Previous efforts in the area of collaborative computer-aided design (CAD) suggest that a team of designers working synchronously in a multi-user CAD (MUCAD) environment can produce CAD models faster than a single user. Our research is the among the first to investigate assemblies in MUCAD. Due to the lack of hierarchical feature dependency in assemblies, we propose that CAD teams can optimize assembly through modularization and parallel execution. In our study, 20 participants were tasked with assembling pre-modelled CAD parts of varying complexity in teams of one, two, three or four. We analyze audio recordings, team activity, and survey responses to compare the performance of individuals and virtual collaborative teams during assembly, while working with the same MUCAD platform.

This paper features a multimodal approach to analyze team trends in communication, workflow, task allocation and challenges to determine which factors are conducive to the success of a multi-user CAD team and which are detrimental. In our work, the success of a team is measured by its productivity score, which is the number of mates added by a team within a given time frame. We present evidence that teams can complete an assembly in less calendar time than a single user, but single users are more efficient based on person-hours, due to communications and coordination overheads. Surprisingly, paired contributors exhibit an assembly bonus effect. These findings represent a preliminary understanding of collaborative CAD assembly work. Our work supports the claim that collaborative assembly activities have the potential to improve the capabilities of modern product design teams, delivering products faster and at lower cost. We identify areas for future research, and highlight areas of improvement for collaborative CAD platforms and engineering design teams.

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