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Case Study

Precisely right CAD

L.S. Starrett

Maker of precision instruments adopts an end-to-end solution to meet its design and drafting needs

A name that means quality

Headquartered in the heart of New England, where manufacturing began in the United States, The L.S. Starrett Company has a history and reputation so rich and solid that the words “quality” and “Starrett” are virtually synonymous. The company, which employs 2,000 people, manufactures precision tools, gauges, measuring instruments and saw blades for industrial, professional and consumer markets worldwide. Founded in 1880, Starrett is the last remaining full-line precision tool company to be proudly manufacturing its products within the U.S.A. (John Ratzenberger’s Made in America television program chose to feature the company on one of its shows.)

Throughout Starrett’s history, its product manufacturing process has relied heavily on 2D drawings and 3D models for machine fixtures and R & D. So when it came time to upgrade its previous CAD system, the ability to maintain the investment in legacy CAD drawings was a critical requirement. The company planned to continue using its 2D process to some extent, so good 2D functionality was another requirement for the new system. But the company also wanted to move into full 3D support for manufacturing of parts and assemblies, so ease of use and good training were also needed. These were the main requirements, but there was an additional consideration. Starrett also makes special tools for corporate customers that require the use of Siemens’ high-end NX™ design solution.

An end-to-end CAD solution

Starrett found the solution to this broad range of CAD requirements in a combination NX-Solid Edge® software system. The company’s four licenses of NX give it compatibility with its corporate customers such as GE, Pratt & Whitney and Boeing. Its 14 licenses of Solid Edge provide compatibility with legacy data and strong 2D functionality. And Solid Edge’s ease of use has opened the door to 3D in a way that has allowed Starrett to migrate to this technology at its own pace. “The people at Siemens call it ‘evolving to 3D’ and it’s very nice,” explains Jim Woessner, design/drafting supervisor at Starrett. “We bring our old 2D files into Solid Edge and use its tools to turn curves and lines on the drawings into 3D models with a few clicks.”

In addition to migrating legacy 2D data to 3D as they need it, Starrett’s tool designers are also creating more information in 3D now, thanks to Solid Edge’s ease of use. “We can still work in 2D to maintain what we have, but we are doing more and more in 3D,” explains Woessner. “It wasn’t hard to learn.We got great training and continued support from our Solid Edge reseller, LMGi. And Solid Edge has very good tutorials.” Typically designers would have prepared product documentation in 2D. But now they create documents from 3D part components and assembly models to represent finished tools, machines and fixtures. “Creating an assembly model is very easy to do in Solid Edge, and once you have it, you can get an exploded view with just a few mouse clicks,” Woessner adds. “We were doing two to three times as much work in the past to draw a part, draw the same part in an assembly, and draw the part again in an exploded assembly. Now we model the part once and re-use it again and again.”

Leveraging data across the organization

The interoperability between NX and Solid Edge lets different groups within Starrett take advantage of each other’s work. “If one group needs features that already exist, why should we create them again?” Woessner asks. “We can take a solid model created in NX and bring it into Solid Edge, and vice versa. They open just fine.”

When Starrett installed Solid Edge at its Massachusetts facility, it also installed it at three other divisions that had been using Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks. “This way, we can pass files back and forth, which we couldn’t do before,” Woessner says. The company is in the process of implementing Solid Edge Insight and is looking forward to this because it should permit even more data re-use between user groups and international divisions. “Insight will help us track where parts are used, which has been difficult to do previously because it meant dealing with another system, the Oracle database that told where they were used but not where they were drawn,” he adds. Starrett is also looking forward to taking advantage of the animation capabilities that are being added to Solid Edge.

“Solid Edge was perfect for us because it can do 2D and 3D equally well,” Woessner concludes. “Between that and the interoperability with NX, we have a cost-effective CAD system that meets all our company’s needs. Choosing the combination of Solid Edge and NX, and seeing how they have evolved, I see the partnership between the Starrett Co. and Siemens lasting a very long time.”

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