The importance of computer-aided design (CAD) has not been fully appreciated as it relates to computer integrated manufacturing (CIM). The CAD product definition model can provide essential information for many down-stream production, estimating, tooling, and quality assurance functions in the CIM environment. However, the product definition model may be inaccurate or incomplete, thus causing incomplete communication with possible scrap, re-work, and missed production deadlines. Other problems are related to the fact that many of our expert designers are retiring and taking their expertise with them. Merely being able to make 2D or 3D drawings on a CAD workstation does not make its operator a designer. A knowledge of production processes, tolerances, surface finish, and material selection is needed to supplement a designers knowledge of user needs, product functional requirements, operating conditions, cost, quality, and reliability targets. One of the most promising methods for providing timely and accurate information to the designer on an “as-needed” basis is through the use of expert design systems. Such systems promise to bridge the knowledge gap between CAD and CAM and help to incorporate these functions into the overall CIM environment.

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