Dental Equipment Manufacturer Uses Digital Prototyping as its Primary Design Tool
With Autodesk Inventor Digital Prototyping software the company can integrate everything in one place and see a complete prototype before anything is built.
Autodesk, Inc. named A-dec, Inc.— a leading manufacturer of dental chairs and equipment—as Autodesk Inventor of the Month for November 2011, recognizing its use of Autodesk software to more effectively design and develop products and generate technical documentation, such as user manuals and service guides, for its popular dentistry products.
A-dec’s award-winning dental equipment can be found in the White House, ship at sea, more than 100 countries and 90 percent of dental schools throughout the United States and Canada.
Founded in 1964, the family-owned, Oregon-based company is one of the world’s leading dental equipment solution providers and a one-stop shop for cutting-edge, configured to order dental equipment systems.
To design new products and help ensure all parts operate smoothly within a dental system, A-dec relies on Autodesk Inventor Digital Prototyping software that allows the company to validate product designs prior to physical prototyping, integrate system components easily with the use of assembly simulations and cut time to market significantly.
Using Inventor software, A-dec engineers can bring innovative ideas to life in a 3D model. And given the complex and integrative nature of A-dec’s dental equipment, Inventor helps engineers quickly determine whether and how one component will work within the greater equipment system. For example, before a single part is manufactured, engineers can look at digital prototypes of entire assemblies and systems to help ensure all parts connect and move smoothly.
“The digital prototype is our primary design tool,” says Patrick Berry, staff engineer in product development at A-dec. “With Inventor software, we can integrate everything in one place and see a complete prototype before anything is built. We’re getting to a more perfect physical prototype much faster. Also, now that we have incorporated Autodesk Product Design Suite, it has enabled us to further enhance our workflow.”
For several years, the A-dec Technical Communications team has been importing Autodesk Inventor models into Autodesk 3ds Max rendering and animation software to create photorealistic illustrations for its publications. This allows the team to begin illustration work well before they have a physical product to work with and allows time to evaluate and improve documents before they go to translation. The realistic images require less textual explanation, improving usability of the documents and reducing translation costs.
A-dec has also started exploring Autodesk Inventor Publisher software, supplied by Autodesk partner IMAGINiT Technologies, as part of its workflow. Inventor Publisher is innovative, easy-to-use technical documentation software for creating 2D printed and 3D interactive product documentation.
A-dec plans to move many documentation and instruction-related projects to Inventor Publisher, and expects significant efficiency gains in preparing exploded view drawings and training animations. Historically, these tasks would have required many hours from the technical publication department to work with Inventor files created by the engineering department, filter the model or images, and then complete the work in other software applications. With Inventor Publisher, eliminated and streamlined tasks will allow these projects to be completed with a fraction of the effort previously required.
A-dec is testing the free* Inventor Publisher Viewer app for viewing on mobile devices — this could allow the consumers of A-dec’s documentation, such as field service technicians and dentists, to access rich interactive 3D Inventor Publisher content right from their mobile devices. This digital publishing option can provide A-dec customers relevant 3D information right at their fingertips, without having to rely on a hard copy manual.
In addition, A-dec engineers use Autodesk Vault data management software to manage all data related to the digital prototype. With many engineers working concurrently and designing parts that must ultimately interconnect, Vault software lets the engineers know they’re always designing and building interfaces around the most up-to-date parts. Vault software also makes it possible for stakeholders in different departments and locations to leverage the digital prototype and its built-in information. External vendors use the digital model to create tools and cast parts.
“With its use of Inventor and other Autodesk solutions, A-dec is extending the power of Digital Prototyping beyond the engineering department to other parts of the company,” said Robert “Buzz” Kross, senior vice president, Manufacturing Industry Group at Autodesk. “The more ways A-dec can efficiently benefit from a single digital model within the organization, the more the company can increase productivity, reduce costs and dramatically improve their own customers’ experience with their products.”