Machine Design

Software Review: Free 3D CAD includes more than a million conveyor configurations

To integrate conveyor systems into our packaging, automation, and material-handling equipment for food, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing applications, we at NCC Automated Systems rely on Dorner Mfg. Corp.'s newly enhanced 3D CAD software.
The software lets us do many things when configuring conveyors, such as placing the driveshaft in multiple positions and spacing belt cleats in any increment. In total, there are more than 1 million model configurations available through the software. The CAD also lets us draw to precise lengths in 1/8-in. increments, a nice feature that provides the flexibility to model and generate a drawing in any length to better fit application designs.

When we’re in the conceptual design phase, one component that requires consideration is how the product moves into and out of the handling system. It’s one thing to show a system with conveyors on a flat drawing — it’s entirely more productive to illustrate in 3D exactly how conveyors will function and attach to the other elements. This capability helps us do a much better job in designing systems.

The software lets us place conveyor models in our equipment for a more exact replica of how a system looks and, ultimately, how the solution will perform in customer facilities. This capability eliminates surprises and provides valuable input in terms of how a design is going to affect a customer’s operations and maintenance. In the past, we drew models in 2D, but flat drawings make it difficult to show how designs will work.
 We downloaded a free version of the 3D CAD software here.

The process is fairly fast and easy. Once you’re in, there are four steps to follow to receive the proper 3D blocks. First, select the product type: mounts, conveyors, support stands, or gearmotor-mounting packages. Then, select product specifications (prompts walk you through to the correct files that meet your specs). Next, submit model number, and finally preview and download a 3D model in the needed format. Available formats include IGES, STEP, ACIS, SolidWorks, and Pro/Engineer, among others.

Because we’re using 3D and many of our competitors are not, it’s given us a differentiator in the market. We can use the software and model a customized system for a customer and talk with them to collaborate on the design. Together we can go online and view, rotate, zoom, and get inside the model to ensure the design will meet the project’s objectives. Having the capability to see what their equipment is going to look like lets our customers think of potential problems before we move forward. Overall, we’re pleased with the performance and functionality the 3D CAD software gives us. We can take any of our customized systems and build them with conveyors in 3D — that’s added value and something our customers appreciate.

The conveyor software comes from Dorner Mfg. Corp. of Hartland, Wis. Contact Kevin Mauger, design engineer and Marty Zona, design engineer at NCC Automated Systems | © 2010 Penton Media, Inc.

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