ASYS has seen cost savings and gained competitive advantages by using digital factory 3D simulation software from Visual Components.
The ASYS group manufactures production machinery for electronics and solar energy industries. An improvement of more than 80 per cent in sales response time and other competitive benefits have been gained by installing three-dimensional (3D) factory simulation software from Visual Components. The software is now used throughout the German company's global marketing and sales network, including its business partnerships.
ASYS invested in factory simulation software because the company wanted a faster and less costly way to show customers, early in the cycle, a realistic 3D digital representation of a proposed production line and its components. Visualisation is key because the products are complicated and customers want to 'walk around the line' and see how the various machines fit together. They want to be sure a configuration is fully optimised. They want to check the functionality of the system and ask 'what if' questions including spatial factors such as the line layout 'footprint', or the handling of raw material and finished goods for lean manufacturing purposes.
Before, to produce a high-quality 3D illustration for marketing or sales presentations was costly and time-consuming. It meant commissioning an external industrial design studio to produce the artwork. The industrial designers manually developed an illustration for an existing machine or system from a 2D CAD layout and other images supplied by ASYS. If a variant was requested a totally new illustration had to be produced. Not being linked to a CAD database, the existing illustration could not be re-used. An alternative was the vastly more expensive simulation software that is typically used in the automotive market, but this was well outside the company's budget and would require a massive server to support data management. To enable ASYS sales personnel to show customers 3D simulations in the field, the appropriate software had to work on laptop computers.
Visual Components, a Finnish developer of low-cost but advanced digital factory simulation software, met all the functional and budgetary requirements. A business partner, Dualis IT Solution, was in the region to provide any technical and sales support needed. In 2004 ASYS purchased all three packages within the supplier's software suite: 3D Create, a developer's toolkit enabling a library of 'intelligent' product models to be built in 3D and animated; 3D Realize, a configurator to arrange and snap together the 3D models; and 3D Video, a free viewer enabling the manufacturer's customers to see and manipulate the whole model in 3D without owning the core software. The positive results led to the start of a worldwide rollout in February 2005.
Klaus Bronner explained: ‘Once we have presented a 3D proposal, if a customer wants to see additional layouts, we can adjust the existing configuration within minutes and e-mail back a PDF graphics file of the modified production line configuration. This process can take, depending on customer wishes, less than ten minutes. In this case we can save even more time, up to ninety per cent, compared to what we did before.’
In addition, a video showing the proposal in full 3D simulation can be e-mailed to the customer and viewed on the suite's free-to-use simulation package. ‘This is why it is so powerful,’ he said. ‘Now we have a tool where we can very efficiently configure a single machine or a complete production line, animated as well to show workflows and automated processes. We also use the system for new product development and manufacturing. In addition, Visual Components has open interfaces to work with other software and we take advantage of this by reusing the 3D models with Cinema4D, a photo-realistic rendering package.’