If you haven’t bought a washing machine in a while, you might be surprised at what’s out there. According to Consumer Reports, new machines can hold more laundry than ever (up to 12.7 kg, or 28 pounds). Modern machines offer mid-wash soaking and more aggressive agitation cycles. And they include USB ports so you can upgrade the software later on. (You knew washing machines have computers, right?)
“Features add convenience,” writes the advocacy group in its most recent buying guide. “Electronic controls let you quickly choose cycles and keep an eye on the remaining cycle time and status. Automatic detergent, bleach, and softener dispensers release the powder or liquid at the right time in the cycle. A stainless steel or plastic tub won’t rust if chipped, unlike a porcelain one. ”
For consumers, the laundry experience just keeps getting easier and better. For the companies that produce washers, however, the pressure to get innovative ideas to market fast just keeps mounting.
Meet SPM Engineering, a company in Italy that makes front load washing machines. Recently, the company released a new horizontal axis drum-type washing machine.
SPM likes to design and test as early as possible. So, while the new machine was still in the computer, engineers checked the assembly’s features, simulated real functioning, and solved any problems before the physical prototyping stage.
For the new machine, engineers at SPM wanted to create a lighter, more efficient washer that used less water and had a greater drum capacity than previous models—all within a standard, fixed-size washing machine cabinet.
To begin, the SPM team defined the plastic tub, the counterweights, and the suspension system in terms of spring and damper positions and their mechanical properties.
Of course with changing dimensions, old engineering challenges needed revisiting. For example, the larger rotating drum might cause unexpected contact between the machine’s moving and fixed parts if a laundry load became unbalanced.
SPM engineers had one other challenge, too. If they were going to meet aggressive deadlines, they would need to work concurrently—without introducing new problems for each other, like interference and unexpected dependencies.
To make sure the development cycle moved forward efficiently, the SPM team enlisted Creo as their design tool. With PTC’s 3D CAD solution, they were able to digitally prototype models, long before any physical prototype was built.
Using the Creo Advanced Assembly Extension (AAX), the whole team could work effectively on the product at the same time. Creo AAX allowed SPM to create a skeleton of the overall machine, creating a top-down environment for the design. The skeleton defined configuration rules and provided shared geometry, so everyone could work confidently on individual features of the overall machine.
“Creo AAX assembles all products easily and quickly on screen,” says Ennio Sartor, president and CEO, SPM Engineering. “All changes made to the design are automatically updated throughout the pipeline, so we never have miscommunication between the design and engineering teams.”
With Creo AAX, team members can also download simplified lightweight assemblies as they work. That’s especially useful when you want to see your work in the larger context of a product, without weighing down your system with data you’re not likely to need as you work.
The SPM team created, tested, and modified the new washing machine in 3D before ever hitting the physical prototype stage. The best part is that they created the design in just weeks, testing more than 2000 independent solutions, which would never have been possible manually.
Sartor says that as PTC solutions automate more and more of SPM’s design process, the company has cut both manual labor and prototyping costs. But it’s not just costs going down—SPM says PTC solutions also cut SPM’s design time by 30%.
That’s going to be useful, because SPM knows that any new washing machine model can outperform the competition for only so long. Then it’s back to R&D for more ideation, design, and testing to ensure the company keeps the competition guessing.
Images courtesy of SPM Engineering.