VISI instrumental in innovative shovel design by Senior and Dickson

Posted on 24 Aug 2012

Those of us who have ever had their car snowed in will appreciate the need for a simple shovel. Trying to dig your vehicle out with your hands is a long, tiring and cold process.

The problem with a standard shovel is its size. Usually too big to go into your boot and too unsightly to be stored across the back seat, the challenge of creating a practical shovel that fits into a car boot space was something that required an expert. And some state of the art software.

This problem is exactly what plastic moulding experts Senior and Dickson have been working on with the help of specialist CADCAM tools from Vero Software. Using the specialist software, Senior and Dickson have designed and manufactured a collapsible shovel primarily aimed at motorists, but also with interchangeable shovel and fork heads to allow householders to keep their driveways clear.

The specialists in plastic injection, rubber moulding and die casting linked their experience of injection moulding, tool making and rapid prototyping to develop the shovel from concept through to final product.

Instrumental in the designing process was the VISI suite of CADCAM software. Chris Hodgson, technical director, explained: “We moved the CAM onto the shopfloor as the machinists are closest to the action and can react immediately without having to wait for the design team. They know what tooling is available and how to best machine an insert or electrode.”

The electrodes were extracted directly from the 3D inserts by the CAD office and passed to the shopfloor for manufacture. The graphite electrodes were machined using Hurco Ultimax VMX50 machining centres (50″x26″x24″ machining envelope) and then sparked into the tooling using an Agietron 3U cavity sinking EDM machine.

Shovel designed by VISI CADCAM Screen shot
Shovel designed by VISI CADCAM screen shot

VISI was key in both designing the original handle and then strengthening it. Senior design engineer Karl Freeman, said: “VISI is not constrained by rules or a previous design history. You can simply jump back into the design process any point – you’re never stuck with a model that you can’t alter.”

The shovel concept began with a wooden handle, but Senior and Dickson quickly realised that this was impossible because of the angle required for it to connect to the head, and turned to VISI to design the model for a moulded handle.

Mr Hodgson explained: “We looked at using a cranked handle, and followed on from that with a folding design to make it much more convenient to store. At around two kilos the shovel is extremely lightweight, and with the folding handle it fits inside the smallest postage bag, keeping post and packaging delivery costs down for online customers.”

Before switching to VISI it often took three weeks to produce tooling, VISI has reduced that time to just three or four days. A fact echoed by Karl Freeman, who also pointed out that VISI’s speed and ease of use means their design office is now more productive, producing more high quality work with fewer members of staff.

Once production is up and running, Senior and Dickson hope to have the shovel stocked in DIY and High Street stores by the end of the year.