Delcam PowerSHAPE 2010 – Part 2

Here is the link to Part 1.

Truth be told, Delcam is not a very famous name when it comes to CAD systems. In fact, the “CAM” in their name is rather misleading. Its gives you the impression that they are a company that makes CAM software, which happens not to be very far from the truth. They had a software called DUCT which was split into PowerSHAPE (for CAD) and PowerMILL (for CAM).

In Part 1 of this series I wondering why Delcam decided to add the Parasolid solid modeling kernel alongside its own home grown surface modeling kernel. The main reason appears to be data exchange, an issue which happens to be very close to my heart. A majority of Delcam’s customers are tier 2 or tier 3 suppliers in the mold and die industries. Basically manufacturers who take the designs created by OEM’s and design the tooling required to manufacture them. Little wonder that Delcam’s PowerMILL is better known than PowerSHAPE.

Delcam realized at the very beginning that its customers are going to have to reuse someone else’s design data. That is why effective and accurate data exchange is critical for Delcam’s customers. OEM’s usually do not hand out the original 3D models to their contractors. Contractors need to make do with neutral file formats like IGES and STEP. IGES is hopelessly outdated. Moreover, CAD vendors have abused the IGES standard by making variants to suit their needs since the creators of IGES do not seem to be interested in taking it forward. STEP is a bit better in that regard, but still poses a lot of problems. The problems get further complicated by the way various goemetry kernels store their data. NURBS surfaces can be represented in a number of ways and mapping one type of surface accurately to another can yield tolerance problems resulting in gaps and mismatched edges. These render the model non-watertight, thereby causing a whole new set of problems.

In PowerSHAPE 2010, Delcam has added a pretty useful tool called Solid Doctor. This tool uses automatic data repair tools that come with Parasolid BodyShop. Stuff like fixing low precision and incomplete data, gaps and overlaps between surfaces, duplicate or missing surfaces. The list goes on and on. The result of this repairing is a high precision Parasolid model.

OK, so data repair is one good reason for using Parasolid. But there is another more important reason. Parasolid is one of the most widely used modeling kernels in the MCAD space. It is estimated that over 2.5 million seats of Parasolid-based applications are in use globally and that over 40% of all MCAD 3D solid data is internally stored in Parasolid’s format. I have no way of knowing how true these numbers are but I can say that MCAD systems like SolidWorks, Solid Edge, NX, IronCAD, TopSolid, T-Flex, VisiCAD, etc. are built using Parasolid. I can also say that all MCAD software that comes to mind is able to export Parasolid XT files. So by mingling Parasolid with its existing surface modeling kernel Delcam is not just giving its customers a better way to fix data, but also give them a wonderful way of receiving precise Parsolid data to begin with, thereby completely eliminating the need for translating 3D data and running the risk of getting things lost in translation. I believe this is a brilliant move.

And there is more. In Part 1 I wrote about the difference in surface and solid modeling and how each is good for a specific task. With the addition of the Parasolid modeling kernel, PowerSHAPE will not just have the ability to carry out superior surface modeling using its own 30 year old homegrown surface modeling kernel. But it will also have the ability to carry out high end solid modeling operations like blending by outsourcing it to the Parasolid kernel. Like I said, a brilliant move.

In the next part I hope to take a closer look at Delcam PowerSHAPE 2010.