RADIATORS AS ART
Europe’s Stelrad Radiator Group uses Onshape to redefine home design
Stelrad Radiator Group (SRG) is a European-based radiator manufacturer that specializes in decorative, custom and energy-efficient designs. The company markets their products under the Stelrad, Helrad and Termo Teknik brands as well as manufactures private-label radiators for other home decor brands.
Industry: Heating Technology
Industry: Heating Technology
It’s faster to create data – to work in 3D – than people might imagine. Onshape is so convenient and you can use it everywhere. I’ve been using it on the couch. I’ve even used it on the train. There’s no need to carry around a powerful notebook just to capture your quick ideas.
Dries Vervoort, Stelrad Radiator Group
When was the last time you entered a room and paid attention to the radiator?
Next to the plumbing and water boiler, the radiator is perhaps the most utilitarian and unglamorous object in one’s home. It’s not meant to be pretty. For some fashion-forward contractors, homeowners and tenants, however, that’s changing.
The Stelrad Radiator Group (SRG), a European manufacturer that sells more than 4 million radiators annually, makes sleek, decorative heating units that might be confused with works of art. Although sturdy steel plate radiators still account for the bulk of sales, available designs include attractive contours, vertical flat tubes, and stylish grilles. For example, the “Arno Double” bathroom model, with cutouts for drying towels, resembles a fancy xylophone.
"We’re still a mass producer, but customization is becoming a bigger part of our business," says Dries Vervoort, a mechanical industrial designer for SRG. "It’s becoming much more important to be fast and flexible to meet specific customer needs."
"You could have a project with 5,000 radiators with 4,750 plain white ones and 250 designer radiators. If you cannot deliver that small portion of specialty radiators, they will not consider you a supplier anymore because they want to buy from one source," he adds.
SRG, which sells under the brands Henrad, Stelrad, and Termo Teknik – and also manufactures private-label products for other brands – now offers radiators in 35 different colors to match nearly every room decor.
Demand for Earth-Friendly Radiators
Fashion aside, SRG needs to be constantly aware of new government regulations calling for higher energy efficiency standards. Those standards now vary country by country, but the European Union is requiring all new buildings to be "nearly zero energy" by 2020.
Vervoort says that the EU’s building codes are driving demand for his company’s ECO Radiators, which direct hot water flow through the front elements first – creating more radiant heat in the room and less lost through the wall. SRG claims their unique design will reduce energy bills up to 10.5% and increase radiant heat by up to 50%.
"Radiators used to be all about the heating output. You had these big cast iron workhorses that weighed maybe 150 kilograms (331 pounds). They can output a lot of heat, but it takes a lot of time to get them up to temperature," says Vervoort. "With all the new regulations, it is important to have a radiator that is highly responsive and can heat up very quickly."
To customize decorative radiators for customers and to iterate new designs for their next generation of products, SRG is using Onshape, a new full-cloud CAD system that enables multiple people to work on the same design model at the same time.
Quicker Conceptual Designs
"We are revising key components of the Eco Radiator and I have been using Onshape to come up with quick ideas on what those components might look like in the next version," says Vervoort. "Onshape is my primary sketchbook that I can access anywhere to explore multiple concepts. I can try out quick redesigns using direct edit commands on imported geometry."
"The results are precise parts that can be incorporated into one of our SolidWorks assemblies."
"For doing concept work in SolidWorks, I think you wind up modeling with way too many details because no one else at that stage can watch it," he adds. "For someone else to see it, they have to have SolidWorks or you have to export your design in a form they can view like eDrawings or another CAD tool."
"With Onshape, you can do less detailing, less work, and don’t have to go down the road further than necessary. It makes you more productive with your design time. I can work with teammates or customers directly on the same model at the same time – and we can be far more efficient because their feedback is immediate and they can see my changes as I make them."
Vervoort notes that partners, vendors and manufacturers who don’t have a need to purchase their own CAD system can instantly access and edit models with Onshape for free in their browser. There is no software to install or download.
"I also like that I can sketch and edit designs on my iPad," he adds. "It’s faster to create data – to work in 3D – than people might imagine. It’s so convenient and you can use it everywhere. I’ve been using it on the couch. I’ve even used it on the train. There’s no need to carry around a powerful notebook just to capture your quick ideas."
Using Onshape Side-By-Side with Traditional CAD
At the company’s R&D office in Belgium, the radiator design team is now using Onshape as a companion tool with SolidWorks and its Enterprise PDM system.
"As a data management system, PDM is very good at tracking revisions, but I feel that it never really touched on the creative process that is inherent to designing," Vervoort says. "When Onshape came along and presented their ideas about branching and merging, it seemed like a more flexible way to design and have more freedom in creative thinking."
"Because a PDM system is file based, only one person at a time can work on the same design. The thing that interested me most about Onshape is that it can be used by multiple people at the same time working together on the same design."
Citing his company’s large investment in PDM, Vervoort does not envision the full-cloud Onshape replacing SolidWorks in the immediate future, but expects both CAD systems to fulfill unique roles – especially with Onshape’s affordable $125 a month Professional Plan.
"Onshape is still in the early days and has some advanced features missing, but I think that even in the Beta stage, it has already proven its value," he says. "I've already encountered situations where the direct editing in Onshape is easier, faster and more robust than doing the same changes in the original SolidWorks feature history. It’s also easy to use parts we created in Onshape in SolidWorks and vice versa."
"Onshape helps us be more agile," Vervoort adds. "The competition is tough. If we don’t quickly respond to our customers’ needs, someone else will."