Original Date: 10/20/1997
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Tool Design from 3-D Modeling Data
Prior to implementing its modeling software, Northrop Grumman used conventional 2-D drawings for designing tools and equipment. This method required the company to maintain a tremendous amount of paperwork to record revisions and corrections per tooling specifications. These revisions, as they were incorporated, went through lengthy approval loops prior to being introduced to the assembly floor and, in remote instances, caused the production lines to be halted. Another barrier was the inability to accurately align components from one Cost Center to the next, which often prevented adjacent components from properly aligning and caused long delays in the production cycles.
Northrop Grumman now uses Unigraphics 3-D modeling software to design its tools and equipment. Since implementing the modeling software, the company has minimized its design cost requirements of new tooling as production requirements increase or as new prototypes come on-line. This modeling software provides an on-line review of changes as they are incorporated into the production cycle without interrupting the Cost Centers’ schedules. In addition, the Cost Centers have access to the changes as they occur.
Northrop Grumman’s design time estimates range from 8 to 450 hours, and are designated as: very simple, simple, complex, and highly complex. Although its design engineering lead times have doubled since implementing the software, the company has reduced its fabrication times from six weeks to two weeks. In addition, the producibility factor has essentially eliminated any misalignment defects normally associated with 2-D drawing packages. This single factor alone has increased the throughput of each Cost Center and decreased the number of Shop Floor Action Items associated with 2-D drawings. The cost of implementing and networking this modeling software is estimated at $200 thousand, compared to the $300 thousand cost for an average assembly jig. Other benefits include finite element modeling; stress reduction recognition; and the ability to maneuver the model assemblies into various axial positions, allowing engineers to identify possible problem areas.
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