Machine Design

Keeping everyone on the same page

Complex projects are likely to need the attention of several different designers and departments.

The stairway and deck were designed in AutoCAD Inventor and translated into Actify's compact .3D format for sharing with other team members. The dimension tags show the distance between stairs and the thickness of a support.

Although the IGES entities fill a large grid, each is easily examined thanks to the simple navigation tools in Actify. A right click brings up the zoom, pan, rotate commands, or they can be selected at the screen bottom.

The dropdown menu shows several ways to divide the screen. Picking a component in the part list, such as the wing, highlights it on the model.

A snapshot is a 2D instance of a 3D model. Hit the red T to add notes and the line icon to draw lines with or without arrows to points of interest.

Given today's outsourcing frenzy, the different specialties are probably not collocated, as the jargon goes. So keeping everyone on the same page as the design evolves can be a thorn in the project manager's side.

Viewing and collaboration software have been one way to connect far-flung design and manufacturing groups. A recent upgrade to SpinFire Professional, software for collaborating, gives managers new tools for maintaining clear communications between widely dispersed groups. In a nutshell, the software lets users open a wide range of 2D and 3D file formats and save them in a more compact .3D format. For example, a .dxf file of an aircraft is 248 kbytes, but only 81 kbytes in .3D. It's more efficient to send the smaller file with comments to others who need to see them. The software also lets team members take measurements off models, add notes, and send images and comments to each other.

The software takes little training to get the most out of it, mostly because functions are so intuitive. For example, dimensions can be taken about 11 ways and each has a good description in the menus. The trick to getting the needed dimension is to zoom in close enough so the software has no doubt as to which line or item you're picking on. The same goes for angles.

Because complex models can be rotated to many views, the software lets users take snapshots of particular positions, which are just 2D instances of the model. They can also add notes and arrows to particular components, and even add other snapshots to make a point. Several snapshots can be sent in one file. Part dimensions — a separate icon — has functions for finding global parameters such as maximum length, width, height, volume, and center of gravity.

This review focuses on features of the $499 standalone version of the software. A version intended to run from a server would let more people in a company use the software in a more secure manner and simplify

maintenance. With the server version, data never leaves the server, yet authorized users can view needed images. SpinFire Professional comes from Actify Inc, 60 Spear St., San Francisco, CA 94105, (415) 227-3800,




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