Validus 1.0 for Inventor

14 September 2010

Al Dean takes a look at a new Design for Manufacturing system that allows Inventor users to check their parts against best practice and corporate standards for machining operations

Product Validus
Company name DMSi
Price TBC

In brief, Validus is a Design for Manufacturing inspection system: it looks at your part data and compares what it finds against a pre-defined (and fully customisable) list for Design for Manufacturing checks.

These vary from generic checks against good practices and flags up any potential problems that might occur if you’re looking to machine a part.

The options and set-up dialog for Validus. You’ll see that the checks can be run in either metric or imperial units.

Starting with generic checks such as internal sharp corners or external fillets on a part (both of which can add to machining time and cost) that anyone with experience of machining parts will be aware of.

It also delves into a lot of details when looking at holes. Everything from hole engagement (having a minimum distance from the edge of a part and the hole), through depth/diameter ratios, warning against flat bottomed holes and then extends into checking the holes in a part against your own standards for hole machining.

These checks in particular are well thought out and eminently usable. Increments for hole as well as maximum and minimum limits can be set. In fact, a list of specific cutter sizes you keep in stock can be checked against and any problems flagged up. So how does it work?

In use

Once the system is installed and ready to go, you’re presented with an additional pane in the Inspect toolbar called DMSI Validus, which gives you access to all of the options and inputs that you can add into the system.

In use, the system is driven from the Browser Panel to the left of the UI as well as two dials that mimic the concept of Autodesk’s Project Krypton, giving you a quick view at the manufacturability of your current design.

When you start to build your part, the system starts running checks to find those types of problems detailed above.

If you add features that break the rules in place, then you get immediate feedback as the dial moves from green (good to go) to yellow (potential problems) to red (failed features).

In solitude, these don’t mean a great deal as the Browser Panel is where the real action happens.

Switching to the Validus panel, you’re presented with a grouped list of the checks in place: checks that the part passes and, more importantly, fails.

Expanding the Failed Checks category shows you which checks have failed and below that, the individual features that are associated with it. Selecting the feature or fail group highlights these on the model (in red) so you can see exactly where problems lie.

To help with complex parts, the system also has a transparency option which renders the model in a see-through style to enable you to more clearly see the problems; particularly useful for checks pertaining to internal features, such as flat bottomed holes.

Once problems are identified, you have two options: You can right click and edit the feature directly, adapting it to match the requirements (based on the feedback the system gives) and work on the design change. This will then cause the system to recheck and move those ‘failed’ items into the ‘passed’ group.

Or, of course, there will be cases where the feature’s form can’t be changed and it needs to be manufactured exactly as specified.

In this instance, you right-click on the error and use the Acknowledge Fail option. This moves the feature into the ‘passed’ group, but highlights it with a yellow warning triangle.

This has its benefits: firstly, you’re acknowledging that the DFM rules can’t be followed but it’s done in a traceable manner. Downstream, should the same system be used on the shop-floor, those opening the part and seeing the same warning triangles will be aware of the situation and need to work in non-standard machining operations.

The dials give you an immediate feedback about the state and will show you how the part looks from the system perspective.

Obviously, if you’re picking up someone else’s work, then a part that opens up, and if the system is present, will display a lot of yellow or red and as such will need some work. If you’re designing from scratch, then as soon as you see the red creep into the dial display, you know you’ve got some work to do and decisions to make.

It doesn’t at present store the results within the part file, but its not a huge amount of work to rerun the checks (for which you’ll need additional licenses).

iLogic integration

Alongside the use of the standard checks we’ve described, there’s one more chunk of functionality in Validus that’s worth exploring a little.

Last year, the Autodesk team acquired iLogic and this release cycle sees the automation tool delivered as a core part of Inventor.

What the DMSi guys have done is integrate Validus with this to enable you to create customised checks. These can be executed upon a modelling event (when you add/modify/delete feature) and the results displayed in the same Validus results pane.

They also work in exactly the same way in terms of flagging up errors and dealing with them, opening up the system to a great deal more and I’m sure many users will be looking to integrate some of their own requirements.

Reporting

The final thing to consider is the report generation in the system. It allows you to output a report on the Design for Manufacture checks to document the process.

This lists the part name, description, part number and author, then each Check with the associated results, highlighting where features failed, passed or where there’s an acknowledged fail.

These reports are simple, to the point and show the state of the part in work according to your company standards.

It can be outputted as an Excel spreadsheet or as a PDF file, so can easily be attached to the part and stored in your PDM system to aid traceability.

In conclusion

If there are two criticisms that could be levelled at Validus, it’s these: firstly, it only works with Inventor parts at the moment - Inventor allows the creation of welded parts with machining operations applied once the fabrication has taken place.

At present, these types of forms aren’t supported by Validus and it would be good to see that capability added in the next release. But, according to the team, it’s on the list for development work.

Secondly is that because it interrogates the feature tree, the system won’t work with non-native data, which could present problems with those in the sub-contracting space where non-native data is prevalent. Other than that, it’s a highly usable system that could be used in several different scenarios.

In the design office it could be invaluable in capturing Design for Manufacturing knowledge and best practices from the shop floor and ensuring that designers are aware of them while developing new parts. That alone would save a great deal of rework when the design is pushed back from manufacturing - any problems could be dealt with ‘at source’.
Furthermore, if you’re in the subcontracting environment, it could prove useful when quoting a job or looking at the feasibility of manufacturing a design, as those tasked with manufacturing preparation could use it to find any potential problems, factor those into the quote and if needs be, feed back to the client.

After all, if you can get the client to adapt a design to remove needless machining operations, you can supply the part cheaper than your competition. If you’re designing and machining in house, then any savings in machining time are going to benefit your own bottom line.

If you’re an Inventor user working with machined components then this is a system worth taking a look at as it could assist with not only making your design team more efficient (as rules are learned, less design change is required), but also ensuring that your manufacturing process is more efficient and more cost effective.

What’s also worth considering is that the system, with the iLogic integration, has the potential to cover much more than just machining related checks and I’m sure the system will grow in capability as it develops.

http://www.digmfg.com/validus.htm

 

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