Paving the way to automation in AHU manufacturing



Mechanical industry, nowadays, asks a challenging requirement to engineering companies that aim to be their partner: providing a full set of professional services and solutions to manufacturers, targeting their changing and day-by-day demanding needs. By integrating the leading edge design approach with traditional engineering principles, a skilled and modern engineering company must provide clients with a “First to Market Time” innovative approach, appealing product designs on time and on budget. 

These results can be reached by harmonizing creative and innovative thinking, well consolidated experience and knowledge from science and theory, to support customers from the initial idea to finished product (“concept to production” approach). To say it a different way, an engineering company should provide customized/individual consulting services for new ideas and cost reduction and product improvements for manufacturers existing portfolio.

Years of experience in dealing with product engineering place the engineering company’s expertise well beyond just mechanical engineering and industrial design activities. By recognizing different situations and specific goals of each individual client, they can make necessary adjustments to the design and production processes and related activities. The ability to anticipate possible outcomes based on past experience and unique view of different realities empower the engineering company to select the best product development path and recommend right and safe technical decisions in order to maximize the results while minimizing costs.

The greatest advantage of a such approach is the product development expertise and management of the whole product development process. The knowledge of the market trends and of user expectations, in conjunction with expertise in the manufacturing environments, represents a necessary link between the solutions from various disciplines integrated into an optimized solution and management of the product development process: this specific approach is called “Concept to Production”.

From a practical point of view, a modern engineering company is asked to deal with the following challenges:

  • Consultative approach in optimizing processes and way of working, in particular by optimizing the interaction between the different department and providing automatic tools to minimize the manual and repetitive activities and the errors possibilities;
  • Incomparable help in manufacturing rules definition and optimization of solutions for production;
  • Integration with the existing platforms and tools, by providing smooth interfaces between software solutions for automation and ERP software, existing databases, numerical controlled systems and so on.

One of the most interesting and new technology that can be used to implement the “Concept to Production” principle is the usage of the 3D technology. In particular, manufacturing companies can benefit a lot from the usage of solutions for the automatic generation of 3D solid models, without the need to create every time from the scratch the needed drawings.


31824-400x300-MechanicalEngineerIntroduction: mechanical engineer role

In a way, mechanical engineers in manufacturing companies are involved in creating the future. They are the driving force behind many technologies and industrial processes, including both traditional and innovative products.

Mechanical engineering is the most important branch of engineering discipline that deals with design and production of tools, machines and all other mechanical equipment used in industries. It deals with all types of industrial machinery and all aspects of their mechanism and functioning: the design, development, construction, production, installation, operation and maintenance of air conditioning and heating machines, refrigerators etc. to name a few.

They not only design and create new products, but also develop ways of making them.

The work of a mechanical engineer can be extremely challenging and fulfilling. As their work involves production, transmission and use of mechanical power and heat, they have to study different materials used for the machines and their tolerances, study the different energy sources and the power they generate and the design problems if any. While designing and making a commercial product they have to take into account the business and marketing aspects to make sure that the product is affordable and matches customer requests.

In this context, 3D solid models can significantly improve the daily work of a mechanical engineer.

images (1)Going to 3D

Solid modeling shortens design cycles, streamlines manufacturing processes and accelerates products introduction by improving the flow of product design information and communication throughout an organization, as well as among its suppliers and customers.

For a manufacturing company business this means faster time-to-market and higher quality products, that translates into increased revenues, while reduced design costs provide larger profit margins.

The main benefits of going to 3D are:

  • Faster product design;
  • Automatic flattening of sheet metal parts (with bend allowance);
  • More effective communication with suppliers and customers;
  • Visualize more ‘what-if’ scenarios during the design process;
  • More effective internal design reviews;
  • Easily incorporate late design changes;
  • Test and validate your designs to reduce costs from quality problems and mistakes;
  • Automatic Bill of Materials;
  • Helps to standardize on detailing and drafting practices;
  • Automate design process and increase speed and accuracy of output and response to customers;
  • Allow non-technical personnel such as sales department (and even customers) to quote, specify and configure product whilst maintaining your design & engineering integrity.

Automatic generation of 3D models: AHUs manufacturing example

As a matter of example, we would like to introduce you the application of 3D modeling in air treatment manufacturing industry.

The latest frontier of 3D modeling in Air Handling Units (AHU) manufacturing consists in the possibility of automatic generation of a 3D solid model of the unit offered by an advanced selection software.

Ideally, the integrated platform should allow the automatic generation of 3D solid models of a selected AHU in the native format of the main 3D design frameworks available on the market, such as:

  • Autodesk Inventor;
  • SolidWorks;
  • Solidedge;
  • Pro-Engineer/Creo.

The generation of the 3D model should preferably be smoothly integrated with the selection module used for the calculation of the units relevant information like lengths, weights, pressure drops, costs and prices, providing an integrated platform that targets the many requirements and needs that an AHUs manufacturer must cope along the entire process of selection, design and construction of the units.

Furthermore, depending on the manufacturer’s needs, different types of 3D models should be automatically generated, with increasing levels of complexity.

Generation of a model of the unit structure

A first level of detail should be the ability to generate a 3D model containing the unit structure, the panels, the profiles and the positioning of the dampers, in such a way to obtain a solid model of the outside part of the unit.

This model is suitable for designers of the technical office of the manufacturer, who will be able to:

  • Check the dimensions;
  • Check the structure of the unit.

The following picture show an example that illustrate the concept:

Generation of a model of the unit with all components inside

A next level of complexity could consists in the automatic generation of 3D models of the internal parts of the unit, showing the exact layout of all components and all metal sheets of the unit, whether they are metal sheets for the panels of the structure or internal metal sheets.

For panels, should for example be used detailed models that indicate the exact arrangement of the two plates that form the panel with the necessary workings and holes. Similarly, for the internal metal sheets will be generated drawings that show the correct folds of sheet metal, workings and holes.

From this model it will be possible to automatically generate the necessary documentation needed to the production, particularly the drafting of individual sheets with their workings and all the necessary files to be sent as input to the punching machines used in the production plant.

The following pictures show some examples of the whole unit and of metal sheet 3D model:

3d unit complete 2


Generating a 3D model for customer evaluation

Another important application of 3D drawings is the generation a model for the end customer. In this case, the accessories of each section of the unit (these are particulars that can be chosen as add on to the basic elements), the models of the doors and removable doors (useful to inspect the internal parts of the unit) and every other detail which helps to complete the model of the unit will be detailed in the drawing.

3D model for the unit assembly

The next stage of the 3D unit modelling, with the highest level of detail possible is to propose a scheme of assembling the units (“IKEA-like” model). This will allow the shipment of the machines disassembled, with considerable savings in transportation costs.

The model will allows the visualization of the assembly diagram of the entire unit and thus requires a very high level of detail, having to report every single elements, screws and assembly components.

Advantages of an automatic 3D solid model generation software

This kind of advanced solutions, we can help you to reduce your design-to-launch time and develop modern products for an ever changing market. It can also help the manufacturer to reduce costs and improve profits.

Using knowledge and experience with AHUs life cycle management, the solutions provider can help the manufacturer company to speed up development and to increase revenue through faster conception-to-market times. The solution will provide the final user with faster product delivery and overall management of the entire production process.

It can also help the manufacturer to structure project plans to achieve higher productivity, enable all parties involved in conceptualizing, designing, building and supporting products to operate as a single entity, produce more personalized products through shared business processes and a common knowledge of the product throughout all stages of its life cycle, from concept to delivery.



If you would like to see how an engineering company like Altec fully receipted the above concepts, you can refer to our AHU 3D CAD design solutions, which are designed to help you to adapt quickly to individual customer preferences and shorten production time, while maximizing your revenues. It will provide you clear benefits by reducing your operating costs, improving product time to market and developing better, more innovative and personalized products.

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