Comments from users in Japanese companies, such as those in Table 8.2, express concern that 3D solids-creation takes too long and needs to be simplified, both from the viewpoint of migration from 2D, as well as original creation in 3D. Issues include training and reduction of learning times; software aids for simplifying 3D use; software aids for easing the transition from 2D; company-wide integration of 3D; and targeted applications, especially those involving small companies.

As Table 8.2 shows, Japanese organizations and researchers are taking a variety of approaches in addressing these issues. Hino Motors reduced learning times by simply changing its CAD system. Nakamura Pattern Making Company adapted easily to an RP system based on wood, a material with which its pattern makers have a lot of experience. In fact, company owners hold that effective use of SFF is not possible without profound understanding of the material. Meiko developed a CAD system, JCAD3, intended only for jewelry design, that is easy enough to use that the jewelry industry's designers should be able to use it with little CAD experience. D-MEC plans to develop software to help users convert 2D drawings to 3D solids. No system will do this automatically, since drawings are sometimes incomplete or ambiguous, lack associativity among views, or do not follow geometrically precise conventions in generating auxiliary views.

Researchers are also addressing the ease-of-use issue. Professor Fukuda at Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Technology is developing tools that will create and modify models more intuitively at early design stages. He says his system, which can build 3D models from 2D slices, is very easy to use. Professor Fukuda is also working on a virtual reality (VR) tool for facilitating design modification. His goal is to have a designer produce a prototype part, then be able to manipulate it with data gloves (Fukuda would like to use a soft putty-like material), and feed back those changes immediately to the CAD environment via sensors. Touch cues are an important designer feedback mechanism. Data gloves with force feedback will play an important role in design in the future.

Table 8.2
Japanese Views on Using 3D Solids

Although better analytical models will enable greater use of simulation and VR, physical prototyping will not vanish. In fact, a physically prototyped part of the future may contain a specially instrumented computer-sensing system housed in the geometric package. Clearly, aspects of today's physical prototyping will evolve into the next-generation manufacturing machines.

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Published: March 1997; WTEC Hyper-Librarian