Using Solid Edge and Femap, global specialist significantly cuts the time it takes to develop machinery while increasing design quality
The adoption of Solid Edge enables GDM to reduce development time across its equipment offerings; company also cuts the need for non-standard parts by 30 percent
Building new machines, maintaining and upgrading existing operations
GDM’s core business is the construction of turnkey machines for the production of disposable hygiene products such as baby diapers, as well as sanitary napkins and products for adult incontinence. GDM is headquartered in Offanengo, Italy (Cremona) and has subsidiaries in Brazil, China, India, Japan, Russia (sales office) and the USA.
“These plants have seen significant technological developments in recent years,” says Ivano Calgaro, IT manager at GDM. “Today, more and more customers demand advanced capabilities for the collection and statistical analysis of production data, to measure performance and productivity. Therefore, we must offer services that go beyond assistance and maintenance.” So, in addition to manufacturing 10 to 15 machines each year, GDM is developing a promising after-sales business, including the construction of specific units for rebuilding, upgrades and expansion, as well as maintenance and spare parts.
The core of GDM’s design process is the technical department in Offanengo, supported by engineering departments in China and Brazil. The order-to-delivery cycle normally takes 6 to 9 months, including 2 to 3 months of actual design, followed by assembly and operational testing. GDM develops large, intricate machines, typically 20 to 30 meters long by 6 meters high. The key parameter is productivity; producing up to 1,000 pieces per minute for baby diapers is a standard metric.
The GDM technical and engineering team notes, “We made a huge effort to standardize a set of modules that, adequately assembled, enable us to respond faster to the requirements of each customer. While each machine is different and unique, each is built using modules that we have studied and developed down to the smallest details since we introduced 3D CAD (computer-aided design).”
3D modeling represented a leap forward in quality in their development. To develop machines consisting of 40 to 60 base modules, hundreds of components and thousands of parts, GDM used conventional 2D software in the past. The GDM technical and engineering team explains, “In 2001, we started looking for a 3D tool that was affordable and easy to implement.” After dismissing software that would have required too much training time and a longer term to realize a productive return on investment (ROI), GDM management identified Solid Edge® software from Siemens PLM Software as the right solution to meet its needs.
The GDM technical and engineering team points out, “Using Solid Edge, our engineers – who were already proficient in the use of advanced CAD – started off immediately at full capacity, abandoning 2D to design a totally new machine from scratch. Without Solid Edge, we wouldn’t have invented and launched our battle horse on time.”
Use of 3D design averts errors
The introduction of Solid Edge has significantly shortened cycle time at GDM. Compared to the previous process, which was based on simple tree structures and module descriptions, use of Solid Edge is significantly more advantageous. Using its 3D modeler, engineers configure the entire machine from the very beginning, combining different modules according to the functionality and performance requested by each customer. Each plant configuration is strictly related to diaper characteristics. Diaper design and shape and marketing requirements determine design constraints and modifications, as well as process features, layout conditions and raw materials.
With Solid Edge, GDM can readily monitor customer requests and process modifications. All current company product lines were developed in 3D, which has had a measurable positive impact.
“Compared to designing in 2D, use of 3D to create models has reduced non-conformity by more than 30 percent,” says Bernardo Gaudio, CAD manager, Systems and Applications at GDM. “Most design errors were due to the 2D approach. Now drafting and 2D drawings are always correct with Solid Edge. This is an apparent and measured benefit, an objective value that indicates the excellent impact of this tool on our technical department.”
The GDM technical and engineering team notes that the organization has especially appreciated just how easy it is to use Solid Edge: “Our users have learned to use the modeler with just the online manual. We adopted the same approach in China and Brazil, where we installed 15 licenses, in addition to the existing 30 in Offanengo.”
Use of Solid Edge has also turned out to be very beneficial for producing user manuals, both internally and for customers, thanks to the Web Publisher module for part visualization, which GDM is now evaluating to improve efficiency in spare parts management. Using this application, the bill of materials is extracted from the 3D model, and then loaded automatically into the enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.
The GDM technical and engineering team states, “We pursued a very clear concept from the beginning. In addition to geometry, the 3D modeler incorporates information, such as weight and density. So, we decided to transfer this additional information to all of our systems. A limited investment of time and work has largely been paid back by the availability of this information at all levels. This integration was enabled by the functionality of Solid Edge.”
Use of simulation helps optimize components, reduce costs
To complement and extend its design capability, the research and development (R&D) department has been using Femap™ software from Siemens PLM Software for six years. Femap, fully integrated with Solid Edge, is used by R&D to execute structural calculations on machines, mainly the critical units for product formation, such as the drum where the diaper core is formed. Femap, also easy to navigate, allows the organization to optimize the design early in the development cycle. Femap is also used by the industrialization department to optimize components in terms of costs.
Great support, high value
GDM was supported by Tech-Value S.p.A. (Tech-Value), a Siemens PLM Software partner, from the beginning of the project. The GDM technical and engineering team explains, “Italian companies need speed. And Tech-Value has always supported us well, providing useful references and effective answers to our suppliers. Tech-Value’s engineers demonstrated that they understand our problems and specific design needs, offering clear advice without preset positions. Tech-Value trained our engineers and administrator, who received tailored instruction on getting the best out of the tool.”