Case Study

Tooling designer doubles productivity after adopting synchronous technology


Using Solid Edge with synchronous technology cuts new design time by 40 percent; revisions to existing designs take one-third less time

A reliable source for metal parts

With 20 years of experience and a focus on quality, Matritech manufactures complex metal parts for a wide range of applications. The company’s products can be found in recreational vehicles (RVs), busses, trucks, special transportation, trains, medical equipment, electronics and home appliances. Matritech offers a variety of fabrication methods, including stamping, laser cutting, bending and welding. In addition to several presses with capacities of up to 500-tons, the company owns 3 welding robots, 1 combo computer numerical control (CNC) turret machine with shear, 1 combo CNC turret machine with laser, and 1 CNC laser cutting machine. There are also 6 press brakes, including 2 with 10-foot wide working tables and capacities of 130 tons. Matritech designs its own tools and dies for these machines, as well as specialty parts such as jigs and inspection tools.

Matritech typically takes on jobs that require precision in both design and manufacturing. However, it doesn’t mean that Matritech will pass by opportunities with customers when it comes to cycle times. Like manufacturers everywhere, Matritech’s customers require faster and faster turnaround on their orders. In fact, this continues to be Matritech’s biggest challenge, according to Mario Joyal, a sheet metal tooling technician at the company. “Jobs that used to take 5 weeks have dropped to 2 weeks, or even 1,” Joyal explains. “Finding ways to work faster is very important to us.”

One of the ways Matritech reduced time in the development cycle is through the use of advanced computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. These technologies save time by allowing designers to import a customer’s CAD files into their own CAD systems (either 2D AutoCAD® software from Autodesk, Inc. or Solid Edge® software from Siemens PLM Software) and then using their own CAD data as the basis for the CNC programs that drive the production machines. This integrated practice is not new. However, in recent years it has become an even greater source of time savings.

From shop floor to office via Solid Edge

The reason that time is reduced comes from the addition of synchronous technology to Solid Edge. Joyal started using synchronous technology as soon as it became available. He already had quite a bit of experience with Solid Edge at that time, having used this software about 10 years earlier, when he moved from his job as a machinist into Maritech’s design and CNC programming office. In fact, it was using Solid Edge that allowed him to make that career change. “I prefer getting my hands dirty to drawing lines in 2D all day,” Joyal explains. “So when all we had was AutoCAD, I wasn’t interested in a change. Also, if the company had chosen a solution such as Pro/Engineer or Catia that is difficult to use, I wouldn’t have done it either. I wanted a CAD program that I could learn easily and enjoy using, and that was Solid Edge.”

Joyal has worked with every release of Solid Edge since then, and when the software was updated to incorporate synchronous technology, he was ready to see what it had to offer. One of the biggest advantages it brought him was the ability to work with CAD models (such as those sent in by customers) without knowing how they were constructed. “With other CAD systems, you had to know how the part was built by the original designer,” Joyal says. “With synchronous technology, you don’t have to know that. There’s no history tree. You just make the change you want to make. You can select, stretch, move and edit parts directly in an assembly. It saves a tremendous amount of time.”

Unlike a typical history-based CAD system, Solid Edge with synchronous technology allows direct manipulation of objects. The second release of the technology made it even more advantageous for Joyal and Matritech, adding support for sheet metal design and recognizing bends, folds and other features of imported sheet metal parts.

Staying focused on design

Using synchronous technology saves time for Joyal in two aspects of his work: when he creates new designs and when he makes changes to existing ones. When creating a new design, which makes up the greater portion of his job, Joyal is free to focus on the creative aspect of designing rather than how to operate the CAD software. “I don’t have to think how I will make this hole move, or how I will place this face,” he says. “Solid Edge with synchronous technology is more intuitive. You just click on a feature and move it. You don’t have to rethink every move you make.”

Joyal has calculated that using Solid Edge with synchronous technology has reduced the time needed for new designs by 40 percent compared to using Solid Edge in the traditional (history-based) manner. “Because I don’t have to build a well-planned tree in a specific order, my days at work are less tiresome and more efficient,” Joyal adds. Joyal can quantify the improved efficiency. In a typical year using the traditional version of Solid Edge, he completed 80 new designs. In one year using synchronous technology, the number increased to 118 new designs.

Changes to existing CAD geometry take about 30 percent less time now that Joyal is using synchronous technology. As an example, he compares moving a hole in an assembly using synchronous technology versus working from a history tree. “I simply move the hole, right there in the assembly, and if there is some relation between the hole and another object, such as a pin, for example, those objects are updated as well.” He says a change like that takes about 10 minutes, while the same change would require 40 to 50 minutes working in the traditional mode.

There’s another area where the use of synchronous technology can help Matritech, according to Joyal. It can ease the transition to 3D CAD for users who still work with AutoCAD. “Back when I moved from 2D to 3D, synchronous technology wasn’t available but if it had been, the move would have been a lot easier,” he says. “Having to master the design tree is the hardest part of going to 3D CAD, and with synchronous technology, the tree is gone.”

Matritech’s adoption of Solid Edge more than a decade ago was a good move. It helped address the need for faster cycle times without sacrificing accuracy. Using Solid Edge with synchronous enables those advantages to be taken to a new level.

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