The state-of-the-art rink of today is a lot more than ice, wood, and chicken-wire fence. Sport Systems Unlimited of Ontario, Canada, is proving that every day by using SolidWorks® 3D CAD software, available from Solidtec Solutions , to drive robotic production of rink board systems that are longer lasting, more attractive and are easy to maintain.
SolidWorks automatically generates robotics and CNC code from 3D solid models. The new manufacturing approach has reduced production time of custom rinks from approximately 1,200 staff-hours per rink in 2006 to 450 staff-hours in 2009.
“We can now produce more hockey board systems more efficiently with the same amount of staff and virtually no overtime, all of which has set us apart in the industry,” said David Staines, Sport Systems director of sales and marketing. “When we have the raw material in stock, we can deliver a rink in three days. Lean manufacturing, robotics, and SolidWorks 3D CAD have also allowed us to branch out into new markets like indoor soccer, one of North America’s fastest-growing sports, and even pharmaceuticals, where partitions prevent cross-contamination of drug batches. Efficiencies realised from our new manufacturing program also positioned us for a merger that allowed us to become a preferred rink equipment supplier to the NHL.”
Sport Systems has distinguished itself among architects, builders, and rink managers with product advantages in both usage and aesthetics. The hockey boards are made of mechanically fastened anodized aluminium frames, high-density polyethylene puckboard, tempered safety glass, and stainless steel hardware. This contributes to a highly polished, rust-free appearance using the same materials as retail storefronts and essentially provides a comfortable, family-friendly atmosphere.
“Switching to SolidWorks 3D CAD was a critical move in our manufacturing transformation,” said Chris Henhoeffer, Sport System’s project manager and design coordinator. “Prior to embracing SolidWorks and 3D, the knowledge for producing a set of boards was in shop floor drawing templates and with manufacturing employees, requiring arduous fabrication steps and intensive training. Now the knowledge is inside the engineering office. SolidWorks software streams data out to robots and CNC machines via its Visual Basic for Applications interface. Line workers simply set up raw stock, punch in the SolidWorks part code, and watch the panel, part, or aluminium member be machined in a fraction of the previous time.”
Sport Systems uses DriveWorks® knowledge-based engineering software, a Certified SolidWorks Gold Partner Product, with SolidWorks for putting together customised board sizes for the job.