Like many newcomers to cloud-native product development, the Taymer engineering team left its file-based CAD platform behind because of data management headaches.
“We had always talked about rebuilding our PDM from the ground up because our vault in SOLIDWORKS became cluttered over the years,” says Taymer mechanical engineer Brendan McGaffey. “We have co-op students coming and going, and keeping track of everything as users change – each with a varying understanding of PDM – was causing issues.”
“With a PDM system, you have to be much more aware of every little change that you're making,” he adds. “If you're checking out the file, no one else can work on it until you check it back in. But say someone else didn't notice that it was already checked out and they've been working on that model for a while. You would check it back in and now their model's broken. I'm sure PDM works very well if people are very strict about it and follow it step by step. But our environment never seemed to work like that.”
Based in Canada, Taymer International Inc. is a world leader in manufacturing equipment for the wire & cable, pipe & tube, and fiber optic industries – including computer vision systems that detect product surface and dimensional defects, measure wrapping angles, inspect color quality, and verify print quality in-line during production. Taymer's technology has also branched out to include the medical, pharmaceutical, packaging and metal industries.
“We constantly have new machines that need to be designed or altered – and we do a lot of different configurations of our machines using many of the same parts,” McGaffey says. “With Onshape, working on separate branches of a design just feels a lot cleaner. I find that building multiple versions of a machine in separate workspaces works a lot better for us.”
Although the original motivation for switching to Onshape in 2019 was to fix data management, McGaffey says that the cloud-native SaaS product development platform has already encouraged his team to rethink its entire design process. The most notable example has been with FeatureScript, Onshape’s open-source programming language that can be used to create custom CAD features specific to an industry or to even just an individual product.
Discovering the Business Benefits of FeatureScript
One of Taymer’s specialties are hot foil printers (pictured at the top of this blog) that emboss brand names and product specs on cables at speeds up to 600 feet per minute. These printers mark cables with length, and any other identifying text that the customer wants repeated (i.e. power cables include the voltage, while fiber optic cables are labeled with the number of strands inside).
McGaffey’s colleague, mechanical engineer Andrew Barolet, has coded a Taymer-specific Onshape feature that automatically generates 3D CAD models of new printer inserts. Every cable product requires its own unique printer insert, which must be created letter by letter (or number by number).
Previously, the company kept track of its printer inserts with 2D drawings because it was too labor-intensive to justify 3D modeling each one.
“Having this new capability to have FeatureScript automatically take a CSV text file right from the customer’s order and generate a 3D model of the printer insert is going to help with our traceability,” Barolet says. “We can generate an entire Part Studio of multiple inserts just based off that CSV.”
Although his company has only been using Onshape for a few months, and just implemented the new custom feature, Barolet envisions he will see immediate customer service benefits.
“The old way of doing things would require us to ask the customer to give us a sample of their printer inserts so we know how to make them the exact same shape,” he says. “Whereas with the 3D model, we’ll immediately know how to make exactly what they need or quickly make updates. FeatureScript is going to significantly expedite our process.”
For the short-term future, Barolet and McGaffey are also planning to create a “Vision Inspector Layout” custom feature with FeatureScript. The feature would quickly generate a skeleton model of their computer vision systems, giving customers an idea of the footprint of the machine they’d like to order based on the kind of cameras, number of cameras, product diameter and lighting requirements.
“A feature like this would help us turnaround quotes for customers a lot faster, and hopefully streamline our design process as well,” McGaffey says. “We also see other useful applications for FeatureScript in the future.”