Use of Solid Edge enables MeKano4 to make use of materials and methods from the automotive industry, saving significant time and money
A flexible process for making flexible products
A flexible process for making flexible products
MeKano4 (MK4) designs and manufactures products and engineering solutions for the construction and maintenance of bridges and other structures. The company meets its customers’ needs with a complete specialist service, which provides innovative and efficient alternative construction methods. MK4 products and solutions include poststressed reinforcements for buildings and bridges, expansion joints, struts for cable-stayed structures, hanging structures, ground anchors and high strength bars, as well as instrumentation and auscultation.
Bridges are not fixed, inert structures; they are designed and built to be flexible in response to eccentric local variations in loads such as bridge traffic, seismic activity, temperature extremes and ever-changing weather patterns. Each project is unique, requiring the application of sound engineering practices that can be adapted on site.
MK4’s business philosophy is also flexible, allowing engineers to use their expertise and experience to adapt to the unique and specific demands of each project and client. The company makes considerable investments in research and development (R&D) to evolve and grow, while at the same time continuously capturing experiences, lessons learned and best practices. This flexibility is also reflected in the collaborative manner in which MK4 works with its expert suppliers and partners.
An example of this collaboration is the use of Siemens PLM Software’s Solid Edge® software for design and Solid Edge with Insight™ data management solution for product lifecycle management (PLM). The acquisition, training and implementation of this software at MK4 were provided by Siemens PLM Software partner ProCUE.
Delivering optimal performance
Solid Edge was used in the design of a new MK4 product, the ML4/0.5” flat anchor. This anchor groups 4 cords on a minimum edge, allowing prestressing layouts with larger eccentricity than conventional cylindrical sheath tendons. This makes it ideal for inner prestressing tendons adherent within concrete slabs with a minimum edge.
The main components of post-stressed anchorage include the wedges, which are the elements anchoring the post-stressed cord to the anchorage plate; the distribution plate, which houses the wedges and transmits the anchoring force to the trumpet; and the trumpet itself, which transfers the force to the concrete structure. The wedges are common to all anchors, but the plates and trumpets are specific to each unit.
Anchors vary considerably, depending on the loads they are expected to carry. Anchors used in civil engineering tend to be larger and relatively limited in number, carrying huge forces. Anchors in buildings are usually under much less stress, but may number in the hundreds or thousands. In every construction project, anchors must be positioned precisely for optimal performance.
Minimizing weight and production time
Due to the large number of anchors required for each structure, it is crucial to optimize the weight of the materials as well as to minimize production time. To meet these two objectives, both the anchorage plate and the trumpet of the building anchors are made with spheroidal graphite cast iron. Also known as ductile iron, this material is commonly used in automotive parts that need to be stronger than aluminum but do not necessarily require steel.
To fabricate ML4/0.5” flat anchors, MK4 chose to collaborate with a new supplier with expertise in the automotive industry. Automotive part suppliers tend to use 3D design and tooling more widely than do construction part suppliers. MK4’s technical office chose to use Solid Edge software to initially model both the anchorage plate and the trumpet. MK4’s part supplier as well as the mold manufacturer used 3D modeling instead of drawings to convey the part design. After a couple of cycles, the final geometry was approved by all parties. The mold was generated by using computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) tools. “Using the 3D capabilities of Solid Edge allowed us to achieve a substantial reduction in design time,” says Guillermo Ramirez, technical director at MeKano4.
Re-using design data to enable subsequent designs
Shortly after, the ML4/0.6” anchor was designed (similar but slightly larger than the ML4/0.5”) following the same process and with a further reduction of design time. The new design was slightly modified, as was the ML4/0.5” original model.
“The lifecycle management capabilities provided by Solid Edge with Insight were especially beneficial,” says Ramirez. “Insight allows us to manage data in an easy and efficient manner. This includes managing all designs with the properties Available, Released and Obsolete, which closely resembles classic manual management with folders. The advantage of Insight is the automation of these status changes, the control to information access, the acceleration of searches and the improvement of the collaboration between professionals, departments and companies.”
The company is also taking advantage of the fact that both Solid Edge with Insight and MK4’s own enterprise resource planning (ERP) system both work using SQL Server® software. As a result, important data (such as the number of drawings, materials, weights or, even more importantly, the list of materials already introduced in the design phase), can automatically feed the ERP system, thus avoiding retyping, saving time and, above all, reducing errors.