This week I decided to do some research and find out the details of how to make model animations with MapleSim, by adding in CAD drawing files of the component parts. To see what I mean, take a look at this quick animated movie that shows a robot arm with five degrees of freedom:

The ability to create 3-D animations, and particularly to add “CAD components” for such visualizations, was introduced with the release of MapleSim 2.0. Most CAD programs - such as Solidworks, Autodesk Inventor, and NX - will let you export your 3-D drawings as Stereolithography (or *.stl) files; this is what MapleSim uses to render model animations. I’ll use the robot arm model above as an example to explain the process. You can download this model from the Application Center to take a look in more detail.

Per the model’s description, “This five degree-of-freedom robot model includes body rotation, wrist and end effectors. Each component has a 3-D CAD object attached to it to create a visualization of the full robot.”

Looking at the robot model itself, we see five red custom components representing the moveable parts of the robot. Each of these contains a MapleSim “CAD geometry” component. We can see this by double-clicking on a component (in this case, Link2, representing the robot’s end effector) and looking at its composite parts:

A CAD geometry component (found in MapleSim’s Multibody > Visualization Palette) has been connected to the model via a rigid body frame object. The rigid body frame isn’t part of the physical model itself, but allows you to adjust the position and orientation of the CAD object so it lines up perfectly with the model.

You can get information about the CAD geometry component in the Parameters pane on the right-hand side of the window, including its name, which CAD file it references, scale factor, and color. To associate a CAD file, simply click the Image Attachment drop-down menu and select “new attachment”. Note that all CAD files you import in this way will also be automatically added to MapleSim’s Document Folder, for reference, and to share with others.

If I’ve managed to whet your appetite, here are a few links you can follow for more information:

Design News: Maplesoft Unlocks Advanced Mathematics

Scientific Computing World: MapleSim

Design Product News: Math, modeling and simulation (video)

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