Finnish elevator and escalator company KONE started moving from 2D AutoCAD to 3D with Autodesk Inventor version 7 in 2002. The company has since moved up with each successive release of Inventor and deployed version 11 in November. KONE Mechanical Engineer Donald Gradin describes this most recent transition.
How is KONE using Autodesk Inventor? We are currently designing all features of EcoMod (KONE’s escalator modernization solution product line) in the U.S. and several models of our Heavy Duty or Transit escalators in the U.K. That includes a method of document control through Autodesk Vault 5, a complete data management system included in Inventor. We use Vault 5 for storing not only models and release drawings but also documents specific to our industry such as abstracts and correspondence. Vault existed in previous Inventor versions, but it wasn’t really publicized. Now, it immediately installs and has a plug-in for Microsoft Office, so we can add documents directly with no Autodesk interaction.
Does Inventor improve the design process? We’re experiencing more freedom with Inventor’s functional design because now we aren’t restricted to making calculations before we actually start a design. If a two-gear set is required, the Design Accelerator portion of Inventor allows us to pair the gears in respect to a given ratio and then design the housing to fit into a unit rather than making the housing fit the gears. Although this can be achieved through calculation and trial and error fit, the inherent geometry within Design Accelerator allows us to only input the minimum requirements into a table and leave the calculations to the Inventor program. Quick and easy.
What features would you like to see added to Autodesk Inventor? We’re pleased that native translators have been added for models created in SolidWorks and PTC’s Pro/Engineer. This functionality allows us to harvest and edit the model geometry from solid entities created by these programs rather than creating visually correct but non-functioning models. In previous releases, large assemblies were a constant irritant due to the massive amount of features and constraints causing constant memory issues. We’re trying to get everything standardized in Inventor, and while it isn’t difficult, it is time consuming. If you don’t have issues, you’re not using the software to its highest potential. Autodesk wants users to drive (the product) hard and provide feedback for later releases. We intend to do just that.
What other products have you considered for 3D design? We looked at PTC’s Pro/Engineer and Wildfire. Pro/Engineer had too steep of a learning curve to allow us to be productive right away and it wouldn’t run on our workstations as they were configured. When we looked at Wildfire it had just been released and we didn’t see any advantages over Inventor. Also, because the majority of our legacy data is in DWG format, we’d still have to invest in a translator.
How does Inventor compare to AutoCAD? No comparison. Inventor is hands-down the winner in both 2D and 3D design. The flexibility incorporated into the 3D package filters over to 2D flawlessly and provides one of the best drafting packages I’ve seen in a long time. This from a user who started with AutoCAD version 2.62. That was the last revision capable of running on an XT platform at 10 mHz, without a coprocessor. That was a machine that wasn’t as fast as a $4.00 scientific calculator. In fact, your cell phone and iPod combined have more power than our first mainframes.