ProNova Solutions' proton therapy system is redefining the future of cancer treatment. We sat down with Jon Huber,Director of Engineering, for ProNova, for an in-depth interview about this exciting technology.
In Part 1 of this three part Q&A, Huber explained how their SC360 device works for proton therapy. This week, he discusses how they use SOLIDWORKS Electrical to manage complex wiring for a large-scale, three-story structure.
Missed the last blog? Get caught up on Part 1 here.
1. What initial challenges did you face developing the device from cyclotron to beamline to gantry?
We did the system in reverse. We created the gantry before we purchased the cyclotron. The building was already poured. We had to retrofit an already-existing building for a 220-ton cyclotron.
Not only do you have to account for the mechanical pillars and the concrete to place the cyclotron on, but then you have to consider all the electrical hookups, support systems, interlocks, safety systems and modules that all go into supporting it.
That was how we got our proton source. Then, it was the challenge of decoding what a physicist wants versus what an engineer can provide. There was some time required to understand and define magnet design and vacuum principles to be converted into the design of controllers, switches, toggles and physical objects.
As far as ProNova goes, the main challenge is accommodating growth. The gantry team grew from two to eight people, and the company as a whole grew in a similar manner.
Not only are we learning about protons while conceptualizing a new gantry or device, but we are also learning about each other and what we do best. You may have six people today, and then you add somebody. Now you have to shift your priorities to make room for the additional personnel and new strengths.
In 2012, we were four people. In 2015, we are now 130 people. You just have to keep adjusting to the constant changes while realigning yourself to the main goal.
2. Did you try any other solutions before turning to SOLIDWORKS?
ProNova has been a company for three years. We used SOLIDWORKS from the get go.
I have used a variety of other 3D CAD programs. However, I have used SOLIDWORKS as my primary 3D design tool since 2000. I used some other things on the side and some novelty programs at home, but when it came time to choose a program for ProNova, we didn’t really evaluate further.
We looked at the cost of SOLIDWORKS, the value, the ease of access and the number of people who already had experience with the software, and we didn’t think twice about selecting it as our main platform.
3. How did you decide SOLIDWORKS Electrical was the best solution?
We really looked at a wide range of electrical packages. We were building an electrical engineer team, and we were trying to incorporate electrical engineering into our Device History Record.
We looked at everything across the board. I went to Atlanta for a demo on the software in 2013 when SOLIDWORKS Electrical was very new. I most enjoyed the connectivity to the lines.
Other electrical products are just kind of drafting tools with simple lines and symbol libraries. With SOLIDWORKS Electrical, the connection of a line is built into a database.
When we were designing the buildings, we were putting all of this equipment in the buildings and outputting the information. For our next building, it may be different.
Database export is an option rather than complete redesign. If it were using another tool, we’d have to redraw all those lines instead of having the database do that work for us. From a company standpoint, that was the direction we wanted to go.
4. How did you use SOLIDWORKS Electrical to develop the machine?
We’re using the schematic creation tool. We designed all of our control panel and AC distribution cabinets, PLC cabinets, routing within the building, routing within those cabinets and routing within devices.
Every schematic from component level to diagnostic sensor level all the way to building level have been created in SOLIDWORKS Electrical.
5. How has SOLIDWORKS affected your day-to-day processes?
For pure mechanical, electrical and manufacturing engineers, SOLIDWORKS is the primary tool in which they are functioning. They’re designing in SOLIDWORKS whether it’s 3D CAD, 2D schematics or 2D drawings from 3D CAD files. For the engineers, it’s the way they get the design on paper.
6. How did the software help you interconnect electrical and mechanical components?
There is a 3D-to-3D tool for routing, but we’ve haven’t physically routed those cables within the software environment and pulled those harnesses out yet. We expect to utilize this feature within the next year.
7. What improvements have you made to the master assemblies since you began using SOLIDWORKS?
The designer has more time to work and improve the design. Now that we have a complete design for a complex system, we are diving into load times and examining how we can make it more efficient.
We have a million-piece build. We are looking at how to open up all of the pieces without needing a super computer. We are working to simplify this process to allow us to open up a large-scale assembly in a short time frame and still be able to turn on the fine details within a small section. We are refining our models to navigate inside of this large system.
Don't miss the final part our ProNova blog series coming next week. While you wait, check out the SOLIDWORKS video.