Over the years SSI has worked with several clients to connect information from the ShipConstructor product model to production machines such as CNC profile cutting, marking and bending machines. These solutions usually custom developed for the current requirements of the client and the machines they were connecting to.
Even though this custom development provided an immediate solution, it had several negative downstream effects. With the aggressive continual improvement of ShipConstructor it was common that these custom integrations required changes to support the latest software. These changes then needed to be tested at the yard before the latest release of ShipConstructor was incorporated into the shipyard.
This continued investment to maintain the custom development increased the total cost of ownership of the integration. For the most part the extra maintenance cost of supporting these custom developments were outweighed by the benefits that the yard received by having a streamlined workflow. So even though there was a cost of maintenance, it still remained a good business decisions with a good ROI.
The reality is that many clients can gain significant benefit by this type of integration but they lack the skills and resources to implement it. This is why we added integration with production machines as part of our EnterprisePlatform product suite. I will give you a 10, 000 ft view of the integration in this blog post.
We knew that to create a successful integration between ShipConstructor and CNC profile machines we needed to work with a CNC profiling machine company. After talking to a few companies we decided to partner with HGG for several reasons, one being that we had mutual clients who were interested in the integration.
I should mention, even though SSI and HGG have a strategic partnership, both companies work with various other vendors. Both SSI and HGG were committed to create a generic integration/interface to allow future integrations with CNC Machines from other companies.
Goal of the integration
The goal of the integration was to be able to pass all information required to produce the profile to the CNC profile machine with as little user involvement as possible. This included involvement from the engineering team as well as the operator on the shop floor.
Profiles can actually be rather complex when you consider profiles which have a curved path along the hull and the various ways they can be detailed (parametric endcuts, user defined trims, cutouts, etc.)
The profile features which we supported initially in our integration were:
- Cutouts / Penetrations
- Inverse Bending lines
- Piecemark marking
The connection between ShipConstructor and HGG needed to support all the geometry information to create the profile part but there were two additional features we also decided to include.
1. Accuracy Control Marks
Aligning profiles on plates can be time consuming and is a source of several fabrication issues. Something we noticed Japanese yards implementing to reduce man hours aligning profiles on plates as well as improving quality at the same time,was the use of accuracy control marks (translated of course). These accuracy control marks were placed on the profile and the plate perpendicular to the markline. These marks allowed the workman to align the profiles on the plate with significantly more accuracy in less amount of time.
Another use of these accuracy control marks was in the case when you load a cartridge of profiles which are to be inserted on a panel in another location of the yard. This means you will need a method to align the profiles on the cartridge exactly the way it will be inserted on the plate. This is easy when all profiles are the same length; however, when the profiles are of different length, accuracy control marks can be used to align the profiles.
2. Edge preparation beveling
Another type of information we needed to include was to support edge prep beveling. This is especially important for HP (Bulb) profiles as shown above as they require a more complex bevel than other types of profiles.
Workflow using the EnterprisePlatform PublisherLT product
There are different workflows where information needs to be exchanged between ShipConstructor and HGG.
1. Publish (Push)
This is the workflow where the information is generated by the engineering team and included in their work package delivered to the yard.
2. Consume (Pull)
This is the situation where the operator pulls the information from the live ShipConstructor project for their current work task. This reduces the chance of the operator having out of date information due to the constant change which happens in the model.
To support both situations we created a very intuitive Graphical User Interface (GUI) which required no knowledge of the ShipConstructor product. Through this interface the user would select the profiles they need to process by user specified criteria. The system can be easily configured to push/pull all profiles which belong to a particular package.
We have already had clients validate the results of the integration and are using the functionality in their production facility. They are using all features supported by the integration. We are continuing to work with several other clients who also want to integrate ShipConstructor and HGG.
We are also working with a client who is integrating ShipConstructor with a CNC profile machine from another vendor. They are using a subset of the features currently supported; however, the results are positive. This project actually proved that our strategy of creating a reusable interface between ShipConstructor and other CNC profiling machines works since the exchange of information was successful with absolutely no changes to our product.
Leveraging information contained within the ShipConstructor product model is an ideal way to be more productive. Reusing the information already contained within ShipConstructor’s MIM to drive CNC profiling machines can eliminate time consuming and error prone processes.
With using the EnterprisePlatform PublisherLT, you will be able to create a seamless exchange between ShipConstructor and your CNC profiling without the need to write custom code. This will reduce the total cost and risk of connecting the two systems.