Repeats and close calls.
That summarizes the results of the most recent Design News and Global Design News reader surveys to determine the best global suppliers.
Combining the responses from readers of both magazines showed that for the third straight year readers worldwide believe Autodesk (CAD), DuPont (resins), SKF (bearings), Siemens (industrial controls and electric motors/drives), Parker Hannifin (fluid power), and Thomson Industries (linear technology) are the industry leaders in their respective technologies.
But while those companies continue their dominance in the combined industry-leadership rankings, some found their competitors close on their heels, indicating once again that design engineers across the globe believe they're blessed with several vendors who can meet their need for quality tools, components, and materials.
As was the case for the last two years, this most recent polling went by mail to 6,000 design engineers, half of whom read Design News and half of whom read Global Design News , which circulates in Europe and Asia.
The survey asked readers to rank companies in several industries by best technology, most cost-competitive pricing, and best customer service, then pick an overall industry leader. The Design News Research Department calculated the results from each magazine separately, then merged them to find the worldwide leaders.
Survey results showed that size is a big factor in favorability ratings. Autodesk, with perhaps the largest distributor base in the CAD arena, emerged as the only undisputed industry-leadership winner in both the individual and combined magazine results. GE and European giant Siemens were the only companies to score highly in two technologies. GE actually finished close to Siemens for overall worldwide leadership in electric motors/drives.
In fluid power, Parker Hannifin took top honors in overall worldwide leadership, but was followed closely by Mannesmann-Rexroth, a company that is strong in Europe and Asia. Danfoss, Festo, and SMC also placed very high in technology leadership in the Global Design News version of the study.
And in computer workstations, IBM and Hewlett- Packard were in a virtual dead heat as overall technology leaders in the combined Design News / Global Design News tally.
Here is a closer look at the winners and rankings, by technology category:
Autodesk continues its run as overall industry leader in the minds of Design News and Global Design News readers. But, the company had to settle for a three-way tie with SolidWorks and PTC as the supplier with the best technology in the Design News -only results. Global Design News readers added IBM/ Dassault to that list of statistical equals for best technology.
Inventor is Autodesk's newest CAD platform. Purpose built for 3D mechanical design, the software purportedly provides breakthrough capabilities in ease of use, large assembly performance, and collaboration. Autodesk says Inventor's Adaptive Technology makes 3D practical. The latest version, Release 4, concentrates on helping engineers move from 2D to 3D solid modeling, and includes over 150 enhancements.
"Autodesk's leadership derives from our close relationship and commitment to our customers and business partners," says Robert Kross, vice president of the company's manufacturing group. "We work closely with both groups to understand engineering problems and business opportunities."
IBM squeaked by Hewlett-Packard as overall industry leader in the combined Design News and Global Design News results, but the vote was so close that it's a statistical tie. They were followed, closely, by Dell, Compaq, Sun Microsystems, Silicon Graphics, and Gateway.
IBM's leading workstation is the IntelliStation M Pro. It runs on Intel's 1.5 GHz Pentium 4 processors, providing boosted graphics power. Its Intel NetBurst™microarchitecture uses an 850 chipset with up to 2GB ECC Rambus memory to deliver data to the Rapid Execution Engine and enhanced floating point/multimedia unit. Designed for easy expansion, the IntelliStation M Pro chassis accommodates six adapters and 7 storage devices, fed by a 340W power supply and cooled by up to four fans.
"One of our key initiatives is to make our award-winning IntelliStation products available when and where our customers need them," says Rick Rudd, worldwide marketing product manager for IntelliStation. "We are pleased to be recognized for our leadership in this key aspect of what it takes to be a leader in the worldwide workstation marketplace."
Hewlett Packard offers a range of three UNIX workstations and a host of NT workstations appropriate for design engineering applications. The top of the UNIX line is the J6000, which uses two processors and HP's fx10 graphics card to achieve blazing speed for compute-intensive tasks such as simulation and animation. "It's a pretty hot performer," says Glynn Sisson, HP product manager for UNIX workstations. "If you're into serious FEA, the J6000 is it."
DuPont bested some 20 companies in the Design News / Global Design News polling for overall industry leader in engineering resins. Finishing second was BASF, due to its strong showing in Europe. In fact, Global Design News readers said that BASF was the resin company with the best technology. Filling out the rest of the top six in the combined overall-industry-leader rankings, in order, were GE Plastics, Hoechst, Dow, and Bayer.
DuPont credits its strong showing to its mantra that customers shouldn't just get more plastics, they should get more out of their plastics. "We provide materials solutions that offer greater functionality," stresses Walter L. Fields III, vice president of global marketing for engineering thermoplastics. To do so, the company applies its acclaimed expertise in fundamental science to endow seemingly familiar materials with enhanced performance.
Nowhere is this strategy more apparent than in the company's nylon portfolio. New grades of Zytel HTN target structural parts with a combination of stiffness, dimensional stability, and temperature resistance. According to Technology Vice President William Hsu, Zytel HTN materials in the 54G Series have a tensile modulus as high as 11.5 GPa at 100C with elongation values of roughly 3%. Or, consider Zytel DMX, nylons that have been modified to increase hydrolysis resistance for better dimensional stability. Here, too, DuPont has added functionality by rolling out conductive grades of the material for EMI/RFI shielding applications. And notions of plastics that do more doesn't stop with nylon. The last year saw DuPont introduce new acetals whose properties—especially chemical resistance—have been optimized for fuel-system components. New liquid-crystal polymers from DuPont appeared with low enough warp to open up new possibilities in electrical connectors.
In the world of fluid power, Parker Hannifin gets the nod as worldwide overall industry leader, according to the combined responses of Design News and Global Design News readers. The company is also dominant in the U.S.-only rankings from the Design News survey.
Among Parker Hannifin's hot new products is the Integrated Piston™. It combines a piston made from cold-drawn carbon steel, a machined bearing with wide surface area, and a seal matched to the application requirements into a single unit. The bearing is molded onto the piston core. The company reports that the product reduces side-load effects and guards against contamination and cylinder drift in industrial machinery as well as mobile equipment.
"We have an extensive combination of motion and control technologies, widely diversified in both product categories and geographical markets," says Duane E. Collins, chairman and chief executive officer.
Siemens topped 30 companies to win overall-industry-leader honors in the combined results from the Design News and Global Design News surveys. In the Design News -only results, Baldor won for most costcompetitive pricing and best customer service, and was in a virtual tie with GE for overall industry leader. Siemens, with its strong European roots, swept the voting on all questions in the survey of Global Design News readers.
Building upon 30 years of ongoing engineering innovations and improvements to its SIMOREG line of dc converters, Siemens Energy & Automation recently introduced the 6RA70 DC Master adjustable speed drive.
"Customers told us they were looking for more consistency in their end products. To help them achieve this goal, we concentrated our engineering efforts on improving the drive's performance characteristics," says Craig Nelson, dc product manager. For example, Nelson says that the drive's speed control rise time of 25 ms is among the fastest in the industry. The faster the time, the more precise control over motor speed fluctuations.
The company's newest drive is available in five different voltage ranges to accommodate different international requirements, and conforms to both European and U.S. current ratings.
Runner-up GE Fanuc is concentrating its efforts on unique control combinations, such as its OCS—a PLC/operator interface/ motion controller in one unit. The advantage for design engineers, says Walt Koetter, manager of motion business, is that this approach reduces both panel space and wiring, and also minimizes system complexity.
Among GE's latest product offerings is its S2K series of brushless servo and stepper modules, which feature DeviceNet communications, all-digital drive technology, and control capabilities in an integrated package.
Siemens also took top honors for overall industry leadership in industrial controls, beating 13 other companies. Rockwell Automation made a strong showing, largely due to its leadership in the U.S. Honeywell also did well in the U.S. results.
Sensors and machine-integrated safety products are among the product lines that distinguish Siemens as the world's industrial controls leader, says Larry Westbrook, industrial control products vice president and general manager for the company's Energy and Automation Group. "Once you install a sensor or safety product, you never want to think about it again," he says. Siemens' designs anticipate customer requirements and outlive the equipment in which they work, he adds. Examples include the Siguard Machine Safety line—"the most complete machine safety line in the U.S.," he says—and BERO sensing devices. The latter see, feel, hear, or touch according to process requirements.
Once again, SKF swept all honors in the combined Design News/Global Design News voting, winning for best technology, most cost competitive, and overall industry leadership. As expected, because of its European base, the company did similarly well in the Global Design News -only balloting. But Timken did well too, winning overall-industry-leadership honors in the Design News -only results. NSK won for most cost competitive in the Global Design News portion of the survey.
"One of SKF's most valuable assets is our in-depth knowledge of rotating equipment applications," says spokesman Warren Gondolf. The company plans to leverage this technical expertise and offer added value to customers in terms of electronic design, systems modeling, advanced calculations, and virtual testing, he says.
Among SKF's latest products is the BEAST, an acronym for Bearing Simulation Tool. A 3D simulation program, it performs computer analysis of any bearing type under any load condition, says the company. Engineers can use BEAST for analyzing minimum load or pre-loaded bearings, evaluating new cage designs for mid-size ball bearings, and analyzing bearing damage due to high impact loads in a starter motor application.
Thomson Industries was the winner for overall industry leadership in linear technology, according to the combined results from both magazines. Following closely was SKF. Also doing well in the industrial-leadership rankings were Parker Hannifin, THK, NSK Precision, and Deutsche Star.
Thomson's AccuSlide™stages, fitted with steel reinforced timing belt drives, are designed for high speed, long stroke applications in the packaging, food processing, and general automation markets. Belt driven stages are able to reach speeds of 3 m/s without the concerns of whirling vibration and column loading that are inherent in ball and lead screw drives, the company says. Although the positioning accuracy of 0.2 mm per 300 mm is not comparable to that of ball screws, this accuracy is generally acceptable in these applications. The belt driven stage, used in combination with brushless servo motor/drives and the integral speed reducing gearhead, give the machine builder a cost-efficient alternative to other technologies such as linear motors, Thomson says.
" Design News is the only magazine in our field that could possibly survey engineers in all the major design centers of the world," says Publisher Larry Maloney. "Once again, our survey results show the vibrance and strength of the vendor base design engineers rely on worldwide."