ExactFlat was recently showcased to SolidWorks users during a recent SolidWorks 22 Minute Webinar event titled, Fast, Simple, Powerful Soft Goods Design in 22 Minutes and you can view the recorded webinar on the SolidWorks website. The webinar focused on the overall ExactFlat workflow and the newest best practices for flattening complex 3D geometry into 2D planar patterns.
ExactFlat Design Studio is an add-in for SolidWorks that makes it faster and less complicated to design and develop products incorporating composites, technical textiles and industrial fabrics. ExactFlat powerfully extends the capabilities of SolidWorks by adding functionality to accurately flatten complex 3D part geometry into 2D patterns, add pattern features such as notching and seam allowances, nest, document and cost designs.
In addition, ExactFlat brings core concepts from lean manufacturing and applies them to support the practices of lean design. For customers this means a reduction – or even elimination – of waste and waiting. For example, since all work can be completed in the SolidWorks/ExactFlat environment, there is no need for data re-entry, file conversion, file trafficking, work queuing, etc., and considerably reduced effort and time for implementing design changes.
There were many great questions asked by customers during the event and we answered all that time would allow. Since the event we’ve prepared answers to the remaining questions, and they can be viewed on this FAQ page. In general, the most common questions we receive regarding ExactFlat are:
1. How long does it take to learn ExactFlat?
ExactFlat is fully integrated into SolidWorks and for experienced SolidWorks users, it typically takes approximately 4 hours to learn the basics of ExactFlat.
2. How does ExactFlat’s 3D-to-2D flattening work?
ExatFlat’s flattening is very straightforward and can be done in as little 10 seconds for simpler geometry, typically following the following workflow:
- Convert a surface to a tessellated mesh.
- ExactFlat re-meshing algorithms optimize the individual mesh elements for flattening and deformation.
- ExactFlat’s Fracture algorithm takes each triangle in the 3D mesh and lays it flat on a 2D plane. This is the first candidate for a flat pattern.
- If the initial surface is developable then ExactFlat’s Fracture algorithm will produce accurate results.
- If the initial surface is non-developable, then there will be gaps in between certain triangles. ExactFlat “sews-up” these gaps using a “mesh sewing algorithm.”
- ExactFlat’s Stretch and Unwrinkle algorithms eliminate wrinkles and folds in flat pattern pieces.
- ExactFlat’s Spring algorithm reshapes the triangle mesh elements until an optimal flat pattern is achieved. It does this by iterative optimization. Each iteration will produce a more optimal candidate for a flat pattern. In order to get to an optimal flat pattern there may be 10,000 or more iterations.
3. Can ExactFlat be used for metals?
ExactFlat is typically used for designing products that incorporate composites, technical textiles, and industrial fabrics – essentially, formed soft material. However there are customers achieving excellent results using ExactFlat for metals.
ExactFlat is also used in industries such as:
- Automotive & transportation seating and interiors: seating, steering wheel & shift knob covers, armrests, headliners, carpeting, trunk liners, insulation
- Marine: seating, canvas bimini tops, covers, boat hulls, sails
- Furniture: office, commercial and residential
- Apparel: pants, shirts, hats, shoes, gloves, uniforms, technical, compression clothing Industrial equipment & technical products: industrial wraps and covers, industrial linings, military equipment
- Composite products: aerospace, automotive parts, boat hulls, turbine blades etc.
- Inflatables: hot air and weather balloons, industrial balloons, inflatable buildings, inflatable bladders, inflatable marketing products
- Other: luggage, handbags & accessories, tents, awnings, medical soft goods, film, protective films, graphic wraps, sports equipment, commercial sun shades, signs and banners, displays, body armor, tactical gear, helmets, consumer product and appliance covers, architectural structures, roofing, and more…