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Using NX and Teamcenter, Antonio Carraro cuts tractor development time by 20 percent, minimizes use of physical prototypes and optimizes supply chain collaboration
The history of Carraro tractors dates back to 1910, when Giovanni Carraro built the first multifunction agricultural machine. His workshop expanded gradually, transforming into an industrial business for the production of sowing machines and then tractors, until Antonio, his younger son, founded Antonio Carraro di Giovanni in 1960 and launched the company’s first single-axis tractor. Since then the business, based in Campodarsego near Padova in northeast Italy, has focused on the construction of compact multifunction tractors.
Compact and multifunction are the two distinct properties that differentiate Antonio Carraro’s tractors from conventional tractors. Damiano De Checchi, technical manager, explains, “Our tractors are compact and have a low gravity center, because they must operate in areas that traditional models typically can’t navigate, for instance vineyards and fruit fields, on expansive hills and even mountains with steep slopes. And they are multifunctional as they have to carry a wide range of equipment to perform operations not only in agriculture, but also in municipal services like road cleaning. This includes winter activities that require snow blades and salt spreaders.”
Antonio Carraro offers 20 to 100 continuously variable transmission (CVT) models with two basic architectures: tractors with steering front wheels and articulated tractors with fixed wheels that turn by means of a central articulated joint on their chassis. Besides compact dimensions, the peculiarity of these machines is their reversibility, i.e., the driver’s seat can be rotated by 180 degrees to drive the tractor in either direction with equally complete control, whether pulling or pushing.
“These peculiarities have an impact on our design cycle,” notes De Checchi. “Being designed for special applications, our tractors must have basically the same features as traditional models, but within half the space. Therefore, design involves careful negotiation, and each time a new device or part is added, we review the entire project to fit everything into the available envelope.”
To meet these design challenges, accelerate the product development cycle and reduce the use of physical prototypes, the company decided to make the transition to 3D design. In 1999, the company adopted NX™ software.
With NX, the product development process has improved significantly. De Checchi explains, “Compact dimensions are essential for our tractors. In the past we had to make physical prototypes for each new model to understand how we could lay out and incorporate all components. Now, with NX, we can check everything virtually in a faster and easier way. With virtual prototyping we have achieved a time saving of 20 percent and we can leverage the benefits of rapid prototyping, generating physical prototypes of metal parts directly from the 3D model through techniques like stereolithography.”
The transition to 3D presented its challenges as De Checchi recalls: “We had some 18,000 active parts in 2D. Besides reducing prototypes, we needed a data format other than the 2D drawing; it had to be a file, a more advanced document to dialog with others outside our company, particularly suppliers requesting a 3D model to generate molds and data for their machining centers.”
Today, Antonio Carraro designs tractors in-house and outsources component production to subcontractors. After defining the guidelines of a project, a co-design phase is launched in collaboration with the supplier to industrialize the product and optimize costs. NX facilitates communication by offering effective data exchange support via the STEP format.
NX has brought significant benefits in terms of standardization and optimization. Gradually, Antonio Carraro’s technical department has developed libraries of screws, washers, O-rings, Seeger® rings, bearings and other components to accelerate design. The routing capability of NX has streamlined path definition, which used to require the physical construction of all pipes and fittings to identify the best route inside the physical mockup. “Another highly productive benefit is directly derived from NX FEM functionality,” adds Checchi, “as it allows us to compare different metal structures, brackets and stress levels on the bodywork, and avoid mistakes in the early project stages.”
In 2000, the NX implementation was followed by the adoption of Teamcenter® software for digital lifecycle management. Currently, Teamcenter is used only in design, but there are plans to extend it outside the technical domain. “We are training users who currently use other methods to manage data, “says De Checchi. “Teamcenter can associate different types of objects, such as Microsoft Office documents or other applications, making them accessible and visible to all users according to specific authorization levels. We can store and retrieve e-mails, pictures, text documents and table files associated to product items, so that we can share more information. That’s why we are planning an even tighter integration with Teamcenter.”
The JT™ data format plays a key role in the company’s plans to improve collaboration as it enables the company to distribute information outside the technical department, as well as to access Teamcenter from remote locations via the web, making it easy and convenient to retrieve a file, do the required work and save it after modifications.
The change management strengths of Teamcenter provide Antonio Carraro with extraordinary benefits over its former process. De Checchi explains, “Our prior PDM approach was very simple and just kept the latest correct and approved version of any component. With Teamcenter, instead, we have the full traceability of the entire lifecycle of a component, with all of its change history.”
Keys To Success:
Client's Primary Business:
Antonio Carraro, with a storied history in multifunction tractors, offers alternative and innovative products designed to deliver the best possible solutions to customers in agriculture, green areas and road maintenance.
"Compact dimensions are essential for our tractors. In the past we had to make physical prototypes for each new model to understand how we could layout and incorporate all components. Now, with NX, we can check everything virtually, in a faster and easier way. With virtual prototyping we have achieved a time saving of 20 percent."
Damiano De Checchi
Manager, Technical Department
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