The Builders Philosophy

I have considered for some time that there is a philosophy that directs how programs are focused and who determines or how this is determined. You have people who are convinced that the design of something is paramount and all that happens around after and before is just what follows this most singularly important event. Then there are the guys on the shop floor who know that if it does not work well there it can impact the bottom line of a company far more than the design ever did. Then there are the PLM types that figure it all hinges on them and rather than making the collator organizer type thing PLM is supposed to be they make it the chief entity and all other programs have to be shoehorned into it. Then you have the customer who judges the end result and finds themselves wondering on occasion what genius came up with this mess. Most of the people contacted through my business fall primarily into one category with perhaps another as ancillary to the primary. They may design for instance and they may walk out onto the shop floor and look at parts being cut or talk to the machinist so they have some knowledge of what goes on there but no real knowledge like they have for designing.

I remember about four years ago starting an argument with the SE guys about thread data that would go with a part file. My complaint was the only reason for SE to exist was so someone could manufacture something from it and in order to do this efficiently the right manufacturing data had to be in there. It was not until last year that SE began to fix this so that manufacturing data would be reflected in the actual dimensions on the CAD file. Prior to this point in time for instance none of your surface data could be used in the part. For instance a 1/4 20 thread would not show a .2010 drill hole size but rather a silly .25 hole size. Decisions made by programmers who just could not understand why this was a big deal. Had they been made to deal with the problems this created on a shop floor or CAM program they might have had a better appreciation for the thought that no software meant for any part of the manufacturing process truly is an island by itself. By the way ST7 finally has this fixed right for the first time ever in the history of SE. Why did this take so long? I wonder if it was because they finally decided to consider manufacturing or whether it was the fact that the US military will soon require all correct and actual part conditions and tolerances to be incorporated in the actual part files in design software used for things they consume. But this is a perfect example to me of the divide perpetuated by management and coders that see themselves as the primary entity and not as a part of an integrated system which as an aggregate is in reality the primary entity.

I find very few individuals who have the knowledge that I have and an appreciation for the how it all must work together. When something is done here I design the part, go and program the CAM paths and cut the part, weld the sanitary tubing or sheet metal assemblies. Assemble the product to the degree required and then deliver this and make sure the customer is happy. Every single aspect of the complete manufacturing process I have hands on experience with. I go to the SE Universities and am in awe of the skill level there with some of these guys. They are so far ahead of me in design abilities and I never expect to be their equal in that area. But I am an expert in shop floor procedures and I am good enough at design to create all I produce. I actually create the idea build it and guarantee it and so I have to deal with every aspect of the part. Very few people do. This leads me to the idea of what philosophy determines the content and capabilities of the software that you use.

I have a builders philosophy. I just want what I use to work well and competently with all the other aspects of building real things so I can, well uhh so, well so I can build real things and my living depends on ALL of it working together. This is one of the things that really excited me about Karsten Newbury being in charge of SE. He had an industrial degree and he grokked the importance of how it all must work together. Miss you Karsten and hope you come back some day and they give you the free rein you and the SE customers deserve. It is this world view of software I find missing so often from people who work with software programming who have a tunnel vision and everything else is below them in the “real” world they live in. So these types of people build little compartments where each thing is separate and the manufacturing ecosystem has to go from room to room to work with dividing walls everywhere hindering efficiencies. And heaven forbid the upper management of these companies getting this in most cases.

Last February Autodesk ran an ad during the Superbowl. Well yes it really was an ad but so cleverly done. The dynamics of air flow around a football and showing how it was done. I was floored with the originality of this presentation and it started the wheels spinning. For some time Autodesk was #2 bad boy after Dassault in my view based on my utter loathing, which I still have by the way, for being forced to work on the cloud. Carl Bass had been accumulating essential and best in class components for A to Z manufacturing for a while by then and it dawned on me what he was doing. He was assembling a comprehensive integrated manufacturing ecosystem. He was also laying the foundation to create interest in design/building/engineering amongst the future and existing workforce. Those who just might be inspired by this and end up using Autodesk products while learning in schools and universities and expect to afterwards to when they were in the private sector as employees. So here I was as an SE user watching Siemens cut SE off at the knees and looking over the fence at Autodesk who had a plan and was implementing it. I wondered then and still do wonder if the companies that compete against Autodesk have any idea of the peril they are in with small to medium or perhaps even larger manufacturing ecosystems? I just have this idea of a juggernaut that was being assembled as people watched in shock apparently incapable of reacting in any meaningful way. The really good CAM bits left on the market get snapped up by Autodesk as part of a plan while others who could have done something elected to relegate the idea of complete manufacturing ecospheres as secondary. I was in admiration of Carl Basses plan at that time and said so. Still not convinced though that the cloud was unavoidable with them. But he and they had my attention and I ask questions.

One of the remarkable things I have since found out is that unlike any other CEO or major corporate officer of any other design software company I know of Carl Bass personally owns CNC machinery himself. He makes things and he writes the programs to do this and I have concluded that out of all the corporate executives out there in design software land he is the only one with a builders philosophy. I am completely fascinated with this and regard Autodesk today as the most singularly exciting place there is because the builders concept is being put into place there by a builder.

So far unlike some past acquisitions by Autodesk things are now being handled in exemplary fashion. The fears the HSM users had have never come to pass and they were treated with respect and courtesy and I don’t know anyone who has left. Not that I know many but of those none complain or leave. Delcam is being integrated but not subsumed and don’t hear squat for complaints on the web from Delcam users about all this now. What I am saying is that by all the information I can dig up there have been no stumbles and no duplicitous garbage forthcoming from all this. I was for some time quite angry over the cloud issue and the lack of information about how the future was to be shaped regarding it but this fear has left for me now and I am today a customer. I am seeing a company that is the most transparent about what they are doing amongst their peers and making prices right to be a player with small to medium-sized and above companies who make or design things.

For me with a builders philosophy I am certain you can find singular programs outside of Autodesk that are much better like SE is compared to Inventor. But for the driving philosophy behind what is being implemented and the future roadmap being planned there is nothing else that touches the potential of what I see unfolding today at Autodesk.

2 responses to “The Builders Philosophy

  1. “My complaint was the only reason for SE to exist was so someone could manufacture something from it and in order to do this efficiently the right manufacturing data had to be in there. It was not until last year that SE began to fix this so that manufacturing data would be reflected in the actual dimensions on the CAD file. Prior to this point in time for instance none of your surface data could be used in the part. For instance a 1/4 20 thread would not show a .2010 drill hole size but rather a silly .25 hole size.”

    This is a rather myopic view. The solid model is used for much more than manufacturing, so why should it be optimized for manufacturing at the cost of all other downstream users who may actually cost more than the CNC programmer/machinist?

    For example, simulation (FEA) would require a .25 dia hole to represent a .25 thread because that is least material condition and worst case scenario. Now, my analysts have to remodel every single frickin’ hole before they run a mesh. In the least, they need to inspect every hole to verify the diameter. They have no easy macro to create a drill-and-tap operation like CAM has, so it takes more work for them with this change. Non-value add.

    My designers need to run interference checks, because it is better to find interferences on paper than it is after chips are cut. Although SE had the ability to ignore threaded interferences, that was limited based on the data in the holes.txt file and the thread feature being properly applied to the bolt and nut. Changing the diameters to holes to make the minor diameter less than the minimum thread diameter just so the auto-feature recognition on CAM programs doesn’t drill too big a hole with the drill-and-tap macro means that my .250 major diameter bolt interferes with the .201 drill diameter. That’s a lot of interferences for my designers to sift through. Or do you mean I should model my bolts to less than the major thread diameter now? Either way, a lot of non-value work added to my processes because of this change compared to a machinist looking at the print or the MBD, seeing a thread callout, and using the tools in the CAM software to program a proper .250-20UNC-2B tapped hole.

    It’s not that the developers were short sighted or didn’t fix the problem sooner. It was never a problem to begin with and therefore wasn’t a big deal.

    • Hi Scott,
      You and I are on the same page if you think about it. Sure FEA is part of the process and this is a perfect example of what I mean. Why is there not a capability in there in SE to select the hole data to be usefull to you and to me? In this case for the first time you are inconvenienced and I am not but that is because SE chooses this and does not allow for each of us to coexist. SE is going to be forced into reflecting real data just because of the coming military requirements anyway. Talk to Dan about the lack of capabilities here and don’t get mad that finally after 27 versions of SE we machinists get something. About the idea that this was not a problem. Talk to the shop owners with scrapped parts this caused. And why would your time be more valuable than mine so it is OK for us to have to do work arounds anyway? Just wondering.
      I am going to give you an example of how this is a problem for us. We work off of surfaces too and when the CAM program searches for for holes it looks for surfaces. It is not just drawings that we have to make sure of that correct data is passed on with but the collection of surface data because our programs look for it. Again I ask why is it OK for us to have to live this way so you can be happy? It is a problem that has and does still exist for somebody until SE fixes it and we are all paying customers.

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