September 12, 2011
Software Review: ZW3D Premium 2011 – Capable CAD and CAM In One Package
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Figure 8: A ZW3D Drawing

While we’re discussing drawings, there is a new command for bills of material that lets you synchronize a BOM with part attributes for updating a 3D part by making changes to the BOM table on a 2D drawing , so you don’t have to drill down to the part.



Before proceeding to the manufacturing stage, for rendering a model (scene) at the part level for presentation, you use the command and options under the Visualize tooltab. Rendering a scene is performed with the following basic steps in the Visualization environment:
  • Position and orient a part or assembly in the scene
  • Modify any face attributes
  • Apply any texture attributes or maps
  • Create and position light sources
  • Modify any rendering attributes
  • Render the scene

While not as sophisticated and complex as the rendering packages found in some competing CAD products, the visualization capabilities in ZW3D are not overkill, relatively easy to set up and use, and will fulfill the needs of virtually all users in this design space.


Using Built-In Manufacturing Capabilities

One of the most unique aspects of the ZW3D Premium CAD process is its association with the manufacturing process. For example, ZW3D recognizes and machines geometric design features (up to 5 axes), and has the ability to directly manipulate and machine from STL or mesh scan files.

With an extensive integrated knowledge base, ZW3D Premium 2011 includes automatic feature recognition (holes, slots, pockets, etc.). ZW3D breaks down part topology into solid features and then analyzes the capabilities of library tools for producing a machining plan and generating a machining sequence/workflow. This technology is a real time saver. The company estimates that it could cut machine programming time in half and machining cycle time by up to 30%.

ZW3D Premium 2011 lets you create mold geometry that includes core and cavity, parting surfaces, draft angles and material shutoffs. The core and cavity can be created at the same time in one operation. Also available is a comprehensive library of standard mold base components that includes slides, lifters, ejector pins, cooling channels, and electrodes for producing molds. One of the most significant features of ZW3D’s mold capabilities is the way it is organized into a logical sequence that walks you through the mold creation process.

Before getting to the mold design phase, you can interrogate, analyze, and animate a plastic part’s design to ensure that it is manufacturable. ZW3D also generates so-called intelligent workflow. For example, it employs auto-feature milling with machining strategy based on a part’s features.

Although you can create them from scratch, the quickest way to create tooling for producing plastic parts is by using ZW3D Premium’s Mold and Die Tooltab. You use this command set to insert a mold base from the ZW3D standard parts library. You also use the Mold and Die Tooltab for automatically creating electrode geometry during mold design. Inputs for electrodes include approach direction, the faces or features to duplicate, trimming curves to limit the electrodes, and the side of the faces or features that will remain. In a nutshell, the built-in mold libraries use knowledge-based libraries to build mold bases and electrodes with automated parting line, surface, and electrode generation.

Figure 9: Creating a Blow Mold Cavity

The CAM and Tactics Managers in ZW3D Premium provide assistance during the manufacturing phase. These management tools help you develop intelligent and efficient milling and drilling operations. You do this by defining rules that ZW3D CAM will use when analyzing CAM features. The rules that are defined form a rule set that will help select the best tools machining tools from your library and calculate the best tool paths. For example, if a drilling operation is required and a good match from available drill tools cannot be located in the library, ZW3D CAM searches existing reaming or boring tools for a better match for the given operation. The suggested tooling operations can then be organized, verified, and output just as manually created operations would be.

Figure 10: Managing ZW3D Machining Operations

ZW3D Premium 2011’s machining tactics/strategy optimization assists in selecting the best strategy based on part features. It analyzes feature attributes, such as sharpness and depth, and selects machining strategy based on this information. Machining strategy optimization provides better flexibility and control with better surface finish and improved tool life.

Figure 11: CAM Plan/Tactics General Machining Managers

Toolset optimization (TSO) consists of several technologies that ZW3D uses to generate optimal tool selection for specific machining sequences. It analyzes available tools and makes “intelligent” choices based on part, stock, material, and machine to compute tool sequence optimization.


Final Thoughts

While ZW3D 2011 Premium has several strong capabilities in part and assembly design, drawing creation, and data management, its greatest strength and differentiator is the fact that in one package, you have all the tools necessary for going from design through manufacturing (machining). In effect, ZW3D Premium 2011 can handle the entire product development process. This comprehensive ability really adds to its value proposition compared with its competitors, many of whom require optional or add-in products to achieve this level of functionality, especially on the manufacturing side.

Having all workflow capabilities available in one package ensures a similar user experience, look, feel, and behavior throughout the design and manufacturing process. It also ensures that all support questions throughout the process can be handled by one organization. All in all, dealing with one comprehensive software application, such as ZW3D Premium 2011, and its supporting cast will benefit many potential customers, especially those directly or indirectly involved with plastic product design and mold and die or machining operations.

Although it’s definitely a competitive market, ZW3D Premium 2011 is a unique design/engineering/manufacturing software application because it can do it all. In the near future, look for a much stronger presence of ZW3D in North America by manufacturing organizations seeking a solution that is capable of doing it all. ZW3D Premium 2011 provides a lot of functionality, and we just scratched the surface and evaluated just a fraction of its unique features and capabilities. If your organization and workflow call for the ability to work with both CAD and CAM worlds, then ZW3D Premium 2011 deserves serious consideration because it provides both in one package.


ZW3D 2011 Premium

Pluses: Comprehensive range of capabilities from design through manufacturing; hybrid history-based and direct modeling; modest system requirements.

Minuses: Dated user interface and workflow; help system/tutorial shortcomings.

Overall: B+

Price: $7,000 (US). Upgrade $1,500 (US). Free trial  download available.

For More Information:

The Week’s Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

SolidWorks 2012 Delivers Design Solutions to Drive Business  

Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. unveiled SolidWorks 2012 with a variety of improvements in areas such as assembly and drawing capabilities, built-in simulation, design costing, routing, image and animation creation and product data management that will positively impact design teams.

SolidWorks 2012 offers improvements in the areas of:

Drawings – New tools help create better-looking and more-accurate drawings in order to cut down on the revision process and help users detail designs faster. For example, changed dimensions are automatically highlighted and show previous values to help with revisions. Sequential balloon ordering and magnetic lines automatically help order and position balloons, allowing users to spend less time detailing and aligning drawings.

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-- Jeff Rowe, Contributing Editor.


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