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DCS Engineers in New Dimensions


Dimensional Control Systems’ (DCS) 3DCS Variation Analyst technology is a mature, robust tool that has been in the market for more than two decades and is used by the world’s leading manufacturers to reduce their costs of quality. In January, 3DCS will be fully integrated into the SOLIDWORKS CAD platform.

3DCS Variation Analyst for SOLIDWORKS is a fully integrated scalable tolerance analysis software that simulates product assembly and manufacturing processes, as well as part tolerances, in a 3D stack-up through several types of analysis, including Monte Carlo Simulation, sensitivity, equation-based and worst-case analysis.

The driving force behind the integration of 3DCS software into SOLIDWORKS is the continuing complexity of products developed on the SOLIDWORKS platform. Over the past 5 years, more companies have begun building sophisticated products in SOLIDWORKS. For example, the medical device industry, electronics packaging and semi-conductor industries are analyzing complex, multi-part assemblies and now require a more complex tool to handle these analyses.

3DCS software has historically been in complex multi-stage assemblies, like automotive sheet metal and aerospace structural assemblies. Today, some of those similar requirements are showing up in these other markets, which has resulted in DCS bringing this tool set to the SOLIDWORKS marketplace.

“Our objective is to seamlessly integrate all the data sets already within the system so that it is accurate and stays up to date,” 3DCS Product Manager Dave Johnson says. “Integrating directly within the CAD environment provides a number of direct benefits; no need to re-author data, ability to work directly with CAD math data, assembly structure, PMI, GD&T, all without any conversion or back and forth, typing in values. What’s more, as the design changes, the model automatically updates.”

Tolerance Analysis

There is a huge cost to not doing things right the first time. “Our business,” Donald Jasurda, DCS vice president of sales says, “across everything we do, is about one thing and that is controlling the cost of quality. I think about this type of analysis as something that is a standard activity in the automotive and aerospace structures industries, and is becoming, evolving in medical device, industrial machinery and electronics packaging. The cost of scrap and rework and the impact it has on profit margins drives this evolution, as in the automotive industry, the margins are very thin and improving product design through simulation is an opportunity to save money.”

On the production side of things, professionals have grown accustomed to using statistical methods like Statistical Process Control (SPC) for decades. This variation analysis is really nothing different than simulating SPC in a virtual environment using Digital Twins, and doing that work as part of the design process.

“No one would question why you would do a structural analysis on a product; it is just an accepted norm,” adds Jasurda, “I think we’re going to evolve to a point where this type of variation analysis will be seen in the same context as the accepted norm.”

Market Differentiation

3DCS stands apart from other similar products on the market by its ability to simulate manufacturing processes involving tooling and the sequencing of parts. The tools in the market right now will do a design study, but are not able to simulate the effects of processes like assembly fixtures, weld stations, gaging, and various tooling used to set the gap between two parts and adjust the variation because of manufacturing processes.

Additionally, because 3DCS runs Monte Carlo simulation, it can be used to calculate non-linear analyses, and resultants of the analysis. This includes analyses that are iterative and conditional in nature, such as a latch that can be in multiple positions. 3DCS can model that latch in all of its various positions, calculating how variation will affect its fit and function through the range of motion.

3DCS can simulate over-constrained parts that deform, utilizing finite element analysis to incorporate forces, welds, bending, flexing, and thermal. 3DCS can also measure non-dimensional outputs like the force, volume, drag, or pressure of something that you want to analyze. 3DCS supports various equations to measure any type of variation that could be inside a system.

Seamless Integration

The No. 1 benefit of CAD integration is familiarity for ease of use. “We’ve touched on the fact that 3DCS is used to solve complex problems,” Jasurda says. “When you talk about a tool with a fair amount of depth used to solve complex problems, it often becomes difficult to use. In order to mitigate that issue, integration into a familiar CAD environment and interface all reduce complexity and training requirements.”

When fully integrated into SOLIDWORKS, there is no need to export STEP or model files and then import them. When the design changes; the model automatically updates. This benefit allows the model to stay up to date while reducing revision control issues.

As part of this connection, Model Based Definition (MBD), often Product Manufacturing Information (PMI) in the language of GD&T, is now embedded in the CAD and associated with the model features. 3DCS can automatically use MBD to build the model so that there are no errors inputting the model information. If there is Finite Element Analysis data associated, that can also be included. If there are previously created relationships between the features on how they might align, 3DCS can bring those in and help define how the relationship of the features with tolerances might impact the stack-up.

Process Flow Leading into Inspection

Doing analysis early in the product life cycle provides the greatest benefits. Analysis should be occurring as decisions are being made about what the product requirements should be in order to meet their design specifications.

As the design matures, the analysis model continues to evolve to include the influence from tooling. As production begins, the model provides additional value by linking the data of physical measurements and SPC to the model for root-cause, problem solving and correlation.

“Most of our clients who are producing products at high volume, they are talking about using many types of correlation. Correlation such as between as-designed and as-built, between high-volume, low to medium fidelity measurement, like checking every part for pass/fail criteria, versus doing a very detailed inspection of every 100th part, correlating these two measurement processes to one another,” noted Jasurda. “That is very common in automotive for example.”

DCS will debut 3DCS Variation Analyst for SOLIDWORKS at 3DEXPERIENCE World 2020 in February.