Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Engineering Toolkit

Time is a precious commodity in the POP industry and there is never enough of it. There is increasing pressure to rapidly transform concepts into prototypes and then, prototypes into production. A costly way to accelerate results is to devote more resources. A better method is to identify and eliminate all waste in the process, such as redundant tasks. POP engineers invest time and energy creating the specifications for a project using CAD tools such as SolidWorks. If their vendor base can work seamlessly with the model to drive their production great efficiencies can be gained. If the vendor is unable to use these tools or the engineer does not create the models properly so the information can be used by the vendor, great inefficiencies are created. It is imperative for the POP engineer and the vendor to work together to divide the work appropriately and to avoid any redundancy or rework in the process.

In 2010, Midland Metal Products completed over 1,800 separate prototypes. We have witnessed a large variation in the usability of the information provided. Often, the information must be edited or recreated before it can be utilized. We have compiled a short list describing these common occurrences. Through education, we hope to minimize the occurrence so that we can accelerate the cycle time and lower the cost of the development effort.

1. METRIC CONVERSION – Files arrive in metric instead of inches. Since our machinery requires inches in order to produce parts, all the files must be translated from metric to inches. Time consuming and unnecessary.

2. BEND SETTINGS – SolidWorks gives users the capability to transform their formed parts into flattened parts with the click of the button. Since most primary fabrication occurs in the flat, this is a useful tool. If the program settings are correct, the translation can be highly accurate. If the settings are wrong, the information is almost useless. As a guide, we have provided a screen shot of common settings that will work in over 95% of the cases.

*Double click on images to enlarge.

3. SHEET METAL PARTS – SolidWorks allows users to transform parts into sheet metal components. If they are sheet metal components, the flatten function can be used. If the parts are drawn as extrusions – there is no function available to flatten the parts for fabrication. If engineers are able to flatten their parts, they are drawn correctly for use in a metal fabrication shop.

4. ASSEMBLY – Multiple components often come together to make an assembly. The most useful models are drawn first as individual components and then mated together to make an assembly. There are times when users will take a shortcut and draw multiple individual components in one large part file, rather than drawing components as parts and mating them in an assembly file. When this path is chosen, it is difficult to pull out information regarding one of the components for fabrication, making the model almost useless. In those cases, the model must be redrawn using the previous model as a guide. It is a large waste of time.

5. HOLE DIAMETER – Fasteners such as PEM nuts, weld nuts, and PEM studs are often included in the models. These fasteners require exact hole diameters for proper installation. We have provided guides on our blog that specify the hole size required in almost every application, including pop and semi-circular rivits . If these guidelines are not followed, the model must be reviewed hole by hole and requisite changes need to be made.

Tighter integration between the POP engineer and the vendor base can pay large dividends in terms of quality, cost, and time. Hopefully, these few pointers will start a broader discussion of how companies in the industry can form relationships in order to satisfy the increasing demands of the industry.

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