By Phil Burgert
Electrical computer-aided design (E-CAD) systems can provide the tools to contain a complete design in a single project. In addition, the software can let users navigate quickly through the schematics and take advantage of automatic referencing, error checking, searching and other tools across the entire set of pages.
Dave Sprague, electrical engineer with Stolle Machinery (www.stollemachinery.com), Sidney, Ohio, says E-CAD can step up the accuracy of drawings through use of automatic cross-referencing and automated parts. "Let's say you're adding another contact for a motor starter that you've defined already," offers Sprague. "In the past, you might have forgotten you used all your contacts already. With this software, it clues you in that you've used them all and that you might want to add an outer deck for that. It keeps you out of trouble that way."
Rodney Price, manager of electrical engineering for Belvac Production Machinery (www.belvac.com), Lynchburg, Va., has used E-CAD for several years to create schematics and to make I/O assignments for translation to PLC programs. "E-CAD provides speed, accuracy and standardization," he says.
The key difference between a manually generated design and using the intelligence in E-CAD programs is accuracy, says Price. "You get the intelligence with it, so you have error-proofing that allows you to be more accurate with referencing," he says. "That's what we were looking for. We wanted to get accurate drawings out to the customer in a timely manner, and this is helping us do that."
Packaging machinery manufacturer Elopak (www.elopak.com) in New Hudson, Mich., finds the ability to globalize its data instantly is a critical feature of the E-CAD system it uses. "Through our current E-CAD product, Eplan, sharing design data across our global organization has become effortless due to the use of multilingual database translations and PDF exports," says Michael Ballinger, electrical engineer at Elopak. Eplan has a database language translation that enables Elopak to translate documentation into as many languages as necessary, adds Ballinger, while noting that PDF exports from the program have improved documentation-sharing by shortening the time needed to create a PDF document. "This function also maintains the navigational links that are used inside Eplan, allowing the user full navigation control throughout the documentation," he says.
Bruce Davey, electrical drafter with Curt G. Joa (www.joa.com), a Sheboygan Falls, Wis.-based manufacturer of machinery for production of disposal products such as diapers and sanitary napkins, says PDF export of projects along with PLC, cable and other technical-function extracts are beneficial to electronic transfer of engineering information both internally and externally. "We can work parallel design paths by electronically sharing information at an earlier stage in the process," says Davey. "This leads to compressed delivery schedules."
Mark Taylor, executive vice president and general manager of Eplan Software & Services (www.eplan.us) says a large portion of the company's North American customer base has global market requirements. "They can convert languages, they can translate language, and the part data goes with it," says Taylor. "All the engineering data goes with it. Everything is in one data file. It can't be a collection of auxiliary databases and individual sheets."
Arthur Sawall, vice president of global electrical business development for ECT Bentley (www.bentley.com) shares the example of Procter & Gamble, one of its E-CAD customers that shares designs globally. "They could be designing something in Germany and that design might go into a plant here in the U.S. or in Korea or China," says Sawall. "So they use an E-CAD tool, which uses an underlying database to store all of the information either in SQL Server or Oracle. All the graphical entities are stored in a database. By doing that I can share that design basically in any language, and E-CAD helps facilitate the translation of languages."
Phil Burgert is a freelance writer, specializing in technical trade media.