Designing the nuts and bolts right

The Cave virtual reality environment cost £2m to install and is powered 16 high performance PCs as well as two additional machines for processing CAD for the 3D projectors and for recording output data.

Keith Nichols at technology analyst Cambashi considered the limitations of 3D modelling in avoiding part failure and the continued important of diligence in quality management throughout supply chains.

Companies are finding it increasingly challenging to bring innovative products to market while continuously increasing performance, capability and flexibility.

Motorcycle manufacturers are no exception and like many others, they have applied the latest 3D design software to help them meet these demands. Using this software to design, analyse and simulate their manufacturing processes, they have successfully reduced time to market while concentrating on final assembly of mainly bought-in parts.

For many manufacturers, however, this is the point where the success story can turn into a tale of woe.

During 2012, VOSA recorded recall actions for more than 1 million UK vehicles including 27,000 motorcycles. Although most motorcycle-related recalls were due to minor problems, some resulted in damage to the vehicles or injury to the riders.

Looking at these recalls more closely reveals that

  • Around 90% were caused by lower value parts that were not functioning correctly, or failing through early wear or corrosion. The remainder were caused by bolts, screws, brackets and fixtures working loose and damaging the motorcycle
  • Approximately 80% of recalls could be traced back to design and 20% to production
  • About half of the motorcycle recalls could be traced to bought-in parts

Why does this happen in spite of the latest software being used to develop the products? The main reasons included:

  • Parts were not robust when an infrequent or unexpected combination of individual peak loads combined to create higher than predicted loads in excess of their specification
  • The positioning of parts can subject them to extremes of temperature or excessive vibration
  • Although individual parts would pass the factory quality inspections, it was often their field reliability that caused the failures

Using 3D software can enable the design and production of world-beating vehicles but it cannot replace good management decisions regarding the project approach and the attention to detail that is normally provided by experienced staff.

Excellent performance, functionality and styling are major factors in winning business, but getting the design right at the nuts and bolts level is one sure way to improve the user experience.