Span Tech LLC produce The Designer System family of modular plastic chain curving conveyors. They wanted their units to be physically interfaced to a broad range of installed machines at the customer’s plant—machines old or new, with their own dimensions, feed and connection requirements. The challenge was to engineer and design custom units quickly.
SolidWorks design solutions from Intercad demonstrated a superior interface and the broadest range of add-on functionality for assembly, plastics and sheet metal.
Span Tech LLC wanted to capture all the design intent and automate the process in a user-friendly environment. They explored using just SolidWorks and Excel, but creating a solution was not practical.
DriveWorks, the design automation for SolidWorks, creates new, unique MicroSpan units from customer inputs. The range of variations is large, including various transfer widths, solid or split transfer chains, short or long chains and drives on left or right. Each unique design is created in moments from the rules and options in DriveWorks, which automatically sizes and assembles the required parts at their specified dimensions in a new SolidWorks model.
The original SolidWorks model is preserved, and the new one is saved as a record of one customer’s purchase. There are two benefits. The first is that users are able to keep a full record of each custom design, so that they can go back to it for maintenance spares or replacement parts.
The second benefit is that every new transfer design can begin with the latest revision level in SolidWorks. Every customer’s design can be viewed at the revision level in effect at the time of the order. To ease design automation, DriveWorks recommends using reference geometry, geometry defined outside a sketch or feature, through sketch lines, reference axes, planes or coordinates. These help manage assembly mates, rather than mating entities or faces. By following these suggestions and using distance mates instead of coincident or concentric, the system more easily designs optional parts, subassemblies and features contingent on customer input. They can be modelled or suppressed without compromising overall assembly relationships.
Excel-based functions help DriveWorks capture engineering design intent behind the geometry. Some of the unique aspects are not dimension-driven, but derived from the product on the conveyor, including weight, size, centre of gravity and distance between products on the conveyor.
DriveWorks benefits are as follows:
- 90% of engineering time eliminated
- Products now cost 12-15% less
- Customers enquiries - drawings available the next day
No language-based programming is needed. Users can adapt their current Excel calculations as well as existing SolidWorks models. It is easy to make forms and dialogues for any level.