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How to Empower Collaboration between Mechanical and Electrical Design teams

Bridging the gap between electrical and mechanical engineering 

In a perfect world, suggestions and iterations should be exchanged between design teams consistently, so problems can be caught up-front and not dealt with last minute. When the problems are addressed up front virtually – in a shared development environment – they can be resolved before costly physical prototyping is initiated.  

When MCAD and ECAD are integrated, the information sharing is seamless, fast and require no to little manual work. Engineers can then easily exchange ideas and design intentions. When changes are explicit, and information is streamlined, multiple disciplines will better understand the potential change impact of design changes and optimize designs. 

How ERP-based PLM can facilitate multi-domain collaboration 

PLM embedded in Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365) For Finance and Operations & AX provides the highest level of system and data integration. This helps address the challenge of facilitating multi-disciplinary collaboration by offering a single environment for cross functional visibility to get all disciplines involved from the get-go of the development process. 

ERP-based PLM provides the missing link between Engineering and Manufacturing in D365/AX. The system is integrated with multiple CAD (both MCAD and ECAD) solutions, providing a transparent and collaborative electromechanical design process.  

With centralized data in a single repository, CAD+PLM+ERP provides a single definition for each product, from start to finish of a lifecycle through development, manufacturing and service. With a holistic view of mechatronic data, engineers can design product with a shared goal in mind. 

Learn how Bluestar PLM supports multi-domain product engineering and the development of electromechanical products here! 

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The logical and the physical representation of the electrical system 

A key challenge when designing electrical systems, is that they have both logical and physical representations, which often can require more than one CAD design tool to be visualized 

The logical representation is the netlist, typically built in an ECAD applicationIt entails the critical information on what cables carry what signal, connected to which endpoints. The physical representation on the other hand, visualizes how wires are routed through the 3D assembly model. 

These two representations are essentially two ways of expressing the same thing. They are based on the same netlist which is just manifested in different ways. For this reason, it is crucial that they are synchronized. 

The complexity of modern product development 

In most companies, mechanical design and engineering drives the electrical. The form and shape of the product design is proposed by mechanical, while engineering is expected to make changes at the very end of development. 

The problem is that when the wiring schematic and the from-to-information (which defines where wires are supposed to wire from and to) have been developed this netlist needs to be manually exported and imported as a DX file into a 3D model, which is sent back and forth between mCAD and eCAD. 

The manual work is not the worst part, however. If you have imported your netlist once and there is another iteration, you have to export/import the iteration as a whole package, instead of just a small iteration with the actual change, which might just be the change of single wire. This can make it extremely hard for CAD users to determine what the exact change is! 

Athe development process progresses, and changes keep occurring, the need for manually accomplished processes result in files are onlever exchanged at the end of development; collaboration only ever occurs late and infrequently. 

This approach implies a high amount of risk. By its nature, manual work requires management and planning. When electrical engineers do not have much opportunity to provide valuable input early in the process, the engineers will be very constrained in what kind of design changes can be madeDesign issues will not be discovered until late in development, when changes are costly and time consuming.  

Exchanging data between MCAD and ECAD  

Mechanical enclosures often drive the electrical component design and schematics. The form and shape of the product design is proposed by mechanical, while electrical engineering is expected to make changes at the very end of development. collaboration only ever occurs late and infrequently. 

This approach implies a high amount of risk. By its nature, manual work requires management and planning. When electrical engineers do not have much opportunity to provide valuable input early in the process, the engineers will be very constrained in what kind of design changes can be made. Design issues will not be discovered until late in development, when changes are costly and time consuming to rework.  

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