Product lifecycles for high-tech electronic imaging equipment have shrunk drastically. Development times that used to be almost 10 years have now fallen to three, as companies strive to introduce successful products quickly to survive.
Japan’s Dainippon Screen Manufacturing is a good example. The $2.3 billion company produces products ranging from semiconductor equipment to printing machinery to computer-to-plate (CTP) digital printers, and its managers are always searching for new ideas to streamline the development process.
“The competition is intense and we are challenged to quickly release popular products with high quality,” says Hirofumi Tano, a manager with Dainippon’s Media Technology Co.
With those pressures mounting, Tano’s division chose CoCreate’s product development platform to speed the introduction of its PlateRite 8800II, the company’s flagship model in its computer-to-plate (CTP) thermal plate recorder lineup for graphics arts. Besides supporting a variety of output sizes, the PlateRite 8800II is equipped with state-of-art technology to output an impressive 30 plates per hour. Among its innovations, the system uses the grating light valve (GLV), a diffractive MEMS device that serves as the spatial light modulator for the plate recorder. The technology creates bright, high-contrast images with superior color reproduction.
Prior to these advances, creating plates for printing presses required a multi-step plate production process that involved first printing the document onto film. Dainippon Screen’s thermal plate recorders transform the workflow of production printing by imaging digital documents directly onto printing plates. Result: lower production costs and improved workflow efficiency.
Moving from 2D to 3D
The Media Technology Company first implemented 3D product development in the ‘90s. The momentum behind 3D design was increasing due to intensifying market competition, and the company standardized on CoCreate OneSpace Modeling.
The deciding factor in choosing the CoCreate platform, say Dainippon managers, was its ease of use and quick learning curve for engineers. Users’ skills typically improved following only two days of training, allowing them to be left to their own to focus on design.
Although little time was required for training, the design environment was not transformed overnight. This was because there was still strong support for 2D in the organization.
Hirofumi Tano, who was responsible for promoting the implementation of 3D design in the Media Technology Co., came to the conclusion that “transforming awareness is more important than transforming technology” and gathered employees in a CAD committee to conduct additional talks.
Around that time, the benefits of 3D product development began to appear. The molded component that forms the CTP head was designed in 3D using OneSpace Modeling. The design was sent to post processing following detailed analysis and moved all the way into production without the mold being sent back for modification. At the time, it was normal to have two or three mold revisions. The benefit to Dainippon: a savings of tens of thousands of dollars in mold revision expenses.
Accelerating the Move to Mechatronics
The success that the engineers achieved with OneSpace Modeling caused the use of 3D to spread quickly within the company. While Dainippon Screen relies on OneSpace Modeling for speed within 3D product development, it is CoCreate OneSpace Model Manager that orchestrates the overall development process for the company.
Development of high-tech electronics, such as the PlateRite 8800II, combines the expertise of a broad group of disciplines for mechanical, optical, electrical and software systems. Just as many disciplines come together to create one product, Dainippon Screen uses one solution to collectively manage all 3D components, wiring, circuit board diagrams and firmware source code that go into the development of products.
Engineers report that well-managed revision and state control have not only increased sharing of information across the design team, but also shortened development times through better process management. In addition, non-engineering departments that leverage design information, such as purchasing, were also able to learn OneSpace Model Manager easily. The software is now linked to the company’s ERP system, serving as the front end of the technology development center and streamlining the company’s lifecycle management process.
Dainippon also has extended collaboration to include CoCreate OneSpace.net, which the company is effectively using to conduct design reviews focused on analysis and digital simulation.
The time that this suite of software tools has saved in travel reduction and fewer design snafus is boosting expectations within the company. Dainippon already has made plans to expand the use of the software to its plate and mold partners, subcontracted designers and its CTP production plant in China.