As the use of CAD continues to proliferate, companies find more ways to improve product quality and reduce product development cycles. Design That Matters, SoliferPolar, and General Compression are three companies using 3D CAD technology to solve engineering challenges.
As product development becomes more global and decentralized, design teams from numerous countries are called upon to collaborate. But language and some knowledge barriers often get in the way of keeping costs and production time under control. Fortunately, one product called 3DVIA Composer technical communication software helps these three companies overcome these issues.
Design That Matters, a non-profit product design group, used the software to develop high-quality visuals of a phototherapy device to treat jaundiced infants in developing countries. The images enabled the design team to quickly gather feedback from and gain acceptance by physicians in Vietnam where it would initially be produced and used in hospitals that may not be able to afford traditional western machines.
According to Will Harris, Design That Matters product designer, “The only way to overcome communication barriers is visually. A photorealistic rendering is the next best thing to putting the device in their hands.”
The 3DVIA software transforms 3D CAD data into high quality images or animations. New features let designers create lifelike images with precise detailing.
Four to five finished RVs roll off the production line every day.
Other benefits include:
•Lifelike detail through new features such as alpha channel support, ambient occlusion, per-pixel lighting, and depth of field functions
•Faster turnaround time by creating images in parallel with product design
•Higher productivity and efficiency from streamlined document production processes
On the other side of the world, Sweden-based SoliferPolar AB develops and manufactures one of the most popular brands of recreational vehicles in Europe. Almost all of its vehicles are hand-built to order. One of its most critical tools for helping produce such vehicles is SolidEdge software.
“Customizing interiors puts tough demands of our designers and the tools we use. Using SolidEdge, we can work quickly and effectively while staying in control of our development work and production,” said SoliferPolar’s chief designer Gunnar Nilsson. The main part of the company’s product development and production activities are performed in its own factory. All of the design work is done in 3D. These files can be quickly converted into 2D drawings or into the file formats preferred by its subcontractors.
The design department is linked with the production facilities so the functions of the milling tools and other manufacturing machines can be readily adapted to any design changes.
Companies are also finding ways to use 3D CAD to address “green” engineering projects. For instance, a major challenge for the wind power industry is what to do when the wind is too weak to “churn” the generators. To address this issue, General Compression developed technology specifically designed to deliver renewable resource-based electricity to customers when they want it and just when the wind blows. The special tool that General Compression successfully uses for this technology is Digital Prototyping software from Autodesk. It helps them design and develop facilities that let wind generators store and later dispatch electricity to customers on demand.
The General Compression Advanced Energy Storage (GCAES) system takes intermittent electricity from conventional wind farms and stores that energy in the form of high-pressure air in underground geologic formations such as salt caverns. Electricity is generated on demand when air is released from storage. It powers the system in reverse and sends electricity back to the grid—on schedule. This method of generating what is called “dispatchable” wind power helps increase its value, and makes wind energy a more viable, cost effective, and friendly option to customers on the grid.
To help with the GCAES, Autodesk Clean Tech Partner Program supplied General Compression with licenses of Digital Prototyping software. Autodesk Gold Partner M2 Technologies provided General Compression with comprehensive training.
Styling trends and custom interiors distinguish SoliferPolar campers from others.
General Compression’s engineers used Inventor software to go from simple sketches to complex assemblies while developing a working prototype of the GCAES. Rapid iteration was possible through updated 3D models, enabling the company to stick to a tight development timeline.
Once the prototype was complete, General Compression used Maya software to create near realistic 3D animations of how the machine would work and to more accurately explain the complex concept of “dispatchable wind power.” By sharing its vision with investors, partners, and funding agencies through visual storytelling, General Compression secured more than $38 million in investments and government grants. In addition to Maya and Inventor, the General Compression team uses AutoCAD P&ID software for piping and instrumentation diagrams, as well as AutoCAD Plant 3D software to determine placement for pipes and hydraulic lines around the GCAES machine.
The company rallied significant support for its vision of dispatchable wind power and is scheduled to deploy a GCAES prototype in the field in late 2011 as part of a demonstration project with ConocoPhillips.
Filed Under: 3D CAD, Automotive, Software