Opening doors to creativity and productivity
Solid Edge and Teamcenter automatically handle repetitive operations, letting designers focus on innovation
The best garage doors
Founded in 1970 to manufacture rolling shutters for shops, Ballan SpA (Ballan) produced its first metal tilting garage doors in 1978, followed by all-wood tilting doors in 1980, and sectional doors at the end of the 90s. Today, Ballan is Italy’s number-one producer of garage doors. The company not only leads the industry in market share, it also leads the field in innovation, style, quality and safety. For example, Ballan was among the early adopters of advanced sheet metal profiling machines, and the first one to introduce cold welding with hardened joints, a technology taken from the aerospace industry.
Ballan’s tilting and sectional garage doors are available in more than 50 models, with different materials, finishes and colors, and three operating modes: manual, motor-ready and motor-driven. “Our core products are tilting and sectional garage doors, with a production volume around 30,000 doors per year,” says Emilio Ballan, general manager at Ballan and a member of the company’s board of directors. “We were the first company in our industry to obtain the ISO 9001 certification and, as early as 2004, we applied the CE mark.” (The CE mark indicates that the product conforms to applicable European community directives).
Ballan’s design innovation results in several patent applications each year. Its most significant innovations include automated systems for tilting doors and, in Europe, the New Age sectional door concept. “Ballan products are born from ideas that, even today, are often conceived by the owners,” says Ballan. “Starting from an initial idea, the concept moves on to R&D (research and development) to be developed into a prototype and, once approved, to enter the industrialization phase. During this process, we consult people who monitor the pulse of the market and can tell us whether the look of a new product meets customer taste and demand. These people also tell us about market trends, and we use that information to modify designs, by creating new sizes and different finishes, for example.”
Innovation extends to tools and processes
One of Ballan’s added values is the production of doors that are tailor-made to customer specifications. Between the growing complexity of the doors themselves and the increasing number of product variants, it eventually became clear that a design process based on 2D drawings was no longer sufficient.
“I was explicit with management about the necessity of using 3D modeling software to get a clear view of the design concept, and specifically of complex sheet metal details,” says Ivano Toniato, chief engineer in Ballan’s R&D department. “During door assembly, mistakes emerged due to inaccuracies in 2D drawings. These errors increased as the complexity of the company’s sheet metal parts increased, as the parts became full of bends, holes and joints.”
Ballan’s management agreed with Toniato’s assessment and launched a selection process to find suitable 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software. The company’s choice was clear: Solid Edge® software from Siemens PLM Software.
“We chose Solid Edge for two main reasons,” Toniato explains. “First, the sheet metal module was really surprising, because it uses the same method as a press brake. Other software packages worked from a solid model and emptied it, totally ignoring the sheet metal plate. The second advantage of Solid Edge is its ease of use. It’s very user-friendly, both in the learning stage and in daily use. It doesn’t require long training periods, and users like it immediately.”
Since the purchase of the first Solid Edge seat, Ballan has been progressively adding more licenses, confirming the company’s choice of Solid Edge in view of the benefits achieved. “With Solid Edge, we can leave drafting, dimensioning and other repetitive and error-prone procedures to the software, so that we can dedicate designers to innovation,” Toniato says. “With Solid Edge, our designers can focus on design, rather than how they operate their CAD program.”
Just a click to unfold sheet metal
After years of delivering documentation to subcontractors on paper, Ballan has taken a giant step forward with 3D. “The key element for our laser cutting machines is the DXF format, and Solid Edge generates unfolded sheet metal in this format,” Toniato says. “Using Solid Edge has made things much simpler, because in the past we had to draw unfolded sheet metal diagrams manually. Solid Edge offers automatic unfolding features. Also, any change applied to the 3D model is automatically propagated to the unfolded sheet metal part instantly and with no errors. From 3D visualization to actual flat sheet metal, it takes just a click.”
Ballan complemented its Solid Edge implementation with Siemens PLM Software’s Teamcenter® software, which is preconfigured for rapid deployment and fast return on investment. “ISO certification requires accurate management of all product-related documentation, and PDM software is the most natural solution in this case, especially when an organization constantly expands its workforce,” says Toniato.“ At Ballan, a project is handled by several people. Consequently, if you don’t have a structured management system, you may incur inconsistencies, a loss of information, or the generation of superfluous files. The gradual expansion of our technical department drove us to introduce Teamcenter concurrently with the increase in Solid Edge licenses.”
Ballan engineers have realized the potential of Teamcenter and are now ready to leverage it fully. “PDM is essential to managing countless product variants with the entire history of each model,” says Toniato. “When we described our requirements to the Siemens PLM Software partner, CCSTeam, they recommended Teamcenter, which offers all the warranties of a leader like Siemens in terms of upgrades, continuity and support.”
CCSTeam has been supporting Ballan since the beginning of its Solid Edge implementation. “We are fully satisfied with our relationship with CCSTeam in terms of both the requirements identification and the software implementation,” says Ballan. “We have always received excellent support. CCSTeam engineers are very efficient and the company is well organized, always ready to handle all kinds of requests and issues. We know our requests are recorded and processed. For example, in one of the new product releases, we found a feature we had expressly requested.”