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Compressionomics: Shrinking Data for Big Benefits

Companies such as Toyota are finding that compressing 3D files decreases errors and even your warehouse footprint.

The promise of an on-demand spare parts inventory is that your warehouse needn’t be made of racks and pallets, but could be a virtual depository, where thousands of SKUs are accessible with a touch of a button. And these digital versions may hold all the info on how they fit into a subassembly or larger system in their digital DNA, where and when they were made, how to install or maintain them, and a host of other details.

That’s an ideal set-up for everyone from the OEM managers to maintenance techs, though the reality of going virtual is a matter of (file) space. How many parts are in a car? More than 10,000? What kind of technology investment will you now have to undertake to upgrade your computing and is it even worth it? Why not just stick to the old-fashioned way?

Lattice Technologies developed a standards-based XML 3D file format called XVL, which the company describes as enabling “rapid communication, production and collaboration by using 3D throughout the manufacturing supply chain.”

CAD models (even GB-sized files) are transferred to the XVL authoring environment, so designers and engineers can work with the entire model to create interactive 3D instructions to plan and validate the assembly process.  The data is compressed to an average 0.5% of its original size with high accuracy.

Toyota used it to institute a parts information management system that decreases procurement errors by 30%, while creating a more accurate, intuitive, easier-to-use parts system that works 25% faster than before.

"When dealing with parts, you've got to use 3D images to see what's really happening,” Toyota reports. “If you only use 2D, parts look the same. 3D images enable you to rotate the part to make sure it's the right one.”

In the case of a defective bolt, for example, this allows a manufacturer to verify the right change has been made in the file before inadvertently ordering hundreds of the faulty component, costing a lot of time and money.

The XVL System Toolkit integrates into existing ERP, MES, PLM and PDM systems, so the info is shared within these disparate sources, automatically updating if an engineering change order is made, for example.

Another big game changer is that parts will now have work instructions attached to them, allowing an assembler to access the record and see exactly how a caliper should be installed into a brake subassembly, for example.

“We’re trying to break the mold of thinking about manufacturing,” says Lattice representative Mark Guthrie. He says quite often now that is being done by inserting images into a Microsoft Word file.

And what about all those physical parts in your warehouse you’d rather have in a file than on a shelf? Are we at a point where you can 3d-scan those to convert to a more digital inventory?

Guthrie says the “short answer” to that is yes, as Lattice is rolling that out in Japan.

For the longer answer, and for any other questions you have about how 3D file compression can help your operation, Lattice will be available at Booth #932 at the Manufacturing & Technology Expo in Raleigh May 8-10.

And for more case studies, visit www.Lattice3d.com.

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