Available now in the Onshape App Store, ExactFlat is a fast and easy way to produce flat patterns and blanks in minutes directly from 3D CAD designs.

Onshape Partner Spotlight: ExactFlat Automates Pattern Making for 3D CAD

By Cliff Brown / March 16, 2016

Manufacturers of products that require patterns or stamped metal blanks all face the same challenges. In the Era of Mass Customization, they need to find fast and accurate ways to convert an ever-growing variety of product designs into the required drawings or production support materials needed for fabrication.

The old economies of scale that allowed designers and pattern makers to iterate for days or weeks on a single design (used for hundreds of production pieces) has ended. In order to retain a competitive advantage, manufacturers of soft goods (apparel, marine canvas, automotive interiors, inflatables, etc.) need to streamline their design-to-fabrication process so they can increase profits on every piece made.

Design & Manufacturing Have Too Many Manual Steps

Design has benefited greatly from the widespread adoption of 3D CAD. However, the process of taking digital designs into prototypes, then to rough patterns, and then on to manufacturing requires a time-consuming series of manual steps. What is needed is a reliable way to eliminate these steps and to produce flat patterns and blanks in minutes directly from 3D CAD designs.

Typical iterative pattern-making workflow

Typical iterative pattern-making workflow

How ExactFlat Saves You Time

ExactFlat can flatten Onshape 3D models into 2D patterns or stamped metal blanks with just a few mouse clicks. For many years, ExactFlat has been the leading flattening software for desktop-installed CAD. Now, these tools are available for the new generation of online designers and virtual manufacturing teams!

The team of ExactFlat software developers and industry specialists have developed a simple solution to converting 3D CAD models into accurate patterns.

iterative process visualized
  1. The first step utilizes FEA-type technology to convert elements of an Onshape model into a tessellated 3D mesh.
  2. Next, designers can merge or cut mesh faces to define the specific pieces for flattening.
  3. Then the system unfolds the 3D mesh and lays it flat on a 2D plane. This produces the first candidate for a flat pattern.
  4. Once flattened, stretch and unwrinkle algorithms eliminate residual strain and smooth out creases or folds in the flat pattern pieces.
  5. The final step is to add seams and notches (or addendum for stamped metal blanks) and export the 2D patterns for production drawing creation or to go directly to cutters.

Experienced pattern makers will rightly point out that not all geometry can be flattened perfectly while maintaining the lengths of perimeter edges. Relief cuts are one technique used by pattern makers to achieve an optimal fit for designs with complex curves.

High strain relief cuts needed

Strain evaluation tools in ExactFlat identify potential production problems. This enables the team to collaborate and alter the geometry to address issues earlier in the process and dramatically reduce iterations.

Once the desired edits are completed, the updated models are re-flattened resulting in patterns that fit on the first try.

ExactFlat Online – Flatten Anything, Anywhere

example of a use case

ExactFlat is able to flatten multiple parts made from different materials all in the same session. This scooter is typical of the types of products created today in that it has machined-metal parts, injection-molded plastic parts and several parts made from materials that need flattening, such as:

  • Fabric on the seat
  • Stamped metal on the rear fender
  • Carbon-fiber composite for the front fender

To watch a 3-minute video of the workflow, click here. To try ExactFlat on your own designs, visit the Onshape App Store and subscribe to the ExactFlat Online Publisher (free with in-app purchases).

ExactFlat on the Onshape App Store

Manufacturers looking for a competitive advantage can reduce manufacturing time and production costs while improving design flexibility. ExactFlat is the proven leader in 3D-to-2D flattening software.

To learn more visit our website at www.exactflat.com/Onshape.


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Topics: Guest Post