Newcastle-based, JOA Designs, specialise in new product design and development, design automation, mechanical design, sheet metal design, 2D design and 3D rendering. We met up with founder and owner, John Ajibade, to find out how and why he uses a combination of SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD and Driveworks and the reason he chose Innova Systems as his preferred reseller.
Hi John, how long have you been using SOLIDWORKS?
I’ve used SOLIDWORKS for a few years in previous roles and we opted for a 6 month SOLIDWORKS Term license when I started JOA Designs. Renting SOLIDWORKS meant that we could withhold some capital, which is really important for early-stage startups. We switched to a full, perpetual license at the end of the term, which is more cost effective if you’re planning to continue to use SOLIDWORKS. We’ve had it about a year in total now.
Why did you choose SOLIDWORKS for JOA Design?
I’ve used both SOLIDWORKS and AutoCAD Mechanical and Autodesk Inventor extensively, but SOLIDWORKS is the one that I’m most comfortable with. It has a cleaner User Interface and it’s more of an “All-in-one” offering, with everything you need right there, in the place you would expect to find it.
We cover various industries including automotive, electrical, furniture and jewellery and we work with a variety of materials, such as plastic, sheet metal, GRP Composite etc, so we need flexible, easy-to-use software that can handle everything we throw at it.
How about DriveWorks?
Design automation is integral to the JOA Designs offering, so the fact that we can add DriveWorks onto SOLIDWORKS is great. It’s perfect for our clients, too, because it gives them the opportunity simplify what they do with automation. They can integrate it with their existing SOLIDWORKS licenses, so it’s a lot easier for us to propose to a client as they’re already in that SOLIDWORKS Ecosystem.
We did trial an alternative, but Driveworks was much easier for us to code and manage. It’s “win-win” on both sides.
How does SOLIDWORKS fit into your design process?
It varies depending on the client, but we use it for every job. It could be a case of someone calling and saying “One of our competitors has just released a product, but we think we can do better, we need your help with the design”. We’ll then discuss what we need to add and how we can re-engineer the product so it’s completely different to what the competitor has made.
Sometimes we’ll be given a basic doodle on a piece of paper and the client will say: “here’s the product we want to make – here’s the end goal”, but there’s not a lot of detail for us to work with. We’ll then have to try to interpret that and it all starts in SOLIDWORKS. We’ll draw up a concept and start to work with the client on the product and it’s a lot easier to do that onscreen in 3D.
Our project briefs are constantly evolving, so we have a to make a lot of design iterations along the way. We design parametrically all the way through our design process to accommodate this. We really don’t want to be starting the design over and over again so we re-use as much of the reference geometry in SOLIDWORKS that we can while we create new versions of our concepts.
Once the concepts are fleshed out we’ll begin presenting the models to the clients and more detail will often need to be added, such as electrical components inside the products. We’ll then create a full assembly and test the basic features for fit and function within SOLIDWORKS.
Next we’ll start creating physical prototypes of the products using varied components, such as Sheet Metal, or 3D Printing in Plastic. SOLIDWORKS handles both of those with ease and we can be sure that it will work, because we’ve tested the design onscreen. Assuming there are no further changes, we’ll do a short production run to present to the client.
Other jobs dictate that we work on some kinematic motion analysis within SOLIDWORKS, so we’ll use drawn layouts to get some kinematics done without wasting too much time 3D Modelling.
One thing that really helps us save time is design re-use. It’s surprising just how many parts can be re-purposed from project to project. Changing names and parts within the SOLIDWORKS Feature Manager is much easier to do than it is in Inventor and Pack & Go is much better than the Inventor equivalent as well. This means re-using parts is very straightforward and it’s something we do quite often.
What have JOA Designs been working on recently?
We were approached by a client who was inspired by a very popular phone accessory that was already on the market. This plastic device clips onto the back of the mobile handset and is available in many different styles to suit the user. Our client had identified a gap in the market for some new styles and features, which they sketched up for us. We used this for the basis of our brief.
We had a very short timescale from concept to prototyping – about two weeks – so we were really up against it. Working in SOLIDWORKS meant we were able to quickly reiterate and communicate, visually in 3D, with our client until they had an exact replication of their original idea.
The final product was to be injection moulded, so we had to make sure the draft angles were created to spec using the draft functionality within SOLIDWORKS. We didn’t have the existing product to hand, so we had to play with the parameters until we got it right.
The manufacturers were already using and were fully conversant with SOLIDWORKS, so we were in continuous conversation with them, sharing the models and adjusting as required to meet their specific parameters for manufacturing. This was really important because they were unable to amend our designs due to time limitations, but they could check it with eDrawings.
The fact that we can open and export parts in a multitude of formats means we have no issues when working with manufacturers, wherever in the world they are and whatever software they’re using.
Cost per unit was also extremely important for this job, and SOLIDWORKS helped us to decide which material to use and exactly how much of it to use to keep things streamlined.
The client is now selling the product successfully on the market and there’s no doubt in my mind that SOLIDWORKS helped us to deliver the project on time.
How has SOLIDWORKS helped JOA Designs with automotive design briefs?
We used SOLIDWORKS to design and assemble the bodies and related components for a range of Motorhomes and Cabins. It was used to design the sheet metal floor supports, the sidewalls, the fronts, the back walls and also the roofs. The final product was to be manufactured in GRP composite material on a 5 Axis CNC machine.
You’re looking at something approximately 10 – 15 metres in size with this, so we’re making use of the Assembly Modelling capabilities of SOLIDWORKS: Checking large components, making sure everything fits the way it should within very tight tolerances. SOLIDWORKS adds an extra layer of confidence as we work – you can be sure you’ve got the design just right.
We also designed the internal furniture for the motorhomes and cabins and that was all exported into a multitude of parts for CNC processing. Reducing the mass in running order (MIRO) of the vehicle was paramount for us, so material selection was critical. We decided on a particular type of plywood and SOLIDWORKS really helped us to make the right design choices on cut outs, pocket locations etc.
Something on this scale means working in a very large assembly, and each part could be up to a couple of hundred megabytes, but SOLIDWORKS handles it all with ease. The Large Assembly performance enhancements in SOLIDWORKS 2019 really made a difference on this project.
We used DriveWorks to automate the designs so our clients could create different layouts of their products to suit their customers’ requests. We automated a number of features including the external panels where the length, width, depth and window (heki) placements were driven. These changes automatically updated and the respective cutouts were automatically dimensioned in the engineering drawings. We also automated the internal furniture placement and cabinet sizes so that specific units could be changed at a press of a button to meet our clients’ requirements.
A design modification that used to take several days was now a simple form filling exercise. Remodelling took us a few hours rather than a few days. This was accompanied by a complete BOM, assembly instructions for components, exported parts for CNC machining and cost and confirmation letters.
How much time is SOLIDWORKS saving JOA Designs, on average?
SOLIDWORKS has shaved approximately 30% off our design process when compared to other 3D software. As a result we’re getting through more work and clients are returning to us and recommending us to others. It’s all down to the ease-of-use and the natural workflow. You’ve got all the tools you would expect and everything is where it should be.
Couple that with the advanced capabilities in SOLIDWORKS we’re on to a winner
Accurate material and cost estimation in SOLIDWORKS really helps us to quickly communicate design practicalities and the subsequent design decisions that we’ve made. It enables our clients to budget appropriately, so it’s another useful tool in our armoury.
Why did JOA Designs choose to work with Innova Systems?
I’ve dealt with other SOLIDWORKS resellers before and my first impressions of Innova Systems were excellent. The sales process was informative and completely non-pushy. Your sales rep always replied to any email queries quickly by providing the answer(s) I needed.
When I used Inventor, I would call for support only to be told that someone would call me back and I would have to stop working. From my perspective, I’m calling for support – I want my issue sorted out quickly so I can get on with my job.
The Innova Systems support team have been exceptional from the moment I started my trial. If my query can’t be sorted there and then, they’ll get back me quickly with a resolution. They’ve even suggested better ways of achieving what I called in about, so I’ve learned new techniques, too.
Much like JOA Designs, Innova Systems actually care about their customers’ success and it shows. I couldn’t recommend you highly enough!
To find out more, visit the JOA Designs website.