The sheet-metal enclosure, modeled in Catia V5, shows   the capability of the software, such as holes, cutouts, tabs, and bends.   The feature tree for the part appears to the left.

The sheet-metal enclosure, modeled in Catia V5, shows the capability of the software, such as holes, cutouts, tabs, and bends. The feature tree for the part appears to the left.


The assembly in Catia shows how sheet-metal parts might   be combined with others for sizing studies or assembly guidelines.

The assembly in Catia shows how sheet-metal parts might be combined with others for sizing studies or assembly guidelines.

After getting Catia V5 running in our shop, it helped us cut up to 50% off the time usually required to design products with our previous design software. The solid modeler's icon-driven inter-face makes it easy to learn and use. While evaluating several solid modelers, Catia was the only one that included the sheet-metal features we need to design products ranging from light fixtures to missile parts.

Users can efficiently create sheet-metal designs from scratch and in the context of an assembly. Rather than dealing with plain geometry, designers can work in the manufacturing language they already know, such as walls, bends, reliefs, tabs, thin extrudes, stampings, and flanges. And features are easier to use than before now that the developer has added drag-and-drop capabilities.

V5 lets designers create associative features on folded and unfolded part representations. For example, a cutout placed on an unfolded representation of a part automatically reflects on the folded representation. Associative features can be added at any time during model creation and without prerequisite operations.

V5 makes it painless to import and preserve legacy data in IGES and DXF file formats. This is crucial when dealing with long-established customers who have accumulated many drawings of existing equipment.

Our previous CAD software lacked good part organization, sometimes taking hours to scroll through comprehensive part tables in larger designs. V5 lets engineers decompose assemblies into part trees or tables that show how the product is assembled, or to quickly find a part they are looking for without search operations.

The software can turn solid models into drawings, and create subassemblies and complete assemblies using exploded views and bills of materials. After using the software for six months, its easy-to-use drawing tools and assembly features have cut design and development time across the board by 50 to 80%.

For training and implementation, we worked with Advanced Enterprise Solutions, a Texas-based IBM Premier Business Partner. AES initially approached us with a week-long training schedule. I asked them to turn their one-week class into 2.5 days, and they did. Our team of engineers with many years of solid-modeling experience, picked up V5 in short order.

We plan on integrating Catia's Knowledgeware with the sheet-metal software so that our engineers can generate their own cost estimates. And to work more closely with customers, we'll use Catia's Web capability so they can view and markup drawings.

The software gives little to complain about. If I had to pick something to improve, I'd say the literature that comes with the software is too comprehensive. It reads more like a beginner's manual. The accompanying CD-ROM demo with voice technology is better and I find myself relying on it more than the manual.

And talk about a wish list: We signed an agreement with Das-sault Systemes to become a strategic partner in developing future Catia Solutions versions for the sheet-metal industry. Our ultimate goal is to make all of V5's sheet-metal features as easy as one click.

Catia V5 comes from Dassault Systemes, Burbank, CA 91504-3341, (818) 295-4114, www.dsus.com
Thomas Saputo

Mr. Saputo is president of Jomico Metal Fabricators (www.jomico.net) a high-tech metal and fabrication company in St. Louis. They design and engineer precision sheet-metal components and assemblies for the aerospace, commercial, consumer and electronics industries.