It's a wrap: Packaging-machine builders
use 3D solid modeling to save design time and increase design flexibility.
Engineers at GEI used SolidEdge to design the Flowtronic 120, which
features servo-drive control. The machine functions alone or as part of a
system for wrapping up to 1,000 packages a minute. Engineers created
exploded assemblies in SolidEdge so machinests could identify parts and
where they go.
In the packaging industry, CAD could just as well stand for Computer-Aided Draping—the use of software to design systems that more efficiently package a range of products.
In fact, CAD has become as indispensable in packaging-machinery design as it is in other more traditional applications such as automotive, aerospace, and medical.
Just ask Carl Weber, senior product design engineer of Automated Packaging Systems (www.autobag.com). "3D CAD helps us quite a bit on the design end from being able to do a lot of electronic prototyping, fit-check analysis and making prototype parts," he says. APS uses Pro/ENGINEER from PTC (www.ptc.com) to design its packaging systems. These improvements help the company save time and money, dramatically increasing productivity.
Beyond these advances, APS has enjoyed other, less expected benefits. Collaboration is chief among these. "Having the data in 3D means we can share product development information with sales and marketing people. We can share concept information to gauge customer interest without having to go to the hard prototype stage," adds Weber.
The engineers also send 3D assembly instruction sheets to the manufacturing operation. "Pro/E allows us to create different exploded states so we can show the machine in an artificial state of assembly," says Al Skinner, CAD systems administrator.
Like APS, many packaging machinery manufacturers are finding 3D CAD software systems help them save time, boost efficiency, and increase collaboration. "My designs have not only gotten simpler and more cost-effective, but I've been able to create much better assemblies since I've been able to see interferences I would not have been able to before," says Marc Monaghan, design engineer for Hartness International Inc., a maker of packaging systems and conveyors in Greenville, SC Monaghan uses SolidWorks 3D modeling software. Collision and interference detection are critically important to prevent mistakes that are revealed—at great cost— only at the product assembly stage.
Fewer shop-floor snafus
For Michael Moore, avoiding costly rework at zero hour—just before and during production—has proved a major benefit. Moore, CAD manager for GEI Autowrappers Ltd. (a division of GEI International), uses Solid Edge CAD from EDS PLM Solutions. Using Solid Edge, Moore can generate detail drawings, sections and assembly drawings directly from the 3D solid model, within about 15 minutes.
Manufacturing is getting much better data than in the company's 2D days. Because any changes to the model are automatically reflected in the production drawings, the data provided to manufacturing is better. "There are a lot less errors in production," says Moore.
Like APS, GEI Autowrappers creates exploded assemblies in Solid Edge. Having better quality assemblies benefits both internal and external parties. "The assembly shop can identify parts and where they go. We're also distributing the exploded assemblies to some of the customers," adds Moore.
Customers refer to the exploded assemblies when they need to order spare parts—everything is identified, right down to the part number. GEI Autowrappers plans to include the exploded assemblies in operational and maintenance manuals for its equipment.
The power of 3D does not come overnight, however. As the companies mentioned here discovered, these CAD packages are robust and worthy of a serious training commitment. At GEI Autowrappers, for instance, the engineers did online tutorials on their own time for a few weeks to familiarize themselves with the product prior to beginning a formal four-day on-site training program.
When it comes to 3D CAD software, it's important not to give training short shrift. "Training is key," says Olivier Duterte, product manager for Hartness.