Giant film stretching facility – lean development
Market leader worldwide takes advantage of Solid Edge as development platform; ‘synchronous technology’ improves cooperation with design service providers
Brückner was founded in 1960, and since then has been a pioneer in film stretching technology. The company is now a worldwide leader in the development, production and supply of turnkey film stretching facilities, having a market share of over 50 percent. They have ensured that other suppliers fulfill the requirements of this worldwide manufacturing segment. Production lines as long as 200 meters in Siegsdorf (southern Bavaria) manufacture stretched plastic film, with a width of up to 10 meters. This is used mainly for high quality packing material, but also in technical applications such as capacitor film, and for high-tech flat-screen and mobile phone displays. In 2007, the various activities concerned with plastic processing machinery of Kiefel AG were bought, and their 650 employees were incorporated into the new Brückner Technology Holding GmbH. At their plant in Freilassing, Kiefel manufactures special machinery for the further processing of plastic film (thermoforming machines), and in Worms they produce tubular-film extrusion equipment. Customers can thus procure all technological varieties of film processing machinery from a single source.
Product development as catalyst for growth
Many years of profitable growth have led to this success, to which the 650 employees have contributed by meeting challenging requirements, with technical brilliance in system development and mastery of the manufacturing processes. The basis for this was in product development, and demanded an understanding of assemblies with up to 50,000 components. Additional requirements included associative parts-list management between CAD and ERP, a reduction in the variety of parts with intelligent classification and modularization, worldwide access to central development data using the image data transmission technology from Citrix, and smoothly cooperation with external suppliers and design engineers. These were the essentials for product development to successfully meet the requirements of customers.
Lean infrastructure for innovations
In addition, Brückner pioneered innovation in another area. From Version 1 until the present, the company has relied on the Solid Edge® 3D/2D CAD software system, has carried out twelve Beta tests, has often been in direct contact with the development group in Huntsville (Alabama), and was one of the first companies ever to evaluate the new “synchronous technology” from Siemens PLM Software. From the total of 650 employees in the company, more that 100 work with Solid Edge – not only in development, engineering and design, but also in technical sales, marketing and documentation. The undemanding user manual and full compatibility with other Windows programs make it easy to operate by non-specialists. The development data is stored on a content server, and provided by booking in and out to the local work stations until the job is completed.On release of the Solid Edge drawings, an automatic converting process into TIFF format is initiated. In this way, the drawings for manufacture and assembly are passed to an individual server. The intelligent plot management system PLOSSYS, from SEAL Systems, ensures the convenient supply of drawing printouts for production.
Powerful module tools
The ten central modules of a film-stretching installation have expanded continually. “We work with about 35,000 parts almost every day,” declares Fritz Holzner, who as CAD administrator is responsible for Solid Edge applications,“and for that you only need the right tools.” With data volumes of up to 1.3 gigabytes, this is less a question of the activation and deactivation of components to achieve rapid processing, but rather the need for real intelligence. “Dynamic configurations, modular techniques and other functions have resulted in immediate advantages in flexible designs and with re-usable components,” Holzner continues. “With families of assembly groups, configurations such as those which are open or closed can be very easily put together from an assembly group.”
The Solid Edge Revision Manager administers assembly group interconnection, which at present is transmitted to the ERP/PDM system via a direct interface. The second basis of the lean infrastructure manages until now two million design specifications, of which 500,000 are Solid Edge files. The designers are provided with the available store of standard parts or function modules, with classification of the basic data from the ERP system. Screws and nuts also being assembled in three dimensions.
The extra time which used to be involved in managing the database has for a long time been put to better use. “As a result of the detailed design configuration, we have been able to attain a high degree of immunity to faults – and this results in a breakthrough in realistic presentation, all the way through to installation,” says Holzner. Function modules can be loaded from the database and specifically adjusted where necessary. Duplicated work can be avoided as a result of logical modularizing, and the strict application of the classification system. “The most significant benefit from this procedure results from the automatic BOM generation,” adds Holzner. “With this ‘press button’ function, the total manual procedure is avoided, together with the potential source of errors as a result of keying mistakes or numerical input errors.”
When a design is released, a conversion server is addressed by means of workflow, in order to generate the neutral formats DWG, DXF and JT™ visualization data, together with 3D-PDF files in future, which are then automatically stored on a dedicated data server. In this way, all geometrical data relevant for manufacturing and assembly is made available at a central location to the whole company.
By means of an RSA-KEY secure VPN input, designers in other locations, and also design subcontractors, can access the development data with the image data transmission technology from Citrix. For this they make use of the central and powerful CITRIX server, and the Solid Edge licenses at headquarters. This means that the valuable company capital in the form of design data never leaves the premises – and that after approval the results of the development are again available centrally. This process operates with a time delay which the user does not notice.“We are once again well placed with this leading-edge technology, and will be developing it further into the future,” says Holzner.
Incompatibility resolved: synchronous technology
This applies also to the new Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology from Siemens PLM Software. Processes derived from Microsoft Office 2007, plus new functions such as use of the ‘steering wheel’ and copy-and-paste plus existing features, allow implementation of the two options below, inconceivable until now, for directly influencing internal and external CAD models: geometrical processing by shifting and rotating surfaces, unrestricted by historic and existing parameters, is now available to the user, together with the control of models by measurements from intelligent 3D dimensions, or factors such as parameters and the knowledge of intelligent relationships from Live Rules. Holzner, who had enthusiastically made the Beta tests of this ‘real innovation in CAD technology’, sees in particular two application areas for it in his company: the modeling of assembly groups by directly moving and processing model surfaces, and processing of the 3D dimensions directly from the assembly group, which will significantly accelerate and simplify internal procedures. Also, Solid Edge now allows the easy processing of 3D models from outside CAD systems, although the operator cannot access the features and development history of the model.
This second area will receive a higher priority, since the company awards many development contracts to outside subcontractors, in order to provide relief when overloaded internally, and to save on development costs. “However, much of these savings we lose again as a result of subsequent design changes, which until now could only be efficiently implemented by the design engineer,”says Holzner.
But this is all going to change. According to Holzner, “With the new synchronous technology tools, we can rapidly implement all changes ourselves, and extend the choice of subcontractors – and this although they work with outside systems, because we are no longer obliged to use native Solid Edge data.” The CAD system manager, who is also an instructor at various technical colleges, is already enthusiastic that he will be able to tell the new generation of engineers about Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology. “In this respect, thanks go to our long-established Solid Edge provider Solid SystemTeam, which has not only given us their usual support and provided training sessions, but has also given excellent support to our work at the technical colleges,” emphasizes Holzner. He is now more than ever convinced that he put his money on the right horse, when years ago he introduced Solid Edge, beginning with Version 1. “The operational simplicity of Solid Edge, the many ways it can be manipulated in an iterative and creative design process, and its continuing further development, have turned us from being Solid Edge pioneers into Solid Edge patriots!” Holzner explains.