Issue: Volume: 25 Issue: 2 (Feb 2002)


By Phil LoPiccolo

March 1982 Solid modeling, considered a toy by some users of computer-aided design software but an industry panacea by others, has proliferated to CAD systems from 17 vendors, including Computervision (used to create this model), as well as IBM, Prime, Control Data, and Applicon.

November 1982 Modeling systems of the day are able to work with planes, cylinders, cones, spheres, and tori, but have difficulty creating objects with interior holes or more than four edges. Support for free-form surfaces, such as blends between edges, is also limited and considered a CAD feature of the future.

December 1983 The Romulus solid geometric modeler, developed in Sweden, permits designers to create 3D parts with hidden lines shown (directly above) or removed (top). The user is then able to "walk around" an object to get a feeling of its solidarity and point at a feature to modify it directly.

March 1986 Autodesk's AutoCAD is the most popular microcomputer design program, with editing facilities such as polylines, curve fitting, and interactive object selection. A single-user program written in C, it supports the IGES standard, enabling data transfer to mainframe systems.

March 1986 With its Macintosh-like menus, EasyCAD was designed for CAD phobics and general office use. Despite many 2D drawing and editing functions, the program does not allow entities to be broken apart or dragged, nor does it provide auto-dimensioning.

June 1986 Major aircraft makers in Europe develop the Airbus A320 jet entirely on CAD systems by swapping graphic design data among disparate and remotely located systems. The key is a CAD data translator, called SET (Standard D'Echange et De Transfert), under active development since 1983 by Aerospatiale engineers.

May 1988 First demonstrated at the November 1987 Autofact Expo in Detroit, the Stereo Lithography Apparatus from 3D Systems becomes commercially available in June 1988. It revolutionizes prototyping by using lasers to quickly create plastic polymer models (directly above) from 3D CAD data (top).

May 1988 Parametrics-a radical new approach to design software that preserves functional relationships among parts and features even when a model is changed -gains momentum, thanks to the pioneering Pro/Engineer program from Parametric Technology Corp.

June 1989 Computer-aided industrial design, which places CAD models in artistic settings, comes of age with the use of advanced tools such as reflection mapping, effective for metallic objects, and Alias's Natural Phenomena software, for stylized backgrounds.

September 1989 NASA develops high-end data visualization programs and makes them freely available in the public domain, so researchers can, for example, analyze wind flow and stresses on aircraft surfaces. Users at aerospace companies and universities convert the supercomputer software to run on engineering workstations.

October 1989 Envision, one of the first commercial tools to simulate human motion for ergonomic design analysis, is introduced by Deneb Robotics for $50,000. Meanwhile, mechanical analysis vendor MDI readies Android, a human simulation tool for car crash analysis, ergonomics studies, and biomedical applications.

April 1990 Finite element analysis moves to the engineer's desktop, as new, "easy-to-use" programs are introduced by Aries, Rasna, and MSC (used to create the image above). Observers are skeptical, predicting it will take at least 10 years before software allows non-experts to perform this kind of analysis.

September 1990 Manufacturers take advantage of NC simulation software to graphically depict tool paths to detect machining errors before actual metal cutting commences. Some tools, such as Vericut from Deneb, are able to simulate an entire machine and work cell (left).

October 1990 A great debate rages over which mathematical method- NURBS or Bezier-is superior for describing curved surfaces. Most CAD packages incorporate NURBS, but a Bezier-based system (used to create this design) also has advantages. In the end, what matters most is how the technique is implemented.

November 1990 To complete the design and testing of the Space Station Freedom-one of the most ambitious CAD projects to date-NASA turned to SDRC's I-deas for mechanical modeling and to Intelligent Light software to create an animation showing the massive assembly in operation.

January 1991 Stardent and Intelligent Light introduce a new breed of visualization software. Designed for mainstream engineers, Stardent's CFD Viewer and Intelligent Light's Field View (above), combine the ease of use of an application-specific program with the versatility of a scientific visualization tool kit.

June 1991 Industrial design packages from Alias Research, Evans & Sutherland, and Intergraph (used to create above image), represent a new wave of software that combines the artistic freedom of animation programs with the engineering precision of CAD systems.

December 1991 As rapid prototyping proliferates (there are now more than a dozen vendors), the devices get faster, more accurate, and more versatile. The machines have reached a point where they can produce parts, such as this exhaust manifold, that have complex shapes.

March 1992 New interactive devices, such as the BOOM display, developed by Fake Space Labs, helps virtual reality technology find practical applications. Here, a user in a virtual wind tunnel environment at NASA Ames makes design changes to the space shuttle and observes how air flow over the wings is affected.

May 1992 Mechanism analysis moves to the mainstream, as packages from Cognition, Computervision, Rasna, and Saltire become available for a few thousand dollars apiece, an order of magnitude less than the high-priced programs. Meanwhile, top-end systems from MDI and CADSI (shown here modeling the action of a magnetic toy), incorporate graphical user interfaces for greater ease of use.

November 1992 New surface visualization techniques-such as highlight evaluation (left) and curvature evaluation (right), both features of Alias Research's Studio package-help designers evaluate the character and integrity of complex surfaces at the front end of the product development cycle.

February 1994 A breakthrough in sketching software, StudioPaint from Alias Research provides 2D tools for generating real-time sketches that can be combined with 3D models from other Alias programs, such as Studio. At any time, the model can be shuttled between programs, such as for further concept work in 2D or refinement and rendering in 3D.

November 1995 CAM software that generates tool paths from CAD geometry to create plastic injection molds drastically reduces "model to mold" time. Camax's leading Camand program (left) simulates machine tool operations.

March 1995 Reverse engineering gets easier with new software from the leading CAD vendors-including Parametric Technology Corp., EDS, Matra, SDRC, and Computer Design Inc. (right)-that automatically creates surfaces from point cloud data obtained from 3D scanners.

March 1998 Chrysler becomes the first automaker to adopt a fully digital, "Cyber-synthesis" process. Using a single CAD/CAM system-Dassault Systemes' Catia-Chrysler engineers designed, assembled, and tested the 1998 Dodge Intrepid.

June 1998 Mechanical CAD vendors battle for a share of the midrange market. Programs such as AutoCAD Mechanical Desktop, SolidWorks (used to create this supercharger model), PT Modeler, and Solid Edge lead an increasingly crowded field.

January 1999 Once the domain of rarefied automotive styling, computer-aided industrial design revolutionizes the shape of consumer products-such as these toothbrushes created with Ashlar and Alias|Wavefront software-as CAID tools migrate from Unix to desktop platforms.

July 1999 Tighter integration of digital styling tools with company-wide CAD/CAM/CAE systems helps Detroit designers create a new line of retro cars. Ford linked PTC/ICEM Technologies' ICEM Surf with its central CAD system, SDRC's I-deas Master Series, to create this concept T-bird.

March 1999 Stress testing, once limited to high-end products because of the expertise needed to perform analyses, is used on low-cost items such as plastic bottles, thanks to easier to use programs from CAE vendors such as MSC and Ansys.

December 1999 CAD and CAE tools give America's Cup teams a competitive edge by helping them shave inches and pounds off their boats and seconds off their race times. Team Prada uses CEI's Ensight computational fluid dynamics program to analyze airflow around its spinnaker sail design (right).

January 2000 Moving design engineering from the desktop to the Web, application service provider Alibre introduces Alibre Design, the first CAD software designed expressly for collaborative, parametric solid modeling over the Internet. The program is based on the ACIS kernel and the STEP file format.

March 2000 New "CAD-ready" conceptual design tools blend the art and science of product development. Alias|Wavefront's Studio was used to match the material and color of this blender to its setting and to format the model's surfaces for accurate conversion to a CAD solid model.

June 2000 The ability to simulate the effects of multiple physical phenomena on a digital model helps engineers predict real-world performance. Electromagnetic and thermal analyses are coupled using Ansys Multiphysics to simulate the stress response of a microelectrical mechanical system (left).

February 2001 A new genre of CAD-conversion software begins to enable users to move 3D solid model data freely from one program to another, promising to fulfill the dream of true system interoperability. The Catia model (above), complete with history tree, was converted from a PTC Pro/Engineer file using Translation Technologies Inc.'s Acc-U-Trans software.

June 2001 The same CAD data used to design cars is also used to market them. With data provided by Jaguar and off-the-shelf and proprietary software, artists at the Burrows design firm turn CAD files into photoreal 3D models ready to roar across the TV screen or grace the pages of technical brochures, long before the cars are physically prototyped.

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