GROB automates manufacturing of CNC machines for the automotive industry

Product: NX CAM
Industry: Automotive

GROB-WERKE GmbH & Co. KG (GROB) is a family-owned company and leading manufacturer of production plants and CNC machines for the automotive industry, ranging from universal machining centers to fully automated production and assembly systems.

GROB faces several business challenges, including:

  • Designing leading-edge automotive production equipment
  • Using standardization to manage high customization level
  • Relying on global engineering collaboration
  • Maintaining their leadership position in competitive industry

GROB owes a large part of its success thanks to the ability to anticipate and quickly respond to changing market trends using a high level of automation. With Siemens’ Xcelerator software portfolio, GROB’s engineers can design, engineer, and manufacture production equipment and CNC machines for the automotive industry.

Automate CNC machines in the automotive industry with NX CAM

GROB engineers create a digital twin of each production machine and line using NX. They also use NX CAM to automatically create CNC programs using Feature-Based Machining. This capability helps GROB’s programmers to create a machining rule library containing standard bore types, pockets and surface definitions, including the tools required for machining operations. Before sending the CNC programs to the machine tools, the engineers simulate complete machining processes using the NX CAM’s machining simulation capabilities, ensuring error-free production on the shop floor.

To better collaborate, the engineers exchange 3D models between production facilities, using Teamcenter as the central information hub. These models are then CNC programed locally, making it easier for the engineers at each facility to adjust the CNC programs according to the available resources and equipment.

Using NX CAM for fea­ture-based machining helped us automate design and CNC programming work. Recognizing 95 percent of GROB standard bore types and 70 to 80 percent of other fea­tures, the automatic feature recognition has reduced CNC programming time by 30 percent and considerably reduced the number of different tools used.

W.A. Pfeiffer grows the business with digital manufacturing

Product: NX Manufacturing
Industry: Components

W. Andreas Pfeiffer – Maschinen- und Apparatebau manufactures precision components for a wide variety of applications such as optical devices, machinery, and medical technology. This relatively small but highly-successful company competes globally with only 25 employees and 16 CNC machines in their production facility in the picturesque town of Zirndorf, Germany.

By using the digital manufacturing capabilities of Siemens Xcelerator, W.A. Pfeiffer transformed their operation, manufacturing high-quality products and continuously growing the business, despite the highly competitive global market. 

Building a seamless digital manufacturing process

Operating as a small company, W.A. Pfeiffer faced difficulties in growing and increasing new capabilities at their location, as the facility cannot be physically expanded further. Andreas Pfeiffer, CEO, recognizes  the challenging circumstances but knows embracing digitalization would provide its operations with a competitive edge. “The goal is to achieve higher production automation and end-to-end connectivity so that we can reduce set-up times and minimize throughput times,” said Andreas Pfeiffer, CEO.

To eliminate these challenges, W.A. Pfeiffer now operates as an all-encompassing digital CAD/CAM/CNC chain to transform the business into a digital machine shop.

For W.A. Pfeiffer the Teamcenter PLM software helps with the management of all the data for the part manufacturing process, which begins with the incoming customer order. 3D data is seamlessly transferred from Teamcenter to NX CAD/CAM to generate programs for the CNC machines. Using Mcenter, formerly SINUMERIK Integrate, the CNC programs and tool lists are seamlessly transferred to production.

By integrating order planning into the digital manufacturing process, W.A. Pfeiffer witnessed immediate improvements with setup and throughput times. Opcenter APS helps them to access detailed information about production orders and monitor resource utilization.

W.A. Pfeiffer’s customer and supplier relations have significantly advanced, and internal collaboration is better streamlined by using Siemens’ range of software solutions.

High-performance machining with NX CAM    

NX CAM software helped W.A. Pfeiffer to improve productivity both during the planning and in the production phase. The company leverages NX’s advanced capabilities to create innovative high-speed machining strategies and generate machine-specific NC programs using cloud-based postprocessing.  

Thanks to the G-code-driven simulation in NX, engineers can digitally verify the generated operations. The advanced capability allows them to evaluate and optimize the processes before transferring them to production, saving setup time and increasing machine uptime. Siemens’ NX CAM helps the company run error-free and highly efficient part production on the shop floor.

The digital machine shop advantages

This highly successful yet lean company relies on the Siemens’ digital solutions to continuously grow and scale their manufacturing business. With the introduction of NX CAM, Teamcenter, Opcenter APS, and Mcenter, W.A. Pfeiffer achieved higher automation, seamless end-to-end connectivity, and shorter lead times.  

Using advanced toolpath technologies helped W. Andreas Pfeiffer reduce the machining cycle by 25% while extending tool life. I expect that we will be able to reduce setup times by up to 50% overall.

Andreas Pfeiffer, CEO

Mold specialist reduces the time from concept to part order by 40 percent; significantly increases customer collaboration and new business

Product: NX CAM
Industry: Industrial Machinery and Heavy Equipment

I was pleased with our improvement in mold design efficiency. However, I thought we could do more to improve our overall efficiency. To achieve that, we had to unify our CAD and CAM environments.

Akira Kokubo, President
Uyama

Striving to be competitive in the global market

Established in the historical district of Fushimi-ku of Kyoto, Japan, the Uyama Mold Factory (Uyama) has been in the mold production business since 1962. Uyama’s main focus is mold design and production. The company’s customer base covers a number of industries that require high-precision production, including small electronic appliances, automotive, semiconductor and medical equipment. Since the company’s founding, Uyama has been very aggressive in implementing the latest equipment and tools. As part of its business expansion, Uyama opened a new facility for parts production in 2002.

Despite the company’s strength and success, Uyama was facing a variety of challenges. First, the United States recession of 2007-2009 caused a decline in business. Second, foreign competitors increased production capacity, putting downward pressure on pricing. Third, customer requirements were getting more difficult to meet. In addition, the company faced the prospect of replacing a number of experienced engineers who were preparing to retire.null

To overcome these challenges and increase sales, Uyama established three goals: develop a new customer base, improve the efficiency of its mold development processes and differentiate its services from those of competing companies.

“To achieve those goals, we undertook three tasks,” says Akira Kokubo, president of Uyama. “We automated production, cross-trained our engineers and increased sales capacity.”

Uyama knew it needed a top-notch 3D computer-aided design (CAD)/computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) system to reach these goals, so after a thorough evaluation of a number of solutions, Uyama chose NX™ software from Siemens Digital Industries Software.null

Fully utilizing NX

Uyama simultaneously undertook the necessary tasks to accomplish its goals, especially the aggressive use of 3D. In recent years, most of the design data that came from customers was in the form of 3D CAD data, including 3D data changes from surface data to solid data, rather than 2D drawings. To have a smooth data exchange, Uyama needed to change its modeling environment as well.

Furthermore, it was difficult to perform conceptual design or mold base design in 2D and execute parting in 3D. Moreover, doing so was time-consuming and duplicated effort. Uyama needed to change the process to improve efficiency and determined everything had to be done in 3D. The management team found that the 3D system that best meets such mold design requirements is NX, with parametric design capabilities, a rich library and other important functionality that Uyama required. To achieve an efficient end-to-end mold design to machine path generation, Uyama implemented NX in 2002.

At the onset, Uyama designers mainly worked on mold parts. To significantly improve operational efficiency and achieve the company’s motto of “High precision, short delivery time, high added value” and, importantly, differentiate itself from its competitors, Uyama needed to more fully utilize the comprehensive functionality of NX.

To facilitate the successful launch of a fully engaged, 3D-based product development environment, Uyama decided to work with its partner, ISID, for implementation support. With ISID’s help, Uyama deployed an assembly design methodology, parametric mold design and customized parts library. Those efforts have made it possible to share an inventory of mold bases, and notably shortened delivery time to customers. Uyama also automated the creation of bills of materials (BOM) and order forms, significantly reducing human error and enabling greater production efficiency.

Now the entire process – from conceptual design to part order – is conducted in 3D and, as a result, the overall development time has decreased by 40 percent.null

Unifying the 3D environment

“I was pleased with our improvement in mold design efficiency,” says Kokubo. “However, I thought we could do more to improve our overall efficiency. To achieve that, we had to unify our CAD and CAM environments. We wanted even more mold design efficiency and to do that, we needed to cross-train engineers.”

“On the production floor, we already had an environment to follow-up on each other,” adds Teppei Yoshikawa, head of engineering at Uyama. “However, between designers and CAM operators, because of system differences, they couldn’t support each other. The design engineers were using NX, but CAM operators were using a domestic CAM system. The barrier between the two systems was actually quite high.”

To completely streamline the process, it was necessary to have cross-trained engineers with knowledge of the entire mold design process. That led Uyama to seek to unify the system, to bridge design and manufacturing, which triggered an evaluation of NX for CAM use.

Uyama evaluated NX CAM for surface finish, machining time, and NC programming efficiency.null

During the benchmark process it was clear that NX satisfied the machining quality and cycle time requirements. The existing domestic CAM system, developed with Japanese engineers in mind, had provided excellent surface finishing and a short turnaround. “After comparing the machined parts completed with NX to those completed with the existing domestic system, we found that the quality was the same,” says Yoshikawa. “Also, the actual machining time was virtually identical.”

The key advantage of NX CAM is its programming efficiency, which is superior to the existing CAM system.

The entire NC programming process has been streamlined and simplified. To quickly prepare the part model for CAM programming, engineers now use the design tools of NX. The advanced NC programming capabilities of the software enable Uyama to create highly accurate toolpaths with a minimum number of supporting elements. Yoshikawa notes, “Using NX, the company has reduced the number of NC programs necessary to machine parts, thus optimizing the manufacturing process. In addition, the computational time needed to generate the programs has been significantly shortened. By leveraging the capabilities of NX CAM, we have reduced the NC programming time of a typical part by 30 percent.”null

Increased sales

Yoshikawa points out that, by using NX to establish the company’s entire mold production process, Uyama has achieved a smooth data exchange process with customers, achieved consistent high-quality design deliverables and markedly improved its collaboration with customers. As a result, Uyama has increased its business volume; in fact, the new design environment with NX has helped Uyama realize its increased sales goals.

Using NX, the company has reduced the number of NC programs necessary to machine parts, thus optimizing the manufacturing process. In addition, the computational time needed to generate the programs has been significantly shortened. By leveraging the capabilities of NX CAM, we have reduced the NC programming time of a typical part by 30 percent.

Teppei Yoshikawa, Head of Engineering
Uyama

Andretti Autosport, Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing speed software learning curve using online tools

Product: NX CAM
Industry: Automotive and Transportation

It’s all about speed

Speed is the essence of auto racing. The first car to the finish line wins, so it is the responsibility of every crew member – including those who work at team headquarters designing and building parts and systems – to do whatever they can to help make the cars go faster. Engineers, designers and machinists work year-round, improving and refining their team cars’ engine and drive train performance, fabricating parts and systems, and responding to rule changes from racing governing bodies, such as IndyCar and NASCAR.

Siemens PLM Software helps racing teams achieve their goal of making cars go faster by providing a variety of tools to help users get up-to-speed on using its software systems, including Learning Advantage, an Internet-based learning management system. Learning Advantage is a convenient, easy-to-use e-Learning portal that provides cost-effective and time-efficient methods for users to gain skills and knowledge of Siemens PLM Software solutions. This system provides access to an unparalleled library of self-paced courses and assessments, as well as management tools for companies to measure learning progress and to administer learning programs.

When you can’t get to a class right away

“Hectic racing schedules can make it tough to attend traditional classroom training,” says Scott Graves, Engineering Operations Manager at Andretti Autosport™, an IZOD IndyCar Series™ team. “Learning Advantage has made training possible even in the middle of the racing season.”

“Sometimes new employees will not have an opportunity to attend a class right away based on course or workload schedules, and Learning Advantage will get them up-to-speed until a live course is available,” says Jon Rittle, engineering designer, Vehicle Dynamics Group at Joe Gibbs Racing, a NASCAR team. “Learning Advantage is also great for advanced CAD (computer-aided design) users who are familiar with other systems, but new to NX™. They can pick and choose the courses that will benefit them the most. And it’s always there to go back to as a refresher, or reference tool.”

Hendrick Motorsports, another NASCAR team, has similar experience with Learning Advantage. “We use Learning Advantage almost daily,” says Jim McKenzie, engineering applications manager at Hendrick Motorsports. “All of our licenses are in use constantly.”

Racing teams often field multiple cars in each race, and the lifespan of an engine is usually one race or less. So, shop crews are constantly fabricating parts and building new engines for their own teams, and in the case of Hendrick Motorsports, building engines for other teams. Over the course of a season, racing teams build hundreds of engines, not to mention numerous other car parts and systems.

Program expansion and new hires create an ongoing need for training. “As employees are promoted throughout the company, and we hire new employees, the need arises for more training,” says Rittle. “Like a lot of companies, we haven’t the resources that we would like to have, so we try to schedule our in-house ‘core functionality’ training classes quarterly, when possible. That said, there can be a gap in time from when a training need arises and when the next scheduled class is available. At times like this, we leverage the capabilities of Learning Advantage to help get users up-to-speed and proficient in their daily duties, and to prepare them for the in-house training classes when they become available.”

A continuous need for training

Even trained users need additional training. “Several of our engineers are occasional users and online training enables them to quickly brush up on features that they haven’t used recently,” says Graves. “They can also broaden their skills at their own pace.”

Training can help users renew their skills, as well. Graves notes, “Recently we hired a new designer who had been away from NX for several versions. He easily picked up with the current version using online training as a refresher course.”

Teams also have to train the trainers. “We are constantly looking to upgrade and expand into new areas of the software,” says McKenzie, “This creates a need for more training as well. Obviously we need to ‘train the trainers’ as well as our end-users, so having the Learning Advantage and course material tools available to us is a huge advantage.”

Rittle can relate. “Learning assembly sequences was a big one for me,” he says. “Suddenly, I was able to put the engine internal systems in motion and check clearances and fit-ups much quicker. It was exciting to see the parts animated. Learning Advantage was very helpful for freeform modeling. It helped explain the differences between different types of surfaces quickly, and how I could create them. I was learning it at the same time I was using it for creating complex parts. Without Learning Advantage, it would have taken much longer with less impressive results.”

“If you’re in a hurry and need some guidance to get you through the job on time, either because you’re using a new area of NX, or just haven’t used it in a long time and need a refresher, Learning Advantage is a great tool to have,” Graves says. “You can quickly zero-in on your area of interest and see how NX can help you in a rather quick time frame, using hands-on examples and not just by reading a menu of instructions. It allows us to get changes and new ideas to the track faster, helping to improve our performance every race weekend.”

“Siemens PLM Software training is very important early-on to employees’ tenures,” says Rittle. “It reduces time spent trying to do something they might have done differently on another system in the past, or have never done before. There are many ways to get the same result in NX, and the courses can help explain the best method for a particular task.”

The bottom line of applying Learning Advantage is that it provides a real advantage in keeping the racing teams as productive and creative as possible. “Every minute that we are able to train in-house and not traveling to an off-site training facility is another minute that we can apply to making the cars go faster,” McKenzie says.

Automotive supplier designs and builds sophisticated mechatronic parts with Siemens solutions

Product: NX CAM
Industry: Automotive and Transportation

NX, Teamcenter and Tecnomatix enable Pollmann to maintain a leading position as an automotive components supplier

Almost every car manufactured around the globe includes components made by Pollmann International (Pollmann). The family business boasts more than 130 years of innovation experience and is among the global market leaders in its niche. At the company’s headquarters in Austria, Pollmann engineers create highly complex mechatronic assemblies.

Among these products are sunroof kinematics, door latches and assemblies for the engine compartment and for the power train. Recently, parts and assemblies for e-mobility applications have been added to the company’s portfolio of custom solutions. From five production facilities in Europe, Asia and North America, Pollmann supplies automotive brands around the globe with these intelligent combinations of metal, plastics and electronics.

Key technologies used in the production of these components are insert injection molding, where metal parts are overmolded, and outsert injection molding, where plastic functional elements are molded onto carrying metal structures. Pollmann acts as a one-stop-shop for Tier 1 suppliers. Customers benefit from components created as integrated solutions from a single source, complete with the stamping dies and injection molds and the automated systems required for part production. At all Pollmann sites, the parts are combined to form complex assemblies ready for direct integration with the customers’ production processes.

A heterogeneous software landscape

In the past, Pollmann engineers used parametric software for computer-aided design (CAD) from one supplier and several different brands of computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software for numerical control (NC) programming. There was no product data management (PDM) or product lifecycle management (PLM) system.

All product-related information was stored in various file-based systems. This variety of software tools and information silos became increasingly cumbersome. Due to the file-based storage, release management caused extra work and time-consuming searches as well as frequent errors. The absence of a common information base also caused delays in cross-location engineering projects. Moreover, using inconsistent methods for processing neutral format CAD data made processing 3D models from external sources difficult.

Pollmann management was aware that they needed to improve engineering information management in order to stay competitive. “Our aim was to reduce unproductive work and manage changes required by customers quickly and with tracability,” says Markus Stocklasser, design engineering manager, Pollmann. “To make global collaboration easier, we developed a vision to store and manage all product-related data and documents in a PDM system.”

An integrated solution with Teamcenter and NX

During initial market inquiries, Pollmann’s experts extended the scope of their product search to include workflow functionalities, changing their specified target system from PDM to PLM. Pollmann’s experts evaluated five software suppliers. Among these were independent PLM software providers as well as companies offering both PLM and CAD/CAM and computer-aided engineering (CAE) software. “We had also discovered shortcomings of the strictly parametric design software we had been using,” says Markus Hiess, PLM/ CAD administrator, Pollmann. “To overcome these and to achieve greater data consistency, we decided to pursue a more integrated approach, combining a new PLM system with more flexible software for CAD and CAM.”

Out of the three remaining contestants, Pollmann’s engineering experts chose a combined implementation of Siemens Digital Industries Software’s Teamcenter® software, an adaptable PLM system that connects people and processes across functional silos with a digital thread, and Siemens’ NX™ software, an integrated CAD/CAM/CAE solution.

Spanning all aspects of product creation, NX ensures full data consistency and associativity all the way from part design to tool assembly without external interfaces. NX tool design applications can work with almost any type of 3D input data. Engineers can verify their designs without leaving NX.

Future-oriented software strategy

“Using this comprehensive solution, product and part designers, tool designers and NC programmers can share the same software environment,” says Stocklasser. “As tool development can commence even before product design is completed, this considerably speeds up the overall process.”

“Teamcenter gives us full control of our product data,” adds Hiess. “The software also allows us to enforce our processes across departments and locations while relieving colleagues of undesired side activities.”

The superior properties of these software products were not the only reasons for Pollmann’s decision. “Siemens’ software strategy was a similarly important factor in our decision-making,” says Stocklasser. “The long-term commitment to extend its portfolio to cover all aspects of product and production with a digital twin and with full data consistence spoke strongly in favor of that global player.”

In a first implementation phase, Pollmann equipped about 60 workplaces across all design and tooling departments generating CAD and CAM data as well as the tooling department at its Austrian headquarters with Teamcenter and NX. To ensure a smooth transition, five key users and an administrator were designated for system implementation. As most Pollmann parts are individual items, they did not migrate any product data but decided to recreate parts in case of repeats.

Design automation as a benefit

This transition showed considerable beneficial effects. “Using NX, motion simulations and filling studies for plastics as well as FEM calculations help us verify and evaluate part geometries even before the prototype phase,” says Hiess. “Using Teamcenter as the single source of truth, our various departments jointly develop cost-optimized solutions and innovations.”

“While NX does support parametric work, the unparalleled flexibility of its synchronous technology reduced the time required for mold design by 35 percent,” says Stocklasser. “I was also pleasantly surprised by the software’s sheet metal capabilities, especially the speed of flat projection of complex freeform sheet metal parts.”

In their tool designs, Pollmann’s engineers had always implemented logic functionality. They now utilize NX Open to automate complex and repetitive tasks. They are also using NX Mold Wizard, the NX Progressive Die Wizard and NX Electrode Wizard. Without any programming, this powerful set of automated applications can greatly optimize tooling design. NX Mold Wizard provides automated sequences for working with part geometry, creating parting surfaces and enabling automatic updates. The NX Progressive Die Wizard guides users through all of the stages required to construct a progressive die, streamlining complex processes and automating tedious tasks for significant time savings.

The NX Electrode Wizard allows automated electric discharge machining (EDM) electrode design using the die’s model that in turn has been derived from the 3D model of the part. Electrode design was once a week’s worth of work for highly skilled specialists” says Hiess. Using the NX Electrode Wizard, our people can now complete this task in two days.

“Taking advantage of the considerable speed gains NX brings, we can now design our tools with a much greater wealth of detail,” says Stocklasser. “This directly results in improved quality and manufacturability, eliminating all manual rework.”

GROB automates manufacturing of CNC machines for the automotive industry

Product: NX CAM
Industry: Automotive and Transportation

GROB-WERKE GmbH & Co. KG (GROB) is a family-owned company and leading manufacturer of production plants and CNC machines for the automotive industry, ranging from universal machining centers to fully automated production and assembly systems.

GROB producción de piezas reales con mecanizado CNC automotriz

GROB faces several business challenges, including:

  • Designing leading-edge automotive production equipment
  • Using standardization to manage high customization level
  • Relying on global engineering collaboration
  • Maintaining their leadership position in competitive industry

GROB owes a large part of its success thanks to the ability to anticipate and quickly respond to changing market trends using a high level of automation. With Siemens’ Xcelerator software portfolio, GROB’s engineers can design, engineer, and manufacture production equipment and CNC machines for the automotive industry.

Los ingenieros de GROB utilizan Plant Simulation, NX CAD, NX CAM y Teamcenter para la planificación, el diseño, la validación y la programación CNC de proyectos.

Automate CNC machines in the automotive industry with NX CAM

GROB engineers create a digital twin of each production machine and line using NX. They also use NX CAM to automatically create CNC programs using Feature-Based Machining. This capability helps GROB’s programmers to create a machining rule library containing standard bore types, pockets and surface definitions, including the tools required for machining operations. Before sending the CNC programs to the machine tools, the engineers simulate complete machining processes using the NX CAM’s machining simulation capabilities, ensuring error-free production on the shop floor.

To better collaborate, the engineers exchange 3D models between production facilities, using Teamcenter as the central information hub. These models are then CNC programed locally, making it easier for the engineers at each facility to adjust the CNC programs according to the available resources and equipment.

Using NX CAM for fea­ture-based machining helped us automate design and CNC programming work. Recognizing 95 percent of GROB standard bore types and 70 to 80 percent of other fea­tures, the automatic feature recognition has reduced CNC programming time by 30 percent and considerably reduced the number of different tools used.

Christian Lisiecki Director and Head of Machining Systems GROB 

An introduction to Composite Structures, with Elston Engineering Services

Product: NX
Industry: Marina

We live in a world where nothing stands still. Companies and individuals across the world continue to push the boundaries of composite structures. After all, it was an engineer, not a scientist, that first set foot on another world. Elston Engineering Services (or EES) are most certainly classed in that bracket of innovators. Based in Knebworth in the UK, EES operate in the world of mechanical engineering services. The company specializing in the development of fibre reinforced plastic composite structures. Ron Elston, Managing director, proudly owns the company. Ron has a wealth of experience spanning over an illustrious 60-year career. His career began as an apprentice draftsman at ML aviation, before eventually overseeing the creation of small integrated circuits and large earth station antennas. Rons’ varied experience means he is considered a specialist within mechanical engineering and composite manufacturing.

To provide context, composites are a combination of non-metallic and metallic materials to create a structure, or range of structures. These structures create strong, lightweight, stiff and low-density components. These components lay the groundwork to create incredibly strong assemblies across a wide range of sectors, including architecture, automotive and aerospace to name a few. It’s an approach which has accelerated the capabilities of society to take our engineering capabilities to the next level.

21st century advanced manufacturing and composite applications; how did we get here?

There was a time when composite manufacturing applications were unable to meet the needs of many companies. Companies had a broad understanding of how new processes and materials would revolutionize the manufacturing workflow to include composites. The problem was, companies weren’t pro-active enough in order to facilitate change.

Ron had an opportunity to merge the testing and analysis of composite structures with the design office during his time at the Marconi Research Centre. Why was this so important at the time? It enabled a specialist like Ron to implement an integrated approach; whereby one team oversaw conceptual design, geometric design, structural analysis, tool creation, part creation and testing. By connecting the dots, composite manufacturing companies were able to achieve greater product innovation to improve production efficiencies. In addition, companies reduced the time to the final iteration, whilst simultaneously pushing the capabilities of their respective industries forward.

Technology was a gamechanger for composite structures

Ron’s experience contributed to a change to processes which resulted in improvements within advanced manufacturing. However, it was the improvements in technology that really pushed the industry into a new era. Modern day capabilities means graphical analysis is completed at a much faster pace. In addition, multiple composite materials can be handled simultaneously; mainly due to improvements we have seen in computer hardware performance and storage.

Shock and vibration studies are now more accurate than they’ve ever been; when you combine all these elements, the user is receiving far more real-world data than previously. Teams who have the experience and/or a knowledgeable will really pay dividends. Composite manufacturers are able to reduce mass, cost and production times for their structures. As a result, the same manufacturers are ultimately reducing their lead time to market.

Sustainability in composite manufacturing

Processes and technological innovations have continuously pushed industry standards to where we are today within composite manufacturing. However, a global transition towards a more sustainable society is needed; composite manufacturing is not immune to this.
Thankfully, composite manufacturing companies are already considering the practicalities of implementing sustainable technologies into their workflow. Companies are beginning to reclaim carbon fibre from decommissioned, out-of-use products in some instances. In addition, there’s been a switch towards the use of thermoplastics as opposed to thermo-setting plastics. Thermosetting plastics for composites typically incorporate one use epoxy resin, Thermoplastics such as polyethylene don’t have this problem; their chemical structure means that they can be re-melted and taken back out of composite structures for re-use. It’s essentially an early stage of a ‘circular economy’ within the composite manufacturing industry.

Fibre-reinforced plastics can produce structures with strength to weight ratios greater than traditional materials, such as steel and aluminium. Reinforcing the thermoplastics using either re-used carbon fibre or ‘virgin’ fibre can achieve strength and stiffness properties approaching those achieved with thermosetting composites. We are seeing continuous improvement of raw materials to create strong products, whilst not compromising on quality and reducing carbon emissions in parallel. This is truly the start of composite manufacturers recognizing the dangers posed by carbon emissions moving towards a more sustainable model for the future.

Why Siemens for composite structures?

For someone with Rons’ experience, using a powerful software application is just as important as having a strong understanding of the science behind composite structures. 50 years in the industry means Ron has seen, used and mastered a range of software applications. It is therefore testament to Siemens that NX continues to be the package of choice for Elston Engineering Services. Why is this the case?

The integrated approach of Siemens NX

Ron believes that Siemens has an integrated approach with NX; different features with different purposes are packaged into the same application to enable users to stay on one platform for their whole workflow. Design engineers can lose precious time during their workflow exporting datasets to another application, if their primary application doesn’t come equipped with the correct features they need for their use case. Siemens NX eliminates this problem. Factoring in a consistent development strategy which add a range of features into future NX releases lays the groundwork for NX to meet the needs of multiple companies across a range of industries.

Understanding the science behind composite structures

The user may have a strong understanding of the science behind composite structures. They then need to have the tools available to accurately simulate the science within their application. It’s an important aspect to any application when analyzing how a range of composite structures will behave in real-world scenarios. This is especially true when the scenario becomes extreme and place enormous external pressures on the structures! NX accurately analyzes composite and metallics structures in accordance with real-world scenarios. It’s a feature that came into its own when Ron developed radar antennas with EASAT for use in intense weather zones.

Rotor Bike Components Innovates with NX

Product: NX
Industry: Costumer Products

A history of innovation

Rotor Bike Components is a group of companies specialized in the design and manufacture of parts for medium- and high-performance bicycles. Recognized worldwide, the company has developed four main product lines – plates, potentiometers, cranksets, and bottom brackets – to which they apply maximum innovation in order to compete in a market that is constantly evolving.

With headquarters in Madrid and a presence in 47 countries, the company has branches in Taiwan, the Netherlands, the United States, and a network of more than 5,000 points of sale worldwide. Rotor Bike Components also has two distribution companies: Bikemotiv for Spain, and Rotor Benelux, which caters to Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. In 2014, the company closed the year with revenues of €14 million (85 percent of the total coming from exports) and a team of almost 100 employees.

Innovation is in the DNA of Rotor Bike Components. The company’s genesis took place at the School of Aeronautical Engineers of Madrid (Escuela de Ingenieros Aeronáuticos de Madrid), where, in 1995, a group of students conceived a system of connecting rods with revolutionary biomechanical advantages called Rotor System.

Within the business environment, they continued with other innovative releases such as RCK, a frame with a bottom bracket designed specifically to reap the benefits of the Rotor System. Most importantly, the company also created QRings, ovalized chainrings with varying drivetrain resistance to overcome the dead zone and optimize power output during pedaling. This innovation made Rotor Bike Components a benchmark company in the industry internationally.

“Traditionally, the chainrings were round, but we discovered that an oval shape improved performance and decreased muscle fatigue,” explains José Luis Sanz, director of sales at Rotor Bike Components. “We’ve become popular in the market for being able to adjust the plate and give maximum ovality in different positions, depending on where the maximum power is applied when pedaling.”

Cutting-edge technology supports growth

Innovation continues to affect the day-today operations of the company. The interest in offering solutions with the best technology to improve cycling performance is combined with the challenge of producing more than 250,000 components a year with more than 500 different references to cover their road, triathlon, mountain biking and cyclocross supply.

To sustain innovation, it is essential to align the efforts of Rotor Bike Components’ engineering department with manufacturing professionals from their sister company, EDR System, which is a member of the same corporate group. In the 1990s, EDR System became the first firm in Spain to use aluminum and titanium for the manufacture of bicycle parts, and is a technology leader in computer numerical control (CNC) machining.

“We move within a market of very established brands where our competitive weapon is to offer innovation. It’s important to be very agile in order to quickly adapt to change. You have to be very flexible because the average half-life of products is less than 3 years,” notes David Martínez, director of the engineering department at Rotor Bike Components.

Upgrading design technology

In 2007, the company decided to evolve its computer-aided design (CAD) system, I-deas™ software, to NX™ software from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens Digital Industries Software in order to become more competitive. The company faced two key challenges: integrating CAD with computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), and dealing with increasing product complexity. “On one hand, there was no connection between our CAD program and the CAM program of EDR System, and, on the other, the designs were increasingly more complex, especially in addressing assembly, and we needed a tool that was more powerful,” explains Martinez. “We wanted to grow, but without the advanced technology that NX offered us, we couldn’t offer the innovation that would set us apart,” adds Sanz.

After evaluating other solutions the company opted for NX CAD, mainly due to the excellent experience of its sister company, EDR System, which uses NX CAM as a machining solution. NX was introduced to Rotor Bike Components by Análisis y Simulación, a Siemens Digital Industries Software solution partner that shared its extensive knowledge of computer-aided design, engineering and manufacturing (CAD/CAE/CAM) with the company. “We decided to also incorporate NX in our engineering department to take advantage of its design capabilities with multiple advanced features, and ensure total connection with manufacturing processes,” says Sanz.

Maximum collaboration with NX

Currently 99 percent of all Rotor Bike Components’ designs are developed with NX CAD. The engineering team has six licenses, and uses the modeling and drafting tools of the software to perform their 3D design, document generation, and drawing plans for parts and assemblies. The design files are sent to EDR Systems for machining and integrated with their NX CAM system. And for new product development, the department of engineering and quality at Rotor Bike Components evaluates the manufactured models for compliance with appropriate regulations.

“Our process not only brings engineering to the work developed with NX, but also includes quality assurance and third-party companies with which we collaborate for various certifications. It also helps to incorporate elements that we do not make ourselves, such as the electronics for the potentiometers,” says Martínez. “It is critical that we can make exchanges without problems in the same file where the modeling, drawing and machining is integrated, in order to easily execute any change that is asked for, or to integrate any file that is sent to us using the extensive import and export capabilities.”

Within the company, a collaborative environment has been created using NX in which the production team also participates by designing the equipment of certain assembly lines, thanks to a floating license hosted on a corporate server. “This option is very interesting, since the production personnel use the tool in a sporadic way,” says Martinez. “It’s also used for making user manuals, for packaging design, for illustrations in patent applications, and other tasks.”

Martinez appreciates the simple, intuitive use of NX that allows for interface personalization and customization. “Análisis y Simulación gave us the proper training in order to take maximum advantage of it in a simple way,” he says.

Synchronous modeling accelerates design

The synchronous modeling tools of NX facilitate modeling, and allow for maximum speed in implementing quick changes, even without a data structure tree. “This feature together with the assurance that we can import any file extension is critical for re-use of models that we already have, especially the regulation files,” Martinez says.

Optimizing engineering with simulation

Engineering also counts on the analysis and simulation capabilities of NX computer-aided engineering (CAE) to optimize their work. “Knowing that NX was modular and that we could integrate different features according to our needs without having to change the system was a determining factor in our decision for NX. The application of the finite element method is going to continue to add more value to our processes, and it’s something that we already have.”

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