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Solid modeling speeds delivery of vehicles used to examine ships for contraband, explosives and weapons of mass destruction.
Benthos, Inc. announced that it has received an order for five of its Stingray Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), with an option for 10 more units, from the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency in Ottawa, Canada. This Stingray system will be used in harbor and port security operations, particularly hull inspections. These inspections can include searches for parasitic attachments containing illegal narcotics, explosives and weapons of mass destruction.
Brent Patten, manager, Contraband Detection Technology Program for Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, says, “We look forward to using this technology to enhance the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency’s capabilities to protect the health and safety of Canadians.”
Upon delivery, Canada Customs plans to deploy the systems in port cities throughout Canada. Stingray systems are small, lightweight, inspection-class ROVs designed to perform a variety of underwater missions. They are equipped with high-resolution video cameras, lights and powerful thrusters, which allow them to operate in marine environments that could pose a risk to divers. A single system includes an underwater vehicle, a remote control operator handbox, a topside control console, high-resolution video display and a tether with storage reel.
According to Benthos’ engineering support services manager, Rick Smith, the company won the contract because they could supply the custom ROVs that Canada needed faster than the competition. A big part of its fast turnaround on the order was how quickly engineers could do the necessary design work using the computer-aided design technology, Solid Edge, from Siemens PLM Software. Benthos’ ability to deliver the equipment on time was a key factor in the award of the contract. “Our ability to quickly modify solid models was how we met the deadline,” says Smith.
Benthos, based in North Falmouth, Massachusetts, is a world-leading supplier of oceanographic equipment. The company’s ROVs, unmanned underwater vehicles remotely controlled from the surface, have traditionally been aimed at specific markets such as the offshore oil and gas industry where they are used for tasks such as taking pipeline measurements, making attachments and cuttings and recovering objects from as deep as 1,000 meters (3,250 feet). Lately, the ROVs are finding new uses, including fighting terrorism.
One of Benthos’ newest products is called the Stingray ROV. Designed as a small inspection-class ROV, the Stingray can be fitted to the customer’s specifications with video cameras, still or video cameras and a range of manipulators. This ROV has been used to inspect the Folsom Dam on the American River in California for cracks and for intake inspection at Cayuga Lake in New York State. Other uses include aiding waterborne search and rescue efforts.
As one of Benthos’ newer systems, the Stingray was modeled in Solid Edge, the company’s CAD system since 2000. Designing such a complex product in solids was a big improvement over working in 2D, according to Smith. “We had to fit a lot of equipment into a small area, and with 2D we were always dealing with interferences and fit problems,” he explains. “On the Stingray, we had so much better visualization that when we assembled the first prototype, everything fit.” There were many other benefits to working in 3D as well. Because of the superior visualization, fewer prototype parts were needed so prototyping costs were lower. When engineers did need a piece to hold in their hands, they sent Solid Edge data to a stereolithography service for rapid prototypes. Those were available in about a week, compared to several months needed for machined prototype parts.
Another advantage of using Solid Edge to design the original Stingray was the complexity of shapes the software could create. On previous ROVs, the flotation system had consisted of pieces of pipes with caps on the end. On the Stingray, the company switched to using molded foam pieces. To minimize drag as much as possible engineers wanted to fashion the foam into hydrodynamic shapes. “If we had tried to describe those shapes in 2D, we would have had to make so many cross sections that it would have taken many months,” says Smith. “It would also have been equally difficult for the manufacturer to turn those lines into a real part. With Solid Edge, we weren’t limited to simple shapes. The flotation on the Stingray has complex 3D curves with cutouts intersecting the curves.” The use of solids also helped in the design of the flotation by automatically calculating the weight of the ROV through mass properties analysis.
Since CAD models for the original Stingray were available, adapting the system to meet the Canadian government’s requirements went very quickly. Engineers used Solid Edge’s intuitive user interface to alter the original geometry to reduce weight and drag, frequently running mass properties analysis to get closer and closer to the weight target required by the contract. They created assembly models to ensure all the necessary equipment would fit within the new, streamlined configuration. And once they had a design that looked right, they used the solid geometry downstream to speed production. “Solid models were used to quickly generate the NC machining files used for the molds for the flotation foam,” Smith says.
Smith estimates that it would have taken several months to complete this order if the design work had been done in 2D – so long that Benthos would have lost the contract. “Many of our products are like this,” he adds. “There’s some customization involved to meet a specific customer’s needs. If that process were to take excessive time, we might lose the business. Solid Edge allows us to compete for that kind of work and be successful.” In 2002, the company delivered a large order of 48 ROVs for fire and rescue work.
In addition to selling oceanographic equipment, Benthos has a second division called TapTone that is involved in a different arena. TapTone provides inspection systems that let food and beverage packagers test, analyze and pass or reject cans, jars, bottles and other containers for various types of defects. Although it sounds like a very different undertaking for Benthos, TapTone actually grew out the company’s undersea expertise. The first TapTone systems employed sonar technology (similar to pingers used for locating objects underwater) to evaluate metal cans and bottles with metal caps for proper seal.
Newer TapTone systems use different technology to evaluate plastic containers, finding and rejecting leaking and damaged containers at line speeds of up to 200 feet per minute. The T500F Inspection System, for example, gives a gentle squeeze to plastic containers as they come down the production line, much like a person would but many times faster. The squeeze determines the firmness of the container. A common application for the T500F is determining the firmness of bottled water. Consumers prefer a bottle that feels hard when they squeeze it; firm bottles stack better and don’t jam up in vending machines. Firmness comes from the addition of liquid nitrogen to the water during bottling. Because liquid nitrogen is so cold, the nozzles that dispense tend to freeze and stop working. The T500F provides immediate feedback when this happens because it detects minute changes in the hardness of the bottles as they pass by. Production can be stopped and the nozzles thawed out before many defective bottles are produced.
The T500F and other TapTone systems have been designed in Solid Edge, with similar benefits to Benthos as those mentioned for the Stingray. “It is so much faster to develop new TapTone machines in Solid Edge compared to 2D,” says Smith. “Design modifications that would have taken months in the past are now done in weeks. For all of Benthos’ design needs Solid Edge is the right choice.”
Keys To Success:
Client's Primary Business:
Benthos is a world-leading supplier of oceanographic equipment and inspection systems.
North Falmouth, Massachusetts
"We had to fit a lot of equipment into a small area and with 2D we were always dealing with interferences and fit problems. On the Stingray, we had so much better visualization that when we assembled the first prototype, everything fit."
Engineering Support Services Manager
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