As Northeast Ohio winters go, this one hasn’t been too bad. There have been a few miserably cold days, and a couple of unpleasant driving experiences, but for the most part, it’s been mild. For a region that averages anywhere from 50 to 90 inches of snow per year, this winter has been a reprieve. Thanks, El Niño! I am aware that there are some strange people around me who love snow, and while I don’t understand them, I grudgingly respect them. Very grudgingly. Some of those people are the winter sports aficionados, the skiers and snowboarders and their ilk. I don’t do those things; since I became an adult, I lost the urge to befriend the snow, but again, I respect those who do, and I understand that a lack of snow can seriously hinder the winter plans of these sporting types.
Of course, technology can make up for the failings of nature when it comes to appeasing winter sports fans. For most of my life I’ve driven repeatedly past a local ski resort, and I was baffled the first time I saw the huge cannons blasting white clouds into the air. My dad explained that they were snowmakers, used to supplement the ski resort’s supply of snow when there wasn’t quite enough of it on the slopes. I’ve seen those snowmakers at work hundreds of times, but I never gave much thought to how it was done, or the fact that there were people whose job it was to create snow all over the country.
One of the leaders in the very specialized snowmaking industry is Trask-Decrow Machinery, an industrial pump and compressor manufacturer with a dedicated snowmaking division. Rick Chapman is the Outside Sales: Snowmaking representative for the company, so he knows his snow, and he’s been making it for ski resorts across North America for several years. Not long ago, he noticed some problems with the classic method of snowmaking, which uses a vertical turbine pump to pressurize water and shoot it up the mountain, to put it simply.
The mechanical seals on the pumps need to be regularly cooled and lubricated, which is done by allowing some of the pumped water to flow through a throttle bushing, past the seals and out of the pump altogether. It’s an effective method, but it wastes water and increases wear on the bushing when particulate matter flows through along with the water. Chapman came up with a way to avoid these problems, but when he conceived of his idea, he didn’t realize that implementing it would involve learning a whole new skill: 3D modeling.
Chapman was experienced in 2D CAD software, but he had never used 3D software before. When he began shopping around for software that would meet the needs of his pump-improvement project, he discovered Solid Edge, which offers a free trial version. He signed up for the trial and began familiarizing himself with 3D modeling, which he soon became skilled at. He used the software to create 3D models of the pumps and bushings that he wanted to modify, but once his trial subscription wore out, he had a dilemma: the company wasn’t keen on investing a lot of money in a full software subscription, since Chapman would be the only one using it. Luckily, they discovered another option: a month-by-month subscription.
Most software programs only offer yearly subscriptions, so Solid Edge is doing something new and intriguing for designers and engineers who only use 3D modeling periodically. It was the perfect solution for Chapman, who rented the software for as long as he needed to complete his design of what would become the SealSaver, which injects high-pressure filtered water into the mechanical seal housing and then reversing the flow. The device has been installed at several ski resorts, and it’s saving about 30 to 40 gallons of water per pump, creating a larger amount of snow and saving the resorts a good chunk of money.
For Chapman and TDM, the process of designing the SealSaver has not only resulted in a lucrative new product, but it’s opened the door for other projects like it, now that they know they can license quality 3D modeling software whenever they need it. It gives them the freedom to think creatively without risking a major investment, and, as Chapman points out, the software will be fully up-to-date each time they license it. It’s not a bad deal at all for those looking to try out 3D modeling, or who only need it for a particular project, and it’s an idea that other 3D software manufacturers could potentially benefit from as well. Discuss in the Solid Edge 3D Modeling Software Subscription forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source/Images: Engineering.com/TDM Snow]