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Inventor solves ancient engineering challenge

Australian manufacturer Thompson Couplings Limited has used Autodesk Inventor software to develop an innovative new type of coupling that addresses a long-standing engineering challenge.

The company’s design reduces engineering problems associated with traditional couplings – such as loss of power, vibration, increased wear, and machine damage – giving it the potential to benefit a wide range of applications, from truck transmissions to helicopter rotary blades.

A coupling connects two shafts at their ends for the purpose of transmitting power. Since the mid 1600s, engineers have attempted to build a coupling capable of transmitting power from one shaft to another at constant velocity without any load-bearing sliding surfaces. The Thompson coupling is the first to accomplish this goal.

As the foundation for digital prototyping, products in the Inventor line enabled Thompson to digitally visualise, simulate and analyse coupling design data before anything was actually built, streamlining the product development process and significantly reducing time to market.

“We are thrilled at the speed with which Autodesk Inventor allowed us to develop the Thompson coupling for customers within the automotive, aviation and industrial machinery markets,” said David Farrell, director of engineering, Thompson. “As we commercialise the product and enter full production, Inventor will continue to play an important role in designing and testing the product.”

Karsten Hojberg, director, manufacturing solutions division, Autodesk Australia, said, “Digital prototyping lets conceptual design, engineering and manufacturing departments collaborate, optimise and manage design efforts with increased levels of communication and data sharing, using a single digital model throughout the design process, making time to market much faster.”

By using 3D digital models, Thompson was easily able to perform various tests and analyses, including load calculations. Digital prototyping enabled the company to iterate on the design until engineers achieved the proper product dimensions and properties-all without the time and costs associated with creating and modifying physical prototypes.

Thompson estimates that by using Inventor software, it was able to accomplish its design goals two to three times faster than if engineers had relied solely on 2D means. In addition, Thompson was able to reduce production of physical prototypes by 40 percent.

Robert “Buzz” Kross, senior vice president, Autodesk manufacturing solutions, said, “Thompson is doing more than just coming up with innovative ideas – it is turning those innovations into reality in less time, and with lower costs.”

“Thompson was able to improve upon a mechanical device that has been largely unchanged for more than 400 years. That’s the power of digital prototyping.”

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