Case Study: The Deployment of V6 in Styled Product Design

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About J3D
J3D is an independent consultancy specialising in 3D Design and Imaging services primarily for concept/product development and marketing purposes. They supply modelling/surfacing expertise where styled components are important plus extensive visualisation services, including photo-real stills, animation and interactive content to support their customer’s projects.

J3D’s relationship with CATIA started whilst working with an enthusiastic V5 user. "It soon became apparent how powerful a CATIA platform potentially was for my Business,” Andrew Jackson MD explains. “I approached Intrinsys following a glowing recommendation and after a period renting the tools needed, it was very easy to make the decision to invest in a permanent system".

Over the years, J3D have added CATIA’s specialised ICEM surfacing tools along with 3DVIA Composer, and recently decided to migrate to the Dassault Systemes V6 Platform.

V6 works for J3D
Like many developing businesses J3D face the challenge of assimilating new technology benefits quickly without having to completely overhaul their way of working. The design component of V6 has been specifically created to feel very much the same as it did in V5. The core interface has obviously moved on, particularly the graphics capabilities, however it still seems very familiar to a V5 user. Under the skin the main difference in V6 is that it's built from the ground up on a database driven rather than file-based foundation.

In a graphical/visual business J3D really appreciates 3D Lives’ full 3D view of the database rather than using windows file-based systems or even a traditional PDM. "Having a 3D window into the database underpinning our projects and so tightly incorporated with both CATIA and Composer opens up a whole new way of working which we have found extremely practical." comments Andrew.

Searches are performed from the familiar CATIA interface rather than a separate program. This allows for more powerful filtering such as by volume (dragging a cube or sphere over portions of an assembly to isolate only the parts within) or by objects with a similar shape to a specified model for example. Lightweight 3D thumbnails of items are generated automatically and can be viewed with no need to load a separate viewer. The unique Compass utility, present in all V6 products provides instant colour-coded feedback on attributes such as PLM state, mass, last modified and how fully constrained a part is to further clarify the visual presentation.

Quick Creation of 3D shapes
CAD systems typically use processes geared towards generating sophisticated 3D models. Whilst this is required for precise model definition needed in production design, the methodology can make the tools awkward when a more flexible 3D model is required for concept design. To address this, CATIA V6 Includes the Live Shape workbench designed to allow models to be created quickly using context-sensitive commands and gestures, rather than expansive toolbars. For a company like J3D, such models allow quick mock-ups of proposed designs, delivering quicker responses to customer enquiries and rapid generation of proof-of-concept models.

“Dumb models” are a particular bug bare at J3D. Often treated as a single entity by most CAD systems they do not contain construction features or history making editing virtually impossible. Not so with Live Shape as it recognises protrusions and depressions and can reposition them as desired, even creating constraints with other features of a model. Additionally new features can be added as if the model was a native part.

Manipulation of dumb models is no longer an issue at J3D
"We receive a significant amount of dumb data particularly with the Visualization work we do,” explains Andrew. “We often need to enhance this data, for example adding detail to what was perhaps a basic package model, making it suitable for high quality images or animation. The ability to recognise basic features, organise and manipulate them gives us another aid to speed up these steps".

The Virtual Machine – a safe test environment
Having been used to a file based system in V5; J3D didn't have the Server based infrastructure required for a V6 system. To allow them to evaluate V6 without committing to this investment upfront, Intrinsys provided a virtual server.

Virtual servers function in exactly the same way as physical servers, except that they don't have their own hardware. Both the client system and the server, with their own separate operating systems can run on the same machine, a standard workstation in J3D's case.

This allowed Andrew to try out all of the features, evaluating what the software could offer his business and exploring server management before making a decision to proceed.

Immediate and future benefits
A significant benefit of V6 to larger enterprises is that it enables extended teams of people to collaborate both locally and globally. V6 is extremely scalable and well optimised when needing to work securely over the internet. This functionality also has key benefits for much smaller companies like J3D.

Andrew comments: "One of the exciting possibilities V6 opens up for us is the potential to have perhaps an employee, a partner or a customer hook-in to securely defined areas of a V6 project remotely, collaborating on the same assembly or part in real time. For us, our team will consist of a relatively small number of people, but even so, the key is not necessarily needing to accommodate everybody in the same physical space - this obviously has benefits in terms of time and costs for a small business like us. We can tailor the right mix of skills and manpower around a particular project but without the traditional overheads, all very welcome flexibility".

In the short term, having secure access to their database remotely also allows J3D to work on site with a customer where required. If data needs to be transferred, entire products can be exported as pre-packaged 3DXML files, loaded into a customer's own V6 database and used as if it was created within that database, complete with full design history.

Profitable change
Intrinsys fully appreciate the processes that are needed to migrate and develop a PLM environment, being a user themselves, providing expert support and advice along the way. This enables innovative and fast moving companies like J3D to reap the benefits of the latest product developments without the pain of migration that some technologies can bring. This also allows J3D to maintain their lead on the competition and delight their customers at the same time and in the most cost effective and seamless manner.