The Pull of 3D
Griffin Labs Overcomes Communications Drawbacks by Moving to
A veteran user of Pro/ENGINEER and AutoCAD during his work in
corporate mechanical design, Cliff Griffin went with what he
knew when he left the corporate world to start his own firm 10
years ago. Griffin Laboratories was a small California-based
startup specializing in the design and manufacture of medical
devices for speech pathologists. Griffin needed a relatively
inexpensive design tool, so he selected AutoCAD LT.
Given his past experience, 2D design with AutoCAD LT was an easy
move, and for the most part, a workable design tool. One of the
key products designed by Griffin Labs is an electrolarnyx — a
device that allows people who've lost the ability to speak to
produce understandable sounds with the aid of technology. But 2D
design also has its drawbacks, and Griffin continually bumped up
against them, especially when it came to supplier
"The biggest problem for our suppliers with a 2D design," says
Griffin, "is the time it takes to interpret the drawings. You
can have a perfect 2D drawing, but some people will have no idea
what it is because of the complexity and the hidden lines, or
lack thereof. If your supplier doesn't know in advance exactly
what something should look like, it takes quite an analytical
mind to extract out of the drawing what's intended."
Making the Move to 3D
One of the ways Griffin Laboratories addressed the 2D
communication problem was to bring manufacturing in-house. But
he also knew that with recent advances in 3D technology, a move
to 3D would speed up his design-to-manufacturing cycle — and
improve communications, whether with other outside suppliers or
internal members of the design team.
In Griffin's evaluation of 3D software that seemed most suited
to the lab's work, two products stood out: SolidWorks and Alibre
Design. Taking advantage of Alibre Design's 30-day free trial
offer, Griffin himself spent a couple of hours on the included
tutorials and then was able to design 10 or so parts within a
half hour. He quickly saw that the software could handle all the
design tasks at his company with room to spare.
Although the products designed and manufactured by Griffin
Engineering are not complex assemblies, they nevertheless
require efficient design, especially given that many of the
parts are machined and manufactured in-house. Alibre Design's
clear interface and ease of use has allowed machinists to
quickly come up to speed on the product and use it to check profiles and dimensions.
The company also has many legacy drawings and designs from its
10 years of operations. "I was impressed at how efficiently we
were able to convert our legacy drawings," says Griffin. Though
some of the simple parts were recreated from scratch, Griffin
was able to import more complex parts as a profile into Alibre
Design. "All I needed to do after that was to dimension it," he
says. "Although the conversion was time-consuming, it was worth
the effort to have our designs in 3D, where we could assemble
them and view them as models.
"In addition, the process of making changes was significantly
improved. I no longer have to edit numerous views. Instead, I
click on the dimension that needs changing, type in the new
value, and I'm done."
Return on Investment
With only about seven months' experience with Alibre Design,
Griffin for now equates his ROI mostly with design efficiency
and communications clarity between his design team and the
machine shop. Within the next several months, however, he will
finish up some new product designs that will be machined
in-house and his company will have a new perspective on the
value of Alibre Design.
"One thing we already appreciate is the frequency of updates to
the software," he says. He further notes that the updates are
painless, coming automatically through the software's Web
"We consider Alibre Design a good value package," he says. "It
does everything we need and more."
Griffin Laboratories http://www.griffinlab.com
ABOUT this issue
This special edition of MCAD Tech News examines the real-world experiences
of manufacturing companies as they move from 2D drafting to 3D modeling.
If you have suggestions about companies or issues you'd like to see
covered here, please e-mail us at
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arnie Williams, former editor-in-chief of CADENCE magazine, is a freelance author specializing in the CAD industry. E-mail Arnie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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