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At Methode Electronics, Employees Show the Way

Alibre Design Professional Selected by Toolmakers to Save Time and Money

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Imagine a team of toolmakers, who, after years of hand drawing designs, purchases an affordable design application with their own money and brings it to work on their personal computers to improve their company’s design process and save them time. And imagine the company embracing that employee initiative and good decision making, buying the application --Alibre Design Professional -- for all the members of the team. This is exactly what happened at Methode Electronics, Inc.’s Automotive Electronic Controls Division.

Hand Drawing has its Drawbacks

Since most of the engineers at Methode Electronics, Inc. do not have tooling backgrounds, when they would look at a toolmaker’s hand-drawn designs of the equipment needed to manufacture their products, they often would find these sketches difficult to interpret and communicate to the external vendors who produced the designs. Changes were often required because the finished product did not meet the engineers’ expectations. Reworking the machines was both time consuming and costly.

From Manual to Automatic

Before Methode’s toolmakers discovered the power of Alibre Design Professional, they were decidedly “old school,” using graph paper, pencils and drafting tools to sketch their drawings. The project collaboration process consisted of handing each other paper drawings and filing them in a cabinet for storage and retrieval.

Brian Ray, the Tool Room Manager and a toolmaker at Methode, said, “Prior to using Alibre Design Professional, we tried to draw designs using Mastercam, but its strength is in machining, not design.”

Easy Enough for Home, Powerful Enough for Work

Brian was looking for affordable design software when he saw an advertisement for Alibre Design Professional in Design News. After researching the product, Brian bought a copy with his own money, installed it on his home computer and soon was designing new kitchen cabinets. It worked so well for him that he was sure that it could really make an impact at work, so he brought his copy to work and showed the rest of the machine design team what the software could do. Although the team had very little prior 3D experience, one by one they also bought personal copies of Alibre Design to use for projects around their homes. One of the engineers even uses the program to design and build replacement parts for an old tractor on his farm.

Jeff Fink, one of the team’s toolmakers who had dabbled with other CAD programs, said, “Alibre Design Professional was an easy choice from the perspective of ease of use and price.”

Because Methode did not have any design software, Brian and Jeff starting bringing their computers to the office every day, using Alibre Design Professional on their work projects. Management noticed, and was so impressed with the results that they bought Alibre Design Professional for the machine design team. Brian Ray said, “Alibre Design Professional was inexpensive compared to the other packages, without all the bells and whistles we don’t need.”

Easy to Use and Compatible

Brian, who had some previous CAD experience, said, “I installed Alibre Design Professional and got up and running immediately. The toolmakers without CAD experience also found it easy to use.”

Methodes’ toolmakers draw their designs in Alibre Design Professional and export them into Mastercam to build their parts. To make it even easier, the latest version of Mastercam X2 MR2, directly reads native Alibre Design files.

Bob Gustin said, “Using Alibre Design Professional and Mastercam makes it easy.” He continued, “After I import a design from Alibre Design Professional into Mastercam, I let the software run while I’m doing something else.”

Some of Alibre Design Professional’s features that Methode’s toolmakers say make their jobs easier include:

  • 3D Parametric Solid Modeling – Having a solid model controlled by intelligent design parameters instead of just geometry, like lines and circles, shows how a finished machine will look—with all the detail. And with parametrics, changes are a snap: you just enter in a new dimension value and the model updates; no need to redraw the design. With Alibre’s powerful visualization options, one can also view deep into the machine’s interior.

  • Team Collaboration – Multiple people can work together on a single design at the same time, resulting in improved communication, better designs and less rework and scrap.

  • 3D and 2D PDF Files – Alibre Design’s support for PDF makes it easy to present designs to upper management or external vendors. A PDF file including a full 3D model and a 2D drawing of a component can be sent without first finding out what format is needed. Everyone can read a PDF.

  • Parts Library – Alibre Design Professional includes a huge library of standard and manufacturer parts making allowing one to easily use off-the-shelf parts in designs. It’s also possible to create a library of parts you create, that can be retrieved and reused.

Bob Gustin said, “I can bring up something I designed one year ago and make changes to it. If I need to cut a hole or slot for a switch, I know the exact location and dimensions that I used before. It takes all the old cutting and fitting out of it. Making changes in Alibre Design Professional is a cakewalk!”

Creating a Competitive Advantage

Jeff Fink summed up the Methode toolmakers’ experiences by saying, “Alibre Design Professional makes the design process quicker and easier. We can design the whole thing upfront before cutting the metal. This saves us so much time.”

Bob Gustin explained the difference Alibre Design Professional has made to him when he said, “Alibre Design opened a whole new world at a great price. It makes my job 10 times easier!”

“If a part on a machine needs to be replaced, you don’t have to take the part off the machine. You can bring up the saved file, make the part and know it will fit,” said Brian Ray. “This means no downtime.”

For Methode, Alibre Design Professional reduces the time it takes to make quality products, giving them a competitive advantage.

About Methode Electronics, Inc.

Methode Electronics, Inc. (NASDAQ:METH) is a diversified global manufacturer of electronic components and subsystem devices. Methode’s Automotive Electronic Controls (AEC) division is a major supplier of innovative electromechanical devices such as electronic switches, interconnects and controls used by automobile Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). As a full service ISO 14001 and ISO/TS 16949:2002 registered supplier, Methode designs, develops, tests and manufactures quality products that set the pace for the future in automotive controls technology.