Product Design

MCAD Tech Trends: 2D to 3D #9

8 Dec, 2004 By: Arnie Williams

Cadalyst MCAD Tech News

Trailer Designer Hitches Up to 3D

Croft Calls on Alibre Design to Replace its Drafting Boards

Generally today, when we think of a company moving to 3D design to take advantage of enriched data in a 3D model, we assume the company has moved from a 2D software program such as AutoCAD. In the case of Croft Trailer Supply, however, the move was from pencil, paper, and drafting board.

Based in Kansas City, Missouri, the 65-year-old company manufactures various flatbed, utility, and equipment trailers. A holdout in favor of manual design methods, Croft Trailer Supply recently considered itself ready to modernize. To that end, the company asked Rich Stephens, an engineer and computer consultant, to research software options for automating design processes. With the cost of conversion from pencil and paper to full automation very much in mind, Stephens looked at 2D AutoCAD as well as the 3D systems SolidWorks and Alibre Design Professional.

Make it Acrobat 6.0.

Fast Transition
Given that Alibre Design could be purchased for a price similar to that of AutoCAD LT, Stephens elected to give the software a full-fledged tryout. In a few months, he had converted the company's utility trailer line to Alibre. The company is now looking to apply Alibre Design Professional to its lawn and garden trailer lines.

Stephens credits the phone and Internet support available from Alibre for his ability to ease into full design use of the product. In addition to the 3D modeling capabilities Alibre Design offers, Stephens applauds the software's ability to generate fully detailed, associative 2D drawings — a feature that helped to boost the productivity of contract welders supplementing the company's regular crew. In the past, manual drawings were a mix of those done in millimeters and inches, some inscribed with barely legible notes. The company's regular welding crew was familiar with the necessary workarounds, but supplemental crews often had to be schooled on the spot, slowing down the process. Now, the company can generate all the needed details from the 3D model, completely eliminating these delays.

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Expectations Surpassed
For trailers, springs are de rigueur, and Stephens and others working on trailer design especially appreciate Alibre Design's Helical Boss and Sweep Boss modeling tools. All told, the productivity gains realized by moving to 3D exceeded expectations at Croft, and now the company sees trailer customization as an added benefit to extend to its customer base.

“Croft jumped in with both feet,” says Stephens of the company's move to 3D. “I'm glad we did. With 3D modeling and the communication tools that weren't available to us before, we are realizing productivity gains we didn't think possible.”

Alibre Design
Croft Trailer Supply

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