Anderson Power Products (APP) (Sterling, Massachusetts), specializes in the design and manufacture of electrical power connectors and accessories.
As part of its "precision engineering" philosophy, the company works with design and engineering products from Kubotek USA Inc. (Marlborough, Massachusetts). Specifically, it uses the latest version of KeyCreator (formerly CADKey) geometry-based design and modeling technology.
"KeyCreator is an important part of our engineering process because it provides flexibility that is not available in any parametric-based solid modeler," comments Danna Mancini, Anderson's manager of engineering services. "We use the program as part of our integrated product development (IPD) process."
The program has been formulated to assist users in the design of tooling, complex machinery, fixtures, molds and dies in numerous product development industries, including automotive, aerospace, heavy equipment, sports equipment, medical devices and others.
The KeyCreator product line includes multidimensional design and drafting, NC programming and reverse engineering capabilities. It features Kubotek's customized, geometry-based foundation, with localized feature editing and deformation techniques. These capabilities can be particularly useful for design teams working with advanced designs of solid models because the software blends surface, solids and wireframe modeling, allowing modification and editing functionality.
The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI ) recognized the need for and trend in rapid recharging systems both for airport ground support use and other industrial applications. The company responded to this need by developing the SBE 700, which proved to be a challenge. Some facilities were burning through as many as 200 connectors a week, creating maintenance issues and cost overruns.
Developing the company's SBE 700 connector was a challenge on several fronts. For instance, the product had to be designed and manufactured in less time than other comparable products. Another cause for concern was that the standard for rapid recharging was still being developed, so multiple iterations of the product were expected. In addition, a large team needed to review the design files. This usually calls for file conversions, which can lead to corrupt files. Using KeyCreator from start to finish was the solution. In doing so, it would be practical to create models for sharing from native files, thus avoiding potential issues with conversions.
Using the software, the company was able to bring the SBE 700 connector to the market. A key element in any power connector is its ability to be connected and disconnected safely. The 700 was to be designed with a customized keying system to ensure that only matching connectors could be mated. The connectors would also have to be molded in a high-impact plastic to survive in their intended operating environment.
According to the company, the software was central to the design process and product evolution. To specify the basic concept of the 700, the team used the software, which allowed multiple iterations to occur quickly as engineers addressed various design issues. At the end of the process, KeyCreator allowed the team to capture images to create artwork for use by the marketing and sales staff.
The software was also used to design the manufacturing machinery needed to produce the connector; in designing and building the injection molds for the four plastic components; and for the design of the semi-automatic assembly machine.
The four plastic components include the main housing, a cable clamp and two halves of an auxiliary housing. For each mold, the software was used to generate 3D models of EDM electrodes that would be used to burn the part geometry into the steel.
Thanks in large part to the software, the company was able to design and manufacture the SBE 700 in less time than some comparable products. Bethlehem Steel, one of APP's customers, purchased 48 mated pairs of the connector and modified its coil tractors and internal operations while maximizing employee safety. Partially because of the success of the 700 project, the company recently upgraded all of its former CADKey users to KeyCreator.
"As a company that has been in business for more than 120 years, we are elated to see Kubotek's long-term vision for KeyCreator, as well as the future of manufacturing," says Mr. Mancini. "To know that the software is evolving and improving, while keeping true to the ease of use and the flexibility of CADKey, is a source of excitement for us."