In an age of global warming, keeping a watch on carbon emissions is a legal and moral pre-requisite
Vehicle emissions is a subject guaranteed to provoke controversy; whether it is mothers complaining of 4WDs spewing fumes at the school gates, drivers trying to get old cars past an MOT, or car buyers, frustrated by the Government’s increasingly punitive stance on taxing vehicles according to engine size and emissions levels.
The world is worried about industrial and automotive pollution and the quality of the air we breathe and the subject is not going to go away.
“Emissions measurement is a large and growing area and one in which Kane is concentrating,” says Alan Chipchase, mechanical designer at Kane International Limited, which designs and manufactures a range of portable test and measurement equipment, including smoke meters.
“Most competitive smoke meters are mains-powered whereas ours are battery powered,” says Chipchase. “Because there’s no cabling involved – they’re completely portable.”
Established in 1963, British-owned Kane International started out manufacturing temperature and humidity measuring instruments. Today, they design and manufacture portable gas and emissions measurement equipment to test vehicle emissions and those of commercial and domestic gas boilers. These include portable flue gas analysers which range from single pocket units to portable multi-gas data logging units for semi-continuous monitoring.
Kane has also developed portable electricity analysers; their Hawk range profiles electricity consumption by recording when and where power is used, allowing energy managers and electrical engineers to optimise the way the power is used and supplied.
The majority of Kane’s products are designed and developed by their in-house team using the latest mechanical and electronic developments tools. These are marketed worldwide through a network of national distributers and associated companies in the USA and Canada. The products are marketed both as Kane’s own brands and as ‘private label’ products for third parties to sell in their own names.
“All the recent legislation means that whenever an engineer comes to install a boiler, he has to take certain readings and record them,” says Chipchase. The monitoring tool the engineers use when installing and checking industrial gas boilers may carry any brand name but there is a good chance it will be a Kane combustion analyser.
After forty five years, Kane is one of the key players in the combustion business. “There are many other manufacturers in the marketplace who make very good products, but we are long established and well known in our market,” says Chipchase.
Unlike some high-priced European competitors, which carry out the whole manufacturing process in their country of origin, Kane has many of its component parts produced in the Far East. This creates a challenge in that there must be fast and accurate communication between Kane’s product design centre Welwyn Garden City and their tool-makers in China or Taiwan.
Kane had been long-term users of AutoCAD and, as far back as the early 1990’s, relied heavily on the 2D drafting facilities it provided for their designers. “Back then, I would give the files to the toolmakers and they had to convert them to run their cutter paths for the tools to be made,” says Chipchase. “We purchased Mechanical Desktop and that enabled us to produce solid models and those could go directly to the toolmakers in the Far East.”
About seven years ago, as the IT capabilities of the emerging economies – including Kane’s Taiwanese toolmakers – began to expand, it became obvious that tools made direct from files would be produced more quickly and cost-effectively than those produced after the conversion process from 2D to 3D formatted files. And so Kane migrated to Inventor.
“Nowadays, once we’ve finished all our modelling work, we save the data as IGES files and email them to our toolmakers in the Far East. They work direct from the data we supply them,” he says.
“That was the first cost saving,” says Chipchase, who instigated the migration. “The second was all about our presentations and manuals.”
Product information and instruction manuals are a fundamental part of Kane’s product package and the company produce thousands of manuals every year.
Chipchase explains that prior their migration to Inventor, all of their products had to be sent back and forth for photography using outside bureaux. “With the new software, you can take the images straight from the studio side of Inventor,” he says. “It really came into its own with manuals and what you could give to prospective customers in terms of visuals. It made an amazing difference.”
Did Kane consider competitive software products before making a decision on which 3D software to adopt? “No, we didn’t. Because we started off with AutoCAD, we carried on with the Autodesk solution,” says Chipchase. “After using Mechanical Desktop, Inventor was very easy to use. But in spite of this, the resellers still recommended we do the training, which we did, as it helps you to get the best out of it.”
Many Inventor users only use part of the capacity of their software. By undergoing product training with their reseller, Micro Concepts, Kane could be confident they were using their new software to its full extent. Equally, Micro Concepts can ensure their customers are kept abreast of the latest developments and updates to their software.
“The Inventor package migrates the data very effectively from the old legacy data into the new format, so there was no problem switching over,” says Chipchase, acknowledging the significant value of the intellectual property within existing designs.
“It definitely gives you faster turnaround in getting tools made – you see products more quickly,” he says.
An unexpected benefit to Kane of the new software has been its ability to communicate product information to the assembly team at their Welwyn Garden City plant.
“When we were using 2D AutoCAD, we used to give people in the factory third angle projection drawings ¬– where you have a side view and an end elevation, that sort of thing. But they had to have a certain technical knowledge to interpret it. Whereas now, with Inventor, the documentation we can provide to the shop floor is all exploded views so it makes it much easier for them to understand the drawings,” says Chipchase.
So not only are the component parts manufactured more quickly, the speed of assembly is similarly enhanced. This means that Kane’s products now go from design, to manufacture to assembly in a fast and streamlined operation.
It seems that for Kane, the principal merit of Inventor as a tool in their business is its almost alchemy-like ability to present complex and detailed information in a simple, easily-comprehended way.
“The first presentation we did was amazing,” he enthuses. “It was like a small film, showing the printer receiving the data from the instrument via the infra red, and all done using Inventor together with 3D Studio Max.”
How would Kane manage today if they had to do without Inventor? “Well, today, I think it would be difficult to function without it,” he says. Chipchase goes on to explain that all the major players in their field would have to use Inventor or similar software to survive. “The size of our competitors is such that they wouldn’t be where they were if they were just using 2D drawing packages.”
It was Chipchase who, in 2000, made the presentation to the Kane board for the upgrade to 3D digital prototyping software on the basis that it would increase the speed of communication and production of tools and other component parts, increase speed and efficiency on the assembly line and save a fortune in catalogue production costs.
“Eight years later, I can easily say we have achieved those aims,” he says.
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