Innovating with 3D Modeling

"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple

“Everything is going to 3D,” says DIS-TRAN Autodesk Inventor Development Manager Chris Ducote. “That’s the trend going through the industry right now.”  

We’re not surprised. DIS-TRAN started investing in 3D modeling several years ago and immediately began to reap the benefits of the technology. In that time, we’ve learned some hard-fought lessons, developed our own in-house 3D toolsets and gained visibility into many areas of opportunity. Here are four examples of how DIS-TRAN has gotten “ahead of the curve” with 3D substation design, thanks to our early start.

1: We keep 100 percent of the design in Autodesk Inventor.

We have developed a workflow wherein our designers can open a single file that contains all of the design parameters for the project. That also means we have only a single place to change a value when necessary, and that change will automatically propagate across the entire project and anything attached to it. In other words, we don’t have to update multiple programs and then cross-check everything over and over. In turn, that simplicity in change management speeds up the design process enormously.

2: We use 3D to fuel great new products.

That all-in approach to 3D helped us to launch new capabilities, like our prefabricated bus (PFB) and skid-mounted eXpress Power Stations (XPS). “With 3D, we could know how everything was modeled exactly,” says Ducote. “We could see how everything would fit together, and we could take a bus assembly and move it around and see how it's going to go into place. That really helped our PFB efforts grow tremendously because, with very little added effort, we could generate all our PFB details, hand it to our shop and go from there.”

3: We can ship equipment and materials more efficiently.

For example, we’re currently working on a new tool for the PFB group that will make it easier for them to develop their crates and bundles, using the data we already have existing in the 3D models. As with our other 3D-fueled products like the PFB and XPS, it’s the ability to capture multidimensional information about the objects being manipulated that powers this capability.

4: We can develop new tools for better projects.

Similarly, another current initiative is the development of an accurate tool to run our flexible conductor in the model. Specifically, we’re working on a tool that would itself make necessary calculations based on the user’s selected cable. The tool could then help the designer understand, based on the needs of the design, how many strands and what materials would make up this cable. Is it steel? Aluminium? Is it aluminum but steel reinforced? How would gravity affect it? “That's just yet another example of one of the things we want to get to work on that nobody else is doing,” says Ducote.