Lovers of the Haut-Jura landscape really must make a detour via Pratz. In the business park of this small town situated around 100 kilometers from Besançon, they will discover a company unlike any other. The honed skills of generations of craftsmen from the Jura region is reflected in the know-how of Lépine, a family company that produces pens, knives, automatic watches and now glasses.
These unconventional high-end items are produced in small series. They are genuine works of art that cleverly combine functionality with aesthetics: a true delight to behold. "We are the fifth generation and we are the continuation of a high-precision micromechanics activity that began 30 years ago," says Benjamin Lépine, the young head of this microenterprise that employs four machining virtuosos. Production has been perfected right down to the smallest detail. Nothing is left to chance. "From design to sales, we have mastered all the complex stages of our manufacturing process to achieve a perfect finish," the specialist confirms.
The complex shapes and the use of exclusive materials does not make the tasks of these true "industrial artists" any easier. They have given themselves the best possible chance of success by choosing TopSolid'Design software to create their models, which are then machined in the workshop thanks to a multifunction machine and a high-precision digitally controlled milling machine. "The parts, each produced individually, are machined from solid and noble materials such as acrylic, rhodoid, brass, aluminum, delrin, stainless steel, gold, silver, exotic woods, carbon, heather, leather and even precious stones," explains Benjamin Lépine. "It all starts with the design of these dream products which is done by my father, Jean Pierre Lepine." A graduate of the School of Fine Arts, the tirelessly inventive creator designs these exceptional products. Christened Indigo, Zig-zag, Samba, Winston, Casanova, Zeemanta, Hedera, Hong Kong, Cybergraph or Graphyscaf, these works of art are a combination of quality, technical performance and precision.
The magic brushstroke of this artist is then converted into CAD (Computer Aided Design) models thanks to TopSolid'Design that analyzes the complex forms, micro-part assemblies and functions from every angle. For example: the Belharra automatic watch, made from the same grade of stainless steel used for medical implants. Inspired by the depths of the ocean, its complex mechanism has a patented ball joint system on the wrist strap that means it can fit any size of wrist. Or the Hommage au Titanic or Freeride pens, in addition to many others, that are shaking up the forms and ideas of the world of writing. They demonstrate the level of complexity that TopSolid'Design can handle. "We invented these instruments with revolutionary shapes that combine ergonomics, comfort and aesthetics," says Benjamin Lépine.
The same complex design and manufacturing processes are present in the Sécurisoux knife that clearly displays its Haut-Jura roots. Just one look at its ergonomic handle reminds you of the J in Jura and its name comes from the Risoux forest near the town of Morez where it was born. This tool features a locking system and a patented latch, which works just as well in open and closed blade positions.
Recently launched, the new range of glasses is also part of this quest for perfection and demonstrates the small company's appetite for innovation. "We use additive manufacturing to produce the titanium hinges of our glasses with a 3D metal fusion process," says the specialist.
For Benjamin Lépine, the choice of the Missler Software solution was an obvious one for this special type of production. "I used TopSolid'Design software during an internship I did a few years ago so I was well-informed when choosing it to manage our 3D design," he says. "In operation on a daily basis, this solution has become a 'fifth partner' and can even be used to prepare our bespoke outsourcing work. User-friendly and able to handle complex models, the software has some very useful built-in features for our production process, such as the management of sensitive assemblies, simulation and the use of smart standard components that carry machining data. Drafts are detailed and standardized."
A successful experience that convinced Lépine specialists of the need to supplement their digital design and manufacturing chain with the upcoming installation of TopSolid'Cam (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software. Manual creation of machining programs, a tedious operation that can be a source of errors, will soon be a thing of the past. "This tool will make it significantly easier to create machining programs and will ensure the potential of our NC machines is used more efficiently," concludes Benjamin Lépine. These considerable advantages will help the extraordinary technical and aesthetic work of Lépine live on.
Some highlights of TopSolid:
- A powerful, intuitive tool that is capable of dealing with complex products
- Simulation prior to manufacturing for safer and more accurate designs
- Detailed and standardized drawings to ensure the highest possible productivity