Case Study

Product development without speed limits

Kustom Signals

The accuracy made possible by Solid Edge lowers development costs and accelerates new product introductions

Kustom Signals, Inc.

Kustom Signals, Inc. has been dedicated to serving the public safety equipment needs of law enforcement since 1965. The company designs, manufactures and markets traffic speed radar, speed lasers, and in-car video systems, as well as mobile roadside speed monitoring trailers. Its customer roster lists more than 17,000 organizations, including a vast majority of the law enforcement and public safety agencies in the U.S. Its equipment can be found in more than 60 foreign countries as well.

One of the reasons for Kustom’s success over the years has been its culture of innovation. The company has introduced many “firsts” to the industry, such as the first handheld K-band radar system (1975), the first speed monitoring radar trailer (1988), and first patrol car video system with a temperature-controlled vault (1988), and the first covert, pole-mounted traffic statisticsgathering device (1998). The company was the first to develop a patrol car video system with multiple file transfer options (2004). This level of innovation must be on-going because there’s quite a lot of competition in this industry.

Competition also makes Kustom look for ways to hold down development costs. “Price is becoming a larger issue in our product development because when many municipalities make a purchase decision for this equipment, they’re looking for the lowest-cost supplier,” says Mark Schultz, manager of mechanical engineering at Kustom. The other challenge facing Kustom is reducing the product development cycle to bring innovations to market faster. “Our customers are driving this,” says Schultz. “Many want to be able to use the latest technology as soon as it becomes available.”

Comprehensive functionality and strong support

Kustom’s mechanical engineering department uses the Solid Edge® CAD software system to meet these demands. This solution was chosen over SolidWorks, Mechanical Desktop and a third program (a mid-range package then being offered by PTC) because “we wanted all the functionality to come from one vendor, as opposed to a base package and third-party add-ons,” Schultz explains. “Solid Edge had its own sheet metal modeling and simulation environments.” Another reason was the software’s intuitive use, which Schultz attributes to its logical workflow. “There’s a common-sense approach to the flow of a design and you can tell that the people who developed Solid Edge have strong engineering backgrounds,” he notes.

Another reason for the selection of Solid Edge was the excellent user support offered by Siemens PLM Software, a global division of Siemens Automation and Drives. Schultz makes use of both the GTAC support web site as well as the 800 number. Although most of the support information he needs is available from the web site, the telephone option comes in handy at times. “This is one of the strongest points of the entire system,” he explains. “I’m usually connected with a live person within a minute and most of the time my problem is solved right then.”

Electro-mechanical assemblies reduce errors

Since adopting Solid Edge, the accuracy of Kustom’s designs has improved to the point where first prototypes are typically interference-free. This is due to the ability to create digital assembly models of entire products, including the housing and all interior electro-mechanical systems. “We use the Solid Edge assembly model to find problems before we get to the first prototype,” Schultz explains. “This has reduced development costs and time because we get it right the first time.” He points out that their molds typically cost around $20,000. Each time they “get it right the first time,” the company saves up to $5,000, which can be the cost to modify a mold.

Solid Edge has enhanced the company’s ability to share design data with suppliers, which is another factor that enhances accuracy. At times the data is shared via DXF files, such as between the mechanical engineering department and the company’s printed circuit board (PCB) supplier. PCB designers can use Kustom’s Solid Edge models to make sure larger board components don’t interfere with the product’s housing. Kustom imports the supplier’s board layouts, also in DXF format, back into its own assembly models to double-check the fit.

Kustom uses another Solid Edge collaboration tool, XpresReview, when it’s necessary to provide someone with a larger amount of data. XpresReview uses Siemens’ Packaged Collaboration Files, an innovative and popular concept that allows documents from different sources to be packaged into a single file. “XpresReview works well because we can easily put together a package of information for a big project,” explains Schultz. “An example would be when there are five injection molded parts in a housing and the molder has questions. We use XpresReview a lot with suppliers and also in-house.” The company also uses the free Solid Edge viewer to share design data with people who don’t use CAD software.

Because Solid Edge has given Kustom more confidence in the accuracy of its designs, the company’s products have become more aesthetically pleasing, which is important to its success on the market. “Because we can now see interferences, we can do more complex designs with surfacing and complex angles,” says Schultz. “We’re giving our products a modern look.”

Even though product complexity has gone up, Kustom is able to bring products to market faster, thanks to the greater accuracy in the designs. By choosing Solid Edge, Kustom got what it needed to stay competitive in its industry: design software that fosters innovation without speed limits.

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