Case Study

Fixture design cycle cut nearly in half

Melling Tool

Solid Edge with synchronous technology drops fixture design time from 4 weeks to 2-2½ while enabling more design iterations and additional set-up engineering

Fixture designers must keep pace

Melling Tool Company is a leading manufacturer of oil pumps and other power train components. From nine facilities in North America, the company serves global automotive original equipment manufacturers as well as the aftermarket. It is noted for its strong engineering, product development, and distribution capabilities.

Product designers at Melling Tool use NX™ software from Siemens PLM Software. The NX data is then passed to fixture designers who use Siemens’ Solid Edge® software. As Melling has expanded its product line in recent years, the company’s fixture designers, Steve Trefry and Jason Mulcahy, have been under pressure to work faster.

“A typical manufacturing job requires three operations so we need three fixtures per product,” explains Trefry, CAD designer at Melling Tool. “Designing them used to take us about four weeks (for all three). When our company started diversifying with new products such as door closers, we had to find a way to work faster to keep up with the increased workload.”

Never look back

Solid Edge with synchronous technology turned out to be just what the two fixture designers needed to keep pace with the company’s growth – even though neither of them really understood the potential time savings of synchronous technology at first. Synchronous technology, a history-free, feature-based modeling approach, eliminates the need to constrain elements of a design by allowing direct modeling. But Trefry didn’t view constraints as a problem. He had used AutoCAD® software for years and was “used to all the constraints in traditional 3D modeling,” as he says. “I was actually a little leery of synchronous technology at first,” Trefry adds. “But once I started using it, I never looked back.”

Mulcahy’s experience was similar. “I had been using SolidWorks software where everything has to be set in its place and be fully defined,” Mulcahy says. “I became very good with it. But now, it’s synchronous technology all the way. I don’t know why anyone would model in the traditional mode.”

Minutes add up to weeks

Trefry and Mulcahy use Solid Edge with synchronous technology to design new fixtures as well as to modify existing designs. With a large database of 2D AutoCAD drawings, modifying existing designs is something they do often. “Synchronous technology has made a very big impact with all of our legacy fixture designs,” explains Trefry. “A simple task such as moving holes in a fixture takes two minutes with synchronous technology versus 15 minutes with a traditional 3D CAD system.”

“Design changes are so easy and quick,” adds Mulcahy. “A ten-minute task in SolidWorks would literally just take a couple of clicks in Solid Edge with synchronous technology.”

These efficiencies add up. Since implementing synchronous technology, average fixture design time at Melling Tool has essentially been cut in half – from 4 weeks to 2-2 ½ weeks. And because the design work is going faster, Trefry and Mulcahy are able to deliver more value than they could previously. “I spend more time thinking about engineering than CAD, so I can consider more design iterations,” says Mulcahy. “And we are able to do some engineering work that we didn’t have time for in the past, such as specifying set-ups so the machinists don’t have to guess,” adds Trefry.

From the perspective of accomplished users of traditional 3D modeling, Trefry and Mulcahy see synchronous technology as a great way to upgrade from 2D to 3D. “Synchronous technology is more intuitive and easier to grasp,” says Trefry. “Anyone moving from AutoCAD, for example, would find synchronous technology easier than a traditional CAD program like SolidWorks.” Mulcahy concurs. “I moved from AutoCAD to 3D SolidWorks in 2000. It would have been much easier to move from 2D to Solid Edge with synchronous technology,” he says.

For those already using 3D but in the traditional mode, even for those who are very good at this, the fixture designers at Melling Tool still recommend synchronous technology. Says Trefry, “I was surprised at how easy it was to change over to synchronous technology. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t use it. There’s nothing to learn.”

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