How does one choose what software they use if they have a choice and control the vetting process? For many of us it is pick which one to learn that you think might have greater capabilities in getting you a job. You aren’t really picking software as much as you are picking the promise. You intend to work for someone else and thus your decision is driven not by real capabilities of the software but the hope for wages. Don’t get me wrong here as this is a serious consideration and one I looked at to.
However, I own my company and the primary consideration I had was for what cad program gave ME the best tools for geometry creation and editing and sheet metal for MCAD. The very first time I saw Solid Edge ST I knew this was the paradigm for me and the now dwindling Solid Works job market gorilla never had a chance after that. But you see my bottom line as a producer, and not as an employee hoping for work, was what worked best for me. Most of the files I get as imports are still from Solid Works and I just sit there and grin sometimes when I think of how hard it is for those SW guys to work on the same stuff I do produced in their own software. Insert the name of your favorite history based CAD here to and the same still applies.
This however leaves the thorny issue of CAM because I, like many companies, still have to produce what I create and really is this not true with every cad design out there? Let us not forget that people have built things since the Pyramids and earlier without CAD. CAD was created to allow for communicating to the very first CAM machines as there needed to be something to drive this new manufacturing ability. Obviously CAD, like many other computer driven things, has acquired a life of its own and a ton of uses but the premise for CAD is still that in the end there is physical production of something somewhere.
One of the hot button topics of CAD is CADCAM integration. I moved from an integrated CADCAM to creating in CAD that was not integrated with CAM. The following is a dialog I am having with an SW user that I believe that will shed some light on why I did what I did and yes I would do it again now having walked this path
As an aside here first. I am coming to the conclusion as I shop for CAM to replace the sorry mess VX/ZW3D has become that my first choice to get the best CAD for my purposes was correct. My second choice on CAM is starting to place more emphasis on how well and how easily quality CAM plans are produced over true integration as bad or byzantine CAM creation is a big time waster too even if it is tightly integrated. Believe me I know this to be true after my experience with VX/ZW3D. Now of course I do see the value of complete integration and great CAM integrated with SE would be a wonderful thing but it would be the icing on the cake and not the cake which was what I was looking for.
I will tell you of how I made my decision and you decide if there was benefit. I was using a truly integrated cadcam package from VX Corp. It was literally two mouse clicks to take you to part edit mode and one to take you back to cam and a common GUI of course. Most of the time there was a degree of auto updating that made recalculation of the tool paths pretty straight forward. That was where I found myself with families of parts however or incessant customer requests for modifications to parts before final approval. My biggest single problem was history based cad and it was by far a bigger time consumer to edit parts as compared to the time saved in cam integration. Of course on imported parts, which happen for me pretty often, there was just no favorable comparison to cadcam integration if there was no qualified direct editing to go with it. See here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTaJvXDYRdc&feature=plcp&context=C3a32530UDOEgsToPDskLEvCdMqg6myZCRtw68FzTd for an example of an imported part where important geometry considerations are saved and the rest edited to suit allowing me to adapt a proven device to a new machine type. The huge time savings with this in cad make any time lost in non integrated cam well worth it.
I still use VX/ZW3D for my milling for now and it is an irritation every time when I think of the inefficiency inherent in history modeling for almost all of the MCAD parts I produce. Direct editing (ST) is not at all like SW where if I had a file import there are problems from step one time wise. In ST I just bring it in, save it and go to work on your part faster than you can. I have never sat down and done a precise study of average time saved with direct editing and cam as VS integrated history cad and cam but I can tell you that having made that leap I would NEVER consider going back.
What degree of integration are you looking for anyway? I am going to be testing Featurecam and TopSolid in the near future and they directly import .par files and there is a fair degree of associatively to file updates in both the cad and cam side I am told with part edits brought in from SE. So we do have half integration. But we also have direct editing and if you have not given it a serious look you may labor under the illusion that you have lost the overall efficiency you think you have with integrated history cad and cam. Just my two cents having been on both sides of the fence and choosing not to be where you are precisely because of overall efficiency and more $$$ to my bottom line. We will have truly integrated cam in the near future by the way because this has become a hot button issue with Karsten Newbury and he has always delivered what he has promised since he arrived on the scene.
Hey as a little post script here. I got an email from DSS today RE Solid Works and the catchy little phrase leading in to the article read “Are you smart enough to break handcuffs?” I had to chuckle a little bit over that one and my reply was well yes, I am.