Endless jokes about haboobs and dry heat aside, visitors to the Valley of the Sun saw a dizzying display of software technology at Arizona’s Phoenix Convention Center June 4-7 at the Siemens PLM Connection—Americas 2018 user conference. The event drew thousands of visitors from hundreds of manufacturing companies, including GE, Orbital ATK, United Technologies, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, all ready to share their experiences while learning everything they could about the latest, greatest developments in product lifecycle management (PLM) software.
Making Connections, Perusing PLM
There was plenty for them to see and do. Interactive sessions, knowledge theaters, hands-on training, and partner solution displays were available, covering everything from Siemens product announcements (lots of these) to best practices for software deployment to strategies for simulation and collaboration.
Everyone needs good tools. This is true whether you’re a machinist, a chef, or a brain surgeon. For engineers and designers, one of the most important tools is a PLM system, which enables efficient management of a company’s bills of material, manufacturing processes, design documentation, change orders, costing and quality data, and basically anything that touches a product from concept to completion.
Siemens PLM Software (Plano, TX) offers an extensive product portfolio, at the center of which is Teamcenter PLM, a flagship product that has just undergone a major facelift. Joe Bohman, Siemens senior vice president of Lifecycle Collaboration Software, said the much-anticipated Version 12 was slated for availability in late June, and users could look forward to a number of enhancements, starting with a more user-friendly interface.
“The latest version is all about ease of use,” he said. “There’s a new Active Workspace to organize common tasks into a centralized home screen, where users can work on all of their daily activities from one place. The next generation of users have grown up with computers and software, and their expectations for a simple, intuitive, and modern interface are incredibly high. Teamcenter 12 addresses those expectations.”
Less Code, Faster Load
It also addresses speed, a common concern among those who work with CAD assemblies that may contain tens of thousands of components. “We’ve redone the framework underneath our Active Workspace so that it’s based on reusable building blocks, allowing our development team to eliminate around 250,000 lines of code from the application,” Bohman said. “This results in page loads that are roughly twice as fast as previous versions of Teamcenter.”
Another thing that engineers and product designers will appreciate is Teamcenter’s virtualization functionality. Put on an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or comparable virtual reality (VR) device, push the GoVR button and you’ll soon be conducting VR design reviews, either alone or as part of a team.
On the fly 2D and 3D views of the “digital twin” are available. Markups are recorded as part of the product history. Installation paths, clearance issues, and ergonomic considerations are easily verified. Said Bohman, “Virtual reality has really improved over recent years. Where it was once considered a little gimmicky, VR has now become an extremely useful tool. We’re very excited to offer it as part of our PLM solution.”
Like practically everyone in the software industry, Siemens has embraced cloud-based applications in a big way. Teamcenter is just one example of that. Because of the cloud, it and other software packages are more scalable, easier to deploy and often come with a lower cost of ownership compared to “on-premise” software, an important consideration in the world of high-end engineering systems.
Another example of this is NX, Siemens’ “best in class” CAD/CAM product. Thanks to a partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its AppStream 2.0 Graphics Design instances, users have been able to launch NX from within a web browser since late last year. This has opened the door to users that need temporary access to the corporate CAD platform while making collaboration and sharing among teams simpler.
NX has advanced in other ways as well. Siemens’ announcement that it is moving to a “continuous release” model in January 2019 took many by surprise, although for most it was welcome news. Continuous release means users receive functional enhancements much more quickly than with an annual or semi-annual product update. It allows Siemens to be more responsive to customer requests with a “continued focus on release quality and deployment.”
NX isn’t the only CAD/CAM platform in the Siemens stable. Solid Edge 2019 also received plenty of attention at the Siemens conference. Like NX, Solid Edge is available on the cloud. As announced at the conference, Solid Edge now supports electrical and PCB design, plant and piping layout, additive manufacturing and offers robust 3D simulation analysis capabilities.
Next Gen: Convergent Modeling
These are all cool features, but the thing that has many at Siemens most excited is Convergent Modeling, a technology available in NX and Solid Edge alike that “allows designers to combine facets, surfaces, and solids in one model without converting data.” Dan Staples, vice president of mainstream engineering research and development at Siemens PLM Software, said Convergent Modeling represents the next generation of mechanical design, but is available today.
“A number of exciting things are going on in Solid Edge,” he said. “For example, engineers can now incorporate mesh models into B-rep solids [boundary representations]. That’s never been done before. We also have analytic space recognition, which automatically identifies planes, circles, and other part features without user intervention. And generative design, something we incorporated into the product last year, has since been extended beyond purely additive manufacturing purposes to include design for cost or design for weight. It’s also up to 10X faster than the previous version.”
ERP Insights at Epicor User Conference
Successful manufacturing companies and distributors know the importance of a good ERP system. Without it, shipments suffer and profits fall. Part of keeping the ERP wheels greased, however, is staying current on software technology, as well as networking with industry peers.
At the Epicor Insights 2018 user conference, held by Epicor Software Corp. (Austin, TX) at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, TN, May 21-24, the software developer’s management, employees, and partners hosted customers and prospects for a four-day, here’s-everything-that’s-cool-about-our-products event. The Insights 2018 event covered a range of software technology. Dozens of educational events and hands-on labs covered Epicor’s suite of products. Ranging from Epicor ERP and Prophet 21 to DocStar and Eagle, Epicor specialists from the aerospace and defense, energy, industrial machinery and others answered questions and demonstrated products to more than 3,600 visitors.
As with other Epicor events, the company pulled out all the stops for its guests, as attendees were treated to dinner and a show with comedian Jim Gaffigan, and keynote presenter and NFL quarterback Peyton Manning offered motivational advice on how to keep going after “taking the big hits,” sharing lessons learned from his nearly two decades of professional football. And for music lovers, Trace Adkins, Darius Rucker, Lee Greenwood, and other country music legends honored the men and women of the US Armed Forces at the nearby Grand Ole Opry.
Entering the New Frontier
There was much more to the conference than fun and good food, however. The cloud was a big discussion topic, as was Industry 4.0, digitalization and mobility. In his opening speech, Epicor Chief Product and Technology Officer Himanshu Palsule noted that businesses are being transformed by technology that is “having a profound impact on the core of your factories, your warehouses, and your employees. Machines are more intelligent, devices are more ubiquitous, businesses are more global, robots more cognitive and data is the new frontier,” he said.
In this “always online” world, continued Palsule, technology usage patterns vary greatly. It’s a place of multi-generational computing, where Boomers expect one type of experience and Millennials another. Data is pervasive and dynamic, and applications are becoming truly intelligent, able to discern the patterns that drive predictive behavior.
At the same time, concerns over data privacy, identity theft, corporate governance, and global compliance cause many a sleepless night. Add to that the spiraling costs of IT, and the need to work with vendors who don’t always understand your industry, and it’s not surprising that many professionals are anxious about the future. “Welcome to the digital economy,” Palsule said.
Add it all up and the reasons for attending such an event become clear; today’s manufacturers must not only be good at making things but must also have a firm grasp of technology that didn’t exist even a decade ago. What’s more, the rate of change is increasing. It’s only by networking and staying current on the latest, greatest software systems that anyone can hope to excel in today’s data-driven world.
The cloud will help to eliminate much of this future struggle, as well as the anxiety that accompanies the adoption of any new technology. As such, Epicor CEO Steve Murphy announced a partnership with Microsoft, one that will leverage the software giant’s Azure cloud platform to support Epicor customers, simplify implementations and reduce hardware and software maintenance.
Roughly 10% of Epicor’s 20,000 customers are currently “in the cloud,” he estimated, with more jumping onboard daily. He was quick to point out, however, that while Epicor firmly believes in a cloud-based software strategy, it’s not going to shove this or any other technology down any customer’s throat.
“We have to make sure that we create an environment for our partners and customers to succeed,” said Murphy. “Our aspiration is to be the easiest to deploy, use, upgrade and migrate ERP in the market globally. Because the cloud offers greater scalability and lower investment, it gives companies more opportunities for growth.”
One of the ways in which Epicor plans to accomplish this growth is through a rich set of partnerships. Aside from a standardized deployment model of Epicor ERP and Epicor Prophet 21 ERP suites that use Microsoft’s Azure “intelligent cloud” services, the company announced that it has joined forces with Jitterbit and its API enterprise integration platform to connect cloud-based and on-premise software systems. Those familiar with Epicor’s customization capabilities were excited to learn about Epicor Kinetic Design, a newly released design platform that makes development of customized user interfaces, software applications and similar value-added solutions easier for partners and customers alike.
The company has also created the Alliance Independent Software (ISV) program, designed to make it simpler for development partners such as BizNet Software and Precise Business Solutions to deploy third-party solutions to the Epicor platform.
Hexagon AB (Stockholm) announced its acquisition of Spring Technologies (Boston and Paris), a developer of machine tool simulation, toolpath verification and optimization, and machine tool management solutions. A developer of CNC simulation for more than 30 years, Spring’s CNC solutions include the company’s flagship portfolio, NCSimul, a suite of integrated solutions providing native CNC code programming, CNC simulation, cutting and tool libraries, CNC program management, real-time machine monitoring, and technical content publication.
“Manufacturing must be ‘smart’ if it’s to produce the next generation of products at reduced costs. The acquisition of Spring Technologies further strengthens our Autonomous Connected Ecosystem [ACE] strategy which will ultimately enable the smart factory,” Hexagon President and CEO Ola Rollén said in a statement. “Machining simulation is essential to connecting the physical world with the digital and achieving autonomy—both of which are prerequisites to delivering smart factory solutions.”
Spring Technologies employs about 100 people worldwide at its headquarters in France and in offices in America, Germany, and China. The company will operate within Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division as part of the CAD/CAM and production software business currently led by the Vero Software brand. Spring Technologies will be fully consolidated after regulatory approvals.
Measurement developer Marposs Corp.released Ready2Probe, a software application that assists CNC users when programming cycles for measuring and checking components and tools using Mida spindle probes, lasers, TBD (Tool Breakage Detector) and VTS (Visual Tool Setter).
The software features icons and menus to assist users with commands and codes to generate the measurement cycle within seconds, based upon the machine tool part program, thus reducing programming time and errors when generating G-code and improving quality assurance.
Ready2Probe is a Windows-based application compatible with CNC control interfaces and computers. Upon initiation of the Ready2Probe program, users can interact with all of the Mida products. The user then selects from a calibration, automatic or manual cycle. The software then prompts the user to input cycle time information along with an option to input additional requirements.
The new Moldex3D R16 release from CoreTech System Co. Ltd. (Farmington Hills, MI, and Hsinchu, Taiwan) adds new features to speed up the moldmaking process with advanced plastics simulation. The update offers faster solvers, 15X gating iteration and a new Viscoelasticity Flow (VE Flow) Analysis, which uses a new coupling approach to realistically capture real-world viscoelastic flow behaviors.
Processing speed in this new version has been enhanced, enabling faster filling and packing simulation results by 20-30%. With the new flow analysis Quick Flow, users can test multiple gating iterations to meet tight deadlines and apply the optimal gate location to a regular flow analysis for validation and optimization. This allows users to minimize weld lines in the early analysis stage, saving time and effort spent on running gate location analysis, especially on large parts.
AMFG (London), a developer of automation software for additive manufacturing, has launched a software platform that uses artificial intelligence to automate industrial 3D printing. With over 70% of manufacturers already implementing 3D printing in some way, the technology has the potential to transform manufacturing for end parts, according to AMFG.
A key barrier to commercialization is the lack of a scalable production process, with many departments using manual processes to manage production, the company noted. AMFG’s AI-driven software helps close this gap by automating the 3D printing production process, with tools including scheduling automation; printability analysis; postprocessing automation; and real-time machine analytics.
AMFG’s software solution aims to provide greater traceability and efficiency for additive manufacturing production, and offers custom ERP and PLM integrations.
BigLever Software (Austin, TX), a developer of product line engineering (PLE) solutions, has partnered with CAD/CAM and PLM developer PTC (Needham, MA) to deliver bridge solution that integrates PTC’s Windchill PLM solution with BigLever’s Gears PLE solution.
“Organizations are struggling to manage the increasing demand for product sophistication and diversity, and the exponential complexity that this creates,” said Charles Krueger, BigLever Software CEO. “It’s critical that enterprises reduce this complexity by breaking down organizational barriers and operational silos.”
Feature-based PLE addresses product complexities by providing an enterprise-wide solution—one unified variation and complexity management approach across engineering and operations disciplines and software, electrical and mechanical domains, he said. The partnership with PTC is a significant step for BigLever in continuing the expansion of its PLE ecosystem of integrated tools, the company said.