Inventor of the Year nominees read like a small manufacturer’s hall of fame

Autodesk asks its users to select a winner from 12 nominees. All have used engineering software to competitive advantage.

For the past few years Autodesk has named an Inventor of the Month as a way of celebrating the achievements of its users and score some subtle marketing points. A review of nominees for Inventor of the Year for 2011 reveals a group of small manufacturing companies that are using their engineering software to create unique products, save money, and redefine what it means to be a manufacturing company in the 21st Century.

Autodesk asks members of the Autodesk Manufacturing community to visit the community website and choose one of these 2011 Autodesk Inventor of the Month winners shown below as Inventor of the Year. Voting is under way and closes Feb. 29 at 5 p.m. Pacific time.

The contenders

Valiant Corporation uses dynamic simulation to increase load capacity while reducing costs, and to minimize design weight while meeting customer performance requirements. In a recent project for The Boeing Company, Valiant designed and engineered a portable cargo loader 30% more efficiently.

Valiant designed this Portable Cargo Loader for Aircrafts using Autodesk Inventor. (Photo: Business Wire)

Nitto Sangyo is a Japanese playground equipment manufacturer designing a new generation of outdoor rocking toys. The toys are designed to be safer and more durable than standard commercial playground equipment. Eliminating reliance on physical prototyping shortened Link Mini development time by almost two months, reducing overall costs by nearly US$6,000 per product.

Child stays safe while having fun on the Link Mini dinosaur. (Photo: Business Wire)

Weatherhaven provides portable shelters, camps and systems for remote sites around the world. Following Autodesk’s Digital Prototyping approach to design has shortened product development time from concept to manufacturing, while reduced the number of more expensive physical prototypes typically necessary to explore and validate designs.

Weatherhaven designs portable shelter systems for the most rugged environments and remote locations. (Photo: Business Wire)

Federal Equipment Company supplies the US Navy with specialized military replacement parts. FEC recently designed an advanced elevator system which enables efficient transport of munitions on board new aircraft carriers. By using simulation software during design, FEC simulated the elevator’s shock response in just one $400,000 test, enabling the company to quickly identify and fix potential problems and avoid often costly retesting.

FEC elevators use linear synchronous motor technology which allows them to move 150 feet per minute and accelerate to full speed in two seconds. (Photo: Business Wire)

Hawkes Ocean Technologies (HOT) designs and builds manned and remote vehicles for deep-ocean exploration. HOT has reinvented ocean exploration by transforming vehicles from “underwater balloons” to underwater crafts capable of ‘flight’.

Hawkes Ocean Technologies uses 3D CAD software to create a new class of ocean submersibles. (Image: Business Wire)

Carousel Works is the world’s largest manufacturer of custom wooden carousels for zoos, parks and cruise ships. The company marries old-world craftsmanship with 3D design to create custom wooden carousels up to 50% faster than with traditional methods.

Carousel Works uses Autodesk Inventor to create custom wooden carousels, cutting the production time in half. Pictured here is a carousel created for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' "Allure of the Seas" cruise liner. (Photo: Business Wire)

Pankl Aerospace Systems uses Autodesk Inventor LT software to design helicopter rotary systems, increasing the performance and reliability of critical components while significantly improving pilot and passenger safety. Pankl says it saves time, reduces manufacturing costs, and increases customer quality, all while operating at optimal performance.

Pankl builds helicopter rotary systems. (Graphic: Business Wire)

Illini Prosthetic Technologies, a nonprofit organization, develops more affordable and more easily fitted prosthetic arms for below-elbow amputees in developing nations. Digitally exploring and refining its ideas, IPT provides access to affordable prosthetic care, helping amputees around the world regain use of their limbs, return to work and better care for themselves and their families.

Illini Prosthetic Technologies prepare prosthetic limb prototypes for use in the field. Pictured from left: Jonathan Naber (materials science and engineering); Richard Kesler (bioengineering); Adam Booher (engineering mechanics); Luke Jungles (mechanical engineering); Ehsan Noursalehi (materials science and engineering); and Hari Vigneswaran (materials science and engineering). All are seniors at the University of Illinois. (Photo: Business Wire)

PMB Façade, a Malaysian company, develops architectural façades for some of the world’s leading signature architecture projects, including Qatar’s 43-story Al-Bidda Tower, also known as Tornado Tower. The ability to digitally simulate and predict real-world performance before construction has helped PMB Façade reduce material cost and waste by as much as 15%, and deliver projects up to 30% faster.

Marina Bay Sands Resort Floating "Sky Park" in Singapore. Created by PMB Facade (Photo: Business Wire)

Kelly Racing, an Australia-based racing team, uses Autodesk Inventor to precisely design and validate new car components. After a race weekend, designers modify existing car parts, increasing traction and grip by as much as 8%, which leads to faster lap times and increased performance.

Jack Daniel's Racing Car, by Kelly Racing (Photo: Business Wire)

A-dec manufactures dental chairs and equipment. It uses Autodesk software to more effectively design and develop products, and then generates user manuals and service guides from the same information.

A-dec design and develop dentistry products with a contemporary flair. (Photo: Business Wire)

Green Structures, a UK-based clean technology company, uses creates award-winning energy-efficiency HVAC systems. The firm’s latest innovation is a heat recovery ventilation system called Ventive, which  provides a faster and less expensive alternative for retrofitting buildings with the latest green technologies.

Green Structures transforms how the built environment's energy systems are planned, designed, constructed, maintained and operated. (Photo: Business Wire)