FSU Takes On Catia

April 20, 2008
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BIG RAPIDS — Ferris State University is finishing its first academic year of infusing its manufacturing curriculum with Dessault Systeme’s Catia software, which is quickly becoming a leading choice for life-cycle product management in industry.

“We kind of pushed the envelope in terms of implementation,” said Professor Gary Ovans, manufacturing department chairman. “You don’t want to wait around till you’re left by the wayside. You want to get technology in the hands of students as soon as possible.”

Assistant Professor Dave Borck said instruction in Catia can only help students.

“By enabling our students to get a little introduction to it, we’re getting them a foot up on getting a good job in industry,” said Borck, who picked Catia for Greenville Tool & Die, which builds stamping dies for the automotive industry, before retiring several years ago to teach at FSU.

Catia is used to design parts and products, and the processes required to make them, Borck explained. It allows people all along the chain, from concept to production, to work on the same project. The software, particularly its latest versions, is accepted for its ability to take a single change and reflect the impact on every step of the manufacturing cycle. Aerospace was the first industry to embrace it. Then it began to migrate to other manufacturing environments, and now is even being adapted for architecture.  

“It used to be Chrysler was the only automotive company using it. Now it’s pretty much accepted around the globe for automotive design,” said Dave Sniegowski, department manager for the advanced tooling technology group at Johnson Controls Inc. in Holland and a member of the FSU Industry Advisory Board.

“We send CAD (computer-aided design) files globally, so you can have someone working on a concept in China; when it’s nighttime in another country, it’s daytime here. Catia really lends itself to that.”

“While somebody is designing it, I can be generating tool paths to create that product. I can have guys working on it in different parts of the plant,” added Borck.

That makes the software an efficient tool that speeds up the time from design to finished product.

In January, Dessault Systemes, the French company that makes the software, bragged in a press release that “nearly 75 percent of the 27 introductory and concept vehicles” at Detroit’s 2008 North American International Auto Show were designed with Catia.

Sniegowski said the advisory board encouraged FSU’s manufacturing department to update its software offerings.

“When we looked at their capabilities up there, they were really using the lower end and some outdated stuff,” he said. “Looking back, I think we kept bringing that up, maybe not completely just Catia, but other systems like it, so when students get out of there, they could hit the ground running at companies.”

Borck, who teaches in both Big Rapids and Grand Rapids, said other manufacturing technology programs such as those at Grand Rapids Community College, Western Michigan University and Central Michigan University are starting to teach Catia.

At FSU, “we are incorporating it into existing classes,” Borck said. “We’ve incorporated it into a die-making class, a CNC class that’s been tool-pathing.” He said Catia, along with other commonly used manufacturing software, now is used in about five classes and will be introduced in more classes in the 2008-09 academic year.

It’s also being seen in some high school programs, particularly in Oakland County, he said.

Ovans said Catia is being taught in a parametric modeling course, just as CAD is taught in an introductory design course. Ovans said there are 90 students in both two- and four-year manufacturing tracks at FSU.

“The students seem to grasp on to it fairly rapidly,” Borck added. “We are giving them a good introduction to it. They’ll have a good start when they go out to industry. If you know one parametric environment, you can slide over to another one.”

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