Case Study

PLM enables successful transition from manufacturing to design

Placencia I+D

NX and Teamcenter have allowed Placencia I+D to land design contracts with major international firms

Innovation for leadership

Placencia I+D (PID) is the Center of Excellence created by Sapa Placencia in 2002 with the goal of establishing the company’s technological leadership through the design, development and innovation of new products. The starting point was the knowledge acquired by the company over many years of experience. At present, PID’s two main product lines include auxiliary power units (APU) and mechanical transmissions for heavy vehicles.

When Sapa Placencia created the Center of Excellence, it changed its mission statement and decided to specialize in product design. Previously, the company had design experience only in the textile industry, having successfully designed six types of looms. PID engineer, Mikel Onaindia Izaguirre, explains that there came a point when the company decided that it no longer wanted to be simply a manufacturer. “About five years ago, we only manufactured products under license and all we designed were looms,” he explains. “Then we started to design an auxiliary power unit.”

PID’s mission is to improve the customer’s competitiveness through applied research and the development of technologies and systems. Innovation is both its starting point and its objective. “The customer requests a number of product upgrades and innovations and PID then prepares a proposal, sometimes in conjunction with other companies that bring experience in domains not covered by us,” explains Onaindia. PID makes up for this alleged lack of experience with its technological capacity. According to Onaindia, if the company did not currently have a sufficiently robust design environment, it would not be able to compete at this level.

Upgrade to NX

Sapa originally produced its designs in 2D using the I-deas™ software program from Siemens PLM Software. When faced with new design challenges, the company decided to upgrade to the NX™ digital product development system, also from Siemens. PID selected NX because the functionality was best suited to its needs, the CAM module was well integrated with the design module, and this solution presented the best price-performance ratio. In addition, the company’s experience with I-deas would help with the migration to the new system.

Onaindia says that thanks to the speed of working with NX, it has been possible to deliver projects within the given deadlines. “Without a tool like NX, we would not be where we are. It has allowed us to land really big contracts,” says Onaindia. “In the past years, we have concluded deals with major international firms, such as General Dynamics, the Rheinmetall Group, the MAN Group and so on.”

Integrated CAD and CAM

The margin of error between designing and manufacturing a product must be minimal. To reduce the occurrence of errors, PID subjects its products to a process aimed at ensuring maximum quality, from design all the way through to production. First, the engineering department, which encompasses expertise in mechanics, fluids and electronics, produces a 3D model of a product, taking into account the required parameters. In other words, it defines the product. Once this process is complete, the design goes to the Project Department, whose objective is the mass production of the design. The drawing department is responsible for generating product drawings and documentation. The design then proceeds to manufacturing with all the data created by the previous departments.

Among the advantages of NX observed by PID engineers, they mention the CAD/CAM integration. This helps improve the process in the phase between design and manufacturing. According to Onaindia, one long-term objective is to remove most of the manufacturing documentation. “Our intention is to generate our information at the engineering and project level and from there to circulate it directly to manufacturing and measuring. In doing so we hope to avoid intermediate errors as well,” he adds.

The Teamcenter® digital lifecycle management system is another important aspect of PID’s development environment. Teamcenter has been in use since 2005 with the purpose of meeting collaboration requirements and managing engineering processes. Among the system’s main features is that it has allowed a seamless migration from I-deas to NX, that the CAD/CAM/PDM integration helps manage the list of materials in a standardized way, and that it paves the way for eliminating paper-based documentation.

By implementing Teamcenter, Sapa has succeeded in reducing errors, re-using data and eliminating paper and duplicate registers. This is in addition to the improved reliability achieved by switching from 2D to 3D, which gives the company the ability to identify and remove potential interferences between parts before they are assembled. “Teamcenter allows us to have a strong product structure,” says Onaindia.

Secure future

Even though PID is aware that the times ahead will not be easy, it is confident that it has the necessary resources, both human and technological, to face them with assurance. Onaindia is certain that NX will be reliable in meeting future requirements. “NX is a complete guarantee,” he says. “For instance, we are interested in reducing inertia in specific parts in order to assess the dynamic response of the transmission, and to determine the centers of gravity and mass. NX is a very useful tool.”

PID is confident that it will achieve its objective, which is to reject its exclusively manufacturing role to become one of the leading producers on the market, and that the use of such technologies as NX and Teamcenter will help it reach this goal. “NX and Teamcenter are our star products,” Onaindia concludes.

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