3D makes plant design more efficient
Siemens VAI (Austria)
Designing a cold rolling mill is a balancing act that benefits greatly from 3D
Expanding Asian car market drives demand for sheet metal
Siemens VAI, a division of the Siemens Group Industrial Solutions and Services (I&S), is one of the world’s leading engineering and plant building companies for the iron and steel industry as well as for the flat product rolling sector of the aluminum industry.The company’s services are in big demand lately as worldwide need for high quality sheet metal expands, driven by the rapid growth of the automobile industry in Asia. This is creating strong demand for new cold rolling mills, for which Siemens VAI offers a complete solution – from design through the creation of all relevant drawings to on-site assembly and commissioning.
As early as 2003, Siemens VAI’s board of directors recognized that the growing demand for its services would necessitate greater output. On the other hand, pressures of cost and competitiveness prohibited an expansion of the workforce. Efficiency had to increase. Up until this point, all design work had been done in 2D. Management decided it was time to upgrade to 3D, and selected Solid Edge® software as the company’s new design solution for a number of reasons. One was the cost advantage. The software was affordable to even the smaller engineering offices that Siemens VAI works with as partners. In addition, an important selection criterion was ease of learning because many designers’ experience lay in 2D CAD and some had even been trained on drawing boards.
Good support ensures success
The choice of Solid Edge worked out very well, thanks in part to the support provided by Siemens PLM Software and the local Solid Edge reseller, PBU CAD Systeme GmbH. One day a week, a PBU consultant supports the design team in finding and implementing new working methods in 3D, and also in solving detail problems. For Siemens VAI, the quality of this support has been a big part of its satisfaction with Solid Edge. “Even as much as we value the functional advantages of Solid Edge, it is the support from PBU that gives us a measurable benefit,” says Norman Eisenköck of Siemens VAI. Siemens PLM Software’s support is also very important.
Requests and suggestions from users at Siemens VAI are continuously integrated into new releases of Solid Edge.Also, Siemens VAI has direct contact to software development with Siemens PLM Software in the USA and works as a beta-test partner.
Solid Edge’s ease of use facilitated the transition to 3D, as hoped. Many of the company’s older employees are enthusiastic about Solid Edge. One, who was only a few years short of retirement, designed a machine from outline to detailed design completely in 3D, using Solid Edge after only four days training and without falling back on the trusted 2D technology in any form whatsoever.
Mastering the challenges of plant size
One of the challenges of the new 3D design process involved the size of the plants that Siemens VAI designs. A single mill stand is made up of around 30,000 parts and an average rolling mill has five frameworks. Independent of the software used, even the hardware reaches its performance limitations here. Also, alterations to current drawings represent an enormous challenge for any 3D system with around 500 drawings per machine and 30 to 50 machines per plant.
One of the benefits of the conversion to Solid Edge is the potential for a high degree of design process automation, and the resulting increase in standardization. The company’s goal is a well-established knowledge base, which includes existing design know-how. The knowledge base will go beyond standards and guidelines to offer intelligent design rules. In addition, Siemens VAI plans to take full advantage of the possibilities of parametric design, to the point that if a single parameter is altered, all design details of the complete plant will be recalculated. For example, a change to the width of the band being processed automatically results in the use of more powerful motors, longer (and under certain circumstances thicker) rollers or greater wall thicknesses of bearing blocks. Together with the automatic transition of drawings, an efficiency and safety is achieved which is not possible with conventional methods.
The simulation capabilities of Solid Edge offer a further increase in efficiency. Collision control, for instance, prevents the concentration within the machine from becoming too great, or the removal and replacement of a machine inside the plant from becoming too difficult.
A clear advantage over the competition
Siemens VAI’s target was a switch to top-down design in which the designer starts from the complete plant (system-orientated) and progresses towards detailed machine design (surface-orientated).This seemed difficult at first but the more it was put into practice, the more successful it became.This is due in large part due to Solid Edge’s ease of use, which helped win the buy-in of both company designers and outside partners. Future plans include the implementation of additional Solid Edge modules such as XpresRoute, which will permit complete piping of a plant.
For Eisenköck, the switch to Solid Edge has already paid off.“Already we are seeing a time saving in the construction process,” he says.“With Solid Edge we are profiting from a clear advantage in competition with firms who still use traditional methods.”