Eliminating flaws in new-design functionality and manufacturability prior to hard tooling and production via computer simulation is a sure way to save costs and speed time to market. However, it is difficult to interact with large assembly designs because the datasets representing them are equally large and cannot be animated all together. In these large systems, subassembly pieces are typically tested individually to check clearances and tolerances, analyze dynamic and kinematic results, and verify the ability to assemble and produce. Released in February, the VisFly 3D interactive visualizer from Engineering Animation provides the environment to visualize extremely large databases, accepting CAD models, analysis results, and manufacturing data from any system, allowing users to view and interrogate the data for entire assemblies in an interactive manner. CAD and analysis can even be viewed together in the same animation, something that could not be done before. "What we have developed is a tool that allows you to take large data sets, manipulate them, query them, and perform analysis on that data," says Jeff Trom, vice president for software development. "A number of customers have told us that this is the first time they have actually seen their entire model together in one place. Users can rotate around the assembly, zoom in on a part, turn systems on and off, and query parts to see if they are interfering with each other. For instance, a major automotive company is using VisFly to view and interact with an entire vehicle database, including CAD data and manufacturing processes." Typically CAD operations are performed in one package, analysis is done in a different system, and they are not shown together. "With VisFly, however, in addition to just manipulating the large data sets, you can also load the results of analysis from other packages and view those results in VisFly, meaning you can see stresses taking place in a part as loads are applied," says Trom. "For instance, as a connecting rod moves through an engine cycle, you can see the stresses developing in the rod via color change." Assemblies also can be visualized to see if there is clearance for parts in the entire assembly sequence, not just clearance in the assembly's functional working positions. "For the first time, engineers can view all of this motion together in one visualization tool." An optional module called NetFly operates on top of VisFly, allowing users to start up VisFly from Web sites and provide access to these large datasets over the Internet and intranets. "For example, one member of a design team can use NetFly to access VisFly, open a design issue, attach text and images of the design in question, and submit the issue to a database," says Trom. "A recipient can use a Web browser to access the company's Internet page, follow the links to the database, and view the image and accompanying design-issue information." VisFly operates on Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Graphics, and Sun workstations.