Case Study

Collaboration in 3D paves way for innovation

John Crane Technology

Global seals manufacturer leverages Solid Edge for 200 to 300 percent improvement in design efficiency, increased market share and greater profitability

Global leader in sealing technologies

John Crane is an industry leader in sealing technologies, from traditional packing seals to modern automobile pump seals and dry-running gas seals. Founded in 1917, today, the company enjoys a 34 percent global market share.

In recent years, China has been steadily increasing its investment in its energy industries, including natural gas, petroleum and chemicals, while attaching more importance on sustainable development and environmental protection. This is boosting demand for high-quality sealing products and equipment that are safe, environmentally friendly and reliable.

However, until recently, the high-end sealing products that are needed by companies across a number of local industries, especially energy, were often imports. That’s because the majority of products for China’s domestic sealing industry have been of average quality, in part due to dated manufacturing technologies, design challenges and a lack of investment in raw materials and in part because on a scale of “good, better and best,” the marketplace only needed “good to better.”

That has changed and so has John Crane’s China operation. With the official opening of its Tianjin facility and the establishment of the John Crane China Institute in 2005, the global sealing giant is undergoing a strategic transformation from “manufacturing localization” to “manufacturing globalization” based on shared research and development (R&D).

2D system limits R&D

According to Du Juan, the company’s manager of Engineering Technology, John Crane USA has not only been providing its Tianjin branch the latest world-leading sealing technologies, but also has introduced the Tianjin operation to its go-to solution for R&D – Solid Edge® software. Solid Edge is especially advantageous in helping firms designing in 2D to quickly and effectively migrate to a 3D platform. Solid Edge serves as a complete design solution for John Crane, enabling the company to meet the increasingly complex requirements mandated by today’s new products.

John Crane’s dry-running gas seals, as the name implies, are a version of non-contacting mechanical seals combined with static and dynamic hydro pressure using “gas to seal gas” and the world’s most advanced type of shaft seal for high-speed turbo compressors. The seals feature non-contacting seal faces, long service life, high reliability, low power consumption and high energy efficiency. They are becoming the ideal substitute for high-speed mechanical seals due to their characteristics supporting environmental protection.

The seals were difficult to produce using 2D. Using its prior system, calculating the seal structure and determining its tolerance were very complicated, because each design and assembly process is typically different from that of another. Bottlenecks would often occur. Overwhelming workloads, including the need to complete huge amounts of repetitive draft drawings, were common. It became difficult to simply keep up with what Du describes as “a continuous and significant market demand.” While the company welcomed the influx of new orders, it also was challenged to conduct ongoing research and development across its sealing portfolio.

A specialized design tool that would not only perform the necessary tasks quickly and efficiently in 3D, but also would facilitate innovation, was needed. That tool was Solid Edge.

Introducing Solid Edge and 3D

John Crane USA had started using Solid Edge to convert its 2D design approach for seals to a 3D process. The company adapted quickly to the operational effectiveness of Solid Edge, greatly improving efficiencies across its product lines, especially for its heavy-duty seal assembly offerings.

Due to the success of Solid Edge as a 3D design platform, it would now be introduced as the R&D platform for its Tianjin facility. Many questioned the idea of simultaneously launching a new facility while bringing in a new design technology. However, Du was confident regarding the implementation: “A good software product makes the customer’s operation better, and we knew Solid Edge was proven at improving product development processes.”

Before using Solid Edge, John Crane Tianjin’s main design platform was AutoCAD® software. Du recalls that during the early stage of implementation, the designers were somewhat resistant to the new technology as they were experienced with 2D. To address the staff’s initial apprehension, the company utilized specialists from Siemens PLM Software and Beijing Henghua Chuangyi Development Co., Ltd. (HHCY) to develop tailor-made training courses and to assist with on-site instruction. The classes took into account the customer’s specific design environment and its desire to quickly leverage 3D across its portfolio of sealing products.

Users found Solid Edge quite easy to use. They were functionally productive within a week and very comfortable within a month, some sooner. It’s also very helpful that the Solid Edge 2D drafting capability provides the complete 2D design function and can read and transform all DWG format files, giving the designers a variety of process design tools to perform parameter calculations and draft drawings for model processes. While the software’s ease of use, 3D strengths and 2D adaptability facilitated a fast start, the users note that it’s the simplicity with which they can use Solid Edge to apply standard parts that is allowing really significant productivity gains.

Design efficiency increased by 200 to 300 percent

For several years now, John Crane Tianjin has been fully exploiting the feature modeling of Solid Edge for its dry-running, wet-running and small seals. In designing a seal product series, the higher the similarity of the structures the greater the company can leverage the software, employing its modularized and parameterized design capabilities. Frequently-used parts are categorized based on their assembly features. This helps the company build a complete inventory of re-usable standard parts. While sealing products are becoming increasingly more complex, the company has nevertheless been able to increase the number of standard parts used in these products. This translates to a tangible head start on designing seal assemblies as well as a significant reduction in repetitive work.

Many of the company’s designs are based on known parameters, and establishing them in Solid Edge provides the ability to edit design parameters to transform existing products into new versions. For example, John Crane was able to re-use the 3D models of an existing product and turn it into a super-size dry-running seal in record time. During design, users have a distinctly clear visual presentation of the structure. They can change parameters at any time and the model changes accordingly.

Compared with John Crane Tianjin’s prior design process, Solid Edge not only improves efficiency, but also ensures accurate drawings for the shop floor. As a result, the company’s design efficiency has increased by two to three times and its design errors have also decreased dramatically.

Increasing value, innovation and profitability

John Crane has successfully converted its 2D CAD drawing approach to a fully integrated 3D collaborative product development and management environment. The success represents a combination of factors. The flexible, user-friendly and powerful assembly management features of Solid Edge and the critical support of John Crane management enabled the company to open a new facility and introduce a new technology simultaneously.

There was another critical factor – partnership. The continuous communication and cooperation between the software provider Siemens, its representative HHCY and John Crane Tianjin management played a very important role throughout the process. HHCY’s technical support team provided support over the long haul, reviewing requirements, conducting training courses in standardization, serialization and modularization, and helping to optimize design for innovation.

Du concludes, “With Solid Edge, we have greatly enhanced our production capacity and R&D insight. We are delivering quality and value to our customers, especially in terms of long-life and energy-efficient sealing products. And we’ve increased our market share and profitability.”

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