The productivity of designers and the innovation of manufacturers
Having your parts selected by designers is everything a manufacturer dreams of! But how can this happen?
For maximum clarity in this article, I will go back to the past to describe how it all used to be and to explain this view even for those who were not working in design at that time.
Learning about CAD
In the early 1990s, as a mechanical engineering student, I came across CAD (computer-aided design). It was for a program that could facilitate the design of a centrifugal pump rotor, which was an assignment in my hydraulic machinery course. I was amazed at the CAD features. Use of that tool for drawing was a feature that caught my attention, because up to that point I only had a drawing board, paper, pencil, T-square, compass, set square and the like for my drawings. It was my first major step forward in the project setting!
The 3D universe
Excited with CAD and always looking to improve so that I might spend more time designing solutions that were simpler and faster to manufacture, I came across CAD 3D in 2003. I immediately understood the benefits I would have with that tool in my hands, and I began to investigate existing options in the market and the hardware resources they required. By mid-2004, I was involved in intensive training with my reseller, where I had just acquired my first license for 3D CAD software. This was certainly my second major step as a designer!
The parts library
In an Internet search after 2 years of hard work migrating from 2D to 3D, I found a company in France that used CDs to supply various 3D parts from different manufacturers. Amazed at this, I quickly requested a copy, which cost me nothing in addition to its other benefits! A few weeks later, I received the package of CDs containing the proficiently diagrammed art. I could not believe what I saw, and I began to imagine what all this would mean to me. Several bookshelves filled with often bulky and heavy printed catalogs were swiftly making room for CDs with 3D CAD models of the parts as well as 2D views for those still using 2D CAD.
A new perspective opens up
It was at that moment when I realized that I would be reading technical information from catalogs in PDF files from that point onward and that, after selecting the model I needed, I would simply consult the disks I received from Europe to choose the appropriate 3D CAD file. That was it. All that would remain at that point would be for me to integrate it into my project. I instantly realized how much time I would save, since I had been spending hours consulting printed catalogs to create 3D models of the commercial parts I would use in my project. Without a doubt, I could see in this process my third major step forward as a machine designer!
But there is still room for further improvement…
Good progress has been made since then, with 3D CAD software becoming easier to use and offering more features. In the meantime, Internet access has become even more widespread, with cost savings and increased download and upload speeds. Why am I telling you this? Frankly, as with any other profession, a machine designer’s life requires adaptation of our routines and specific situations. Delivering projects over the weekend to meet deadlines is certainly still a situation designers often experience.
And there has been improvement!
So far, so good. But what happens when we need something for our project during weekends, evenings and all-night work? Remember my European CDs? These were of course no longer suitable since, using the fast and inexpensive Internet, manufacturers and distributors were placing their CAD configurators and parts libraries online 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Another leap forward, keeping up with current technology and knowledge!
Designers who create and manufacturers that innovate!
Today we have access to much that has evolved in the machine design business, and we designers can finally think about developing better products. But parallel to this evolution is the innovation of manufacturers who are changing every day, focused on providing us with even more resources. Today, besides supplying us with 3D CAD models of the parts they manufacture, they offer us options to submit our quotations and even make purchases via their websites.
A win-win relationship
With rich and well-organized content created to meet the demands of machine designers, manufacturers provide virtually all necessary information online. Where ‘fast’ delivery once took a week or two from specifying a part to quoting and buying it, all this can now be done in a few minutes. Productivity and practicality for the designer/buyer and sales at far lower cost to the manufacturers/sellers, who enjoy 24/7 access to content wherever in the world they wish to sell their product!
My personal testimonial
nearly 30 years’ involvement in developing engineering projects, I always
observed that my clients offered me more than one supplier option to specify
the parts they needed. If a pneumatic cylinder was required in a project, for
example, my clients would send me a vendor list of the manufacturers they
trusted, from which I could specify the cylinder I needed.
Of course, after discovering commercial parts libraries in 2006, I always used vendors that could make my life as a machine designer easier by providing me with configurators and ready-made CAD files of their parts as well as all necessary technical information – without the need for even a phone call. This also satisfied my clients, who could often quote or buy with the click of a button and receive finished projects sooner.
A reflection to wrap up…
And you, fellow designer – are you also seeking manufacturers to make your life easier? Or are you still working as we did years ago? And are you, the manufacturer, already assisting us by providing your content in the format we need (3D CAD and 2D)? Or are you still making excuses regarding innovation and being selected by us, the designers? This is a good thing for all of us to think about, since we all need to innovate!