Lean product development means products flowing without interruptions, no wasted efforts, and design focused on products rather on the complications of the tools used to create them. Lean product development is how IT appliance manufacturer, Mirapoint, and their mechanical designer and one-man design team, Bob Robbins, keeps engineering in step with the rest of the company.
Like most designers, Robbins faces time-to-market pressures, compressed development cycles, and customers with constantly evolving product needs. But Robbins takes it all in stride with the help of a 3D product development environment from CoCreate.
OneSpace Designer Modeling is the foundation of CoCreate’s 3D design environment. Based on Dynamic Modeling, a history-free approach to 3D design, it offers both speed and flexibility so engineers like Robbins can rapidly evolve a design.
“We sometimes encounter obsolescence issues when our product’s manufacturing lifecycle outlasts the availability of off-the-shelf hardware components used in our products,” says Robbins. “When that happens, we quickly modify the design’s housing to accommodate the replacement hardware. With Designer Modeling it is very easy to do. The 3D model isn’t constrained in any way.”
Sheet Metal and Surfacing add-on design modules extend the value of 3D CAD with advanced design capabilities. Sheet metal components are a major part of hardware design for Mirapoint’s IT appliances. Using Designer Modeling and the Sheet Metal module, Robbins ensures he’s creating parts that his suppliers are tooled to manufacture.
When working with a supplier, Robbins asks for a datasheet of their tool capability and enters it into the Sheet Metal module tooling database. As Robbins designs, he has his supplier’s tooling and stamp patterns easily accessible.
In addition to embedding design for manufacturability into the design process, 3D virtual prototyping brings significant gains over a 2D-based process.
“Three-dimensional design lets us do our prototyping while the design is still in the computer. The first physical prototype we build is typically our only physical prototype,” says Robbins. “Avoiding just one extra physical prototype shortens the design process by 4-to-6 weeks, which is more significant than the thousands saved from extra prototyping efforts.”
While the Sheet Metal module is preparing a product for manufacturing, the Surfacing module helps Robbins stylize Mirapoint’s products. “The Surfacing module helps make our products look good,” says Robbins.
It also helps Robbins route cables through the tight enclosures of the appliances using freeform swoops and splines. By modeling in a full-assembly mode, Robbins can see everything and check for interferences to make sure it all fits.
Model Manager completes the 3D environment, working in the background managing assemblies and version control. It also ensures Robbins can easily reuse parts across projects. Model Manager gives an engineer confidence that work isn’t accidentally overwritten and part versions are up to date.
“We don’t just make parts, we build products,” says Robbins. “I just can’t imagine not knowing if I have the latest and greatest version of a part in the middle of design or when pulling everything together for the final product.”
Model Manager also helps Mirapoint leverage designs from previous projects. “I use Model Manger all the time to search for parts I want to reuse,” Robbins says. “Once found, I load it, change it, and save it back into Model Manger.”
Robbins adds that Model Manger paid for itself quickly just by saving time he otherwise would have spent looking for information and manually managing design data.
Dynamic Modeling and the CoCreate product suite keeps Mirapoint’s design process responsive in an industry that changes rapidly. “I can think freely with Designer Modeling and really focus on design. I estimate that CoCreate’s products make me 100% faster than history-based alternatives.”When it comes to keeping with the flow of design, optimizing products for manufacturing, and carrying previous work forward, CoCreate design software is an ideal choice for lean product development.