Innovation and collaborative, synchronized program management for new programs
Scientific and Production Association INTROTEST is a leading Russian enterprise, producing custom devices for detecting and analyzing defects across myriad applications, including oil and gas, railway engineering, pipe and others.
Scientific and Production Association INTROTEST (INTROTEST) was established in 1990 at the Central Research Institute of Metallurgy and Materials (TSNIIM) in Yekaterinburg, Russia. INTROTEST’s portfolio covers a broad range of automated testing equipment and solutions, including controllers of telemetry systems for oil and gas industry; miniature devices for the measurement of hardness and magnetic fields; devices and tools for the detection of defects including ultrasonic, whirling current and X-ray; and mechanized and automated systems for non-destructive control.
INTROTEST’s products are used in a variety of industries and applications. Examples of leading installations include production testing solutions in oil and gas fields and non-destructive control solutions for railway, pipe and special engineering applications. Among its customers are of Rosneft, Lukoil, TNK-BP, Nizhny Tagil Metallurgical Combine, TMK, Uralvagonzavod, and the Tikhvin Railway Car Building Plant.
In recent years, demand for INTROTEST products has increased significantly. In large part, this is due to the need to address ever-increasing quality control requirements for domestic enterprises, especially in the areas of railway and pipeline transport. For example, the amount of exports from the former Soviet Union and China has substantially increased, and these products require thorough checks to prevent accidents. INTROTEST’s solutions typically represent multifunctional product installations of high complexity and sophisticated control devices that can apply multiple monitoring methods, including mechanical, magnetic particle and ultrasonic. INTROTEST’s non-serial, highly individualized products specifically address the unique scenarios and requirements of the customer.
With INTROTEST’s specialists (designers, analysts and producers) observing an ever-rising demand for more refined products, they soon recommended a new approach to product development – one that offered advanced 3D modeling capabilities. Their preferred system would allow a specialist to quickly design and change the functional characteristics of the devices by varying the parameters of the 3D model (parameterization), thus allow quick and iterative design exploration.
In addition, the system would enable the company’s specialists to share a single information repository, with everyone (regardless of their expertise/discipline) starting from a common 3D model. After identifying the type of functionality in a 3D system to best meet the company’s needs, the specialists began analyzing technology options, including reviewing both domestic and foreign systems.
In launching their search, INTROTEST’s specialists also turned to a number of teachers at Ural State Technical University for their advice regarding 3D design technology that would best be suited to accelerate the design process, enable fast change management and facilitate data re-use. The teachers recommended Solid Edge® software from Siemens Digital Industries Software.
“In the course of the analysis, we tested a lot of systems,” says Andrei Popov, design engineer at INTROTEST. “Some of them had sufficient functionality, but were difficult to master. Other systems, by contrast, had an intuitive interface, but lacked the capabilities to create complex products such as we deliver in our installations.”
According to Popov, the experts at INTROTEST identified Solid Edge with synchronous technology as the best solution, because it seamlessly combines a user-friendly interface and powerful functionality. They particularly liked the software’s built-in finite element analysis (FEA) and design data management.
Additional reasons for selecting Solid Edge included excellent localization for Russia applications and synchronous technology for fast and flexible change management as well as powerful direct editing and drafting capabilities. It was also important that the software address ESKD requirements, the unified system of design documentation, a subset of the GOST technical standard published by the Federal Agency on Technical Regulating and Metrology of the Russian Federation.
INTROTEST specialists decided to learn the system on their own, without special training. They felt its ease of use merited such an approach. First, the more experienced specialists (those who were already familiar with 3D modeling) began using the software. They then trained the less-experienced staff. Popov notes that Solid Edge was mastered in a very short time: “Our specialists confirmed that Solid Edge is a very user-friendly system and that they all experienced a very rapid learning process.”
With training completed, the team conducted a full design-through-manufacture test case across a number of solutions/installations. Results included significantly improved speed (design and engineering changes) and quality (data delivered to higher standards) compared with the company’s prior process.
While there was exceptional autonomy in the system learning and test case process, Siemens Digital Industries Software partner PLM Ural provided users with timely and high-quality assistance in resolving a number of issues in the design of very complex device nodes. PLM Ural representatives also helped to determine the optimal hardware configuration and enterprise best practices for working in the new 3D-based environment.
In just 1.5 years, INTROTEST has already achieved excellent results. “The speed of product development increased noticeably,” says Alexander Kostin, deputy director general at INTROTEST. “Before the introduction of Solid Edge, our company had made only a dozen major installations. The design and delivery of each took from 1.5 to 2 years. Today, thanks to Solid Edge, we have reduced this turnaround to 9 months, of which about half that time is for design.”
Popov explains the key reasons why the company is benefitting from the use of Solid Edge.
“Clarity: Working with the 3D model allows us to see the intended product as a whole and all of its pros and cons,” says Popov. “The view of the installation in the 3D model form often allows you to see the flaws before the release of drawings, thereby significantly reducing design time. Considering that our products are manufactured with 3,000 to 5,000 parts and components, the visual representation of the product as a whole is a very important tool.
“Teamwork: All of the work of the designers now focuses around the 3D model. Any changes made by one designer will immediately become available to all other personnel involved in product development, thus using the system avoids the mismatch of different parts of the project.
“Speed: Because using Solid Edge allows you to quickly make changes to the 3D model, it is possible to create multiple variants of the same device and, upon review, to choose the best of them. With a ‘flat’ design, that would be a waste of time. Moreover, the parameterization mechanism allows our specialists to play with options throughout development, achieving the best results for the installation. In addition, the parameterized 3D model of the device can be used later in other projects; in fact, by changing a few settings, you can get a brand new device in just a few minutes.
“Exceptionalism: Thanks to 3D simulation, designers can now perform a variety of actions that they previously could only dream of executing. For example, creating the model of a new 3D installation using two previously designed modules is not a problem. In addition, a user can perform calculations using built-in FEA.
“Digital depot: Previously, substantial time was required to render imported components. Now designers use a digital library of finished products that are available on the official web sites of developers. This saves considerable time.”
Kostin adds that company management has found that product development turnaround is faster as a result of digital collaboration with the customer. Management notes that using the visual acuity made possible via 3D makes presentations a very effective means of conveying and sharing ideas. With review and approval now digital, there is a stronger bond between the project managers and reviewers. The quality of manufactured products has also markedly improved. With Solid Edge, designers eliminate most of the errors and inefficient design decisions that are completely invisible using a traditional flat design approach.
Kostin sums up, “Management gives the deployment of Solid Edge across our enterprise an ‘excellent’ mark. Designers show especially high production figures. Today we use 3D modeling for all of our complex installations of non-destructive control. Importantly, we can now create new individualized products for customers based on previous designs. And the system enables us to quickly and easily produce complete design and production documentation. Solid Edge is making a real difference across our operations.”
INTROTEST plans to take further steps in automation, including installing computer numerical control (CNC) milling machines and using the integration capabilities of Solid Edge to directly transfer 3D-models for use by its other specialized software tools. The company’s goal is to continue expanding its digital operations environment, with the 3D model the focal point for leveraging information.