On the Job: Speedboat Maker Calls Transition to 3D Painless"

14 Jun, 2005 By: Cadalyst Staff Cadalyst

Tigé nets positive ROI in two weeks with switch to Alibre Design modeling software

For 14 years, Tigé Boats has manufactured high-performance ski and wakeboard boats. The company's 20- to 24-foot engineered inboard boats are the centerpiece of extreme sports and have a LifePlus Lifetime Replacement Warranty. Users demand strong functionality, and the boats must be engineered to withstand the rattling and strain they endure bumping over wakes at 50 mph.

But a problem arose when Caleb Fulks, one of the company's engineers who had 3D CAD experience, accepted a job outside the company and was taking his 3D design software with him. Curt Conway, manufacturing engineer at Tigé, needed to replace the solids modeling software quickly. The software owned by Fulks cost more than $5,000, and the remaining engineers at Tigé didn't have a lot of experience with it, so Conway saw an opportunity to switch to another 3D CAD software. But with so many competing products on the market, how would he choose one over another?

Pursuing Other Options
Conway turned to Fulks to help him make the decision. Conway assumed Fulks would recommend Tigé purchase a license of the solids modeling software he owns. But when Fulks took advantage of the free trial of Alibre Design and tested the software, he was impressed at how quickly he learned and the speed at which he generated designs.

Fulks recommended Alibre Design as the best 3D modeling investment for Tigé Boats. "I was surprised," Conway says. "Here's an engineer trained on one solids modeling application recommending a different product, Alibre Design. Engineers are usually very loyal to the software they use."

A factor that sealed the deal was that two seats of Alibre Design would cost less than one seat of the competitor's software.

Tigé purchased one seat of Alibre Design and one seat of Alibre Design Professional. "Alibre Design is more than adequate for our company," Conway says. "We don't have many moving parts in our designs. For the most part, everything is fixed when it goes into the boat, so Alibre Design Expert was beyond our needs. The moving parts Tigé does have, such as a hinge with four pivots, are handled easily with Alibre Design Professional. We're able to draw the pivot in 3D, see how it works, and easily perform stress analysis."

Quick Transition, Quick ROI
Conway's engineers quickly became proficient at creating 3D models using Alibre Design, turning them into 2D drawings and creating models out of wood. Designers can use the new system to conceptualize objects, rotate them to see all sides and see how the parts and assemblies fit into the boats -- invaluable information that saves time. "What it really comes down to is doing things virtually with Alibre Design so we don't make mistakes in the real world," Conway says.

Within two weeks, the engineering team had designed two new fuel tanks, new instrument gauges and a new wiring harness (figures 1 and 2). The engineers also made sure that a new control handle that had initially been designed using their former software could be duplicated and tested with Alibre Design.

Figure 1. The 21i-S gas tank, a prototype for the Tigé's 21-foot inboard boat, designed using Alibre Design.

Figure 2. A fuel-sending unit designed using Alibre Design. This fuel-level sensor for the gasoline tank has a float attached to the cog rotates a potentiometer, which sends a signal to the gauge prototype fuel tank.

Tigé fuel tanks sit in the bottom of the boat. Designers of a tank must make sure it fits all the contours of the V-shaped hull. With Alibre Design, Tigé engineers easily built a 3D model that proved the new design would fit. Then they created a wood model of the fuel tank that Conway could examine first-hand.

"If I had this tank fabricated in aluminum in someone else's shop," Conway says, "it would have been very expensive. With Alibre Design, we can prove things virtually, create inexpensive stereographic files and avoid mistakes that can cost thousands of dollars.

And, Conway adds, "The cost of one Alibre Design seat was the same price we would have paid to have someone else manufacture a model of our fuel tank. We achieved a positive ROI on the first fuel tank we designed."

Leaner, More Efficient Design
Alibre Design will help Tigé reduce labor hours as well as save production costs, Conway says, and he also foresees a real boost in time-to-market. "I'm already sharing what I've learned with vendors who need this kind of software. Alibre Design made Tigé's full transition to 3D modeling a painless one. I've been recommending Alibre Design wholeheartedly."

With Alibre Design, Conway will also be able to work on a long-term project that Tigé previously wasn't equipped to tackle: creating full-configuration documents for every boat and part the company designs. "Our boats are built by artisans who know what they're doing because they've done it so many times," Conway says. "But having precise schematics will help us in many ways and improve our ability to make design changes on the fly."

Tigé will miss Fulks' expertise, but Conway is confident the remaining team will quickly become fully operational in 3D using Alibre Design. If they do encounter any obstacles in the transition, Tigé designers know they have Alibre technical support to fall back on -- Alibre Design and Alibre Design Professional customers receive a year of maintenance with their purchase, including online and telephone support. "We haven't needed to contact Alibre support yet, but it's good to know they are there," Conway says.

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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