The Catia user community in South Africa is growing rapidly, with an ever-increasing number of engineering companies investing in this sophisticated CAD/CAM technology. Catia is reputed to be a `luxury' that only large automotive and aerospace OEMs and tier one suppliers can afford; however, the availability of affordable Catia V5 solutions has enabled even small toolrooms to exploit Catia's advantages. As well as having the most advanced facilities at their fingertips, they are equipped to compete on equal terms with larger competitors, and to collaborate in a common-technology environment with their larger customers. The PGF group of companies - comprising PGF ToolCAD and PGF Engineering - is one such forward-thinking business: PGF has chosen Catia for the design and production of its tooling, and has reported remarkable improvements in quality, efficiency and competitiveness.
The PGF group is a well-regarded ISO 9001:2000 certified enterprise which is situated in Port Elizabeth, and has been supplying press tooling to the automotive industry for the past eight years. The design division, PGF ToolCAD, specialises in the 3D design of high volume tooling and of surface creation for CNC Machining purposes; PGF Engineering complements the design facility by offering quality precision tool making and is capable of manufacturing tooling of up to 10 tons. PGF's customers currently include some of the leading names in the automotive industry, such as Toyota SA, Stateline Pressed Metals, Comau SA Press Tools and Parts, and Formex Engineering.
PGF faced a number of critical challenges as it grew in stature and began receiving larger and more complex tool design data from its customers. The existing CAD software could not handle large, complicated surfaces - limitations that posed a serious usability problem and threatened them with the loss of important projects as a result. Frequent data translations from other CAD/CAM formats to Catia resulted in longer design cycle times and data inconsistencies. In addition, the group was increasingly receiving pressure from the OEMs to move to Catia. PGF knew that if it wished to grow and compete on this level as an automotive supplier, it would need to adopt the CAD/CAM solution that would both meet industry demands and improve its own productivity.
The group decided that it was essential to standardise on a single solution which could address all its requirements. After extensive evaluation of various potential CAD/CAM solutions, PGF determined that by using Catia, it could not only offer its customers a single platform for both the design and the machining of their tooling, but would also enable the group to handle all of its own complex designs and processes. The elimination of data translation errors would ensure the accurate production of the components and also greatly shorten the time needed for a design to reach the workshop floor. Peter Feltham, managing director of PGF ToolCAD, commented: "We knew that purchasing Catia V5 would improve our design capabilities as well as our delivery commitment, thereby instilling confidence and creating the opportunity to expand our customer base." PGF's core business is within the automotive industry, and the company realised that because Catia is used by the majority of motor vehicle manufacturers, and considered the standard by a number of them, Catia would increase its flexibility and efficiency, allowing it to meet the development needs of the OEMs.
CDC (CNC Design Consultants), supplier of Catia solutions in South Africa, used its extensive industry knowledge to assist PGF in selecting the Catia configurations most suitable to its specific needs. CDC also provided training along with the necessary support to ensure a swift, smooth and problem-free transition to Catia V5. The PGF group regards its change-over to Catia V5 as relatively easy, taking into consideration its experience in using other CAD systems. Feltham remarked that Catia proved itself from the very first tool design, from a timing and quality point of view: "Catia V5 is a very powerful CAD/CAM solution and therefore very challenging - a real pleasure for any CAD/CAM operator who has the desire to expand and improve his capabilities and impress his customers or management", he added. Catia has particularly strong surfacing capabilities, and through using power-copies and knowledgeware templates, PGF was able to shorten design and programming time considerably, allowing it to increase productivity. Feltham says, "Our investment in Catia V5 has financially benefited the whole PGF group by drastically shortening design and manufacturing time and improving the quality of our end product."
PGF ToolCAD and PGF Engineering are currently in the process of expanding their operations and have just invested in an additional Catia design seat. PGF is also setting up a high volume metal stamping production facility. Together with its highly professional team of skilled toolmakers, machinists and CNC operators who possess the essential knowledge and industry experience required, and through the use of the world-class, leading-edge technology embodied in Catia V5, it is able to embark on this exciting new undertaking with confidence.