Changing systems without disruption
Seats Inc.’s move to 3D jumps design productivity, slashes prototyping time and sets the stage for advanced manufacturing
Vehicle seat maker, Seats Inc., needed the benefits of solid modeling – accurate communication with customers, geometric data to drive manufacturing equipment – without sacrificing engineering productivity.
To 3D or not to 3D
Seats Inc. faced what has become a common dilemma for mid-size manufacturing companies: to upgrade to solid modeling or stick with a familiar 2D design system. Solid modeling’s advantages over drawings are proven: a more accurate part definition; the ability to assemble parts on-screen and detect errors; many more downstream uses for design data, such as images for marketing, exploded views for documentation and 3D geometry to drive computerized manufacturing equipment. Seats Inc. needed these capabilities, but didn’t want designers’ productivity to decline due to a new modeling approach.
An intuitive solution
After evaluating a number of solid modelers, Seats Inc. saw a clear difference between Solid Edge® software and other systems. Solid Edge’s unique user interface makes it easy to learn and intuitive to use. Another feature Seats Inc. likes is the ability to import customers’ Pro/E and Catia files. The company purchased Solid Edge licenses for nine designers and adopted a new design process in which seat parts are modeled as solids, then assembled on-screen to create a virtual representation of the entire product. Solid geometry has replaced drawings as the preferred form of communication with customers. And the availability of 3D part representations has paved the way for big changes on the manufacturing side of the house.
Benefits in multiple areas
Fears of a productivity drop quickly evaporated. Thanks to Solid Edge’s assembly modeling capability and the ability to view complex seat assemblies (up to 200 parts) from multiple angles, Seats Inc. has achieved a 30 percent savings in design time, compared to working with drawings. Additional time savings come during the creation of prototypes, which are now made directly from 3D models. Some prototypes take 70 percent less time to make than they did in the past. Since assemblies are thoroughly debugged in Solid Edge, data sent to customers and ParCar Corp., Seats Inc.’s sister company, is error-free. On the manufacturing side, the availability of 3D geometry has opened the door to a number of advanced processes. Seats Inc. recently completed a 64,000-square-foot addition to an existing plant and equipped it with state-of-the-art computerized manufacturing equipment. Solid Edge geometry is now being used to drive the most advanced punch plasma, thermoforming and routing machines.
Up to speed in no time
As a testament to how quickly designers became proficient in Solid Edge, in the second month with the new software, nine engineers created 265 solid models (conversions of existing 2D part drawings). A few months later they were up to 800 conversions/month.