Engineering a brighter 3D future

Tom Shelley reports on the advantages 3D design has delivered to a traditional Scottish engineering company



3D modelling has proved a real boon to MSD Design of East Tullos, Aberdeen, when it comes to trying out a multitude of alternative designs and unearthing fast solutions.
The company designs for the oil and gas sector, and also for industries that include paper, shipping, water and telecommunications. Previously an AutoCAD user, it invested in Autodesk Inventor four years ago for all aspects of engineering design, manufacturing and installation.
“The flexibility of designing with Inventor enables us to examine more potential solutions than would have been possible using 2D drafting alone”, explains lead draughtsman Martin Tarling. “Because of the way the software handles changes, we can easily experiment with ideas early on in the design to be sure we are doing things in the most efficient way.”
As Tarling points out: “Clients always need things now, so we are always working to very short timescales”.
He offers as example the work carried out on oil rigs. “Many of the original drawings are in AutoCAD, but we can easily bring these into Inventor and quickly develop them into 3D with the frame generator, and then use this as a basis for our new designs.”
MSD was recently commissioned by Petrofac Offshore Management to design a frame for a subsea riser umbilical, so it could be hauled in and a damaged section of its outer sheath repaired.
“Inventor allowed us to model the existing rig structure quickly and accurately, based on existing drawings, and the frame generator helped greatly with this,” he says. “We could also add certain features from our survey trips, helping us to build up an accurate 3D picture of the proposed frame position. We were then able, through the use of adaptive sketches, to design the most effective route for the frame through the existing rig structure. This reduced the amount of pipe work and the work on site by minimising the amount of existing structure that had to be removed.”
However, not all MSD’s work is on offshore oil rigs, so flexibility is everything. For example, a recent project for Permastore involved the design and manufacture of a set of GRP tank covers for three sizes of tanks for Tilbury Wastewater Treatment Works. These needed to include an access walkway across the centreline of the tank and infill panels at the sides.
Using Inventor, they were able to design the walkway section of the cover for all three sizes of tank to be produced from the same basic mould.
“Because of Inventor’s parametric capability, once we had produced the design for the largest tank cover, we were able to quickly modify it by changing a few key dimensions to produce the final designs for the smaller covers,” he says.
MSD is now looking at other ways to use 3D to best advantage. For instance – working with local VAR, Imass – the company is looking at how it stores and accesses design data, and the benefits of Autodesk’s data management systems, based on Vault and Productstream.

Author
Tom Shelley

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