12 April 2012
Implementing the TopSolid software package has enabled the Wavre-based exhibition stands and displays company Conceptexpo to improve its responsiveness. Thanks to this integrated CAD/CAM program, the company is able to produce its drawings in one fell swoop and then transfer them to the CNC machine. Since implementing this program, Conceptexpo has strengthened its position on the market. The time savings the program generates is a major contributing factor. In addition, design and production are so inextricably linked that errors are eliminated.
Conceptexpo has attained high levels of professionalism over the years. For producing its stands and wide range of fittings the company has a joinery division and a metalworking department. “We take care of every aspect in-house, from A to Z,” confirms Production Manager, Pierre Vincent. The company has a number of impressive references to its name, including fitting-out the displays at the Science Museum in Brussels. Conceptexpo is also very active on the international scene. The diversity of its orders has not only allowed Conceptexpo to acquire the necessary know-how and experience, it has also provided the company with the opportunity to demonstrate exemplary flexibility and responsiveness. Such diversity within a single organization naturally demands a strict framework.
Conceptexpo recently acquired a new TopSolid software package, purchased from 4D Services. Pierre Vincent explains, ““We firstly analyzed the market as part of the selection process and narrowed it down to a short list of seven solutions, finally opting for TopSolid. The performance and comprehensiveness of the program impressed us right from the outset.”
The solution in question is the integrated CAD/CAM program (TopSolid’Wood and TopSolid’WoodCam) from Missler Software. It is the seventh most popular CAD/CAM system in the world, with over 20,000 licenses sold across the globe. The TopSolid’Wood module was specially designed to be used in the wood industry. The drawing software makes it possible to produce 3D representations in no time at all. There are no limits to the shapes that can be processed. The software includes numerous dedicated wood-working tools: profiling, counter-profiling, producing miters and grooves, raising, inserting dowels, etc.
Set library and new projects
The program comprises items from a set library but with the possibility of integrating new projects. You can therefore conveniently base each new project on former ones. This makes for an economic, quick and efficient program. “And that was precisely what we were looking for in our business. It saves us a considerable number of working hours," states Pierre Vincent. TopSolid is a comprehensive integrated CAD/CAM solution. This means that the 3D model obtained is used directly in production. This ensures a watertight link between the design office and the preparation of the work. Pieter Cornelis from 4D Services expands, “Everything drawn is saved by the software. So as to provide designers with optimum freedom for their 3D projects, TopSolid proposes two ways of creating projects: free design and parametric design.”
In free design, TopSolid lets you create unrelated parts and compositions. This can prove very useful when the designer has no need for associativity or parametric modeling. Designers have already been working this way for years. Why work according to parametric rules when you do not need to? This is particularly useful in the stand manufacturing division which generally works with non-standardized measurements.
With TopSolid’s parametric design, the intuitive sketcher automatically (= implicitly) adds parametric rules to the model. The program thus directly supplies the correct dimensions and constraints and the designer obtains a parametric model in the blink of an eye. Relations may be added or deleted at any time. As Pieter Cornelis says, “You can adapt the geometry (shape) of your model in accordance with variables. In other words, you are not limited to the library models and benefit from greater flexibility.”
Connectivity with the CNC machine
TopSolid’Wood controls saws automatically. The software package includes specific functions for working solid wood (boring, profiling, counter-profiling) as well as panels (dowels, assembling cabinet corners, rows of holes, etc.). The software is connected directly up to the CNC saws. Since the different modules are all integrated into a single software package, resulting in a single working environment, there is no need to learn how to use any additional programs. A second considerable advantage lies in the direct link that exists between the 3D and 2D models. This practically does away with interpretation errors. Data is therefore not only processed efficiently, but the integration also avoids the risk of errors. Furthermore, the errors are displayed on screen and can be corrected using the software. The program can control 3D machines (the mill cutter always vertical) as well as 5-axis machines. Conceptexpo owns a Masterwood Project 5, 5-axis boring and milling machine.
The pros and the pros
Up to this point, TopSolid has brought nothing but benefits to Conceptexpo. Here is a summary of some of the most significant advantages.
Competitive positioning on the market
“We formerly used Autocad,” explains Pierre Vincent. “With TopSolid’Wood, we can perform every task and respond rapidly to the demands of the market. We get the job done twice as fast as before, which has further strengthened our market position.” Before the CNC machines arrived, everything was very time-consuming and measuring was performed by hand using the drawings. Today the vast majority of the preparation work happens from behind a desk. Such progression shows that intensive automation is a must if you do not want your market position to slip.
This software is also a bonus for the customer. Designers can visualize their projects and present them to their customers. The strength in the design lies in the fact that customers get a glimpse of the final results they can expect to obtain. Such visualization also means that the customer can be more involved in the design. Drawings are produced directly in 3D. The software lets you pivot the drawing and see the project from all angles.
No interpretation errors
The advantages for the designer are abundant. There is no point in designing something if you cannot then manufacture it. Design errors are detected more rapidly which again saves time. Thanks to the direct link between 3D and 2D (machine control), interpretation errors are effectively eliminated.
Quick and intelligent
Using TopSolid’Wood generates considerable time savings due to the quickness and accuracy of the program. Project modifications are no longer time-consuming. There is no need to start new drawings from scratch. After modifying an item, the program itself performs the new calculations and then automatically adapts the assembly. A single drawing suffices, one which is then simply adapted.
Training and advice are of paramount importance when implementing a new software package. Proper training is necessary to become familiar with the software. For Conceptexpo, 4D Services provided this training. One week for drawing and one week for machine programming (WoodCam). Pieter Cornelis is categoric, “Training is absolutely indispensable in order to make the most of everything that the software package has to offer. It is therefore given very special attention.”