Innovation and collaborative, synchronized program management for new programs
Digisystem Laboratory Instruments Inc., engaged in the manufacturing and import of laboratory instruments, is a specialized manufacturer of centrifuges, oscillators, counters, mixers, water tanks, ovens and other instruments, and also imports OPTIMA microscopes and related adaptors and other spare parts.
With more than 40 years of experience in the manufacturing and import of laboratory instruments, Digisystem Laboratory Instruments (Digisystem) is a specialized manufacturer of centrifuges, oscillators, counters, mixers, water baths, ovens and other instruments. The company also imports OPTIMA® brand microscopes and related adaptors and other spare parts.
Most of the laboratory instruments manufactured by Digisystem are sold through agents who receive original equipment manufacturer/original design manufacturer (OEM/ODM) production orders. Users are mainly laboratories in the United States and academic research institutes. In addition, Digisystem also manufactures its own brand, DS, and has established longterm cooperative sales channels in Belgium, Venezuela, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and other countries.
Digisystem is a typical family business. Hale Su, founder of Digisystem, is a production expert and is always able to find suppliers of high-quality, inexpensive materials in Taiwan. He draws product designs himself and has expanded the business incrementally. However, with gradual assumption of responsibilities by the new generation of the family, the company began an era of new product development ideas and production-related digital engineering activities.
An outstanding example: traditional laboratory instruments are traditionally standard gray or black in color. In contrast, Digisystem now applies refreshing colors (instead of black and white) to oscillators. This breakthrough originated from the change brought about when the company decided to use Solid Edge® software, a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) solution from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens PLM Software.
Digisystem adopted 3D software because it wanted to directly read design data created with other CAD systems. As with the typical OEM/ODM model, Digisystem often received 3D design files created by customers. Initially, the files were provided directly to moldmakers for decomposition. It was difficult for Digisystem to participate in mold modification processes, and the company was not confident that dimensional concepts were being effectively communicated to customers.
Thanks to the recommendation from CADEX Technology, a Siemens PLM Software channel sales partner, Digisystem decided to license Solid Edge, and first appointed Tai Kangyuan, manager of optical business and product development, to learn to use the software package. Tai had no previous background in professional design.
In the beginning of its 3D modeling experience, the Digisystem staff learned AutoCAD® software. About a year ago, the company adopted SolidWorks® software. However, the engineers agreed that the company’s pursuit of 3D design software needed to advance. “At the time we wanted to improve the integration of the 3D modeling software and rendering tools and were fortunate enough to be informed by CADEX Technology that Solid Edge and KeyShot rendering software matched each other very well. After comprehensive consideration, we decided to adopt it, Tai says.”
A mathematics major and the sales manager at Digisystem, Eva Su began drawing instrumentation panels after preliminary familiarization with the software. First, she marked the locations of holes, timers and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) on the drawing, and then sent the drawing to the plastic mold maker for processing. “We drew all basic designs on paper, and then outsourced the work to a design company that produced electronic documentation from the paper drawing and handed it over to the moldmaker,” says Eva. “Now, we do all such work ourselves. It is easier to make changes to drawings. In addition, we have hired a mold expert based at the mold factory. We closely communicate details, which has significantly reduced errors.”
With the use of Solid Edge, Digisystem has quickly and dramatically improved its ability to read and modify drawings. For drawing modification, the company uses the synchronous technology capabilities of Solid Edge. Synchronous technology automatically updates associated objects when modifications are made, regardless of the sequence of operations used to create the design. This capability eliminates the need to modify objects individually, which saves a lot of time.
In addition, Solid Edge provides a sheet metal features library that accelerates design. “Sheet Metal parts for the undersides of instruments, for example, must have vents,” says Tai, who is responsible for modeling and drawing sheet metal parts. “I could not create such vents before. Luckily, Solid Edge provides a sheet metal features library, so all I need to do is to finish dimensioning to create several sets. It is fast and accurate.”
“In addition, familiarization with 3D design software also has enhanced Digisystem’s capability to process rush orders and reduce the overall process time from design to CNC machining,” says Kangyuan. “Such efforts have significantly improved our performance, and especially enhanced our confidence in undertaking orders for custom products.
On one project, a North American trading company for small household appliances wanted to add new functionality to an old product, but the lead time was very tight. The company wanted to present the product to an important customer at a sales meeting. No delays would be allowed. “We did not create the original designs,” Tai says. “We had to wait for the customer’s outsourced designer to provide design data. It was very difficult to control the time. In order to finish the order, we boldly challenged product design.” This was a custom order and it was the first time Tai had modified an imported design file. Fortunately, on-the-job learning with real-time technical support from CADEX Technology enabled Digisystem to gradually master the use of Solid Edge.
“For the order, the customer wanted to change a fixed-rotation-speed oscillator to a variable-rotation-speed version, but the newly-added drive motor would increase the height of the whole machine to 1.75 inches,” Tai says. “It seemed easy, but we encountered problems during the machining process.”
When Digisystem finished the design and delivered 3D models to the moldmaker for NC machining, the moldmaker made design changes during assembly. However, the moldmaker failed to update the design files with the changes, so when Digisystem made samples, the dimensions were incorrect. Based on the experiences gained from this failure, Digisystem sought to better control its design update process. When sending design files for machining, Digisystem now requires the moldmaker to work in strict accordance with the design models and drawings. The result is that the process flow is more accurate. Such efforts enabled Digisystem’s business to grow significantly. Custom product order volume typically increased from 500 pieces at a time to 1,000 within one year, and the number of orders also increased.
The use of Solid Edge also played a major role in changing the version of a new dry bath product model. “This time we wanted to increase product thickness and density, but did not know what design would be the most appropriate,” Tai says. “Fortunately, we had Solid Edge, which we can use to quickly simulate various conditions. Use of Solid Edge made it possible to reduce the overall process time from design to machining from five months to three months.”
According to Tai, a mathematics major without previous CAD experience, “It is very easy to learn to use Solid Edge, especially if you have an idea of space, are not afraid of numbers, use an actual design case to learn while drawing, plus utilize the remote assistance provided by CADEX’s technical engineers.”
Tai cites several examples of the easy-touse features of Solid Edge. One of them is the multibody modeling functionality, which enables designers to use multiple bodies in modeling operations.
Digisystem also values the integrated interference checking of Solid Edge, which is critical to reducing design errors. The company’s products include small parts, sheet metal components, printed circuit boards, and other components. Once these are placed in an assembly model, the designer can invoke interference checking with a single command. “If there is an interference or collision, it will be highlighted,” says Tai. “I know immediately which dimension is incorrect and needs modification. Using this automatic checking functionality helps to lower the error rate of final products, and modifications may be directly made on the assembly if there is any problem. Any change to the part will be synchronously processed in accordance with associated parts, thus eliminating any possible risk.”
As the users became more and more familiar with Solid Edge, they improved their ability to visualize design ideas. Whether creative ideas are from inspirations based on market information, customer input or designer exploration, the company can very quickly create detailed images. The capability has changed Digisystem’s concept of product design. “We began thinking about things from the standpoint of marketing, not only from the perspective of manufacturing,” says Tai.
In fact, as the company became more and more proficient with the software, Digisystem began proposing more attractive appearances and colors for instruments, because 3D software can more realistically simulate creative ideas for both the appearance and structure of products. In addition to its traditional OEM business, Digisystem has also developed new products that are very favorably accepted in the market.
Digisystem has enhanced its competitive edge by continuously launching new functionality and new generations of products. A new company logo adopted in 2015 cleverly incorporated the letters “DS” as an image of a flask with bubbles emerging from the mouth, representing an experiment that has produced results. The image manifests Digisystem’s ambition for stability amid change, as well as its quest for digitalization.