Probing the structure of atoms and unlocking the mysteries of materials are among the lofty goals for researchers at the Advanced Light Source Div. of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Working at the molecular level, the ALS strives to look deeper and deeper into matter using a third-generation electron microscope that’s still under development.
It will offer 10 times finer resolution than previous generations in use today, giving researchers the ability to see at the nanoscale level. At the ALS, scientists work side-by-side with engineers to develop these experimental science products. Projects many times don’t even start out with a scope — they start out with an idea.
“Often the scientists don’t have a good definition of a project, they just know where they want to start,” says Nicholas Kelez, ALS Mechanical Engineering deputy group leader. “The design evolves out of what they are shown and what the engineers are able to do. It is a very dynamic development process.”
To do this, the teams are making greater use of 3D modeling and product lifecycle management software, which aids in the transition from 2D to 3D. These transitions are a key factor, since design reuse is an important aspect of the development projects.
“Almost all of the hardware is repurposed from past projects. These parts have many man years of development,” says Robert M. Duarte, ALS ME Group leader.
Most of these projects involve several engineers and designers simultaneously working on different parts of the same design. In the past, it has been difficult to make sure everybody was working with the latest information.
Even if a 3D model was reused, the drawings still needed to be redone since there was no way to ensure the integrity of the 2D-3D data. “The speed of our workflow has improved electronic approval and release,” Duarte says.
Now, when the engineering department releases drawings and models for procurement or manufacturing, it is handled by data management software from CoCreate Software Inc. of Fort Collins, CO. It shares completed design information with the organization’s system of record using an automated process that creates PDFs for released drawings and transfers 2D and 3D design data to the document control center. There, the rest of the organization can reach the correct version of information.
Handling all this information for the diverse operation is a big job. The data management system keeps track of a research facility that consists of three accelerators, 36 beam lines and a constantly changing number of end-stations. In addition, the facility welcomes more than 1,900 researchers from universities, industries and government laboratories around the world every year.
Organized data management allows rapid switching between all the projects and the 110 different coordinate systems that are needed to track and control the critical alignment tolerances of the various beam line and end-station projects.
It’s not unusual for one of the researchers to use previous designs without notifying the original developer. For example, one current project is modifying a beam line Duarte originally built 10 years ago. “One of the scientists pulled up a copy of my design and showed me all of the modifications he made. I never even knew he was working on the model. It was a quite complex thing, and he basically redesigned it all. They are months ahead of the game right now,” Duarte says.
Like many engineers, he continues to marvel at the rapid change in development styles that have occurred since the initial beam lines were built. “The very early days of the project were pencil and paper, then they began using HP ME10 for 2D drafting in the late 80s,” Duarte says.
ALS also recently deployed CoCreate’s OneSpace.net Web service to support collaboration with outside vendors. “In the past, vendors would come and visit here on design reviews. But already, we’ve tried remote online meetings with optics vendors and the sessions were quite successful,” says Duarte.
Once released by engineering, the product data management system automatically publishes a PDF of the file, a copy of the native 2D and 3D models and the metadata with all the document information. It is automatically published on the ALS Document Control Center website where it is available to the machine shops, procurement department and others on the project. Offering a searchable database makes it more efficient for scientists and technicians to find information that supports experiments.
As often happens with large development projects, human factors were in some ways a larger challenge than technical issues. A key issue at ALS is how to develop a work flow, business rules and a PDM structure, then get people to adopt it. Determining the best way to manage multiple systems took a while, as did using the PDM parts’ structure to determine which of the many computer systems are used.
All of the beam lines involved in the electron microscope have unique coordinate systems. “Being able to load any project in the same coordinate system (as opposed to the global system) allows us to rapidly repurpose parts from past projects into new projects in the right location while still maintaining their global location,” Duarte says.
Though improving research is a key benefit of using the new software structure, Duarte notes that using PLM and data management gives ALS the ability to find and leverage existing designs. That makes it easier to lay out a conceptual design rapidly and provide a rough cost estimate based on past projects. “This has often been important to put a case together for project funding requests and feasibility studies,” Duarte adds.
//Check out the links below for more info//
Get more information on the Advanced Light Source Div. of the Lawrence Berkeley National Library
Get more information about CoCreate