NPDI – Understanding the Process with Images

A picture can say a thousand words, and in all phases of the NPDI process, illustrations convey more than complex descriptions. The development of a product begins with the earliest possible and most comprehensive information from all participants. The availability of this information prevents errors and improves results. According to a study on product life-cycle management by Daratech, a market research company, the product realization costs in the earliest phases of product development are the most significant cost drivers in the NPDI process. Employees who work near each can easily obtain an overview of the situation, but things become more difficult when the situation involves colleagues from other departments. Should they send drawings by fax or send the original file for review?
Transmission by fax can prove inaccurate, so it carries the risk of mistakes. Even sending the data in its original format over the Internet or on a storage medium can be unreliable, as this type of file exchange usually involves huge quantities of data. Also, because the data contains highly sensitive information, there can be a reluctance to provide it because of the need to protect trade secrets. In addition, the partner at the other end of the connection must have the same version of the authoring system and must be able to work with the system competently. Only in the rarest of cases do both occur in the real world – especially in collaborative development among various firms. AutoVue helps here by streaming data only to partners and suppliers. Local storage of this highly sensitive data is forbidden. Only the creator of the product data can control access to the data.

Tool for PLM and PDM

AutoVue simplifies the viewing, inspection, and measurement of products, equipment, and location plans with graphical data. The tool enables multifaceted visualization of product data without requiring users to have licenses for the authoring system used to develop the illustration. A system-independent viewing tool is required because the development process involves many products consisting of components from various suppliers, each of which was likely to have been developed with a different CAD system. Using this kind of software to display, measure, and print to scale plans or objects can significantly reduce costs. In addition, a rapidly growing number of products also have electronic components that must also be displayed.


AutoVue offers an almost unlimited flow of information between members of a project team, independent of time and location. The tool is certified for product life-cycle management and product data management solutions like mySAP Product Lifecycle Management and its Collaboration Folders (cFolders) application, as well as preconfigured for SAP NetWeaver Portal. These features enable version management and grant individual access rights. Users can display assemblies along with their model history and bill of materials (BOM). AutoVue’s integration with SAP solutions also allows users to monitor all suggestions for changes and to assign role-based information flows inside and beyond the company.

A Perfect Fit with Digital Mock-Up

AutoVue can also model digital mock-ups (DMU) in three dimensions from the native information it receives from the various authoring systems. DMUs enable a virtual check of how well parts intended for each other, such as fasteners, actually fit. They also enable examination and optimization of assembly dimensions, such as headroom in a car. If changes are needed, the developer can insert remarks directly on the assembly. In this context, “direct” means that the comments are assigned to the affected area of the file immediately. Users can also work with graphical tools like arrows, clouds and symbols. Comments are stored on a separate level, so the digital model itself remains unchanged.
For a visualization tool to offer optimal support for displaying, measuring, and examining fittings as part of enterprise-wide collaboration, it must be able to read the largest possible number of data formats. It must also guarantee that the results of its measurements reflect the original scale as best as possible. Not every visualization tool fulfills these requirements because exporting product data usually occurs only by converting it into a proprietary format. And when file conversion occurs, design intelligence is lost. Design intelligence contains important supplemental information for the assembly, such as the mechanical functions of a product, tolerances, precision requirements, or the development history.

Data in the Original Format

The visualization of CAD data generally includes several options. Many manufacturers of CAD systems convert their data into geometric formats like STEP, IGES, DXF, or PDF. Two problems arise when converting the data into these formats. First, the accuracy of the model is limited. That’s why a large number of healing programs exist to repair errors that occur after conversion. Second, the design intelligence is completely lost.
Another approach to the visualization of product data reads tessellated data that a CAD system generates for rendering. Tessellated data generates lines and contours that make it easier for viewers to visualize curved surfaces spatially, but such data is inexact. For visualization, the data must be extrapolated with filters and various algorithms. Many CAD systems offer a menu option to switch off the generation of tessellated data. However, once a user has done so, however, there is no longer any option for visualization. That’s why AutoVue applications always read the native format of the CAD data.


The visualization tool supports just about everything used in mechanical and electronic CAD. It supports mechanical CAD solutions like Autocad, Inventor, Catia, Pro/Engineer, Unigraphics, Solidworks, and Solid Edge and standard formats like IGES, STEP, STL, VRML, TIFF, PostScript, and HPGL – and more. Similarly, AutoVue software supports several electronic CAD solutions including Cadence Mentor Graphics and Zuken.
AutoVue automatically interprets the data and reads it in its original format(which is why AutoVue does not require any file extensions). If the speed of the presentation takes precedence over exactness, the system also allows access to tessellated data. Once that data has been loaded, users can instantly switch to high-resolution display mode. Models can be turned, cross-sections created, or individual parts detached. Users can zoom in and out as they wish. Measurement functions include angles, circular arcs, areas, volumes, and distances. Snapping functions offer the exact localization of edges, midpoints, and so on for precise measurement. The solution can also calculate properties of mass and centers of gravity. Additonal noteworthy functions include the comparison of various versions of a 2D drawing.

Not Just for Development Engineers

It would be a mistake to look at a viewing solution like AutoVue as a tool that is appropriate only for development engineers. The ability to display and analyze graphical construction data offers important potential uses in interdisciplinary collaboration among various departments, such as production, purchasing, marketing, and sales. On one hand, precise models are made available to these partners. On the other hand, partners can easily submit their comments and requests for changes as notations to the file – without CAD software or even much knowledge about CAD.


To give external partners access to such information, a client-server version of AutoVue offers access to data over a Web server. Users, such as the employees of a vendor, need only download a Java applet to their computers to receive unlimited access to the functionality of the visualization software. This client-server version offers both asynchronous and synchronous collaboration.
Because security is a major concern, AutoVue never transfers the original visualization file to the client. The document is compressed to a tenth of the data quantity and transmitted to the client’s computer. To satisfy increased security demands, AutoVue works with firewalls and proxy servers, and can also be configured to support the secure socket layer (SSL) protocol.
For additional information, please visit or for detailed information about AutoVue integrations with SAP.

Andreas Hönig
Andreas Hönig