Exceptional strength, high efficiency, and years of trouble-free service in the field, balanced with a need for minimal material, affordability, and quick and easy production and servicing. These are the critical elements built into every Nautel transmitter, from initial CAD drawings, to prototypes, to fully functional products.
With facilities in Nova Scotia, Canada and Maine, U.S.A., Nautel is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of AM and FM radio broadcast transmitters. Since 1969, they have deployed more than 15,000 transmitters in 177 countries. Nautel is best known as the first company to develop a commercially available, fully solid state broadcast transmitter. They also design and build navigational radio beacons, GPS transmitters, weather transmitters, and sonar systems.
As of December 2017, Nautel’s largest transmitter – a two-megawatt AM medium wave system – is on the air at Antenna Hungaria’s transmission facility near Solt, Hungary. It marked Nautel’s largest single installation to date.
Drafting manager Joey Panczyk has been with Nautel for 21 years. He jokes about seeing the drafting process go from sketches on paper napkins to complex designs in SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD software. Since 2003, Nautel has been using SOLIDWORKS products provided and supported by Javelin Technologies.
“We needed software we could expand on and grow with, plus a solid provider and partner,” Joey says. “I knew SOLIDWORKS would represent our product in the best possible way and reduce our time to market.”
Joey’s department includes three mechanical designers and two circuit board designers. Over the last few years, Nautel has been ramping up their SOLIDWORKS use and adding features and functions offered by a variety of products in the SOLIDWORKS family. For about a year, Joey’s team has been using SOLIDWORKS PCB powered by Altium for electronics design.
“One of the reasons we chose SOLIDWORKS PCB is the easy interface between it and SOLIDWORKS,” Joey says. “There were hurdles to overcome but at the same time we successfully created the biggest circuit board in the history of our company.”
Nautel also chose SOLIDWORKS PCB because they knew they could count on support from Javelin, support they didn’t have for their previous circuit board software.
“Even when PCB was challenging, Javelin was helpful, and reported any bugs to PCB. We took a chance on PCB because we have such trust in Javelin.”
Multi-product approach meets different needs
Nautel’s designers use SOLIDWORKS mainly for sheet metal design, since 95 percent of a transmitter is sheet metal-based material.
As they have moved into working on sonar projects and complying with the requirements of shipboard mounted systems and military specs, they have been using SOLIDWORKS Simulation to test their designs at early stages, instead of having to use an external shock and vibration tester right away.
Joey also credits SOLIDWORKS Simulation for giving his team the ability to reliably test air flow, particularly important when working on small scale projects.
He recalls the old days of making models with cardboard and using “the brute force method” to see how a design would react in real life. Today, Simulation allows them to quickly test, catch bugs, and improve the design.
Another SOLIDWORKS product, Composer, has given Joey and his team the ability to present assembly drawings in three dimensions. Assembly drawings were always on paper – three dimensional drawings, but presented in two dimensions. Nautel now places a monitor at each work station along the assembly line for an FM power module. Employees interact with the screen, rotating or pulling apart a drawing, or accessing health and safety data. They can also view instructions for working with parts provided by third party suppliers.
“They have links to the information they need right at their fingertips,” Joey says. “We’re limiting our paper use, and no one has to flip through a book anymore. It has been well received.”
Composer also generates publications to outline how to operate and service Nautel transmitters, including images and 3D animations.
“This worked well for us in Hungary,” Joey notes. “We deliver all over the globe – the Middle East, Europe, India – we need documentation with fewer words and more images.”
Joey says presenting animations to potential customers allows them to understand the product better at an earlier stage in the sales process. For example, instead of seeing only a top-down view of the proposed floor plan, customers can see – in 3D – exactly how the equipment will fit in their space.
Nautel’s bid to win the business in Hungary was strengthened with images and 3D animation.
“For the first time in 40 years, they went shopping for one of the most powerful AM transmitters in the world and they take great pride in their equipment. We won them over and they took a chance on us with a $4-million project. 3D technology helped make that happen.”
To control data and improve collaboration, Nautel also uses SOLIDWORKS Product Data Management (PDM). PDM helps the team manage files and workflow. It offers a secure vault with controlled access – everyone involved can access the information they need, while files are protected by automated version and revision control systems.
“Sign-offs are easily recorded, and everyone knows what stage a project is at, reducing the risk of building the wrong part,” Joey says. “And not everyone has a super computer to manage full design files, so being able to generate a PDF for our manufacturing department is important.”
Joey has been a champion for SOLIDWORKS for years. He says Nautel is packed with people interested in the latest and greatest, and in finding the right tools to help employees be faster and better.
“We’ve invested a lot in SOLIDWORKS to get the benefits of building stronger and better products. We can make design changes in seconds, generate images documentation, easily explain designs to others, and just get to market quicker.”
- Using a variety of products in the SOLIDWORKS family is meeting Nautel’s unique needs in equipment design, testing, production, deployment, servicing, marketing, and sales.
- Using SOLIDWORKS Simulation software, Nautel’s designers can test air flow and shock and vibration in-house, and earlier in the design process.
- SOLIDWORKS PCB offers easy integration between electrical and mechanical design and is well supported by Javelin Technologies.
- Visuals and technical documentation created in SOLIDWORKS Composer, using existing CAD data, help Nautel stand out from the competition and allow them to communicate better across cultures.
- Data management tools provided in SOLIDWORKS PDM help everyone at Nautel maintain up-to-date files, manage workflow and sign offs, and avoid costly errors.