As a kid watching the animated sitcom The Jetsons, Ryan Okelberry found the idea of robots and other whimsical devices doing pretty much everything, including combing hair and brushing teeth, very cool. These days, as COO of one of the fastest-growing tech companies in the country, he and fellow mechanical engineer and CEO Shane Dittrich enable robots that lower capital, labor, and production costs within the big picture of bringing manufacturing back to the USA.
Okelberry and Dittrich started House of Design in 2012 to develop and integrate robotic systems, specializing in pick and place applications with machine vision integration. House of Design’s niche is between the robot manufacturer that is hesitant to implement their robots into manufacturing processes, and the manufacturer, who wants exactly that.
Traditional manufacturing methods involve substantial capital expenditures that can become mostly useless when a product is changed, even in the slightest way. Robotic technology, however, can be repurposed to accommodate future projects. An infinite number of downstream problems can be addressed quickly and dynamically because mere programming changes can create a new or updated robotic solution.
Because integrating robotic systems always requires the design and implementation of additional equipment, House of Design needed a 3D CAD system to design system components and assemblies.
“We use two key pieces of software for our robotic systems integration work: SOLIDWORKS® for mechanical design and ABB RobotStudio® to program the robots,” Okelberry explains. “While the fact that RobotStudio cleanly imports native SOLIDWORKS files initially attracted us to SOLIDWORKS, we also believe that SOLIDWORKS software is very intuitive and requires a shorter learning curve.”
House of Design also chose to standardize on SOLIDWORKS solutions by implementing SOLIDWORKS Premium and later added SOLIDWORKS Electrical Schematics Standard. “We chose SOLIDWORKS because dollar for dollar, it’s the best 3D CAD out there. When you consider the additional integrated solutions like Electrical and PDM, we get the most bang for our buck with the SOLIDWORKS development environment,” Okelberry says.
Although House of Design uses ABB Robotics hardware exclusively, the robots have no capability or intelligence until they are integrated within a manufacturing process and programmed to fulfill specific manufacturing roles.
“We often don’t know how to handle an application without virtually designing the system in SOLIDWORKS first and then simulating its motion with RobotStudio,” says Okelberry. “Many of our clients have never seen the level of robotics automation or innovation that we can provide.” Companies can feel secure in knowing how a process will work before spending thousands of dollars to put a process into action.
House of Design has experienced rapid growth and now employs 80 professionals and has doubled its annual gross sales year over year for the past three years. The company added SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional in response to the growing volume of projects and corresponding design data and staff, and to formalize and automate its development workflows and additional downstream functions.
As it extends the power of robotics to new production applications, House of Design hopes that automated assembly systems will help more companies bring manufacturing back onshore. And, while it could be argued that robotics has not become as specialized as on The Jetsons, they are awfully cool, nonetheless.
See the robots in action on this truss assembly system. Also learn more by this Webinar: PLC Design and Automation with SOLIDWORKS Electrical.