Lean Product Development ideas for your CAD problem – Part II

If you work in a Lean culture, finding processes to improve is encouraged. Finding new ways to continuously improve operations might even be part of your job description. There will be some easy targets early on, but finding new candidates might be difficult after awhile. Instead of writer’s block, you might find yourself suffering from improver’s block.

New or better engineering software tools can represent an area of investigation– but most software tools are point solutions, impacting only a single area or user. After understanding the process to be improved and the implications of improving it, you’ll have to dive in and research the software tools that might get you there. Due diligence will require a lot of time and attention. And, once a solution is implemented, you’ll have to start all over with some other process and point solution.

That last sentence is what makes me almost want to call SpaceClaim a Lean software tool. SpaceClaim is not a point solution.  It can be applied to many unrelated areas to improve completely unrelated processes by wildly unrelated groups of people. So, once a “Lean agent” understands SpaceClaim, she can re-use that knowledge repeatedly.

Here are some examples of the many areas where customers deploy SpaceClaim to eliminate waste:

Concept Modeling

Innovation is a huge initiative for most companies. You will often see it listed as an objective in corporate annual reports. How do you improve innovation, though? One way is to increase the volume of early stage concepts.

Most companies struggle with that metric, because comparatively few engineering employees are CAD experts.

SpaceClaim enables non-CAD-using Engineers to accelerate 3D concepting by offering faster response and more capability than a whiteboard. Alternately, SpaceClaim eliminates the bottleneck of pulling CAD experts away from existing projects to “mock up” the ideas of those whiteboard users.

More people concepting means more concept capacity.

Pre-CAD Concepting

In a recent study with one of my largest customers, 3.8% of the people identifying themselves as CAD experts hated SpaceClaim and said they’d never use it. Over 90% of the CAD experts saw a huge advantage in shifting Concept Modeling and design-intent exploration out of CAD and into SpaceClaim. Why?

History-based CAD tools are best used when design intent is fully understood prior to modeling. Using a CAD tool for Concept Modeling requires the user to “hack and stack” features on top of features- a time consuming struggle resulting in “ugly” and inflexible CAD data.

Once this concepting is complete in CAD, users are typically faced with 1 of 2 options:

Re-create the CAD model properly and cleanly for final documentation (if there is time).
Release the ugly, inflexible CAD model to final documentation as-is.

Guess which one happens most often.

CAD experts can save enormous amounts of time by doing pre-CAD conceptual design in SpaceClaim instead of fighting the history-based nature of CAD. Once design intent is established in SpaceClaim, the can move forward to create robust, clean, properly laid out CAD models that are appropriate for re-use and documentation.

CAE Model Prep and Creation

Geometry is the classic bottleneck for FEA & CFD analysts. Most high-end analysts will never be expert CAD users because CAD tools are built for full-time draftsmen. So, analysts either get CAD geometry from the design department or attempt to build rudimentary geometry themselves in their CAE pre-processor.

Most geometry coming to the analysts from the design department includes way too much manufacturing detail. All sorts of fillets, chamfers, misalignments, nooks, and crannies need to be removed from the CAD model or the analyst’s mesher or solver will choke.

Most often, this results in an extremely inefficient tennis match between the analyst and designer. The “bad” geometry gets volleyed back and forth repeatedly. “Can you remove those rounds and tiny features on the right side this time?” SpaceClaim is easy to learn and use for CAE analysts. It includes tools to automate the repair and simplification of geometry. With SpaceClaim, the tennis match is eliminated, and I routinely see process improvements (speed) in the range of 20x-50x.

As a side note, analysts using SpaceClaim have a much better chance of pushing CAE upfront in the development process. With more powerful tools for creating realistic concept models easily, CAE simulation can begin to inform design rather than waiting until the end of the process when most design work is complete. That is a whole different Kaizen opportunity.

IP Protection

CAD models often need to leave the secure confines of the CAD department to be shared with the outside world. It could be that your models need to be shared with customers or suppliers for collaborative product development. Could also simply be that you need to publish a digital product catalog showing envelope sizing for all products.

It is critical to remove as much data as possible from these shared models to protect against the loss of intellectual property in the original CAD files.

Sometimes that means pulling a CAD designer away from completing other tasks to painfully bastardize models. Other companies will have a group of designers in India contracted to do this work. Others can’t accept the time lag in either of those options and just release their IP to the wild.

SpaceClaim is an ideal tool for removing details from CAD models. The work can be done in a fraction of the time it would take in the original CAD authoring package. And, it can be done by CAD experts and non-CAD-users alike.

Time savings per model could be 1 day to 1 week.

Manufacturing & Test

Manufacturing and test engineers typically need to create jigs and fixtures based on CAD models coming from design. These folks are typically not CAD experts, though, and don’t spend enough time with CAD to maintain skills. SpaceClaim will save them many hours and potentially eliminate yet another kind of geometry tennis match with the design department.


Bid Modeling is a huge area for process improvement with SpaceClaim. Sales engineers (again, people who no longer spend enough time driving CAD to maintain skills) need to collect customer requirements and quote new projects. If you can increase the number of RFPs you are capable of responding to, you can significantly increase bid wins and revenue. Distracting CAD Designers with this bid modeling is time consuming and inefficient. In fact, there usually isn’t even time for that. Enter the sales engineering SWAG.

SpaceClaim enables Bid Modeling.


Similarly, Marketing folks often need to re-purpose CAD design images for use on websites and brochures. If you are a marketing driven company, these folks also need to work through early phase product definition ideas. Tennis match, anyone?


These are just a few of the areas where Lean agents can use SpaceClaim to eliminate waste and improve processes. There are many others. Once you learn about the SpaceClaim philosophy, take a look at the gozintas and gozoutas of 3D data flow around the silo of your CAD design department. You will find many Kaizen opportunities to attack.