Solid Edge keeps complex cigar-making machinery rolling smoothly
Agio Cigars relies on Solid Edge to design precision, high-volume cigar-making machinery
Complex cigar-making machinery needs to be designed to work smoothly and reliably while producing millions of cigars a year.
Cigar production expertise centralized
When the West India Company started importing tobacco into Western Europe in the 1800s, governments in many countries took over control of cigar manufacturing to capture the profits it was bringing to private companies. What often resulted was a poor quality product. The Dutch however, left the manufacturing of cigars to private entrepreneurs, which helped the region of Brabant in the Netherlands develop a reputation for quality cigars at an affordable price. Agio Cigars, headquartered in Duizel, Holland has capitalized on the region’s expertise and history and grown into one of the largest exporters of cigars in Western Europe. Its 2800 employees produce 750 million cigars annually for sale and export throughout Europe and to more than 100 countries around the globe.
A fine cigar is a sensitive natural product made up of three elements. The filler is the body of the cigar that is wrapped by a binder, a supple leaf of tobacco that strongly influences the taste and burning characteristic of the cigar. A filler wrapped by a binder is called a bunch. Wrapping the bunch with fine leaves of tobacco, called wrappers, then finishes the cigar. Developing, producing and maintaining the complex machinery used to combine these three elements into a cigar, both for themselves and other cigar manufacturers around the world, the Agio maintenance department and machine shop relies on Solid Edge® software to keep product rolling out the door.
Designing up and down more efficiently
Having worked solely with 2D data in AutoCAD until 2002, the engineering department decided to upgrade to 3D modeling to increase its efficiency. “Our productivity was far too low working in 2D,” says Chester Geersen, mechanical engineer at Agio. “We were spending too much time creating and modifying 2D drawings in AutoCAD. And, in 2D we always found errors in the different views, no matter the quality of the engineer. That made it clear to us that we had to switch to 3D to improve performance and quality.” Reviewed side by side with Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks, the choice to go with Solid Edge was an easy one. According to Geersen, “Solid Edge excelled through speed and quality of drawing production and its ease of use.” And to him, drawings are the most important products of any engineering department.
When designing new production equipment, the engineers at Agio utilize Solid Edge to help them move from concept to production using a top down approach and adding more detail as the design process moves along. They rely on Solid Edge 3D modeling to design individual parts and then combine them into virtual assemblies to check for proper fit. “We use all the functionality in both part modeling and assembly modeling,” says Geersen. In addition, the engineers use the models to simulate machine motion to check for interferences. “Our machines are primarily made up of many CAM transmissions,” elaborates Geersen. “And Solid Edge allows us to simulate part movements simply.”
Conversely, when modifying existing machines, the engineers at Agio design from the bottom up. Individual parts are developed as needed and positioned within the context of the machine. Rather than upgrade the often-poor AutoCAD geometry, they start the design process with Solid Edge. “We prefer to start with a clean slate in Solid Edge,” explains Geersen. “We only use the dimensional information from the old drawings, thus ensuring high quality 3D data.”
All in-house manufactured parts, including sheet metal parts, are manufactured directly from highly accurate production drawings spun off from Solid Edge. “We automate the placement of position numbers on drawings,” adds Geersen. Further increasing their efficiency, Agio engineers now catalogue their parts in Solid Edge libraries and automatically put bills of material, with part numbers, directly onto the drawings.
Additional applications leverage data
While Solid Edge was installed primarily for the benefit of the engineering department, the production planner at Agio also uses 3D models created in Solid Edge to visualize all product structures. And, featuring drawings created exclusively from Solid Edge models, spare parts manuals and assembly instructions are now available online for all Agio machines. These contain spare parts lists, with corresponding part numbers and detailed instructions on how the machines are to be assembled.
The benefits of using Solid Edge have been very noticeable in the post-engineering processes at Agio. Explains Geersen, “The information is of a higher quality, which is notable in production. Assembly disruptions are very seldom now, making us much more efficient in supplying quality products.” Reflecting on the switch from AutoCAD to Solid Edge, Geersen sums it up succinctly with, “Nobody wants to go back to 2D AutoCAD. Everyone is very positive about the ease-of-use and the insight Solid Edge provides.”