Most metal fabrication businesses still rely on 2D drawings, even when there is a 3D model available. At the manufacturing floor, drawings are utilized to develop production plans. Purchasing department utilizes it for technical packages while other departments like quality and marketing utilize drawings to develop different publications.
The use of 2D geometry is thus still prevalent, and is affecting productivity to a great level of significance. The reasons mainly include the inability of the drawings to maintain a tight collaboration between the departments and limited possibility to communicate design intent clearly. Besides, these 2D drafts are often difficult to manage and are prone to errors that eventually cause miscommunication and production scrap. This is something that every metal fabricator would probably know of, but are somehow stuck with the 2D processes, either due to the fear of losing business while transitioning or due to resistance from internal experienced resources.
However, the benefits of adopting 3D CAD workflows can outweigh the time and resource investment for transformation and can continue to help fabricators in competing better in the digital age or Industrial 4.0.
3D CAD actually opens up multiple opportunities for sheet metal fabricating businesses in number of ways and it is certainly the only way forward for organizations to remain productive and profitable.
The direct benefit of designing in 3D is the improvement in design accuracy, quality and reduced scrap. 3D CAD modeling tools like SOLIDWORKS has sheet metal features that provide the ability for the designer to design a completed product, as it will look like once it is manufactured. With few mouse clicks, the entire sheet metal object can be flattened, including all the allowances to accurately perform sheet metal operations at the shop floor.
The enhanced visibility of the design intent further allows the engineering team to quickly communicate the design with non-technical staff and thereby keep everyone on the same page. This is actually helpful while securing client contracts. Sending a 3D model with a quote to the client will ensure both parties to remain clear on what is to be delivered.
The parametric capabilities of 3D CAD tools ensure that any design change made in the model is reflected automatically in 2D drafts that are required at the shop floor. This eliminates inconsistencies in the design communication and provides better control over versions of the design. The accuracy in the workflows thus imbibes confidence within the teams and thereby helps in improving overall efficiency in the product development process.
Also, features like Convert Sheet Metal Parts into 3D CAD Models using SolidWorks will give insights to designer while designing. Similarly there are specialized tools and plugins for wood working and so and so forth.
A 3D model along with a defined physics such as load or flow conditions, temperature or pressure is all it takes to test the product using simulation tools. The approach significantly reduces the cost and time required in performing physical tests and eventually enables sheet metal fabricators to bring quality products to market faster.
There’s a horde of possibilities with the adoption of 3D workflows. Having 3D CAD models makes it possible to take the productivity to the next level by implementing design automation. For fabricators who are into the development of configurable products such as doors, windows, cabinets, conveyor systems, etc., it is possible to automate repetitive tasks of generating customer specific product 3D models, drawings and documentation. Companies adopting automation have experienced reduction in lead times by more than 50% and have gained competitive differentiation by delivering custom designed products to customers quickly and efficiently.
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