Case Study

A-1 Engineering increases competitive advantage in producing high-quality molds and custom build-to-print parts

A-1 Engineering

Solid Edge delivers significant time, cost and productivity gains; synchronous technology plays critical role

Mold experts and tooling specialists

A-1 Engineering is a leader in its sector, producing high-tech, high quality molds. In business since 1971, the company has established a reputation for innovative design, the engineering of complex mold projects and high quality manufacturing, especially in the aerospace, industrial, medical, power generation, food processing and optical industries. A-1 is particularly experienced in engineering hot runner molds, pneumatic valve gate molds, stack molds, optical lens molds, compact disc molds, as well as most types of conventional molds. While the company offers excellence in small- and medium-sized products where impeccable detail and delicate features are the norm, it stands truly apart from its competition in making very large and complex molds that others simply can’t handle. With equally broad precision machining experience – from multi-ton molds to tiny Swiss-machined components – the company works to ISO9001:2008 and soon will be certified.

Buying criteria – easy to learn, easy to operate, low cost

A-1 Engineering had been using a high-end CAD system; however, having used the system for a couple of years , the owners, Dennis Richner and Todd Craft, determined that the company could better serve customer needs using a mid-range CAD system, especially in terms of annual operations costs, adaptability and learning curve.

In seeking a replacement system, A-1 Engineering sought simplicity, productivity and a good return on its investment. The most critical aspect was being able to accept multiple forms of customer data.

More specifically, management wanted a system that was easy to learn, easy to operate and cost little to maintain. Low maintenance costs were especially important. Management thought the best system for its requirements may be SolidWorks because many of the company’s customers utilize it. However, during the investigation into several options, Jim Saugestad, engineer at A-1 Engineering, had just witnessed a demonstration on Siemens’ Solid Edge® software at a productivity seminar hosted by Solid Edge channel partner Applied CIM Technologies (Minneapolis, MN) and he recommended that the company take a close look at this competitive CAD technology.

Big difference between SolidWorks and Solid Edge – synchronous technology

Work requests for molds and customer data conversion funnel through Saugestad, who supports a lean competitive team on the shop floor with the design data they need to optimize five CNC mills, three CNC lathes, grinders and various tool making equipment. The data has to be correct because when the product gets to inspection or assembly, there is no time for reworking the design. Saugestad’s team members often rely on getting a quick dimension or feature relationship for a customer’s design file. The new system must effectively support this process. Saugestad felt he had seen something special in the Solid Edge demonstration, something that made it stand out above any other comparable offering. That something was synchronous technology.

Synchronous technology is the first-ever history-free, feature-based modeling technology that provides users with up to a 100 times faster design experience. Synchronous technology provides the best of constraint-driven techniques with direct modeling. “Synchronous technology comes with Solid Edge and it represents a breakthrough capability,” says Saugestad. “This is what led management to stop its SolidWorks purchase decision and go with Solid Edge. What a great move!”

Using Solid Edge’s synchronous technology, a user can bring in any solid model and readily manipulate it. Saugestad notes, “I can edit eyeglass mold ejector pins just by clicking on the ends and changing the length. With SolidWorks, we would have had to redraw them. That’s five seconds versus 10 minutes times 24 pins per mold. That’s two minutes versus four hours.”

“We receive files from almost every CAD system on the market and prior to synchronous technology, manipulating the data was virtually impossible; now it’s simple,” says Saugestad. “Moreover, synchronous technology allows the user to rebuild only those elements of the model that are necessary to effect the change.”

Easy = productive

A-1 Engineering sometimes still needs to re-create parts submitted by customers. Saugestad says that Solid Edge’s capabilities enable him to quickly sketch parts. In addition, he says that with some customers, the parts need to be received in wireframe mode, noting, “With Solid Edge, migration from wireframe to 3D is easy.”

Whether using synchronous technology, sketching parts or migrating wireframe data, the key word is easy.

Saugestad is self-taught. “Solid Edge is twice as easy to learn as a traditional CAD system,” he says. “The user interface and approach are quite intuitive.”

Solid Edge means productivity. “Overall, using Solid Edge, it takes only a third of the time typically needed to change a part,” says Saugestad. “We can take on more business because I can turn designs around faster. And business is up. We do a lot of work across product lines and industries.” Among examples, A-1 Engineering creates the molds for major international eye wear producers as well as one of the leading baby gate manufacturers, whose line is handled by a global retail giant. Saugestad notes, “It’s critical that we are not only fast and perform to the most rigorous quality standards, but it’s also essential that we are very price competitive. With Solid Edge and its unique synchronous technology, it’s tough to beat our speed, quality and price.”

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