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Case Study

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Seiko I Infotech

Solid Edge speeds new product development, allowing nearly twice as many new products to be introduced each year

Large-format output for engineers and sign makers

Seiko I Infotech Inc. (SIIT) is a subsidiary company of Seiko Instruments Inc. SIIT makes large-format plotters, scanners and printers, and provides consumables (paper, toner, and ink) and maintenance services for its products.The company employs 328 people in its two business lines: Engineering Business and Graphics Business.The engineering side provides electrophotographic plotters and scanners (A0/A1 size) for use in the construction, machinery, electronics and auto industries. The graphics side specializes in 64 and 100 inch-wide inkjet printers used for making outdoor signs.

Like its competitors in the large-format printer business, SIIT faces pressure to bring new products to market quickly. Its previous product development process, which used 2D CAD, did not support this. Back then, it took about two years to bring a new product to market.This prompted the company to upgrade to Siemens PLM Software’s Solid Edge® solid modeling solution in 1999. As part of the transition, the company identified the following goals: 1) to reduce the number of design revisions and lower prototyping costs by visualizing designs in 3D, 2) to improve the understanding of design review team, and 3) to create documentation earlier in the development cycle by leveraging design information for this task.

Re-engineering for a solids-based process

SIIT’s original project with Solid Edge was the LP-1120, the world’s first low-cost LED plotter. As the company evolved from that program to an entirely 3D-based design process, it re-engineered its development environment to leverage Solid Edge data to the greatest advantage.

The process begins with dividing a new product into units and assigning designers to the different units.Typically a product will have about 10 units, with each unit requiring 100 to 200 parts. Frequently used parts have become standard designs within the Solid Edge library. This reduces the design load and minimizes variation among designers. Standard parts also help reduce the cost of sheet metal dies.

As designers build digital models of the different units (subassemblies), they use the Solid Edge interference checking capability to eliminate errors while the design is still in the virtual stage. This practice improves the quality of the design and minimizes rework. It has also eliminated much of the physical prototyping that was required in the past.

Multiple uses for design information

When the subassembly models are ready, a master model is created, allowing for an interference check of the entire product. This model, as well as the subassembly models, have replaced drawings in design reviews. The enhanced visualization they provide has made it possible to gain a broad common understanding – from sales to manufacturing – of the final product. Anyone attending the review can now understand design information.

Drawings are created earlier and faster in the Solid Edge-based process. Formal drawings in Solid Edge take between one-and-a-half and two hours to complete, compared to two to four hours per drawing with the 2D CAD program. Simple drawings in Solid Edge take only 30 minutes to an hour. And SIIT is able to use simple drawings to a greater extent now that manufacturers import Solid Edge geometry (in IGES and DXF format) directly into their CAM software. SIIT finds that having manufacturers work directly from the design data has reduced the rework formerly caused by machine programmers’ incorrect assumptions about shapes.

Another use of Solid Edge models is in manufacturing and maintenance documentation. In the case of manufacturing documentation, the re-use of design data has reduced the time from the completion of a design to the availability of a prototype by two to three months.With maintenance documents, that same amount of time is saved by eliminating the need to build prototype parts and photograph them. Solid Edge models now serve as images in the maintenance manuals.

Overall, the use of Solid Edge has transformed SIIT’s product development process so that the company has nearly doubled the number of new products that can be developed in a year.With Solid Edge, the Engineering Business has been able to introduce 4 new products in the last five years while the Graphics Business has introduced five new products in that same time frame. For SIIT, Solid Edge supports the pace of innovation needed to succeed in a highly competitive industry.

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