3D CAD SOLIDWORKS Case Study SMW Autoblok

The Challenge
SOLIDWORKS is the perfect ingredient for SMW Autoblok’s recipe for success. Mix one part SOLIDWORKS with a handful of talented engineers, add a dash of SOLIDWORKS Simulation FEA capability, and what do you get? The #1 power chuck jaw manufacturer worldwide and the largest power chuck manufacturer in Europe.

“Without a good, solid Engineering Department, and software as strong as SOLIDWORKS, we could not do our job,” said SMW Autoblok President, Sid Roth, further describing the ever-evolving workholding industry, where engineering designs were once-upon-a-time easy rings, tubes and flanges. “We didn’t have the specific products for the automotive industry and the high-tech products that we’re currently bringing to the marketplace. We’ve really migrated from fairly simple things, to very, very sophisticated designs—very complex clamping sets and workholding sets.”

SMW Autoblok Senior Design Engineer, Jim Hefti, conveyed the complexity of SMW’s power chuck jaws.

“The machines have hydraulic chucks mounted to the spindle nose which spins, and they pull it with a cylinder on the back of the machine which actuates these jaws that grabs the different parts that the customer needs to machine. The jaws hold the part centered and the machining is done on the outside or inside of the actual part,” explained Hefti, a 4-year veteran at SMW Autoblok.

But expert engineers and intuitive technology is just a start. No mechanical design recipe is complete without integrated finite element analysis.

The Solution
“We work with parts that spin, so we have centrifugal force working against us. We have to make our jaws as light as we can, but still strong enough to hold the part. There’s a fine line there and we have to get SOLIDWORKS Simulation involved to see if we’re going to get any fracturing or warping,” said Hefti, further explaining that they often have to cut the jaws down so they are lighter, but also so they don’t lose much grip force.

“Prospective customers will ask us about balance or deformation, and we have all that information at our fingertips,” Roth added, further touting SOLIDWORKS Simulation. “We don’t have to build something and then run a physical test in order to determine if it’s balanced. We already know it’s balanced due to the software.”

As with any good recipe, omit any of the key ingredients, and it’s just not the same. Hefti came to the Wheeling, Illinois-based chuck manufacturing company with experience in wire frame design with Intergraph EMS and mechanical design with SolidEdge. He said that without the initial help of CATI’s staff of Certified Instructors, SMW Engineers wouldn’t have been as effective early on, despite being equipped with easy-to-learn SOLIDWORKS and SOLIDWORKS Simulation.

“I decided to go to CATI for a week of training, and after that I was flying,” Hefti said. “Learning SOLIDWORKS was a lot easier than learning on wire frame, and from what I’ve heard it’s also much easier to learn than even AutoCAD.”

It’s properly-equipped and properly-trained engineers like Hefti that help make SMW Autoblok “The Cadillac of the industry,” and Roth will never forget that fact.

“The nature of our customer demands has changed. Our customers want turnkey solutions now,” said Roth. “For one reason or another, our Engineering Department touches approximately 80 percent of all power chuck sales. That’s a very significant percentage.”

The SMW Autoblok recipe for success consists of a powerful mechanical design system in SOLIDWORKS, an intuitive and integrated FEA package called SOLIDWORKS Simulation, and a seasoned, reliable value-added Reseller like CATI. But that’s like chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips. If it weren’t for the vision of the SMW Autoblok Executive Staff to truly acknowledge and embrace the importance of engineering to its business and its industry, the recipe would not be complete.