For more than 75 years, Thule, the Swedish multinational company, has been making solutions to simplify the adventurous life, or as their baseline "Bring your life" puts it. We talked to Erik De Maeyer, the product development manager of Thule RV: the Belgian branch in Menen.
Thule is best known for its cargo carriers and bike racks, but in the Belgian branch, they specialise in awnings, bike racks, tents and ramps for caravans and mobile homes. Each product is developed in Belgium by the in-house team of designers. The majority of the range is produced in Menen, the remaining part in Poland.
Erik De Maeyer is responsible for the development team. Thule is one of our customers who has been there since day 1. "Our draftsmen are very fond of Solid Edge," Erik begins. "The intuitive interface and the integrated Keyshot Rendering make it very pleasant to work with for the designers. Not only the software itself but also the quality of the support. We have been using the software for a long time, but there are still functionalities we don't know. The fact that we can rely on ADOPT id PLM at those moments is a great comfort."
The development of a new product is quite intensive and long. On average, a product is brought to market in one and a half years. Of course, everything is first drawn out in 3D, with complete assemblies for each product. "A lot of things are 3D printed at our company. This enables us to correct errors at a very early stage. The integration of Solid Edge on the 3D printer makes it extra easy to print things. Thanks to GrabCAD, we don't have to convert the file to a STEP file. 3D printing is now an integral part of our business. I notice a clear shift in the design process. Where we previously used the drawing board, 3D printing seriously speeds up the process."
Thule takes on the challenge of bringing as many standard products to the market as possible. In such a way that the product fits every vehicle and type. A separate team, the "adapter team", is continuously working on optimising the connection to the vehicle. Thanks to a 3D scanner, we can also quickly read the correct data from the vehicle into Solid Edge.
"We are very busy here at Thule. The rise of electric cars, for instance, means that the weight, compactness and aerodynamics of our products are becoming more important than ever before. We are also expanding geographically. The American market is no longer unknown territory for us," concludes Erik De Maeyer.