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A CAD Virtual Build Case Study

Proplanner Virtual Build Module Improves the Work Instructions Process


A typical shop floor work instruction consists of a list of tasks, tools, parts, and visuals. Similar to instruction manuals, the most important aspect of a work instruction is the visual or image tied to the task. Most operators are looking at the image first and therefore the image needs to communicate complex tasks effectively. 


Images can be obtained from various visualization techniques using camera images (JPG), while others rely on 2D and 3D CAD (computer-aided design) models. With the increase in the use of 3D CAD systems by product engineering, more companies are trying to transition to using those 3D models directly.


Proplanner partners with various service providers to assist companies in implementing the solution. The service providers make up a significant portion of the user base and their feedback is of value to us for the improvement of our software, products, and services. 


One of our prominent service providers is Caresoft Global based out of Burr Ridge, IL. They have been using the solution since 2012 and have provided key insights on improvements. One of the shortcomings pointed out by them was in the work instruction creation process, especially the lack of visibility to the CAD model.


Previous process using Work Instructions

“While adding work instruction content, we used to have to leave the Proplanner application and open a CAD viewer to capture the necessary image. We then had to open Excel or PowerPoint to annotate the same. There is a lot of time spent on managing these images and uploading it back to Proplanner" - Lakshmikanth (LK), an Industrial Engineer with Caresoft.


Current process incorporating Virtual Build into Work Instructions

"With Proplanner doing the work of comparing the consumed parts to the CAD BOM, we no longer have to open the CAD and turn parts on and off. This not only improves the efficiency but also improves accuracy. The comparison lets the engineer confirm if any of the parts in the CAD have not been assigned to a process. As we click through the process tree, we are able to see the as-built product at the end of each station and more importantly validate that the sequence of activities is correct” - Lakshmikanth (LK).


How are work instruction images obtained?


Any manufacturer trying to add images from CAD in their work instructions typically follows the following steps:


  1. Begin with a CAD viewer and create a product structure in the viewer to match the process.

  2. Load all the necessary CAD files for this given process.

  3. Open a system like Proplanner (process data source), and for each process step review the CAD file and obtain the necessary image.

    1. Manually turn on/off, color code, explode, magnify parts to match the current process step in the assembly line balance sequence.

    2. Once the view is available, take a snapshot of the process

    3. Save this snapshot in the work instruction editor solution

    4. Annotate the image to line up with process steps

    5. Save the annotated image to the process and finalize the work instruction.


Having reviewed these steps with our clients and service providers, we realized that we can eliminate a lot of these steps by incorporating all of these capabilities into the Assembly Planner process engineering editor.


Virtual Build Module

The Virtual Build module brings together the following entities –

  1. Process Structure Data

  2. Part Consumption Data

  3. 3D CAD drawing and BOM

  4. Smart Image Annotation

ProPlanner's Virtual Build Module

Proplanner Virtual Build Module


The process structure in Proplanner is a sequenced list of activities with work steps, consumed parts list, and tools. The goal of the virtual build module is to allow the user to compare the consumption data mapped to the process with the bill of material (BOM) data in the associated CAD. 


As the user clicks through the process structure, the system is trying to locate the consumed parts in the BOM of the CAD file and turning them on. This mechanism of locating the consumed parts from the process creates the as-built product as the user clicks through the process tree. The module matches the consumed part of the CAD data thus eliminating the need of the user to locate the consumed parts in the CAD.


Once the as-built product is shown in the viewer, the user can simply take a snapshot of the product, annotate it and save it back to the process all from one module. This feature saves the user a lot of time and prevents them from shuttling between multiple systems.


Benefits of using Virtual Build


As listed above, there are clear benefits of having the module in Proplanner. The list shown below was gathered in Caresoft while implementing the solution at a major AG and Construction equipment manufacturer. This list was based on processing ECOs or engineering change orders in the system. The key modules being covered here are Virtual Build and Consumption Workbench


Benefits of Virtual Build Module


The ability to save views of the CAD file allows one user to take over from the point where the other left off. The annotation module automatically creates callouts for each of the consumed parts and that saves a lot of time” -Matt Antony, Caresoft consultant.


In summary, the virtual build module eliminated the need of having multiple solutions for creating work instructions images. 


The module allows the users to validate the sequence of the process, create views that are relevant to any user who looks at the process in the future, and very easily bring in new CAD files and review the impact of new parts to the current process. These benefits save the users several hours of processing time per ECO while simultaneously minimizing (and in many cases eliminating) error-prone data entry by the engineers.

Watch the video below to learn more about Proplanner's 3d Virtual Assembly Build

In this video, we show a feature overview of how 3D models can aid in manufacturing process design. We explain the overall concept of a workspace that defines and ties pieces of the manufacturing process together, such as process attributes that include routings, operations, and activities to be performed, consumption of materials mapped to activities, the 3D representative model.


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