September 1, 2010
By Dave Clarke
Vox Amplification has been making iconic guitar amplifiers and musical equipment since the late 1950s. If you’ve heard any of the classic “British Invasion” records from the 1960s, you’ve likely heard Vox products in action.
Today, Vox has a research and development team of 15 engineers—three based in the United Kingdom and 12 based in Japan—who are responsible for developing new Vox product offerings. Until fairly recently, the team relied on a basic 2D drawing package for its design needs. It worked, of course, but it wasn’t optimal. The team had to draw out every bit of geometry and changes to the drawings didn’t automatically update. Plus, because the team couldn’t effectively check for interferences, they’d have to build two or three physical prototypes. All of those limitations added time and costs to the design processes.
Purchasing Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Showcase finally gave Vox some proper digital prototyping and 3D visualization tools. The results have been quite dramatic: Vox has been able to cut its development time in half on almost every new product.
The following examples provide a little more detail about the different ways Inventor and Showcase have improved Vox’s processes.
The AC30C2 Custom Series Amplifiers
The AC30 is the most iconic of all of the Vox amplifiers. Vox wanted to create a new version with modern design features, easier serviceability and a lower price point, to make it more accessible.
At the onset, two challenges stood in the way of Vox’s goal:
- The team needed to lower the price point without compromising on quality.
- The team wanted to stay true to the AC30’s roots and maintain its iconic look, even with the addition of new design features.
Inventor was used for digital prototyping of the AC30C2, right from the beginning. The software allowed the team to experiment with different construction techniques, until they found the perfect balance between cost and structural integrity that met the price target.
The sheer speed of using Inventor for mechanical design helped increase the efficiency of the design process. Through digital prototyping, the team was also able to produce a more accurate design, which meant that they could build fewer physical prototypes. Both of these factors reduced design costs and translated into savings that Vox could pass along to the customer.
Showcase created a 3D visualization of the Custom series right at the beginning of the design process, so that the team could finalize the cosmetic decisions early on. As they added the modern features to the digital prototype in Inventor, they visualized the design in Showcase, so they could consistently confirm they “were heading in the right direction.”
When the team needed to make adjustments to the Inventor model, it was easy to keep to visualizations current. With a link between Showcase and Inventor, any changes made to the design shows up in the visualizations, just by updating the model in the “Import Status” window in Showcase.
Because the visualizations created in Showcase are photorealistic, it was much easier for everyone on the team to be completely convinced that they chose the correct cosmetic direction. This removed the need for small but costly changes to be made further down the line—another real time- and money-saver that also helped Vox meet its target price point.
The Big Bad Wah Pedal Effects Pedal
Vox frequently collaborates with trailblazing musical artists on the development of new products. The Big Bad Wah is one in a series of effects pedals designed by Vox in collaboration with guitarist Joe Satriani. Designed to his custom specs, the Big Bad Wah incorporates numerous ideas from Satriani about what makes a great wah pedal.
Obviously, Satriani didn’t spend every day in the Vox offices working side by side with its engineers. But he didn’t have to: With the photorealistic renderings the Vox team created in Showcase, he could see exactly what the product was going to look like before he approved the design. Showcase even lets users add realistic environments, like a wood floor to represent a stage on which this pedal would reside.
Showcase allowed the Vox team to manipulate the model to see different color schemes and material choices in real time. That speed made it easier to tweak the design until it matched Satriani’s vision, and helped keep the collaboration process moving along quickly and efficiently.
Dave Clarke is a product development manager at Vox Amplification. Send comments to [email protected].