-in tools for engineering analysis and calculations, or at least efficient interfaces for transferring models to specialized calculation programs.
5. Data Management
If your team has more than a dozen engineers, then an additional advantage for you will be the presence of a product data management module (PDM) in the system. Since the relationships between multiple files in three-dimensional systems are very complex, it would be better if the tasks of their storage and organization are assigned to an automated system. Without PDM, engineers can accidentally overwrite each other's work, spend time developing already designed units, and transfer the wrong version of the drawings to production. A good PDM system is more than orderly file storage. It helps designers quickly locate parts for reuse in an electronic archive, generate specifications for calculating material requirements, and transfer data to an MRP system. More advanced PDM systems are able to automate change management processes, making sure that irrelevant or unapproved documentation is not delivered to production or to the supplier.
6. Developer Policies for Updates and New Versions
Computer technology is constantly changing. If the software company does not keep up to date, there is a danger that in a few years your organization will be left alone with an outdated and unreasonably expensive software system to operate. Therefore, you need to buy from those companies that have earned a reputation as technology leaders and have a strong development team. It is good if the company regularly releases updates and new versions, and also listens to the wishes of users.
7. Ease of learning the product.
During the implementation of 3D-processes will have to train employees. From this point of view, the best system will be that is easier to learn than others and at the same time does everything that is required of it. It is desirable that the user interface be consistent and uniform in all modules of the system. The logic of the system must be consistent with product development processes from start to finish. Choose a product with a built-in help system, tutorials and an active community of users on the Internet. Even better, if training in this product is included in the programs of technical universities – in this case, the task of finding specialists with the right qualifications is greatly facilitated.
8. Good business relationship with the developer
Often the main cause of friction between the software developer and its consumer are not technical issues at all. Just as some airlines annoy customers with additional fees for carrying luggage, choosing a seat or meals, some software companies are so confused by the terms and conditions of sale that the buyer does not immediately realize that he has hidden expenses. Look for suppliers who offer simple price lists and clear tariff plans. Pay attention to the availability of floating licenses – they allow you to flexibly distribute licenses and help to save money if your designers do not spend all their working day in this package. Many developers allow you to use each license not on one but on two computers – on the working and home.
9. Availability of dealer network
Buying a 3D system from a dealer is only the first step in the history of a mutually beneficial relationship with him. It is good if the dealer offers you not only a license for the product, but also consultations, training services and technical support – all this will help to successfully introduce 3D into the project process. Find out how many 3D clients have been trained by this dealer, how many organizations are supported. Take an interest in what training courses he offers, get acquainted with the teachers of these courses. Contact the customers that the dealer lists in their success stories and ask how well his technicians have handled difficult issues. Strong support from your local dealer can be a critical factor in the success of your 3D deployment.
Of course, the criteria that we have listed here cannot be considered universal, suitable for any occasion and any organization. To make a smart choice, you must first study the needs of your company. Wrong choice turns into a waste of time and money. Do not make emotional decisions based on sympathy for a particular brand. Do not limit yourself to two or three criteria. Evaluate the full range of features that you will need in order to bring products to market faster.
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