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PTC Media + Analyst event 2009: Club Car

Published 15 January 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: technical publications, club car, arbortext, translation costs

#5: This is a user presentation I’ve been looking forward to. Club Car (part of the Ingersoll Rand group) make the golf carts. Yes. Those ones. Jeff Kennedy, Engineering Information and Systems Manager at the company has been talking about they’re using Arbortext to cut the costs associated with documentation.

Club Car produces over 100,000 vehicles a year, with over 90 models on 12 platforms, with electric, gasoline, and diesel powered variants. Club Car has three core types of documents; Owners Manuals, Service Manuals and Kit Installation manuals. There are then manuals derived from these for OEM products they produce.

When you throw translation into the mix, with a requirement for 17 language versions of those documents (meaning 100 manuals on top), you’ve got a nightmare for documentation. And of course, rising translation costs and workload without an increase in resources or budget is something many will be familiar with. Cub Car worked with the GilbaneGroup to look at their processes and how to work more intelligently (you can get a copy of a case study here).

With Pro/Engineer being used in the development department, Club Car approached PTC to look into how Arbortext could be used to automate their desktop publishing processes. Alongside the automation potential, content reuse - with estimates indicating that 80% of Club Car’s content has reuse potential in multiple manuals (from product to product, and model year to model year). they also investigated the potential to remove “Graphic Design” line item on invoices to simply save cash. The final challenge was that translation of English text in images was causing higher translation cost and lengthier cycle times.

In terms of implementation, plans saw work start in March 2007, and completed in September the same year for the English style sheet with remaining foreign language style sheet modifications made in-house at Club Car between September and December, 2007. What’s interesting is that Jeff discussed costs and how they stacked up against the savings they’ve made.

The implementation cost $326,000 for delivery of software and services. The project was finished a few months later than planned, but came in $5,000 under budget. Now, when people discuss technical publication and documentation tools like Arbortext, they often stare at the costs associated with surprise. The reality is that there is huge potential cost reduction to be found with these systems. Club Car is the perfect example. They saved $109,111 in hard cash in the first year.

When you then consider the standardization, easing of workload in a short period of time in a small team, then its clear that the return on that seemingly large investment isn’t too hard to justify.

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PTC Media + Analyst event 2009: Pro/Engineer Wildfire 5.0

Published 15 January 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: ptc, proengineer, wildfire 5.0, ribbon

#4: The next rev of Pro/Engineer Wildfire is due sometime later this year, with current plans being to officially launch it at the PTC/User event in June. What Brian Shephard, Divisional Vice President of Product Management showed was a taster of what’s most likely to get into the next release, but as ever, things can change between now and June. That said, let’s take a look.

Real Time Regeneration: Fascinating. they’ve managed to remove the need to regenerate a model when you’re editing it. The short video showed a reasonably complex plastic part (shown here*) and ribs being dragged and dropped. No need to rollback the model history or regenerate it. There are obviously a huge number of questions about this, how does it handle underlying parameters, what features can be edited in this manner. Time will tell. It’ll also worth noting that this takes advantage of multi-threaded hardware. While multi-cpu and multi-core machines are increasingly common, its the case that today, much of 3D CAD work doesn’t particularly lend itself to multi-threading, so this is an interesting step. Was it based on CoCreate’s technology? Nope. Are they sharing technology between Pro/E and CoCreate now? Nope too.

The flip-side of this is when model regeneration fails. Most of us are more than familiar with the pain associated with seeing a history tree explode in your face and you’re staring down the barrel of a day’s worth of rework for a seemingly innocuous design change. Wildfire 5 looks like it’ll give you a much improved set of feedback about what’s happening, what’s causing the failure and help you work through it with better diagnostics.

Elsewhere on the modelling front, there’s a new Rib tool that’ll draft and fillets (ok, rounds if you’re a Pro/E user), will extend to part walls automatically and you’ve got a lot more freedom in how you define the core geometry (so you can include multiple loops and intersecting paths). What else? Curvature continuous fillets/round. Sketch Points can be used for feature placement in a pattern.

Brian didn’t talk about this, but the slides show an approximate offset feature is being added. when you’re shelling or offsetting geometry, you can often have the feature fail because of small faces, of too tight fillets or complex surfaces, so being able to ‘fudge it’ makes a lot of sense, to let you get the work done, particularly if they’re not external or critical surfaces in terms of appearance or aesthetic quality. There’s also been some work done on the definition of welded forms, with new Weld features (such as spot, slot/plug, fillet and groove), as well as your ability to document those features.

There’s better mechanism models on their way with support coming for slot motors, dynamic gears, belts and 3D contact. The last one I’ll talk up is how Pro/E works with other systems. Wildfire 5 will see new import tools for Inventor and SolidWorks data, better support for exchanging 3D notes and annotations and other non-geometric metadata.

Detailing: Here’s a strange one. The Pro/E Detailing environment is getting a complete overhaul. Using the Ribbon UI framework. This looks interesting, but you do have to wonder why just one single part of Pro/E is getting the Ribbon, while others aren’t, some are built into the Dashboard, and even the Menu Mapper still pops up in others. Isn’t that going to make life a little more complex than it should? Whatever you’re thought on that, the ability to organise command access into task-based work-flow makes a lot of sense for drawing production. Over and above UI, there’s been work done on the drawing tree to give you more information about the documents you’re working on.

* My apologies for the quality of the images that came with this. For some bizarre reason, PTC just love taking a powerpoint, stuffing it inside a PDF and not giving you the raw image files.

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PTC Media + Analyst event 2009: Santa Cruz Bicycles

Published 14 January 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: simulation, ptc, proengineer, promechanica, promanufacture

#3: Joe Graney, Engineering and Quality Director at Santa Cruz Bicycles has been talking about how the company moved from using AutoCAD to Pro/Engineer, to step up the quality of the products they build. Whereas other divisions of the company (Santa Cruz is a name that will be very familiar to anyone that’s ever been into Skating) are lifestyle brands, his team are serious about quality, professional products. As the company’s web-site About section says “All the marketing hype in the world won’t make a poorly designed bike handle well. Likewise, all the 3-D modeling software and metalworking technology in the world won’t amount to much unless the people directing it are serious about building truly great bicycles.

Santa Cruz was founded to build best in class full suspension bikes that are more efficient for riding uphill and faster downhill without sacrificing durability. According to Joe, the forces that act on bike, compared to a motorbike, are much more complex because of the cyclical nature of the loading on the frame and ride. Santa Cruz’ bikes now feature a four bar linkage (as opposed to a single linkage) that controls suspension actuation in a more efficient manner. Their manufacturing is split across the US, Taiwan and China, which as Joe says, “presents a whole new set of challenges.

In terms of current design challenges, the primary requirement is for lightweight, high strength bicycles for very demanding consumers. He also talked about how suspension design is tied to mechanical design and aesthetic quality. Apparently, the team don’t employ industrial designers, but the engineers are perfectly aware of the requirements for the bikes to look distinctive). In terms of production challenges, the products have a very high tooling cost, long lead times for design changes. Perhaps the biggest challenge for the design team is simply time. The bikes have a short market life-cycle (36 months or less), a limited purchase window (for the race season) which all lead to a 14 month design cycle. The company’s toolkit includes Wildfire 4.0, Pro/Mechanica and Mechanism, Behavioral modeling , ISDX surfacing and Pro/Manufacturing.

All testing, design, simulation and NC programing is done with that set of tools and with the heavy requirement for simulation, the ability to pass native solid and surface data (something more common now that they’re transitioning to carbon fibre based frames), is key. Another interesting thing that came out was the benefit of using graphical output from simulation to communicate with non-english speaking team members overseas.

Also in terms of data sharing, according Joe, Pro/E has become the standard in the bike manufacturing community, so data sharing has standardised native Pro/E data, with many using the shrink wrap tools to hide any proprietary data.

They’ve managed to shorten product design time from 22 to 14 months.Suspension design iterations have increased from

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100 per model. In terms of product benefits, the distinctive look of the bikes makes Santa Cruz unique in a very competitive market and warranty claims have decreased by 70%. The company is launching its first carbon fibre model later this month and its thought to be the lightest and strongest on the market.

In terms of moving into the future, Santa Cruz is looking to use PLM On Demand to help the group streamline communication between Asia based production staff, manufacturing partners and California based design teams and of course to ride bikes and win more races.

Want to see these things in action? Here’s a video:

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Bunkspeed helps launch Tesla Roadster Sports Edition

Published 14 January 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: rendering, visualisation, bunkspeed, hypershot, tesla motors, big shiny images

Bunkspeed just announced that Tesla Motors is using HyperShot and HyperDrive for the creation of all launch imagery of their all-new Tesla Roadster Sports Edition. This vehicle is being launched this month at NAIAS 2009 in Detroit.

According to the press release, “When Tesla Motors was presented with the unique opportunity to secure a booth at this year’s Detroit auto show, the company decided to use this event to launch their new roadster in a completely distinct way. The company decided on an all-virtual launch of their car which will become available in the spring of 2009. Considering the short amount of time to prepare for the event, the design and marketing team at Tesla Motors was looking for a quick and efficient way to create photographic images of the highest quality from their 3D digital data. Bunkspeed’s HyperDrive and HyperShot were the obvious choice.

Something else in the press release that I found fascinating was a comment from Franz von
Holzhausen, Chief Designer of Tesla Motors. He commented “The Bunkspeed tools integrate seamlessly within Tesla’s workflow. We make quick decisions on digital models and want to carry the use and interaction with digital models for interior and exterior work through the entire design process. I personally use HyperShot on my MacBook Pro. I love how quickly and easily I can evaluate the design in real-time with photographic quality.”

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge fan of what Bunkspeed are doing with HyperShot. Rendering is so typically a difficult and time consuming process and as a result, is often used sparingly. By make it more efficient, not only in terms of assigning materials and setting up shots of a product, but also calculating results in a very efficient manner, what they’ve done is do exactly what Franz points out - they’ve made rendering a decision making tool.

To learn more about the Tesla Roadster Sports Edition and their use of Bunkspeed’s
technology, visit Tesla Motors booth at the NAIAS 2009 in Detroit from January 11-25.

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