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DRS, Inc. : Moldflow
Since 1982, DRS, Inc. (Holland, OH) has provided vital product development assistance to manufacturers in primarily the automotive, healthcare, and consumer goods industries. Since its inception, the company has grown from building hand-constructed parts and tooling, to fully automated manufacturing. According to DRS president Dean Sparks, "Our focus is to make good decisions and turn projects around quickly. In the product development business the name of the game is all about the rush to market. He who gets to market faster, gets the bigger share. In addition to fast turnaround, our goal is to provide the best quality, service, and value possible."
Recently, after reading about Moldflow's iMPA, the Internet-based, fully configured version of the company's flagship Moldflow Plastics Adviser technology, Sparks ran to his computer to check out the software. "My first thought was that this is an absolutely terrific service," says Sparks. "For small operations like DRS, it's very expensive to purchase MPA software licenses, the hardware to support them, and the training to get people up and running the software. Traditionally, we relied on our experience and trial and error to make decisions on issues such as gate locations. For complex parts, we occasionally went outside for Moldflow analyses. But those efforts were expensive and took up to two weeks.
"In this business the average project turnaround time is two to three weeks. We can't afford to wait for outside services to perform flow analyses," adds Sparks.
He uses iMPA to simulate several gating and flow scenarios to obtain the optimal performance for every part. "iMPA helps us determine where to gate and where trouble spots are located," notes Sparks.
"In the past, we relied on intuition and luck," adds Sparks. "But sometimes, projects that seem like no-brainers end up not filling properly. That's why iMPA is so terrific. We can run unlimited number of analyses on a single part to determine the most accurate gating configuration."
What's more, Sparks says iMPA is easy to use. "It's remarkably simple software and it runs on any Pentium-based computer. What normally would take two weeks at an outside shop using Moldflow software, now takes just a couple hours in-house."
Sparks and his colleagues have bundled iMPA results with project quotations to give them a more professional appeal. "The customer actually receives a Moldflow analysis and results as part of the job quote," says Sparks. "In the past, an outsourced service would have charged between $1,500 to $3000 for a Moldflow analysis. We are saving our customers a lot of money by using iMPA. Our customers think we are really on the ball when they obtain their quotes with Moldflow analyses results as part of the package."
Coupon books pay off
Recently, Sparks purchased an iMPA coupon book. "We can use iMPA now or later. We know were going to use them so why not get the savings on them," asks Sparks.
He's also impressed with the iMPA Internet reporting functionality. "The html-based results can be posted on our server and we establish a link to our customer so they can directly access the information via the Internet. It's confidential and only our customer can access it. It's a fantastic tool because of the instantaneous nature of it," says Sparks. "Our customers love the ready access to the Moldflow results. By viewing them online, they can quickly make decisions and share the data with colleagues."
Sparks says that the Internet report also allows him and other DRS associates to add comments, make recommendations, and explain decisions. "It's a good vehicle to add valuable information as why we chose certain gate locations," adds Sparks. "The Internet reporting capability is an excellent example of using the web to suit our business needs."
Moldflow tech support
Recently, a DRS customer requested a Moldflow analysis. At 7:00 pm the night before the customer needed the results, Sparks left the office and intended to run the analysis at home that evening. "It had been a long, busy day and the mold designers who typically run the iMPA simulations were swamped with work," notes Sparks. "I figured that I could easily perform the analysis on my laptop at home that evening."
Moldflow verifies and authenticates STL files via the Internet. When the STL file was generated, the original customer-given CAD file name was carried through to the STL file name. Normally, there's no need to change the STL file name since keeping the original file name ensures continuity with tracking data revision levels. In this case, the STL file was authenticated but Moldflow's web site would not download the activation file.
"I immediately emailed Moldflow's technical support," remembers Sparks. "But it was after normal business hours and I realized that no one would likely answer me until the morning or later the next day. My customer was expecting these results first thing in the morning. To my surprise, within a matter of minutes Linda Parker from Moldflow's technical support called me."
The two of them determined that the customer's file name contained multiple dots. Moldflow accounts for long file names but the extra dots seemed to confuse it. "Linda told me to purchase another simulation with the file name changed and she credited the original purchase. I renamed the file in a standard format and within seconds was up and running a simulation. The fast reaction on Linda's part helped me deliver the simulation results to my customer on time," adds Sparks.
iMPA on the road
Sparks takes advantage of showing iMPA to customers. "As long as you have iMPA installed, the STL file data, and the Moldflow authentication information, the simulations can be run on any computer, even laptops," says Sparks. "We use a Pentium III laptop that we take on-site to customers for design reviews. We run the simulations in front of the customers."
He says that customers generally have no idea that is technology is possible. "The on-site simulations bolster confidence in us on the part of customers," adds Sparks. And, while building prototypes seems to be a necessary evil in the product development business, the iMPA simulations help DRS customers understand models in terms of complexity and detail. They realize the need to built at least one prototype to compare it to the computer-based models and analyses.
As an iMPA veteran who's used the service nearly 10 times, Sparks says Moldflow Corporation is vigilant about enhancing iMPA on a regular basis. "When we notice that the software has been upgraded, we immediately download the newest version in a matter of seconds," says Sparks. "Every time I use iMPA, I wonder why more shops aren't using it," wonders Sparks.
For more information about iMPA, visit www.plasticszone.com. Or visit www.moldflow.com for more information about the company, its products, and services. For more information about DRS, Inc., visit www.drsinc.com.
Author: Laura Carrabine