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By Phil Magenheim, January 17, 2013
TeamPlatform is a service for those who provide engineering services, or for those who want to share and collaborate product designs that consist of 3D CAD assemblies, 2D CAD drawings, and even large 3D scans and meshes. It quickly sets up online workspaces for working in partnerships to support projects.
Simon Bae is the CEO and co-founder at TeamPlatform. He and his crew envisioned and brought to market a new way to connect businesses, effectively sharing and collaborating designs no matter the complexity or the CAD format. The service for engineering industries launched in March, 2012 as cloud-based software giving engineering data the same flexibility for sharing among design and project management professionals as a standard FTP or shared drives. In addition, they added workflow tools that are fast to use and easy to set up.
Workflow rules allow users to manage a synchrony of tasks, landslide of notifications, and piles of files. TeamPlatform provides dynamic tools for viewing, estimating, and working with a variety of media including 2D and 3D CAD, 2D and 3D scanned data, videos, photos, renderings, animations, and common office documents, such as Word and Excel. This kind of proficiency makes media easy to use and central to the workflow process (see figure 1).
|Figure 1: TeamPlatform's online interface used to view and annotate 3D assembly drawings|
TeamPlatform represents itself as a broad tool with a variety of uses. To learn more, I spoke with Scott Anderson, TeamPlatform’s business development manager. He told me that the goal of TeamPlatform is “to help people and companies work together much more easily and quickly than with conventional tools.” Right now, the company focuses on engineering services, product design, and development, including 3D scanning for reverse engineering and 3D printing for rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing. Mr Anderson said that the company foresees broader applications over time, such as BIM collaboration, planning construction trades and tradeshows, and doing event planning.
As my next step, I examined Team Platform’s 3D management tools, and quickly discovered this is one area which differentiates TeamPlatform from generalized FTP and file sharing tools: it allows interaction with the 3D data alongside the workflow and collaboration tools.
The workspace supports an extremely wide range of 3D formats, without specialized or third-party plug-ins required. The list includes SolidWorks, CATIA, Siemens NX, PRO/E, and Autodesk. Naturally, it views vendor-neutral 3D CAD files such as IGES, STEP, STL, PLY, and FLS, allowing users to view 3D files online. The system creates thumbnails of the 3D data automatically, providing a visual search tool. This minimizes the need to download, send by FTP, or email the files; more importantly, it allows users to search metadata within the platform, which results in quicker CAD files searches. In addition to searches through comments, owner, and other labels inherent to data, users can search by custom CAD file properties, all the way down to assemblies and sub-assemblies.
With support for 3D scan and mesh formats such as FARO laser scan point clouds and many others in TeamPlatform, this provides users the ability to use this type of data for reverse engineering, general inspection, and surface roadway and pipeline inspections. TeamPlatform manages real-world laser scanning projects online, which can be gigabytes and terabytes of data. The system includes a series of online visualization tools, such as top (plan) view and full 3D views; measurements, markups, and annotations; and scan data and metadata extraction. The 3D scan and mesh formats are typically then used with other online projects workspaces (see figure 2).
|Figure 2: TeamPlatform's online review of captured point cloud data|
TeamPlatform provides simple yet advanced practices for working with the assemblies and sub-assemblies. This makes it easy to share 3D data and complex assemblies. For example, procurement can compile and export a listing of assembly parts to an Excel spreadsheet. Engineering and manufacturing can trace assembly structures across a workspace, or zip and download assemblies directly from TeamPlatform, keeping the assembly references in place.
The 3D file management utilities provide a full set of tools for viewing, marking up, and scaling 2D CAD files online. Collaborators can communicate and share drawings for revision review and engineering or shop floor annotations.
|Figure 3: Exporting thumbnails and lists of assembly parts from TeamPlatform to Excel spreadsheets|
Mr Anderson put me in touch with one of his company’s customers, Avance Design, LLC. Tony Parker, a principal and design engineer at Avance Design, explained to me that his company is a 3D CAD-centric design and development studio based in Indianapolis. Their customers are industrial designers, medical device manufacturers. and consumer product designers across the US. His company provides rapid prototyping services, mold and pattern development, and short-run manufacturing. This is done using 3D printing or other additive manufacturing techniques - along with the engineering services that they provide. They own and operate several types of 3D printers, and have been using TeamPlatform since October.
Parker explained that as the business grew and his customers’ projects needs changed, the internal processes and communication tools were becoming exceedingly more difficult to maintain within his company. Avance Design was spending a lot of money each year just to keep current on needed licenses to view customer 3D CAD files, such as for CATIA. To compete with larger 3D printing service bureaus, they found they needed to provide online quoting, 3D viewing, and a customer support portal.
As a result, Parker and his partners evaluated several PLM [product lifecycle management] solutions, but found that they required a lot of additional integration work. The pre-determined rule settings of these PLM systems were not necessarily applicable to their business model. They even investigated the option of developing their own system internally, but Avance Design discovered that the development and licensing costs to the necessary viewers were prohibitive for a small business like theirs.
It was the savings on viewing licenses alone that justified the switch to TeamPlatform. As they implemented TeamPlatform, Avance Design found the solution to be easy to set up. It gave them immediate utilization, allowing them to provide sharing and collaboration to their customers, as well as the ability to provide 3D printing quotes quickly. This made them more competitive with larger 3D printing houses.
TeamPlatform exports workspace data and product assembly trees to Excel spreadsheets. This lets users make quick estimates for materials and assembly planning based on 3D designs. These can be applied to prototyping, manufacturing, subcontracting, and outsourcing.
Exported data includes the following:
Employing formulas and macros, users can integrate the exported data within Excel templates for workflow automation processes, such as instant bill of material generation, creation of 3D printing service quotes, and business activity intelligence reports. Alternatively, users can build Gantt charts within the TeamPlatform system to show task priorities, timelines, and related scheduling (see figure 4).
|Figure 4: Creating a Gantt chart in TeamPlatform for setting up tasks and monitoring project timelines|
Accurate quoting is the key to efficiently determining the production costs (and minimizing them) for 3D printing service bureaus and prototype shops. TeamPlatform delivers instant and automated estimates and quotes, allowing Avance Design to be more competitive. Mr Parker discovered, “We didn’t need to spend a mountain of time or money to develop a professional quoting system.” With template pages available, they quickly implemented and then deployed a client-facing RFQ (request for quotation) Web page, personalized with a logo, and then allowed customers and internal users to submit quotes and upload 3D models.
Pricing is simple and straightforward, with three levels: Basic (no charge), Pro Team ($25/per member per month), and Enterprise (contact sales). Pricing is based primarily on the number of administrators, workspaces, and storage required. One unstinting feature is the ability to invite guests to access the platform at no additional charge, even at the Basic level.
TeamPlatform offers an API to integrate online or offline CRM (customer relationship management), CAD, PDM, SCM, ERP (enterprise resource planning), or PLM, or even an accounting systems. The price for this is based on the number of requests that made from the platform.
In terms of support, training and documentation, Mr Anderson explained they designed TeamPlatform to be easy to use and learn. I found getting started easy, because the interface is self-explanatory, with help tips where needed.
New users can attend Webinars, which are held on Wednesdays. A video series facilitates the quick start. Documentation is available online at a dedicated support portal. TeamPlatform support staff is available for specialized help and unique applications.
TeamPlatform is an adaptable tool for a variety of types of users needing to collaborate on 3D data and related workflows. Some organizations might balk at the simplified level of management controls, or perhaps have a concern over sharing sensitive or proprietary data in the cloud. Companies already using existing PLM or PDM (product data management) systems might find that using TeamPlatform can outwit the rules established within the system.
Overall, TeamPlatform emphasizes the natural engagement of project stakeholders. Through user-friendly task management tools, project meta-data structuring, and re-usable workspace templates, information and 3D data can be shared. It supports the development and adjustment of workflows to best fit a project’s needs.
|Phil Magenheim has expertise in wide format scanners and MFP systems, 3D printing for architecture 3D scanning AutoCAD, Revit, SketchUp, Magics and Netfabb. More...|