MCAD+ECAD and Intelligent Lifecycle

MCAD+ECAD and Intelligent Lifecycle


The time when you product was a piece of machinery is over. These days, every product is a combination of at least 3 elements – mechanical, electronic and embedded software. It usually comes together with an additional piece of software (mobile or cloud). Welcome to the reality of multi-disciplinary data and smart products!

Multi-disciplinary data is hard

Technology is easy. People are hard. When it comes to management of mult-disciplinary data, think first about people who are in charge of all these pieces of information. There are multiple levels of integration between multi-disciplinary data. It can be 3D model level integration. A typical example of bringing 3D models of electronic components such as PCB design into MCAD tools. Another dimension of multi-disciplinary data is integrated bill of materials. Technical difficulties and disagreement between people often can lead to problems in establishment of cohesive multi-disciplinary data management solutions. PLM fails to provide a way to manage multi-disciplinary BOM and changes. High-tech and electronic industry is specific because of high diversity of design tools – mechanical, electronic, software. PLM tools are not integrated well with design tool, which leads to poor BOM management – limit of tools, complexity integration between tools provided by multiple suppliers.

Will MCAD and ECAD tools integrate using EDMD language?

Recent Desktop Engineering article by Kenneth Wong – MCAD and ECAD: Don’t Throw It Over the Wall! put some perspective on a potential of integration between MCAD and ECAD tools. The article brings some examples from solutions supported by multiple MCAD an ECAD vendors – Zuken, Siemens PLM, Mentor Graphics, PTC, SOLIDWORKS and others. As you can see, a problem of integration between tools started from bringing a single format of data exchange (IDF) is evolving into more complex solution or language such as EDMD.

In the past, the MCAD-ECAD collaboration headache was a simple communication problem: To come up with a neutral file format that lets each discipline transmit its respective design to the other. But to design a connected device, where the outer shell and the internal parts must fit like hand and glove, the two sides must work together closer than ever before. 

A format like IDF (intermediate data format), which is supported by most industry-standard software from both sides, removes the communication barrier between MCAD and ECAD disciplines, but many experts feel a new lingua franca is needed. EDMD (electrical design mechanical design) is a protocol championed by ProSTEP iViP, an international association that develops and defines standards for product data management and virtual product creation. “It’s actively maintained, so we meet with other CAD and ECAD vendors monthly or bimonthly to develop it to include what the modern designers need,” says Eckhoff.

Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS + Altium =?

Earlier this week my attention caught by the partnership announcements from Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS and Altium. Read more in the following press release by Altium.

At the core of PCBWorks is a set of powerful schematic capture and PCB layout tools along with an easy-to-use interface that works in tandem with existing mechanical workflows in SolidWorks. Design data between components and mechanical enclosures are linked seamlessly between electrical and mechanical workflows, with the world’s first-ever managed Engineering Change Orders (ECO) process delivering changes in design data from SolidWorks to PCBWorks using native SolidWorks files.


What will be a trajectory of integrated development between Altium and Solidworks? Will it lead to more advanced design system integration beyond SOLIDWORKS? Will Dassault Systemes decide to acquire Altium to create MCAD+ECAD bundle? These are all good questions to ask…

EDA vendors and vision of intelligent lifecycle

To solve design information exchange is very important. But what is next? How multi-disciplinary design will connect into the process of manufacturing, services, maintenance. These are questions usually asked by MCAD companies bringing a concept of PLM to manage overall product lifecycle.

I captured the following slide from technology presentation made by Altium. Navigate here to see a full set of slides. The slide is taking us beyond multiple design disciplines and impose a question of what supposed to stand in the middle of cyclone of MCAD, ECAD, CAE, CAM…


What is my conclusion? Modern products are creating significant amount of complex design and manufacturing planning challenges. The core cause of that is in an increased product complexity, integration of multi-disciplinary data, introduction of IoT and connected technologies. Distributed manufacturing makes the design and manufacturing planning even more complex. Software vendors will be forced to think outside of a traditional silos to solve these problems. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg

Pictures credit Altium, Desktop Engineering, Nest and SOLIDWORKS.


Share This Post