Nothing reminds us that we live in the twenty-first century more powerfully than mega-LED displays. They fill Times Square in New York City, wow Super Bowl fans in the desert southwest, and turn whole buildings into living art.
Check out this insane display from Phoenix Island in Sanya City of Hainan Province in China, and then I’ll tell you about the unlikely company behind it all.
The Phoenix Island “Architectural Media” display was developed by Daktronics, an electronics company based in Brookings, South Dakota—a state better known for cornfields than tech. It stumbled into the industry in the late 1960s, when a small group of engineers from South Dakota State University innovated an electronic scoreboard using LED technology.
“We’d actually test fit displays in our parking lot,” says Brian Iwerks, engineering manager.
That was before the displays grew immense, the LEDs smaller, the tolerances tighter, and the deadlines shorter. The displays the company makes today won’t fit inside a football field, let alone the corporate parking lot. For example, Daktronics is behind the record-breaking video boards at both ends of Jacksonville stadium, each measuring 362 feet long and sporting 8K ultra high def resolution. And now, Daktronics is working on a video surface that will completely ring Atlanta’s new falcon stadium!
View of 360-degree halo video board from sideline.
Mind-blowing video experiences require a lot more than broad panels and excellent resolution. Modern projects wrap around buildings, demand curved surfaces, and feature odd dimensions. And with deliverables this large, mistakes cost more than ever.
“There is no margin for error in our business,” says Iwerks. “Our custom displays have to go up right the first time.”
Bottom line? To hang on to its position as a leader in large-scale video entertainment, Daktronics must keep up the pace of innovation—and with high reliability.
So, in 2000, the company adopted PTC solutions, deploying 3D modeling software to design high-quality products. Plus, engineers enlisted PTC sheet metal tools to ensure manufacturing can successfully produce even their most elaborate models. To complete the picture, the company also uses PTC Windchill (the secret to those massive displays is modularized panels—all stored in the PLM database for quick retrieval and reuse).
With the release of PTC Creo 3.0, Daktronics is now adding the PTC Creo Design Exploration Extension (DEX). “Our team is eager to use the new PTC Creo Design Exploration Extension,” says Andrew Hermanson, CAD administrator. “We expect it to give us great flexibility to explore multiple design concepts and keep those sets archived for future design iterations or as a historical document to remind us why we made a decision — and then move forward quickly.”
With PTC Creo DEX, Daktronics engineers can quickly experiment with and review design ideas, without jeopardizing their original designs. While previously many teams might have created a separate model file for every alternative they want to try, PTC Creo DEX lets them save multiple design ideas all in the same model file as the source design.
What will Daktronics produce with even more tools for innovating new displays? We’re not sure, but we know it’s going to be big, fantastic, and worth watching!