Ready-made CAD models simplify product design, explains Jeff Schnabel
In trying to keep up with the latest innovations, engineers in the electronics industry are continually up against tight project deadlines. Whether working from home or at the office, they are not only being asked to complete more with less time, but in many cases with less and less resources at their disposal.
To streamline design cycles and reduce time-to-market pressures, design engineers have had to take advantage of all available resources, including CAD tools, which are often a go-to in their daily routine. However, because many engineers deal with multiple CAD systems throughout the design cycle, CAD tools by themselves are not an end-all solution. This is why engineers often turn to ready-made 3D models for their components, and in particular, vendor-approved CAD models, to help contend with a variety of CAD formats as well as to avoid the iterative and time-consuming process of modelling components on their own based on supplier specification drawings.
The benefits of ready-made models
Ready-to-download 2D and 3D models in popular CAD formats allow an engineer to easily see how components can be integrated into their end-system designs. Beyond the time savings of not having to render individual models mentioned earlier, supplier-approved models avoid possible errors that could occur from transferring component dimensions from a datasheet drawing to 3D model. These also take into account any tolerances to ensure the component properly fits where intended and accurately reflects the actual component. For example, in the case of a connector, it can help to verify a jack is able to correctly mate with its counterpart.
3D visualisation not only helps an engineer implement their design, but it can also form a complete rendering of the end equipment. This could potentially “sell” a product design to a key stakeholder or customer before ever creating a prototype. It also goes without saying that tweaking components at this level can save both time and money by significantly reducing the number of design iterations. Other benefits can occur at later stages of the design cycle, especially for an OEM that uses more than one electronics manufacturing service (EMS). As one EMS might use different manufacturing tools compared to another, having component models that are compatible with a variety of EMS manufacturing tools makes it simpler to switch between production locations. This saves the system designer from having to re-render their model: a clear time and cost benefit. It also avoids the risk of potential errors, especially when the target CAD tool is less familiar to the engineer.
CUI Devices seeks to support design engineers through every phase of their project by offering a range of resources, including a CAD model library, for its entire product portfolio that encompasses audio components, interconnect, encoders, sensors, switches, and thermal management devices.
To support these product groups, the firm offers free-to-download 3D CAD files as well as PCB footprints and symbols without registration for thousands of individual models. These are available in most major CAD system formats, such as: SolidWorks, Pro/Engineer, Autodesk Inventor, Mechanical Desktop, and many more.
Using CUI Devices’ CAD model viewer, every model can be previewed prior to downloading in either a fully isometric 3D view or 2D views featuring six faces (front, back, top, bottom, left, and right). The viewer also allows a user to zoom in and out, pan, tilt, and rotate views, while offering various render modes (shaded, transparent, wireframe, etc.). Once the desired CAD tool format has been chosen, the model can be downloaded and dropped directly into a design.
Ready-made, vendor-approved CAD models can greatly improve efficiency and productivity during design, eliminating the need to render individual components, while allowing the engineer to focus on improving his or her end-product and reducing time to market.
Jeff Schnabel is COO of CUI Devices