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  • Dan Primrose

How we use Catia V5 in the office

Once again, the automotive design offices are in a extremely privileged position to have the most advanced 3D CAD systems as standard. Whilst there are a number to choose from, throughout the majority of the 14 years I was lucky enough to be in various offices like McLaren Automotive, Caparo and Gordon Murray Design we all used Dassault Systemes CATIA.

Although the initial investment is often hard to justify, I 100% believe that if the software is used properly and used in as many of the design stages as possible (i.e. from initial concepts right through to even the hydrodynamics of a yacht) the costs can be justified.

Whilst it is easy for me to say that it can be used efficiently, after 14 years sitting behind my CAD screen, it is a daunting task taking on a new design tool such as this, and the hard bit starts right from the start when you try and decide which of the many options you want/need. In the marine markets these generally range from styling tools, naval architecture, general 3D CAD right through to the composite FEA software. And of course, if you have the budget, these options could end up costing a frightening amount of money. But in most offices, the users just need some surfacing and then some solid generating tools, together with the standard 2D packages. And in fact its not until you need to generate A-Class surfaces (exterior panels) for cars that you need all the top level surfacing tools, particularly if you are importing your hull and foil shapes from other software.

To cut a long story short, I believe that having a tool such as Catia will help everyone in a design office. And due to the fact that the design process withing Catia is all parametric, if you need to go back and change anything it is easy. This makes it significantly faster to create not only the first parts but also the next parts if they are similar. It allows all the designers and engineers to see what everyone else is doing in the office as you can generate large assemblies on your screen and hence reduces errors. It will help to manage to the design process from start to finish, with its data management software called SmarTeam. This allows the engineers to do the design work, send it to the line managers for sign off, and then allows the rest of the office (purchasing, manufacturing etc) to see and download the relevant information.

To get over the first hurdle of trying to choose what I needed, I worked very closely with a company called Intrinsys, in the UK. They are one of the companies that sell CATIA, and are the people you should go to if you are connected to the marine business. The main reason I chose to buy from them is that having worked with them when I was at Caparo, where they supported us in setting up our own unique solutions to how we wanted the design office to work, I know that whilst they are "salesmen" for CATIA, whats more important is that they are first and foremost, users of the software, and in fact the majority of their engineers on site are working on internal projects designing advanced automotive components for internal and external projects. This is vital when wandering down a "new path" as they were able to give me honest answers and will always be there on the end of the phone if it doesn't all go quite how I was hoping it might...! And for those of you thinking that your office just cannot justify this sort of software, then give them a call and I am sure you will be surprised just how much it might cost.....

So now I am in a position to be able to offer some help or design work to any of the design offices out there who are looking into using this type of software, or who have already chosen it but need more parts designed and engineered.

If any further details are required or if you may have a possible application for this process, then please contact us at any time at

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