Talking about a virtual revolution
By Andy Holland, technical and marketing manager at Rapierstar.
Virtual technology is transforming our industry, helping us to deliver better quality, more secure and more robust windows and doors that capably stand the test of time. The vital role that mechanical fixings play is becoming more apparent than ever, giving us detailed insights into which screws are best for each application, and giving everyone in the supply chain total confidence in their fastener choices.
From the indispensable smartphone to the sat-nav that helps us get around and the laptop or PC that runs our working days, computer technology rules every aspect of our modern lives. Its impact has gone way beyond what early pioneer Thomas Watson, president of IBM predicted in 1943, when he speculated that “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”.
Watson’s prediction was plausible based on what computers were capable of at that time. Technology, however, is such an evolutionary creature, with every development unlocking new ways to do things better.
The door and window sector’s digitisation is evolving on many levels, particularly in respect to factory automation, design, quotations and order processing. However, it is in product development where we see some significant advances, and Rapierstar is at the forefront.
Virtual tools are helping us to design and model windows and doors that offer greatly improved performance and quality more cost effectively and in shorter timescales. Crucially, this process allows us to understand how a fastener will perform on screen at the conceptual stage, so time and money are not wasted on testing physical prototypes.
Fastener choice and application can make or break a window or door’s success, which is why our latest version of the solid modelling computer-aided design (CAD) and engineering program, Solidworks, is transforming the way we can help customers develop better-finished products. It can give us the ability to simulate physical screw behaviours, such as kinematics, dynamics, stress and deflection, on a complete window or door construction. This means we can ask the all-important ‘what if?’ questions and get some pretty reliable answers.
In development, the software puts Rapierstar window and door fasteners into a virtual model, along with the profile, any reinforcement, glazing and hardware. From here the software’s integrated simulation tools can put designs through their paces. By illustrating the effects of different stresses, designs can be changed and optimised, going through multiple ‘failure modes’ until we arrive at a reliable design model to take forward.
What’s most notable about 3D digitisation is having the ability to see how choosing different fasteners directly impacts the performance of the full window or door model, all at the click of a mouse. As the smallest and lowest unit cost components within a complete unit, fasteners are all too often overlooked as insignificant, and their role is not fully considered. Virtual prototyping, however, changes this. Easy-to-interpret data can be viewed to challenge any ‘it’ll do’ misconceptions about fasteners, and allow decisions to be made on thread designs, screw lengths and material types to provide the optimum attachment of hardware and structural connections.
For systems manufacturers and hardware companies in particular, Rapierstar’s ability to provide virtual fasteners for inclusion in models at the earliest design stages makes NPD more efficient and helps to deliver a better all-round result. This is positive for the whole industry as we continue to strive for ever-improved quality to end-users and finally allow decades of innovation to fulfil its potential.