It's been over 10 years since Cliff Griffin left the corporate world to start his own firm. A veteran user of AutoCAD and fluent in 2D design, Griffin selected AutoCAD LT in 1995 when he launched Griffin Laboratories based in Temecula, California. Specializing in small medical devices for speech pathologists, Griffin found 2D to be adequate for most of his design work. The drawbacks, he notes, were mostly with supplier communications.
"The biggest problem for the supplier with a 2D design," says Griffin, "is the interpretation of the drawings. You can have a perfect 2D drawing, but it can be very hard to interpret. If your supplier doesn't know in advance what something should look like, it takes quite an analytical mind to extract out of the drawing what's intended.?
Migrating from 2D
Griffin Laboratories' flagship product is the TruTone electrolarynx — a medical device that allows people who've lost the ability to speak to produce understandable sounds. With advances in 3D software, Griffin knew that a move to 3D would likely speed up his design-to-manufacturing cycle and also improve supplier communications, whether in-house or outsourced.
Taking advantage of the free trial offer from Alibre, Griffin spent about two hours on Alibre Design tutorials and was then able to design a 10-part assembly within a half hour of first using the product. He found that the software handled all of the design tasks at his company with room to spare. Additionally, Alibre Design's clean interface and ease of use has allowed his in-house machine shop to come up to speed quickly on the product and utilize the software to speed their work.
The company also has many 2D legacy drawings that they need to re-use for new designs. "I was impressed at how efficiently we were able to convert our legacy drawings," says Griffin. While some of the simple parts were re-created from scratch, Griffin was able to import more complex parts as a profile into Alibre Design. "All I needed to do after that was to dimension it," he says. "It is definitely worth the effort to have our designs in 3D, where we can assemble them and view them as models. And the process of making changes was significantly improved. I no longer have to edit numerous 2D views. Instead, I click on the dimension that needs changing, type in the new value, and I'm done — drawings update automatically."
Design Efficiency = Fast ROI
Griffin says his ROI from Alibre Design comes from the design efficiency inherent in 3D and from communications clarity between his design team and the machine shop. "One thing we also appreciate is the frequency of updates to the software," he says. He notes that "updates are painless," coming automatically through the software's Web interface.
"We consider Alibre Design an excellent value," he says. "It does everything we need and more."
3D Fits the Budget
Bob Schwartz is the Vice President of Phoenix Precision Incorporated in Glendale, Arizona. Phoenix Precision services the semiconductor industry with a wide range of products and services ranging from machined sockets, adapters and receptacles to custom interconnects. Bob previously worked with a company that used SolidWorks. After starting Phoenix Precision, he knew the need for a robust 3D solid modeling package was great, but the $5,000 minimum cost of SolidWorks and other solid modelers did not fit the company's budget. At the time, Bob was using AutoCAD LT, and was "just getting by with it."
Bob saw Alibre's advertisement in a magazine and noticed there was a free trial. "Right then and there I downloaded the program off the web site and started my free trial. To be honest, I was immediately blown away. I got into the software and could not believe how similar it was to SolidWorks. Without using the Help, I was able to make one of my parts in less than 20 minutes! After that I was saying, `Wow! This is it.'"
As a company, Phoenix Precision has to be sensitive to the growing economic pressure in the semiconductor industry. And after finding Alibre, Bob says, "You just don't need to pay $5,000-$10,000 for a 3D solid modeling program anymore."
One of the challenges Bob was anticipating in the initial transition was moving data created in AutoCAD LT to Alibre Design. Since Alibre Design supports the STEP data exchange standard, as well as the ability to import and export AutoCAD's native formats, DXF and DWG, moving data between the two systems was easy. "I was very happy with that transition between AutoCAD LT and Alibre Design. I've used other programs that totally hacked up my drawings and sketches from AutoCAD."
"I am working on a project right now that is testing my Alibre Design knowledge. When I run into something I'm not sure of, or need to find where things are, I just go to the integrated online Help system, or I get online help directly from Alibre's support engineers through the Alibre Assistant. Alibre's technical support team has been extremely helpful. That was another thing that blew me away. I had a question, so I sat down with one of their engineers online, and it was just like he was here. Their product support is fantastic."
"Before I heard about Alibre I was using a DOS based program for my NC machine. I have always wanted to get a more advanced Windows-based milling program, but those are also too expensive. Now with Alibre Design Expert, I can create NC code for my in-house machine." Alibre Design Expert has integrated software that makes it a complete design-build solution: DesignCheck FEA from ALGOR, AlibreCAM for 2.5 and 3-axis milling, Alibre Motion for assembly motion simulation, sheet metal design tools, Alibre PhotoRender, and the Alibre and Traceparts Parts Libraries, which are all integrated into Alibre Design's menu system.
"Overall I would say the transition to Alibre Design was very easy. I didn't miss a beat going from AutoCAD and SolidWorks to Alibre Design. I've recommended Alibre Design to a lot of people."
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