3DVia Composer automates technical documentation for heavy-duty airdrop systems

Wamore Inc. used SolidWorks for designing its line of parachute delivery systems, but was frustrated by its tedious manual documentation process.  

Wamore Inc. has become an expert in the manufacture of heavy-duty airdrop systems for the US military. Its products are routinely used in active combat theaters and natural disaster sites to drop payloads of up to 42,000 pounds from aircraft to ground via parachute. Such drops are a risky proposition, and Wamore has become an expert in building not only basic hardware strong enough for such drops but in creating supporting products such as Air Guidance Units (AGUs) and inertia reels to parachute release systems and soft landing airbags.

Wamore specializes in the manufacture of heavy-duty cargo drop systems for the US military. (Source: Wamore)

Wamore has been a Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks user for several years for design, simulation, and product data management. But providing assembly instructions for its autonomous, robotic-controlled airdrop systems presented challenges, according to CAD Specialist Mark Gerhart. “We used to struggle with creating assembly instructions,” Gerhart recalls. “Basically, we had to take photographs of a unit during assembly, and then include the photos in documents with written descriptions of how to assemble the product for use on the shop floor.”

Although this approach to producing assembly instructions worked for Wamore, it was inefficient, problematic, and far from ideal. “There were several issues that needed to be addressed,” Gerhart explains. “First, any design change to our products required a complete redo of the instructions and necessitated additional photography. We also had to wait until production reached a certain stage to shoot photos, which created delays. Lastly, the photos were not always clear or detailed enough, or our production staff didn’t understand the written descriptions, prompting a slew of questions for our designers and engineers.”

To solve these problems, the company began looking for solutions that linked the creation of assembly instructions to the actual solid model, and eventually selected Dassault’s 3DVia Composer technical communications software. Gerhart says the continuous link between the original models in SolidWorks and the technical documentation in 3DVia Composer was a big drawing card. “We may design products in the virtual world, but we never leave the real world in terms of refining our designs,” Gerhart notes. “With 3DVia Composer, I can rest assured that when I modify my SolidWorks model, that update automatically applies to all of the associated documentation as well.”

Up-to-date instructions

The latest model of Wamore’s 2000-pound AGU was the first project for which the company used 3DVia Composer software to produce assembly instructions. “What conservatively used to be a two-week process was done in a day and a half,” Gerhart says. “It was much easier to create work instructions for the shop floor, and I had much more flexibility in terms of not having to wait on a particular production phase.”

Because Wamore also uses SolidWorks Enterprise PDM software, handling design changes and assembly updates were all part of the same workflow. “I go into SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, update the files and links, and I’m done,” notes Gerhart.

Wamore not only saved time by using 3DVia Composer to create assembly instructions for its 2000-pound AGU, but Gerhart says it also improved the quality of the documentation, resulting in substantially fewer questions from the shop floor. “With 3DVIA Composer, the written description is almost redundant because the image is so information-rich,” Gerhart says. “Our production staff can get information on part numbers, thread lockers, torque values, and tools from the 3DVia Composer image itself, without having to read the description. This minimizes situations in which production personnel have to come in and have me open up the model because they can’t understand the instructions.”

How-to guide

Wamore also uses 3DVia Composer software to communicate more effectively with customers. By making product animations, videos, and technical documentation accessible via the web and handheld digital devices, Wamore helps customers access up-to-date information from remote locations and improve their operational readiness.

“We’ve used 3DVia Composer to create video clips on how to use our Talon parachute release system, which we’ve demonstrated to customers during web meetings,” Gerhart says. “We see great potential for using the software to improve the effectiveness of our customer communications and for making 3DVia Composer-authored content available via smartphones and tablets anywhere in the world.”

Before and after

3DVia Composer has enabled Wamore to replace assembly instructions that relied on unwieldy photographic images (top) with easy-to-understand, step-by-step instructions (bottom) that are developed in 85% less time. (Source: Wamore)


A typical product assembly animation from Wamore may be viewed at: http://www.solidworks.com/pages/programs/wamore/demo.html