Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Autodesk: Complex-structure manufacturer saves with digital prototyping, data management

September 11, 2009
By André Voshart

THE COMPANY: Founded in 1926 and based in Coquitlam, B.C., Dynamic Structures designs and manufactures complex structures. Whether it’s creating a massive telescope enclosure or an amusement ride, the company is known for its innovative designs and exacting engineering.

THE CHALLENGE: The products Dynamic Structures builds have very precise requirements. For example, amusement rides must not only wow riders, they must also meet stringent safety regulations and be completely reliable. Ride rails need to line up and switches bear the weight and motion. On these and other projects, there’s little room for error. Most of the time, building physical prototypes of these complex projects is nearly impossible. Yet the company needs to have confidence that when fabrication begins, it has accounted for all aspects of operation and installation.

In 1994, the company began designing its most complex structures using AutoCAD, incorporating 3D functionality as it became available. Then, in 2002, it decided to move beyond 3D to digital prototyping with Autodesk Inventor. With Inventor, they’re able to model highly complex geometry for intricate structures faster and easier than ever before. What’s more, it can use digital prototyping to visualize and validate designs from all angles.

"On massive, complex structures … we can’t fabricate, assemble, then realize something won’t work," drawing office manager Craig Breckenridge says. "On a traditional drawing, it can take hours to determine whether someone can access an area of an enclosure. With the digital prototype, we can visualize exactly how the worker can do it. We know how much space equipment takes up, what’s around it, and how we’ll support it – just by looking at the digital prototype."

Before digital prototyping, teamwork was hampered by miscommunication. Now, both designers and engineers access data for projects using Autodesk Vault Manufacturing, data management software that helps with revision control and the engineering change order process.


THE RESULTS: Besides helping to streamline the design process, digital prototyping enables Dynamic Structures and its clients to experience photorealistic renderings and animations of designs. "Before we build anything, we can see and almost feel it," Breckenridge says. "It makes a huge difference in the accuracy of our design process – we are confident that what we see is what we’ll get." The company animates digital prototypes to help the fabrication shop quickly understand how to sequence the assembly process. It also includes 3D visualizations in its bids for new projects, importing Inventor models into Autodesk 3ds Max to create project animations. Additionally, the company estimates digital prototyping reduces the time it takes to create and revise part and assembly drawings by more than 20 percent.

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