For decades, the engineering processes were focused on creating a 2D drawing as the document of record of the product development process. Even with the widespread introduction of 3D CAD systems in the 1980s the 3D model’s main purpose was to create a 2D drawing. While for the definition of complex shaped surfaces engineers started to adopt 3D design and manufacturing methods the design of industrial products like connectors is still drawing centric.
TE Connectivity has started a journey to move towards a model based enterprise approach for the design and manufacturing of parts in the terminal and connector business. The creation of the 3D model is a process that is wide spread in industry, however, providing a 3D model into all functions of the downstream process contains many cultural as well as technological challenges.
Feeding the digital thread requires the product designer to follow a more stringent process on how to structure and annotate the 3D model. The Product Manufacturing Information (PMI) that used to be unintelligent text on a 2D drawing needs to be converted into data that is semantically connected to pieces of the geometry such as features or surfaces. Downstream functions such as tooling, inspection and quality inspection planning (QIP) can utilize the “digital” data. From a cultural point of view the lack of a 2D drawing is a large change process for many departments that used to receive engineering drawings. Purchasing, cost accounting, tooling and others now must be able to receive and comprehend the 3D model.
TE’s Digital Manufacturing approach gathers manufacturing performance data that can be traced back into the 3D model. This way TE is piloting an engineering feedback loop which allows product engineers to understand the manufacturing performance. This information allows the product designer and engineer to identify dimensions and tolerances that create particular challenges in the manufacturing process. With that knowledge, the designer can improve existing designs and create new products that will be optimized for the manufacturing process which will lead to an improved operating equipment efficiency and higher quality of products.