3(D) of hearts

Reading, PA -Ten years after moving to 3D CAD, engineers at Arrow International are moving to 3D CAD.

Theoretically, the medical devices company had moved to 3D back in 1987, in an effort to keep costs down, quality up, and beat their competition to market. But more than 10 years later, Arrow noticed that many of its engineers had found the training too hard, and were still designing on paper-then handing their plans to a CAD operator to create the model-which caused translation errors and expensive, last-minute change orders, says Benton Levengood, Arrow's engineering leader, CAE operations.

Arrow makes parts for the left ventricular assist device (LVAD), an implanted electromechanical device that helps a person's heart to pump blood. A cannula is the small tube portion of a catheter that attaches this pump to the heart. Although the engineers at Arrow have no problem designing these complex cannulas and other medical devices, they were having big trouble making the transition from 2D drafting to 3D CAD.

So Arrow scrapped its old high-end, UNIX-based CAD system and went shopping for an easy-to-use, mid-range 3D modeler. They settled on Solid Edge, from Unigraphics Solutions (St. Louis, MO).

"Now that we've got this Windows-based system into the hands of more users, we have eliminated many of the problems we had in the past," says Levengood. "We're seeing less redesign and mold rework, and that translates into faster development."

With their new software, the number of CAD users at Arrow jumped from 12 to 45 within 18 months, thanks largely to ease-of-use features like fewer keystrokes, an intuitive user interface, and locating the program on the desktop. They also found time savings in communicating with their suppliers.

While some operations-like curving a helical feature around a bend, or designing a complex valve flange-are tougher in mid-range than high-end CAD, the benefits more than compensate. "You take a great designer and give them the proper tool, and there's a lot they can do with it," says Levengood.

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