How Frangus Ltd use SOLIDWORKS for machinery design

We sat down with Managing Director and owner, David Thomson, to find out more about Frangus Ltd and the role SOLIDWORKS has played at our longest serving customer…

Innova Systems formed in 2002 and our very first customer was specialised rail equipment designer/manufacturer, Frangus Ltd (formerly Thomson Rail). Based in the small town of Mitcheldean in Gloucestershire and well known for supplying their expertly designed machinery to companies like Balfour Beatty and Network Rail, Frangus Ltd are still going strong and are still a valued Innova customer and SOLIDWORKS user to this day.

We caught up with founder and Managing Director of Frangus Ltd, David Thomson, to look at some of their recent projects and find out how SOLIDWORKS helps them stay at the top of their game.

SOLIDWORKS products used at Frangus Ltd:

Frangus Ltd currently use SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD Premium, SOLIDWORKS Composer and also SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional. David says that SOLIDWORKS has enabled them to design and document a myriad of products from simple structures to extremely complex machinery. It’s also helped them to build an enviable reputation for their designs within their industry sector – some of which you can see below.

Railway rail lifter:

This product is a grab for gripping bundles of railway rails (in this case bundles of 5 rails), but Frangus Ltd do these for up to 12 rails at a time. The photograph below shows the Pacific Spike unloading rails at the Port of Stockton in California using these rail lifters designed in SOLIDWORKS. Just like everything Frangus Ltd design, they start in SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD Premium, test the design using Finite Element Analysis (also in Premium) and then move onto creation of technical documentation using SOLIDWORKS Composer. David says “…the best part about the whole process is this is all going on concurrently while you design and everything’s locked away in our PDM vault for safe keeping and for future use”.


Railway rail lifter designed by Frangus Ltd


Steelwork manipulator:

This unique manipulator handles box section and I section steelwork and has been extremely effective in the electrification of the Great Western and Edinburgh Glasgow lines.


Steelwork manipulator designed by Frangus Ltd


Clip removal machine:

This is a new product which is currently under trial with Balfour Beatty and Network Rail. Spring clips are used to hold rails to the sleepers and removing these clips – for example when worn out rails need to be changed – is done by hammering the clips out manually. This carries the risk that the clips will fly and a number of injuries occur every year.  It is also a slow and painstaking process.

Frangus Ltd’s newly designed machine removes 2 miles of clips per hour with no risk to personnel.


Clip removal machine designed by Frangus Ltd


Some fantastic engineering and design work here, we’re sure you agree.

Regarding Frangus Ltd’s relationship with Innova Systems, David said: “As good as SOLIDWORKS products undoubtedly are, without the support of the reseller in both training and troubleshooting, the full benefits would be much harder to reap. The Innova Systems Team are a key resource, helping us to achieve our goals, indeed we regard Innova Systems as part of our own team.

It’s no surprise that you’ve been recognised by SOLIDWORKS Corporation for providing the highest level of customer satisfaction in Northern Europe for the last four years running and we look forward to many more years working with you”.

Mark Bradford, Managing Director of Innova Systems, commented: ” SOLIDWORKS was proving to be a popular choice for small companies wanting to improve the way new products could be engineered, but as a new company, we were just starting on our journey. Dave placed his trust in us back in 2002 and we still work as close as ever some 16 years later. Our unique culture and attitude to do that bit extra for our customers  proves that whilst technology changes, relationships last a lifetime”.

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