Chipping Away At Design Time

Unique fluid power design program boosts productivity at Morbark Inc.

Morbark Inc., Winn, MI, designs and manufactures chippers and grinders used in applications as varied as right-of-way clearance and roof shingle recycling. Innovative, durable, reliable equipment design has been the company's goal since its beginnings in 1957 when founder Norval Morey, a logger, sawmill owner and entrepreneur, built the first piece of equipment ' a portable pulp wood debarker. The company has grown to fill a 1.5 million square foot manufacturing complex and has over 600 employees and hundreds of equipment designs to its credit.

As with any company competing in today's off-highway equipment market, Morbark is always seeking solutions to help speed its product development process. 'Increasing productivity' was one of the major reasons that Morbark chose to begin using a fluid power system design software tool from Famic Technologies Inc., Saint-Laurent, Quebec, Canada, called Automation Studio. Automation Studio is a unique solution that combines schematic design, simulation and project documentation into one system.

Speeding up design time

'When I first started using this product, I didn't think it was going to be any more productive than AutoCAD, which is what we had been using,' says Bill Price, a circuit designer for Morbark. 'But now a project that would have taken me six or seven hours with AutoCAD, takes me only two or three hours.'

In Automation Studio, users create complex circuit designs by dragging and dropping symbols from a library onto the 'multilayered project workspace.' The libraries contain thousands of symbols compliant with ISO, IEC and JIC standards, as well as entire ranges of major manufacturer's components. Users can also customize documentation by assigning their own fields to any symbol.

Physical parameters like piston diameter, stroke or rod diameter can be entered. And cylinders, hoses, pumps or valves can be sized for specific applications. Once a component has been sized, the corresponding parameters are automatically recalculated and replaced in the component properties in order to reflect changes during simulation. The sizing module helps users determine the most effective components, avoiding energy over consumption and component over sizing.

Animated simulation

Like many OEMs in this market, Morbark relied on physical prototypes to verify its hydraulic system design. 'The only way we knew our designs were correct was when the hoses were all put together and we ran the system,' says Price. But now Price validates his designs using the software package's simulation feature.

Each component has its own simulation models and becomes color animated. Clicking the start button animates the circuit and shows different behaviors. Components move, lines change color to indicate pressure/voltage status and plotter functions can be added to monitor variable values. Wherever applicable, characteristic curves can be entered to obtain a more realistic behavior of the system using numerical interpolation. All forces and loads applied to actuators can be determined as a function of their parameters such as time and position. Users can enter loading scenarios to simulate different application uses and set parameters in order to determine the effects of temperature and heat dissipation on a system.

Training and service

In Automation Studio, original project documentation created by the engineering department can be passed down to the training department. This eliminates the need for instructors to redesign schematics for training purposes. The program also allows trainers to set up 'what if' scenarios which can help trainees understand machine operation and troubleshooting procedures. Ultimately this can translate to a more efficient service team because they can troubleshoot faster and reduce the customer's downtime.

Since Morbark started using this program a little over a year ago, one of its dealers in Europe has also bought a seat of the program. 'It is going to help with communication,' says Doug Jones, production drafting manager for Morbark. 'We will be able to send them drawings electronically so they can troubleshoot maintenance problems. They will be able to download our schematics and animate them. It should help tremendously.'