Thanks for helping to clarify what I was trying to say: Why can't FE mesh and .stl format be one and the same? Once you have converted your solid model (or closed volume) to FE mesh, then you can also simultaneously send the file to the RP lab for building and save an extra step (CAD-to-FE+CAD-to-STL versus just CAD-to-FE). Granted, this may not be much of a timesaver because as you pointed out, the solid model or volume is already there. Some vendors would have to rewrite their software like you said but just how much effort would this really require? I am aware of at least one crash simulation and analysis software package that our stress and reliability engineering groups use that requires .stl files. Why not others? Software vendors outside of the RP world (see Delcam's web site at www.delcam.com) are also utilizing .stl file formats for other applications such as for machining. I'm also curious about what experiences Delcam users have had machining .stl's, good or bad results, etc.
I've also heard some rumors that Dassault/CATIA is perhaps planning to use .stl's for machining purposes in the future. Maybe with CATIA version 5.0, which I've heard to be totally different than previous versions (probably similar to SolidWorks since Dassault now owns them and wants the NT market). Any confirmation on this?
Where I'm going with all of this is towards OLE for Design and Modeling (a set of geometry and topology interfaces) which would allow engineering and manufacturing applications from many vendors (CATIA, 3D Systems, NASTRAN, etc. etc.) to behave as a single, fully intergrated application suite. OLE for D&M can deliver direct access to native CAD models without data translation or conversion. OLE for D&M enables data access rather than data exchange. I can envision the day when a designer may see a problem with a part when setting up a build in Maestro and be able to correct the problem right there and update the current design system-wide without having to log on to another workstation or CAD system. Virtual Rapid Prototyping for the CAD world!!
Cessna Aircraft Co.
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