User Story

RAM Design and Drafting : Autodesk Mechanical Desktop

One and half years ago, Canadian entrepreneur and RAM Design and Drafting principal Andrew Masse teamed up with Scottish designer-engineer Hugh Piggott and fellow Canadian Bob Budd to consider an idea about developing an affordable, easy to use alternative source of electricity for the average consumer. However, Masse was more concerned about homeowners living in remote areas where the cost of hooking up with the local power company can be tens of thousands of dollars.

"Once Bob and I hooked up with Hugh Piggott, the wind power guru," says Masse, "we leveraged our skill sets. Hugh did the main engineering and design development in Europe. Bob adapted Hugh's European design for the North American market. I used Mechanical Desktop software to make sure that all the parts fit together accurately and that the product performed as specified. Hugh based the design on recycled parts such as automotive brake drums and the inner workings of old electric motors."

Masse says the idea to allow consumers to be able to build and repair the unit with common, easy to find parts was novel. "Commercial systems that are in use now, are expensive and can require complex set ups by professionals. When a part breaks or if the unit needs repair, the homeowner is without power for several days and replacement parts can be expensive, especially if you have to ship your windmill back to the manufacturer," adds Masse.

Breath of fresh air
The windmill generator design is simple yet well thought out. Masse and Bob used Mechanical Desktop to assure that there were no flaws in the design. "Mechanical Desktop allowed me to create all the assemblies very easily. In addition, we produced professional looking graphics and assembly drawings for a booklet that shows all the different designs and plans for producing the windmill. The blades are critical components of the assembly and Hugh was an integral part to their development including the overall design of the machine. Masse says, "In using Mechanical Desktop, we produced documentation for the blade design knowing for certain that they would be understood by our readers. We also developed a video and a web site using Mechanical Desktop models," notes Masse.

The span of the radius of the blades is eight feet six inches. The generator drum is from a heavy-duty truck that is incorporated into the main hub in the center of the assembly. All the other components are handmade using parts indicated on Masse's drawings. The tail is a self-furling, intelligent unit that can cause the generator to slow down if the wind gets too strong. Without this five-foot long tail configuration, the unit could over power and burn itself out. The unit is compact and parts are easy to find.

"Ideally," says Masse, "we would like consumers to attend our workshops where we demonstrate how to build the machines using our design kits that are available over the Internet." For now, however, Masse is waiting for the day when large groups of people gather with their building materials and begin to build windmills as a cooperative effort.

Masse, Piggott, and Budd share a passion for helping people become more self-sufficient. "We know that our product will help the public reduce the cost of using electricity," adds Masse. Budd has been using his own handmade windmill for more than one year. Recently, he overhauled his unit to obtain more power. Using recycled parts, he was up and running in just two days. Using conventional power from a local power company, it would have cost Budd eight thousand dollars to connect to the power grid. Using the Mechanical Desktop-based windmill, he is completely self-sufficient and for a very affordable price.

Masse notes, "Mechanical Desktop helped us tremendously with this project. Without it, we could not have conveyed the information to the public successfully. The technology allowed me to create all the assemblies and all the constraints, turn the product around quickly, and animate it." For a peek at the animated product, check out RAM's web site at

Masse says he wouldn't have selected any other MCAD product besides Mechanical Desktop. "I had been using AutoCAD for over 12 years and I was up and running with Mechanical Desktop in the matter of a week The availability of Mechanical Desktop has made it the best graphical design tool in my portfolio."

Author: Laura Carrabine

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Page last modified on March 22, 2000
Copyright 2000 by John Stark