Always asking questions

Nick Pascoe, one of the co-founders of Sheffield-based special purpose machine developer Pascoe Williams, believes there is a lot wrong with the way machines are designed. ‘That’s why,’ he says, ‘75% of them fail to perform to expectations when they are d

According to Pascoe, four elements are needed to create a successful design: good people, money, good facilities and a structural methodology that will assist designers to design better and more efficiently. While some companies might have the first three elements in place, no one is paying too much attention to design, he says.

Pascoe has a very structured design methodology in place at its facility in Sheffield, and has developed its own in-house software to complement it. The approach appears to be paying off. Pascoe has attracted a number of blue chip companies, and has worked on a diverse range of products from an envelope printing machine with 18-axis servo control to a subminiature lightbulb manufacturing cell.

Unlike the usual development scenario where a customer hands a design concept to a third party, who delivers a product months later (perhaps after little discussion between the two), Pascoe Williams involves the customer every step along the design route.

A design requirement for a new machine is explicitly defined at the Initial Proposal Stage. It’s here that Pascoe works with its customer to define the possible solutions that could be taken, as well as the risks involved. A budget and development time scale are also discussed.

Next comes a FDS (Functional Design Study), which contains a succinct description of the design as well as any constraints, performance requirements or special customer specifications. Many questions are asked ‘Even details of where the machine is to be placed and what it is to be placed next to in a factory. You’d be surprised how even seemingly small factors like that can influence how a machine is designed. ‘ Once complete, the customer is encouraged to critique the document so that both parties are in absolute agreement. ‘We encourage our customer to show the document to their machine operatives too,’ adds Pascoe, ‘If anyone should know the process, it’s them.’

In the Final Proposal, the options in the FDS are developed further and one chosen for development. Assembly drawings, are produced and reviewed with the customer

Once the final proposal has been signed off, a 3D dimensional model of the equipment is built. On one recent system design, the company developed a 3D solid model that boasted over 5500 parts. As at every other stage, the 3D models are also shown to customers for input. From then on, detailed drawings are made.