Table manufacturer Paul Downs is all too familiar with the ups and downs of global manufacturing.
His company, Paul Downs Cabinetmakers, was hit hard by the crash of 2008. He laid off 65% of his workforce (13 out of 20 workers), then replenished the ranks to 14 after the economy sputtered back to life.
Now, his shop is more productive than it was when 20 people worked there—2011’s production topped $2 million in goods, compared to $1.5 million in 2005.
Because increased manufacturing productivity isn’t just good business, it’s a survival tool. Between 2000 and 2010, the United States alone lost a third of its manufacturing jobs. As a result, factories had no choice but to produce more with less.
An uncertain recovery. Tighter budgets. Rigorous global competition.
Welcome to the new normal.
Trying times require innovative tools. 3D product design tools can help. 3D CAD software, 3D mice and 3D printers reduce mistakes, shorten product-to-market timelines and improve productivity. Here’s how:
Produce Better Designs with 3D CAD
3D CAD software doesn’t get enough love. Only 44% of those polled by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in June 2011 consider themselves “knowledgeable” about the software.
That’s a shame, because with 3D CAD, you can:
- Test designs before you build them. 3D CAD software enables you to simulate everything from fluid flows and vibrations to stress tests and load bearing. Instead of wasting budget and time manufacturing prototypes, you identify design flaws before you send products to the factory.
- Make design changes quickly and easily. Many 3D CAD programs are “associative,” which makes tweaking designs simple. Modeling in appropriate design intent allows you to maintain relationships between features and parts, regardless of changes to other parts of the model.
- More efficiently manage documents and share design data. Most 3D CAD programs are supported by data management systems that allow engineers and designers to share their work and collaborate on design, making them more robust and cost effective. Each step of the way, changes are integrated into design documents, streamlining workflows and improving collaboration.
Produce More with a 3D Mouse
Working in 3D CAD requires precise positioning of parts and assemblies, as well as extensive use of application menus and shortcut keys. With a 3D mouse, you can simultaneously pan, zoom and rotate 3D content and access application commands with built-in function keys, while your other hand uses the standard mouse to select, create and edit.
This two-handed work style improves productivity. CAD design engineers are 21% more productive on average when using a 3D mouse, according to a survey conducted by the Technology Assessment Group.
Better performance accompanies these productivity gains. According to the same study, 85% of CAD design engineers said their designs improved when using a 3D mouse. A full 84% said a 3D mouse helped them better detect design errors. And nearly everyone said using a 3D mouse makes using CAD software more fun!
Produce Faster with 3D Printing
Rapid prototyping and fast iteration cycles are powerful allies when budgets shrink or deadlines loom. A 3D printer cost-consciously speeds up the manufacturing cycle.
A 3D printer takes a 3D CAD model and prints it out by building up layers of additive material. One popular type of additive material used in 3D printers is liquid plastic. Using this process, a 3D printer can quickly produce a product prototype or print iterations of a single part. This physical model is useful for identifying design flaws, experimenting with changes or modeling packaging designs—before you commit a single resource to a full production line.
Rapid 3D prototyping and iteration cycles enhance manufacturing productivity. The manufacturer accurately prices and makes the product. You don’t pay for prototype mold fees. Workers waste little time sending back designs that don’t work.
In short, everyone saves time and money with 3D printing. And it doesn’t cost much to start. Professional-grade 3D printers cost as low as a couple thousand dollars.
The Bottom Line
When looking at ways to enhance a manufacturing line, sometimes it makes sense to look beyond the line itself, and determine what tools and techniques can improve design productivity and viability before you even hit production.
Do you use 3D design technology in your work process? Currently upgrading to 3D design technology at your firm? Do you have questions about the process? Please tell us about your experiences.
Beat Pain and Strain in CAD With This Guide
Aches and pains at the desktop are not normal and can lead to long-term repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). It also disrupts your productivity, creativity and even your career! The CAD Comfort Manual is a complete guide to address and prevent pain and strain from prolonged CAD work. Download it today to start working more comfortably in CAD.
Photo: The above photo showcases one of Farmer Plastics and Machining owner Nolan Farmer's world-class motorcycle designs. Farmer uses a 3Dconnexion 3D mouse to improve his design efficiency.