Tech Tip Thursday: PDM in PLM
PLM Blog - Aras Innovator Technology


aras plm tech tip thursday PDM in PLM

As much as we like to talk about all the wonderful things you can do with our PLM system, the simple fact is that for many companies a key starting point in automating their processes is to get their CAD data under control, which means PDM. Recognizing this fact, Aras made it a priority to build best-in-class PDM right into our PLM system, so that you can not only effectively manage your CAD data but also share that information throughout your business to improve your products and processes.

Our PDM is based on the Aras CAD Integration Platform, which offers an open, CAD-neutral environment for developing packaged and custom integrations. It is used by our CAD Connector partners as the basis of their Connector products and can also be used by customers or partners to develop custom PDM solutions.

Here are the important components of the CAD Integration Platform which we believe give Aras users the competitive edge when it comes to PDM:

CAD Document ItemType

It all starts with the CAD Document, an ItemType designed from the ground up to manage CAD data in the most efficient way possible. And, since I've never met a CAD engineer who thought their PDM system was fast enough, I know efficiency matters. CAD Documents are quite different than regular Documents. Key elements of the CAD Document ItemType are:

  • CAD Structure - Since CAD Documents are used to manage CAD assemblies they need to have the ability to form structures. The CAD Structure relationship works much like the Part BOM, with one critical difference - it is defined as "Hard Fixed" rather than "Float". The reason for this is that we want to retain the history of how the model was stored from CAD and if we let subordinate levels float, we lose that history. We can still extract the "floated" structure when needed using our Structure Extraction Methods - see below.
  • File Management - Because CAD Documents are primarily used through automation with CAD Connectors we chose to implement file handling in a very specific way, using Properties of type Item (with File as the ItemType), rather than a generic CAD File relationship. By default we have "native_file" and "viewable_file", but this can be extended to add other file properties like exchange files. Handling files as properties simplifies file manipulation and improves performance, and allows the files to be directly visible on relationships in the web client.
  • Part CAD Relationship - Our CAD Connectors offer the ability to assign CAD Documents to Parts (which can drive numbering behavior), and also to automate the update of the Part BOM based on CAD Document structure. We have added special logic to the Part CAD relationship to support the notion of an overall version-independent assignment between a CAD Document and a Part, in addition to version-specific links.
  • Change Affected Item - While often used in conjunction with Parts, CAD Documents need to also be able to stand alone in order to support true PDM. Unlike some of our competitors, a CAD Document in Aras is revisable either manually or on a change order, on an equal basis with Parts. So you can implement a purely CAD-based change process, or one that involves both CAD and Parts.

Structure Extraction Methods

Since CAD Document structures get large and complex, it's critical for good PDM performance to be able to quickly extract information from these structures. We have three AML-based Method calls that are purpose-built for this task, and optimized for large CAD structures:

  • PE_GetResolvedStructure - Returns all CAD Documents within the structure of a given CAD Document, based on three resolutions: As Saved (default fixed structure), Latest Released, or Current (commonly used to retrieve the latest work-in-progress structure).
  • PE_GetResolvedParents - Returns the "where used" parent CAD Documents of a given CAD Document, again based on the three resolutions.
  • PE_GetRelatedParts - Returns all Part items related to the given CAD Document, either version-specific or using our special version-independent assignment logic.
  • File Management APIs

    PDM requires high-performance file management, both in terms of file quantity and file size. Aras has developed two world-class APIs within IOM for managing CAD file transmission on both upload and download from the file server:

    • CheckinManager - Provides multi-threaded file upload to the Aras file vault, in either synchronous or asynchronous mode. Includes conflict detection to determine the ability for the user to lock the necessary items that will contain the files being uploaded.
    • CheckoutManager - Provides multi-threaded file download from the Aras file vault, in either synchronous or asynchronous mode.

    These API calls work seamlessly with Aras distributed file vaults to provide the best possible file performance for CAD data management on both LAN and WAN.

    So welcome to Aras's PDM-within-PLM, learn more about Aras CAD File Management here.

    And once you get your CAD data in order, don't forget about all the other great stuff you can do with Aras Innovator.

    Posted Thu, Mar 21 2013 10:28 AM by Brianne