Free software designs better aluminum structures

Oct. 12, 2006
For one-off designs of simple, aluminum structures such as guards and machine frames, it may be easy to sketch and list BOMs manually or with standard CAD tools.

Frank Gartland


A fume hood, designed in MGEsoft, can accept a HEPA filter to provide laminar flow, or users can supply the model with exhaust flanges.
A packaging-line guard system designed in the software includes doors that can be equipped with a safety interlock switch to ensure safe access.

Users can elect to see beam details in low, medium, and high levels.

But when you frequently design similar structures or create complex ones, application-specific software such as FMSsoft from Bosch Rexroth may be a faster, easier, and more productive approach than a CAD package alone.

FMSsoft comprises a family of parametric CAD modules that work with AutoCAD 2000 and later. The modules — MGEsoft (structural aluminum framing), MASsoft (ergonomic workstations), and TSsoft (modular assembly conveyors) — add in Rexroth-specific menus, component libraries, and custom design and analysis functions.

A complete selection of aluminum profiles and associated hardware lets users extend modular aluminum framing beyond factory frames and bases to highly specialized structures for everything from clean-room walls and ceilings to complete lean-manufacturing systems. Components for storage, parts presentation, tool organization, worker comfort, and many others make it a snap to build the exact structure required.

The software is particularly useful because aluminum is the new metal for machine frames and guarding. Unlike welded steel, bolt-together aluminum components are reusable, easy to modify, and require no labor-intensive and is as easy as dragging profiles to a new location. Profiles range from 20 20 mm to the industry's largest extrusion, 90 360 mm (inch sizes are also available). Even with its high level of automation, the tool lets users manually intervene when necessary, for instance, to specify special machining or add access holes.

Particularly impressive is a detail feature, which provides low, medium, and high levels of detail. Low level gives a basic part outline, while high level shows internal structures, including T-slots and inside holes. Module-insertion dialog boxes include 3D graphics for good visualization, and detailed module views let users check basic product dimensions before inserting modules into a drawing.

Designing a typical frame takes about 2 hr. Once a layout is complete, the software lets users do basic structural analysis to calculate deflection and loads, and make sure the design meets its requirements. Making changes is simple. Users need only select the profile that needs replacing and specify a new one. Connecting hardware then updates.

MGEsoft creates a complete BOM, including details such as part description, part number, and profile length. Users can drop generated parts lists directly into the online Framing Shop shopping cart on the company's Web site for immediate pricing. The software comes from Bosch Rexroth Corp., 816 E. Third St., Buchanan, MI 49107, (800) 739-7684. Download the program for free at

Frank Gartland is a design specialist at Airline Hydraulics Inc.,

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