VISI Series 16.0

28 October 2008

In the first of a two part review, Al Dean takes a look at the latest release of VISI Series from Vero Software, a system with incredible power that has been driven by one of the most demanding industries for geometry wrangling: mould and die.

Product VISI
Company name Vero Software
Price From £5,500

For those unfamiliar with the names VISI or Vero, the company has roots within Italy’s Olivetti Group, and has been quietly working away with both in-house developments and acquisitions over the past few years to create VISI, one of the true, fully featured CAD/CAM systems. To qualify that, very few cover the majority of bases - which is what VISI is increasingly able to do. As you might expect, when you have a manufacturing focused system, there’s always a core concentration of mould and die - whether it’s part of a grand plan or a happy accident. When you find CAD/CAM developers that do a good job, they’re typically mould and die focused.

VISI covers much more, with full support for all manner of machining (3-axis, 5-axis and high speed machining), but also into lesser known - but increasingly critical - areas such as progressive die design and mould flow analysis. In the first part of a couple of reviews looking at specific areas of VISI 16, we’re going to focus on the 3D modelling portion of the offering.

VISI is a fully featured hybrid modelling system, allowing you to work with surfaces and solid data in a free-form manner. Intelligence is added to your model where appropriate, but in comparison to many mainstream systems, its tools for working with large quantities of problematic geometry are excellent. When dealing with a complete mould stack, you could be looking at 2,000 plus parts. It might not sound huge, but when you consider that many of those parts are going to contain complex surface data, the power becomes apparent. Rather than going through the whole system, I’m going to have a look at some of the updates to V16 which have made it even more efficient in a pressurised production environment.

User interaction and experience

The VISI UI has been overhauled over the last few release cycles and its appearance and workflow are now fresh, modern and clearly laid out - you certainly wouldn’t think it was the first system to implement Parasolid on the Windows platform.

This release sees core enhancements aimed at making navigation of the 3D model easier, a good example being view rotation. The middle mouse button rotates the model, but hot zones have been added around the edge of the screen so that clicking that middle button near the top, bottom or sides will lock a virtual screen axis for rotation - making precise rotations of your model much easier. Another pretty cool update is that CTRL+F2 will snap the view to the nearest orthogonal view.

Alongside the usability improvements, there are some updates that make working with geometry much easier. There’s been a continuation of the consolidation of commands that’s been a theme in the last few releases. This now sees many common or similar commands merged into a single operation that covers all use cases - a perfect example is that previous releases had separate operations for extruding surfaces solid and now there’s just one extrude command. As a brief guide, 30 commands have been reduced to ten or so.

As we’ve said, VISI’s background is not part authoring, but working with other people’s data - specifically improving bad data so it can be used in the unforgiving production world. Tools like the new Dynamic Surface Analyser give you an understanding of how a model is constructed, and that offers you more information to base your edits on. It provides you with dynamic information about the geometry such as relative and absolute co-ordinate positions, fillet radii, draft angle, geometry type and important CAM attributes such as hole type and drilling information. Any trimmed geometry is also presented as a wireframe ghost in its natural untrimmed state (which is vital if you’re editing surfaces).

This release also sees a lot of work done to make the system more productive, by taking a common workflow, usually entailing many steps and carrying them out in a single operation. A fantastic example is the re-trimming tool, which has been reworked to carry out an untrim/fix/retrim/merge series of operations in a single step.

Streamlining these repetitive tasks will certainly free up the designer and generate huge time savings. Another is the new auto-constrain surface, where you select the geometry on which you want to build a surface and the system finds the best type of surface to use, reorders the curves and generates the surface based on geometry criteria, again in a single step.

Perhaps the ultimate example is the bend relief operation, used on stamping dies to great effect. To create the die face, you need to create an offset but this can cause problems with tight radii and tears or metal creasing in production. So the system has tools which can add ‘bend relief’ to those tight radii.

There are a couple of other updates that can assist work with problematic data, one of the most interesting being the Validate Bodies operation. This analyses your model to find faces that might cause problems downstream (self intersecting faces or inconsistent edges for example) when you’re trying to form a solid body, and fixes them. This is the sort of thing that could really drive you crazy as you chase bad surfaces around a model trying to form a solid object.

In conclusion

VISI is an incredible piece of kit. If you just look at the modelling aspects (we’ll get onto the really meaty cutting metal related portion next month), then it’s incredibly powerful. Today’s CAD users are more discerning that ever before. We’re all used to the ability to work quickly and efficiently with geometry, and while the majority are certainly using one of the mainstream mid-range modelling tools, when you’re dealing with import data or working with complex surfaces, you’ll quickly run into the one problem those types of systems have (and let’s be clear, I’m talking about SolidWorks, Solid Edge, Inventor et al). Those systems work best with native data, because they’ve been designed as authoring systems with the end goal being a 3D model or a 2D drawing derived from it.

A system like VISI (and there are others in the same class) differs in that the end goal is a production model on the back of which machining or tooling design is going to take place.

When you focus on the mould and die market, the processes often rely on your ability to analyse, validate and fix the geometry your client provides, then to ensure that you create the best mould tool you can - because production success is directly attributable back to that underlying geometry. While VISI has all of those surface-based modelling tools you’d need, the system also has a massive range of tools that support the entire process, whether that be mould design or electrode extraction and design, as well as supporting the creation of production drawings in a very automated manner.

While it’s not recognised as a standalone modelling tool, but as part of a bigger, more fully encompassing offering, I’m pretty damn sure that VISI could take the Pepsi challenge with any other modelling system on the market today - and win.







Compare and contrast

If you work within a sub-contract environment, then you’re going to be very used to design changes or late stage revisions in designs. When you work with mould design, you need to be sure that you get that mould on the machine and have it cut in as short a time as possible - changes come in late, but you can’t afford for these to delay things.

This scenario highlights a tool that should take identifying design changes down to individual surface entities. This tool compares two geometry files, and colour codes the faces to show which are new, have been removed or added. The system will explode the geometry into sheets separated by colour/status.

You can then quickly choose which geometry to swap out and replace with newer data revisions, and form a cohesive model in an incredibly short space of time.


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