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Software Gives Manufacturers Greater Process Control

Originally Published MPMN June 2002

PRODUCT UPDATE

Software Gives Manufacturers Greater Process Control

Programs facilitate information sharing and operations management

Zachary Turke

To bring a device from the drawing board to the user, manufacturers must successfully accomplish a great number of individual processes, each with its own set of unique challenges. And each step in this development and production chain can lead to an increase in time to market and unit cost. Luckily for OEMs, a new generation of software is helping to greatly simplify many of these processes.

This article discusses recent software advances related to product design, weld control, and optical character recognition that help companies meet design and production challenges.

CAD programs allow collaborative design review over the Internet

A CAD program from Oracle Corp. allows anyone with a Web browser to participate in collaborative design reviews over the Internet. Compatible with limited-bandwidth connections, the Oracle CADView-3D program uses streaming technology to enable remote teams to view and mark up 3-D models without allowing unauthorized distribution of proprietary information. "Every engineer knows the benefits of collaborative design review," says vice president of applications development Kurt Robson. "But to collaborate, you need to show your designs to other people, something that can put your intellectual property at risk. Our program addresses these security concerns using a streaming technology that operates across firewalls and prevents other users from getting a full copy of your design," he says.

Using Oracle CADView-3D, the collaborative design review process begins when a host calls a Web meeting with one or more employees, supply chain members, or customers. During this meeting, the program allows each user to manipulate the model and annotate changes on-screen. These annotations are displayed to all participants in a user-specific color that helps keep track of their author. But Robson stresses that the program is more than just a simple Web meeting tool. "Other Web meeting tools on the market use a projection-type display, where 2-D images are sent out from the host computer, but this kind of program isn't compatible with 3-D CAD models," he says. "With our program, you're not sending pictures, but computer commands that actually tell the other users' computers what programs to run to allow the design to be seen from every angle."

According to company sources, the program reduces product development costs by decreasing the need for travel and face-to-face meetings. "By avoiding physical meetings, the program also allows companies to do a lot more design review, which helps to eliminate costly design changes late in the cycle," says Robson. He estimates that the program cuts the product development cycle time by 20%, design change processing time by 30%, and travel and communication expenses by 50%. Improved component reuse through the visualization and advanced parametric search of product information is also cited as a benefit.

Operating over a central company server, OneSpace Select software from CoCreate Software Inc. allows collaborative design review with minimum setup time and technical expertise.

A different manner of collaborative design review is offered by the OneSpace Select program from CoCreate Software Inc. Instead of enabling individual computers to talk to each other directly, this program is run from a central CoCreate platform that serves as an information router between parties. "Collaborative design review is something that everybody wants, but the cost and technical expertise required to install an appropriate system and get it to function properly are often prohibitive," says vice president George Schildge. "As our program is run directly from our server, these concerns are eliminated and companies can start collaborating much sooner. We've had companies up and running in as little as 90 minutes," he adds.

Available over the company's secure network for a monthly fee, the program allows firms to view and mark up 3-D models regardless of differences in operating systems. Additionally, this system allows users to free themselves from the hassles associated with patches and upgrades. "We handle all program changes at the central server, so every time users click and join, they're provided with the most up-to-date version of the program," says Schildge. The program is compatible with limited-bandwidth connections since only model changes and annotations are transmitted by the server.

Job management software automatically generates component orders

Designed by KSI Technologies, a job management program features a component job-generation function that simplifies the production of devices that consist of multiple components. Instantly creating all the job orders required to construct a final product, Shop Mate 4.0 software allows OEMs to control up to 99 manufacturing parameters for as many as 999 components. "With our program, you just enter the part you need, and it creates a list of all the component jobs that will be needed," says national sales and marketing director Scott Jacobson. "Then all you have to do is choose which ones to create and in what quantity, and it takes care of the rest."

Controlling scheduling, inventory, and labor and job costs, Shop Mate software is suited for managing all the day-to-day tasks of small- to medium-sized operations. In addition to the component job-generation feature, the program also includes functions that help streamline price quoting, sales and purchase ordering, bar coding, shop floor control, scheduling, shipping, data collection, accounting, and system administration. E-mail capabilities make possible the expedient delivery of price quotes, purchase orders, and commission reports.

Custom software provides graphical user interface for ultrasonic welders

Dukane Corp.'s iPC software for ultrasonic welders makes it possible to monitor and change all weld parameters from a single location.

A computer program from Dukane Corp. uses the Microsoft Internet Explorer environment as a familiar frame of reference for controlling the company's Level 4 ultrasonic welders. Requiring no special hardware, iPC software uses drop-down menus, click-and-drag controls, and other graphical tools to adjust operating parameters and evaluate part data. "The main benefit of this program is how easy it makes weld control," says general manager Mike Johnston. "From the full-screen display, you can monitor weld parameters as they occur and make all changes from a single location." Parameters that can be manipulated using the program include weld pressure, amplitude, energy, time, distance, collapse distance, and peak power.

An on-screen help function increases the program's ease of use. "Just right-click on any control that you don't understand, and a context-sensitive help menu comes up to tell you what it does," says Johnston. When using the help menu, the control in question remains visible to allow a user to read the manual and adjust operating parameters simultaneously. Other product benefits include the ability to save weld data and setup parameters to file for transfer or later review, and built-in networking capabilities that make it possible to control multiple welders from a single location.

Optical-character-recognition software is compatible with fuzzy symbols

Optical-character-recognition software performs identification, matching, sorting, tracking, and verification of products as they move through laboratory, manufacturing, or material-handling processes. Designed by Concepts In Computing Inc., the EconoCR program features advanced recognition features that improve accuracy with fuzzy or out-of-focus characters that sometimes occur in assembly line conditions. On-site training capabilities also allow a new font to become recognizable to the program within minutes. Compatible reading materials include PCBs, wafers, glass lenses, electronic components, LCDs, and computer monitors.

Previously available only in the C++ language, EconoCR software is now offered at the library level in the LabView environment from National Instruments Inc. The software is also available for implementation in products offered by Analog Devices Inc., Texas Instruments Inc., Motorola Inc., and Hitachi Ltd.

Copyright ©2002 Medical Product Manufacturing News

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