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Lighting the way to faster, lower-cost Aerial LED development with SOLIDWORKS

AeroLEDs leverages integrated SOLIDWORKS mechanical and PCB design solutions to support its rapid growth in the development of landing and navigational LED-based lighting systems. These systems are used on experimental, special-use, and military aircraft such as the lighting system installed on the wing of a Cessna™ aircraft.

AeroLEDs designs and manufactures landing and navigational lighting systems for the aerospace industry and has been installing them on experimental, special-use, and military aircraft for the past decade. The company has introduced revolutionary LED-based lighting products that produce far better results than traditional lighting systems. AeroLEDs products require zero maintenance, can reduce power consumption by 80 percent, extend service life, reduce weight and aerodynamic drag, and provide direct retrofit replacement of legacy lighting systems with no mounting modifications.

The company has grown quickly since 2006, when it introduced its PULSAR line. The PULSAR line is the world’s first all LED-based nav/strobe lighting product to meet the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Technical Standard Orders C30C and C96a-C2, which govern the positioning of lighting and anti-collision lighting systems. According to President and CEO Nate Calvin, AeroLEDs needed to break the paradigm of the segmented, nonintegrated electrical design process of printed circuit boards (PCBs) and printed circuit assemblies (PCAs), and the mechanical design process, to support rapid growth and reduce the total design cycle.

“Prior to 2016, we used SOLIDWORKS® mechanical design software to develop lighting housings and LED packaging, and another electrical design package for schematic and PCB design,” Calvin recalls. “The design process consisted of multiple export/imports between the PCB layout software and SOLIDWORKS to develop the final configuration of a design. While this process functioned fairly well, it was labor-intensive and we never had a 100 percent accurate mechanical representation of all of the associated electrical components on the PCA since it was very time-intensive to add the mechanical models to the assembly. The net result was increased design cycle time, and we often required additional prototype boards to resolve interference issues that were usually less than .010 inches.

“Some of our assemblies are so tightly packed that the pads from the components were becoming an issue,” Calvin continues. “I’ve been a SOLIDWORKS user since 1995, so when we discovered SOLIDWORKS PCB powered by Altium® software, I was immediately intrigued at the potential time savings the package could offer and [how it might allow us to] finally crack the barrier of a fully integrated mechanical/electrical design suite.”AeroLEDs chose the integrated SOLIDWORKS electronic design ecosystem, implementing SOLIDWORKS Premium design, SOLIDWORKS PCB, SOLIDWORKS Simulation Professional analysis, and SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis software solutions. “We chose the SOLIDWORKS solution because we know the SOLIDWORKS mechanical package and value the integration between mechanical and PCB design,” Calvin explains. “We also believed that the integrated SOLIDWORKS solutions would save us time and money.”

Achieving “First Time Right”

Since implementing the integrated SOLIDWORKS electronic design ecosystem, AeroLEDs has cut its development cycles in half. “With SOLIDWORKS and SOLIDWORKS PCB software, we’ve reduced the PCA/PCB import process from a 15 to 30-minute process that resulted in ‘rough models’ of 30 percent of the components to a 5-minute import process of 100 percent of the components at 100 percent accuracy. It’s a game changer,” Calvin says.

“This transition has accelerated development, while improving quality and increasing collaboration, because we achieve ‘first time right’ consistently,” Calvin continues. “For example, I can take a board from our electrical engineer into SOLIDWORKS, find all of the interference issues, and suggest 10 changes when I send it back to him. He’ll then accept 8 of the 10 changes and confer with me about addressing the other two. Perhaps I moved something, and he’ll report that ‘moving the component violates layout rules, but I can deal with the interference from the mechanical side and modify accordingly.’ Since implementing SOLIDWORKS and SOLIDWORKS PCB, we haven’t had to produce more than one board revision for clearance issues or modify a mechanical component. We get it right the first time.”

Challenge:

Streamline electronic and mechanical design and improve collaboration to support the increased development of aerial LED electronic lighting systems for experimental and military aircraft.

Solution:

Implement the SOLIDWORKS electronic design ecosystem, including SOLIDWORKS Premium design and analysis, SOLIDWORKS PCB, SOLIDWORKS Simulation Professional analysis, and SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation software solutions.

Benefits:

  • Cut development cycles by 50 percent
  • Reduced scrap and rework by 50 percent
  • Decreased development costs
  • Increased development throughput

 

“With SOLIDWORKS and SOLIDWORKS PCB software, we’ve reduced the PCA/PCB import process from a 15 to 30-minute process that resulted in ‘rough models’ of 30 percent of the components to a 5-minute import process of 100 percent of the components at 100 percent accuracy. It’s a game changer. This transition has accelerated development, while improving quality and increasing collaboration, because we achieve ‘first time right’ consistently.”

— Nate Calvin, President and CEO

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