Issue: Sep 2010


“Turning Vision into Reality” - How Autodesk Helped Viig Make its Design Dreams Come True



by Steve Barclay

Viig Ltd is a small automotive and consumer products design company based in Poole in Dorset. The company was founded in 2008 by Stewart Morley and Freddy Page-Roberts, who met through their common background in the automotive sector and who quickly realised they had a shared passion for efficient and elegant design.

They saw the potential in developing a business together to take existing projects and products in new directions and existing concepts from existing ideas into profitable commercial realities.

Viig has a broad design focus. At one end of the spectrum, it develops an extensive range of ‘lifestyle’ products encompassing everything from card holders to high-end wallets and iPhone cases. At the other, it carries out complex total chassis and full vehicle design where it is even possible to have up to 1,500 parts on the screen at any one time.

It was key for Viig at launch to know exactly how it was going to implement its design ideas and engineering and manufacturing processes. The company’s founders had no shortage of creative ideas but they also knew that they needed to have the right processes and tools in place before they could turn these visions into reality. They agreed that, before they moved forward, they needed to select a software partner and a suitable CAD solution.

As a start-up, Viig needed to drive rapid sales growth and also to ensure it was delivering the highest possible levels of customer satisfaction from launch. To do this, Morley and Page-Roberts decided to prioritise the aesthetic quality of their designs but also to find a solution that could optimise their processes.

As Morley explains, “we knew we needed design tools that could scope across our wide angle of design approach. The ability to deliver a distinct visual identity was particularly important for our lifestyle products while on the automotive side, mechanical evaluation, mechanical movement control and cost monitoring were equally key. We knew it would be difficult to find a solution capable of doing all of this.”

To meet the challenge, they chose digital solutions from Autodesk, which they decided were easy-to-use, would enable them to improve their business processes and ultimately get the most from their designs.

As Morley explained,” I’d used several other 3D design solutions in the past from a range of different suppliers. While each system had its benefits, I typically found that there was an excessive focus on product lifecycle management (PLM) alone. It seemed to me that solutions were often developed to appeal more to financial directors and CEOs rather than engineers and designers.

“Optimising the aesthetic quality of our designs is one of our key business objectives. Consequently, we needed software that enabled us both to develop products to the highest quality standard but also to evaluate, and, where required, enhance the look and feel of those products,” he explained.

We did not feel we got that from the other platforms but both the quality and the comprehensiveness of the Autodesk product portfolio really ticked all the boxes for us. We went ahead and implemented Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Showcase package has really opened up our CAD capability beyond that which we had ever dreamed of in the past.

Inventor and Showcase – Working Together in Perfect Harmony

“To us, Inventor is not just a tool it is an integral part of our process. Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Showcase, in particular, play a pivotal role at Viig’s operational heart. Autodesk Inventor, in particular has been a key part of Viig’s plans since the company’s launch. Inventor delivers accurate 3D digital prototypes that enables users to validate the form, fit, and function of a design as they work, minimising the need to test the design with physical prototypes.

As Morley outlines, “it does have PLM capabilities built into it together with the ability to manipulate bills of materials (BOMs). These are important benefits but we are most impressed with the visual impact that it can deliver in conjunction with Showcase. We are particularly impressed with the ability to achieve a realistic digital prototype of the solution on screen and get close to sign-off with customers on that prototype alone.

This helps us to reduce operating inefficiencies and increase profitability by enabling us to make faster changes to designs and reduce the overall time we spend on the process,” adds Morley. “Using Inventor has made a huge difference to our cost structure. Rather than having to ‘go to model and hard model’ and creating one-off physical prototypes just for evaluation purposes, we can now carry out the whole process in the digital arena alone.

Viig has also been impressed with how easy the Autodesk solutions are to use. According to Morley, “I was told that I should be able to learn how to use the solution proficiently within a six-to-seven week timeframe. It actually took 2 weeks. We received the software in the middle of the month we launched. By the end of that month, I had sent off working files to our first supplier to start the process of manufacturing parts.

Enhanced Marketing and Decision-Making

The use of Autodesk Showcase has helped Viig to drive efficient and effective internal decision-making and marketing processes. The company can now evaluate in real-time the surface tension, volumes, finishes and colour of numerous designs and as a result make fast, informed choices.

From the marketing perspective, Viig is currently releasing an innovative new technology through a newly created subsidiary company called Inrekor, which has been set up to develop sandwich panel technology for vehicle chassis.

For Viig, the ability to send out CAD level images before products were developed was imperative. “This is where Showcase really comes into its own,” says Morley. “Getting people to invest in a product before it is actually made is a key differentiator for our business.”

This kind of effective communication with customers and prospects can drive up levels of satisfaction and ultimately sales for any small business.

Cutting Costs and Delivering Faster Time to Market

In order to deliver a valuation of the Inrekor technology, Viig needed to get a working chassis on the road as quickly as possible. To do this, the company eliminated a Volkswagen Beetle as a donor car, and inserted Inrekor technology under a Porsche Speedster replica. Viig used Autodesk technology to mimic the chassis, arrange seven different castings from CAD files and a plethora of water cutting profiles, with DWG and DXF files. Everything was then evaluated in Inventor’s sheet metal programme.

“We estimate that using Autodesk software has enabled us to reduce our product development lifecycle by at least 50%. The whole process from developing the first CAD files through to putting the last bolt in and starting the car took around 13½ weeks,” says Morley. “This kind of speed is unheard of in the automotive industry. Without the Autodesk design platform and its ability to deliver what we want when we want it, it would have been simply impossible to achieve.

“Using the Autodesk solutions has also allowed us to make a dramatic reduction in costs. We estimate that our product development budget was cut by as much as 60% simply through the use of Autodesk solutions. It clearly demonstrates the commercial benefits of implementing easy-to-use, high-quality, reliable design software. If you have the inclination and the expertise, you can achieve pretty much anything in this sector but it is absolutely imperative to have the right tools.”

Planning Ahead

Viig estimates that its usage of Autodesk software will expand over time. The company is actively looking for more designers to allow it to delve deeper into the features and benefits of Autodesk Showcase, deeper into the finite element analysis functionality of the Autodesk software and deeper into the bill of materials structure capabilities of the solutions. The company would also like to more fully to explore the natural progression of aesthetic sketching to CAD rather than moving straight into the tolerance testing process.

It predicts that Autodesk software will be key in helping it to drive growth, sales and competitive edge not just today but long into the future.

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