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From CAD User Mechanical Magazine Vol 15 No 06 - JUNE 2002
My earliest recollections of the rock climbing scenario in North Wales are of rain swept nights and days spent under large rocks, huddled in
My earliest recollections of the rock climbing scenario in North Wales are of rain swept nights and days spent under large rocks, huddled in sleeping bags, waiting for it to stop so that we could venture out on to the (gentlest) rock faces, and more particularly, watching the legendary Joe Brown being filmed whilst he climbed the sheer faces of 'Cloggie'. It wasn't Mr Brown's derring-do that enthralled us, stirring as it was, so much as the feat of the accompanying film crew, dangled mere feet away from the climber on the same face, having to 'do his day job' whilst being suspended in like manner to the mountaineering hero.
It was that, more than anything else, that brought home to me the importance of safety, and the utter reliance that such adventurers have on their equipment. I was delighted, therefore, to hear about the advances being made in this direction, and the fact that research is being made at the 'coalface' - deep in the heart of one of the UK's best loved mountaineering centres.
Founded in 1981 by a dedicated group of engineers, some of whom have worked on the production of mountaineering and safety equipment since 1966, DMM Engineering is committed to the design and manufacture of high-quality products for the growing rock-climbing, mountaineering and industrial safety markets. With its headquarters and factories located on the banks of Llyn Padarn near Llanberis, Wales (U.K.), DMM Engineering leverages the most advanced equipment and technology used in the manufacture of climbing and industrial safety equipment. The company develops products at its fully integrated manufacturing facility and works with sister company, DMM International, to distribute products worldwide.
DMM Engineering has produced innovative equipment for rock-climbing, mountaineering and industrial safety for two decades. In 1996, a group including directors of DMM purchased Wild Country, which held the original patents for camming units, devices that rock climbers use to provide a frictional anchor in rock features where no other method of fall arrest/protection is possible. The climber contracts the aluminum alloy cams by depressing a trigger, after which the device can be inserted into a crack in the rock. When the trigger is released, the cams open, securing the device. The climber attaches his or her rope to the device. If a fall occurs, the weight and impact is transmitted through the device to the cams, creating the frictional anchor.
Following the Wild Country acquisition, DMM Engineering faced the challenge of developing a new, technologically advanced product line that would complement Wild Country camming devices, which enjoy great brand recognition.
Design for Manufacturing
DMM needed an advanced 3D CAD tool to provide the power and flexibility necessary to innovate a completely new line of camming devices based on a hoop-stemmed design. They selected SolidWorks software because of its integration with manufacturing processes, flexibility and 3D visualization capabilities. By deploying SolidWorks, DMM reduced its design cycle by 50 percent and realized sales three times higher than initial estimates.
According to Fred Hall, Technical Managing Director at DMM, management realized the company would have to invest in an advanced 3D CAD tool to provide the power and flexibility necessary to innovate a new product category. "We wanted to make a product that didn't compete with Wild Country's single-stem camming device," Hall explains. "We used the concept of a hoop-stem design but faced the challenge of making it lighter and stronger than anything that had been produced before. We knew we had to include 3D shapes in the manufacturing process to make them efficiently and support aggressive pricing requirements."
DMM had used AutoCAD LT for product design when Kevin Brown of Design Geometrics, Ltd., introduced DMM to SolidWorks® software. Impressed with the power and flexibility of the software, DMM purchased two seats of SolidWorks from SolidBase and engaged Brown to design the family of hoop-stemmed camming devices.
"SolidWorks has helped us from conception through production," Hall says. "It allows us to model components step-by-step, as they would be manufactured, such as the machining of an extruded profile. SolidWorks also gave us the flexibility to consider many options during the design phase before committing to a final design. With the old 2D package we relied on prototypes, which were time-consuming, limiting and expensive. With SolidWorks, we had very few changes once we entered production."
Hall adds that 3D visualization provided by SolidWorks aided interactions between Brown, the designer, and manufacturing personnel. "The most beautiful design in the world is of no value if it can't be manufactured efficiently. SolidWorks helped us address manufacturing issues, such as longer tool life and faster cutting paths, as part of the design process. This is key because you can't manufacture something that costs more than anyone will pay. You want an aesthetic design that you can produce at a cost that the market will support. That's what I call design for manufacturing."
Using SolidWorks software, DMM was able to reduce its design cycle for the new line of camming devices by 50 percent.
STYLISING WITH SHAPE AND COLOUR
Designing strong, lightweight camming devices that are stylized and color-coded was another challenge. "In addition to the technical difference of using a hoop-stem, our camming devices also required a degree of stylistic differentiation to make them attractive in the marketplace," Hall points out. "SolidWorks enabled us to take away as much redundant material as we could to produce a robust, long-lasting product. Lightness is a key feature. When you are climbing a mountain, you want to conserve energy."
Using PhotoWorks™ photorealistic rendering software with SolidWorks, DMM developed a color indexing system for the 11 different sizes of camming devices. "The karabiners that accompany the camming devices are color-coded. You know the size of the camming unit by the color," Hall says. The combination of software also provides graphics for promotional purposes.
Tripling Sales Estimates
S ales orders for the new line of camming units during the first year were three times initial estimates, and the "take-up" response from retailers was the highest ever for a new DMM product, Hall says. "Either our market research was wrong or the product was right, and I know the product was right."
He adds that a large part of the success of a
product is the ability of the Engineering Department to sell the
product to the Sales Department and retailers. The 3D graphics and
stylized components provided by SolidWorks created much enthusiasm
for the product, Hall notes. CU
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