Collaboration for SMEs

Smaller companies can collaborate efficiently on joint projects between designers, suppliers and customers too. Tom Shelley reports

While large manufacturers can manage how things are done and with which systems, engineering SMEs must be more flexible and resourceful. Large companies often have their own initiatives and PLM systems to manage changing engineering data and accelerate development; smaller companies need a more modest approach.
But it can be done, as many products are the result of collaborations between teams in different countries. Take Cambridge Design Partnership. It has leading edge technologies but has to collaborate with larger firms in the US.
Matt Schumann, director and founder, gives an example of Pelikan Technologies, with which his company has developed the Pelikan Sun automatic lancing device for diabetic blood sugar monitoring. Like many firms engaged in engineering, it has to communicate CAD data.
“In a couple of cases we have become a satellite to the customer company’s CAD data vault,” he says. “This has been very important to us because it allows us to work with their teams on an engineer-to-engineer level.”
Internally, the company is a SolidWorks and Pro/Engineer user – and that works.
“One client has a different system, with whom we are working on a new product,” he says. “They are happy for us to work in SolidWorks. If we had a client who insisted on our working in some other system we would buy a seat of it and hire somebody with suitable knowledge.”
Meanwhile, Aero Technic Design, which offers a design and certification service for interior modifications to civil aircraft, says that combining 3D models and 2D sketches using Solid Edge is helping with visualisation (pictured).
Cabin reconfigurations mean that revised layouts must comply with regulations. It uses Solid Edge to combine 3D models and 2D sketches positioned in the 3D environment using true aircraft coordinates within the layout.
Engineering director and head of design Simon Jeffery explains: “We can view the main elements in 3D but keep the less important areas as 2D cut-outs so we can work rapidly. In most cases with Solid Edge we can create the initial suggested layout in line with requirements in a day.”
The next stage involves sharing a proposed layout with the customer. The layout is provided as 2D drawings to the airline engineers and as 3D views to the flight operations staff, who can then visualise the area. “It may be that the customer has rethought aspects of the layout or wants to add additional elements such as class dividers. Solid Edge allows us to make these sorts of changes very rapidly and smoothly,” says Jeffery.
Features such as simplified parts and assemblies enable the designers to work efficiently on models with large numbers of patterned parts. By reducing the detail where it is not needed, these features reduce the processing power required from the PC and allow the designers to move around the model quickly.

Tom Shelley

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