SA firm wins inventor award

12 March 2009

Durban-based light aircraft engine manufacturer Adept Airmotive has been named 2008 Autodesk Inventor of the Year for its development of a revolutionary aviation engine with the help of digital prototyping technology.

Adept Airmotive used the technology to develop the 320T, a 320 horsepower general aviation engine with a compact design that offers low vibration and high structural integrity. The new engine is lighter than a traditional piston engine of comparable horsepower, allowing the 320T to achieve significant fuel savings.

Selected by peers

Each month, design software innovator Autodesk nominates an Inventor of the Month from more than 800 000 users of Autodesk Inventor software, which is the foundation for digital prototyping. Winners are selected for their engineering excellence and groundbreaking innovation.

Members of the manufacturing community around the world voted for the 2008 Inventor of the Year winner on the Autodesk manufacturing community website. Adept received nearly two-thirds of the votes cast.

“The fact that our peers voted us into the winning position makes the award even more gratifying,” Adept MD Richard Schulz said in a statement this week. “We’re thrilled to demonstrate that South African engineering is world-class as part of the global exposure that accompanies this prestigious award.”

Digital prototyping

The digital prototyping capabilities of Inventor software helped Adept produce accurate 3D models of the 320T before anything was actually built, reducing the number of physical prototypes that had to be constructed.

According to the statement, processes that once took hours – such as changing the wall thickness of an engine component – were completed almost instantaneously with Inventor software. As a result, engineers were able to spend less time constructing geometric models and more time creating innovative designs, and then simulating the performance of the designs under real-world conditions.

“I’m thrilled that a South African entrant won the competition,” said Autodesk Africa MD Errol Ashwell. “Adept distinguished itself in a very competitive field of nominees in 2008, earning the praise of the manufacturing community for its ground-breaking engine.”

Stressing the value of intellectual property (IP), he said companies, like Adept, that invest in creating IP would reap dividends in the long-term. “Unfortunately, South African companies still spend billions a year on licence agreements and royalties,” he said.

In the face of shrinking markets, he encouraged manufacturers to differentiate themselves by offering delivery times their competitors can’t match, without compromising the quality of their goods.

“Engineers around the world rely on digital prototyping to develop and validate their designs in a digital format, minimising the need for physical prototypes and helping to get their products to market faster.”

Runners-up

Runner-up positions in the Inventor of the Year poll went to US-based company Sound Devices LLC, a leading manufacturer of professional audio recording and mixing equipment, which received 13% of the votes.

British Antarctica Survey (BAS), which received 6% of the votes, is responsible for the United Kingdom’s national scientific activities in Antarctica, and uses digital prototyping to design tools that allow the organisation to more effectively carry out research and provide insight into key 21st century challenges such as climate change, ozone depletion and rising sea levels.

SAinfo reporter

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