Small business tooling enables the success of unique South African start-up
There is a growing need for cost effective tooling solutions aimed at the home-manufacturing market. This is where Cape Town based Whole Tooling Solutions (WTS) got started. This one-stop shop offers clients guidance and consultation with CAD, CAM, CNC control and maintenance. Using Autodesk Fusion 360, WTS was able to assist TG Stirrups (founder Dave Gouws) with home-manufacturing a pair of Stirrups. Noticing a gap in the market for locally produced Stirrups, Gouws quickly built a business based on this idea. Today TG Stirrups produce over 30 pairs per month, not bad for a home-manufacturer who started with nothing but a request from his daughter.
About the Company
Whole Tooling Solutions (WTS) is a Cape Town based supplier of high-quality machine tools, machine accessories and carbide cutting tools. The company was established in 2015 in response to a need for cost effective tooling solutions for the growing hobbyist, start-up, and home-manufacturing market.
WTS recognized the growing home-manufacturing market was restricted due to start-up machinery and tooling costs. The design software - critical to streamline the prototyping process - was also another limitation as it typically requires expert software knowledge and skills.
WTS started to draw and build 3D models for clients as well as create toolpaths. With backgrounds in both automation and engineering, and the introduction of Autodesk Fusion 360 to the business, the WTS team offers their clients advice, consultation and guidance with CAD, CAM, CNC control and maintenance.
Although WTS offers machine tools, machine accessories and cutting tools, it specializes in the supply and support of CNC Milling Machines and CNC lathes that utilise the Fusion 360 software.
WTS Full Service Offering
WTS full-service offering includes machine tool sales and sourcing; prototyping and jobbing service; retrofitting manual CNC milling machines and CNC lathes, and assistance with CAD and CAM.
WTS supply both larger machines for industrial use, as well as compact machines for small businesses. The compact machines are intentionally positioned at the lower end of the pricing bracket making them accessible to small businesses.
About the Project
Until 2015, the only choice for those in the hobbyist market was to spend anywhere up to R500 000 on machinery and tooling, which was entirely prohibitive.
The introduction of Autodesk Fusion 360 software, along with the service provided by WTS transformed this industry sector.
Dave Gouws, owner of TG Stirrups, is an example of a home-manufacturer who has benefitted from the Fusion 360 software. In 2015, Gouws was challenged by his daughter to make her a pair of stirrups. With no previous machinery or design experience, Gouws did what every father would do, and set to work. Gouws quickly became aware that there was only one other supplier of stirrups in the country – presenting a significant gap in the market for what would become his business.
However, without design experience, Gouws was focused on creating the nicest design, not necessarily the optimum in terms of manufacturing. With the guidance of the WTS team and using the Fusion 360 software - specifically 3D modelling - he was able to adjust the initial design, thereby optimising the stirrups for production and machining.
Integration of Fusion 360
The Autodesk Fusion 360 software package connects the entire product development process in a cloud-based platform making it quick, easy and seamless for clients to work with WTS in the refinement of design and manufacture of their product.
The CAM application in Autodesk Fusion 360, assists in creating toolpaths, which means that designs are taken to the production phase with 100% accuracy. However, there are many different operations that could be applied to the machining process, so WTS use their teams’ expertise to advise their clients and then develop the appropriate toolpath.
As Fusion 360 allows for both free form and solid modelling tools to integrate seamlessly, tool parts can be changed in a program, optimising the manufacturing and ultimately productivity before settling on the final design and machining tools.
Tool path simulation
In taking the project from inception to a business that now produces 30 pairs of stirrups a month, Gouws identified several project highlights that marked his journey as a home-manufacturer:
Increasing production from 2 stirrups a month to 30 per month.
Learning core design and machining fundamentals through his exposure to the Fusion 360 software.
Connecting with the Fusion 360 online community to share knowledge and gain guidance on best practices for his craft.
Time Frame of Project
When designing a product, Autodesk Fusion 360 presents the user with a timeframe for production, thereby helping the user work out how to reduce design, machine and tool time.
In the case of TG Stirrups, Gouws has taken his business from initial concept to profitable and sustainable, delivering 30 stirrups per month in less than two years.
Initial design time absorbed a great deal of hours, refining the initial concept. Autodesk Fusion 360 allows for both free form and solid modelling tools that integrate seamlessly. This, along with the 3D animation and rendering application, Gouws and the WTS team were able to accurately discuss and refine the design against the initial objectives.
In the engineering phase, the development of a prototype is where most design refinement takes place, tweaking the tiniest detail to perfection. At this point in the process the CAM application converts the design to a prototype with 100% accuracy and helps create a concept to production toolset.
Once the design is finalised, the team decided on the toolpath. With Fusion 360, TG Stirrups can share a 3D model with WTS and obtain assistance with 3D modelling and creating toolpaths to manufacture his parts. Getting to this point can take a small business, with little to no previous experience in design and machining, up to a year to be comfortable with the final design and machine tools required.
Until WTS arrived on the market, key challenges to home-manufacturers included the prohibitive costs of the software and manufacturing tools, as well as the knowledge gap in design and manufacturing.
WTS filled this gap by supporting their clients with knowledge transfer of design and tooling processes as well as software.
Equally, Autodesk Fusion 360 - and its availability to the small business and entrepreneurs’ market for free - has transformed and enabled design for people who could previously have never entered the design and manufacturing market.
Ongoing, challenges relating to marketing, sales and branding remain a steep curve for small home- manufacturers. But this is often overcome when the customer understands that each product is developed end- to-end by the business owner.
The Cloud-based nature of Autodesk Fusion 360 and its online community (YouTube, Autodesk forums, Instagram) is what sets it apart from the other available software packages. It makes the manufacturing industry easily accessible for hobbyists and home-manufacturers. There are obvious economic advantages of this: Small businesses can launch, create, design, or manufacture a product more easily than ever before.
As a result, WTS - using the Fusion 360 software - helps enable small businesses across various industry sectors by assisting with training, production, and consultation, developing long-lasting relationships on the software and design side of the relationship. The introduction of Fusion 360 into the WTS offering has revolutionised the way WTS works with its customers.
Top reasons WTS recommend Autodesk Fusion 360 to its customers
Fusion 360 offers a high value functionality
Fusion 360 is a low-cost software that is free to start-up businesses and enthusiasts
Fusion 360 provides a smooth transition between the CAD and CAM environments
Fusion 360 offers a collaborative platform via the Cloud to enable customers to share their designs with WTS who then assist with tool path creation
A strong online community that provides further design and tooling support
Productivity has increased, from 2 stirrups a month to 10, and now to 30 per month.
In the last 6 months’ TG Stirrups profitability has improved by 50% thanks to its ability to streamline its design and production.
The accuracy provided by Autodesk Fusion 360 means the team have realised savings in terms of reduced material costs due to far fewer mistakes.
Reduced start-up costs for machinery and tooling, previously as much as R500,000
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