Building a Better Baggage-Handling System9 Aug, 2006 By: Michelle Nicolson
G&T Conveyor Company invests in 3D mechanical design technology to help ensure your luggage arrives when you do.
It's every airline traveler's moment of truth: Your flight has arrived safely and you walk with the crowd toward the baggage claim area with a growing sense of trepidation. Did your bags make it as well? In those moments as you watch the luggage carrousel go 'round, your only focus is your own bags -- not the millions of others that pass through the nation's airport systems every day.
Lucky for all of us, G&T Conveyor Company does think about those millions of bags. The company designs, engineers, manufactures and installs baggage-handling systems, with more than 500 turnkey airport projects on five continents under its belt. The company's systems operate in key U.S. airports such as Chicago O'Hare, San Diego and the Port of Seattle. It's a serious responsibility, considering that as many as 30 million pieces of luggage were lost in the United States last year alone. And increased concerns about baggage security have made today's process much more complicated than ever before.
Customization is Key
As with so many other products, the sophisticated technology behind baggage handling starts with a team of mechanical and electrical engineers. Just like every piece of luggage, every airport is different. The baggage system's components must fit the current building configurations and the specific technical needs of the airport, which means G&T Conveyor's engineers need flexibility in their designs.
G&T Conveyor Company must customize its baggage-handling systems based on each airport's building configurations and technical requirements.
That need for customization was the key demand that led G&T to Autodesk Inventor 11, which the company's electrical and mechanical engineering department began using in April 2006. In a matter of just a few months, the team has already seen some key benefits.
"With the new iAssembly feature in Autodesk's Inventor 11, we can have one model with all variations organized in iAssembly, versus having 900 different models," explains Daniel Britt, a mechanical CAD designer at G&T. "This allows us to take our modular product base and create similar assemblies with a minimum amount of effort, saving us a huge amount of time in the product editing and design phases."
G&T Conveyors can design 5,424 variations of this component in Autodesk Inventor 11 using the same model structure and only a differing line on an Excel spreadsheet.
Seeing It in 3D
Switching to Inventor 11 also meant the G&T could benefit from the software's 3D modeling capability. "While we still use 2D as part of our daily operations, moving to a 3D platform gives our designers the flexibility to communicate their designs more effectively and with increased accuracy to the manufacturing environment," Britt says. "Developing our sheet metal designs using Inventor helps us eliminate a lot of minor errors with regards to fit and finish. Working in 3D saved us a considerable amount of time in customizing products that we used to do in 2D."
The improved communication directly affected the key interactions between the engineers and the manufacturing team. "Moving to 3D with Autodesk Inventor 11 has given our designers the flexibility to communicate in their designs more effectively and with increased accuracy to the manufacturing environment, making the entire process from concept to reality more fluid and efficient," Britt comments.
Although it's too soon to determine all the measurable benefits from the switch, Britt suspects the company will see tangible results from its investment in Inventor 11 by the end of this year.
Which means the rest of us might have a better chance of seeing our bags coming around the luggage carrousel the next time we fly.