Nanotechnology pioneer Zyvex Corporation has standardized on SolidWorks software to design and analyze microscopic tools that build and test mechanical devices and materials measuring a fraction of the diameter of a human hair. SolidWorks enables Zyvex to visualize, develop, and troubleshoot nanomanipulators, microgrippers, and microassembly devices used to make and test everything from sensors on ink jets to the materials that will seat the next-generation of computer chips.
Based in Richardson, Texas, Zyvex develops tools for molecularly precise manufacturing. Universities and corporations at the forefront of nanotechnology research and development use Zyvex's products to build new tiny devices and test prototypes. Zyvex chose SolidWorks 3D mechanical design software because of its precise micro-scale assembly capabilities, which enable engineers to calculate weight within fractions of a gram or bend sheet metal measuring only a few microns.
“As nanotechnology components have become smaller and more precise, the equipment to build and test them has become more complex,” said Robert Folaron, director of product development at Zyvex. “SolidWorks gives us a clear 3D view of our products so that we can see all of the minutiae in large scale that could affect production, operation, and even durability.”
Zyvex engineers used SolidWorks to design the CAD drawings for their Nanomanipulator System, which operates under a scanning electron microscope, focused ion beam system, and optical microscope. The Nanomanipulator System allows engineers to design and test everything from micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) to carbon nanotubes. Measuring 100,000 times thinner than a human hair, carbon nanotubes are widely considered the successor to silicon as the foundation for computer chips. Zyvex's Nanomanipulator has four positioners that university and corporate researchers can use to manipulate nanotubes to test and measure a variety of properties including durability.
SolidWorks' ability to handle micro-scale assemblies saved time and significantly cut prototype costs for the S100, according to Ken Bray, a mechanical engineer at Zyvex. “We don't have to redo something we didn't catch earlier because we find problems in SolidWorks before they show up in a prototype,” he said. “We can design dozens of different parts, model them into an assembly, modify the assembly, and still get rid of collisions and other issues using the software's part mating tools before manufacturing begins. That's how we're able to meet customers' expectations.”
The software's sheet metal folding tools help Zyvex make precise corners and shapes for the small electrical contacts used in its devices, minimizing the higher risk of bending errors on smaller scales. Engineers use SolidWorks' mass properties and measuring tools to ensure products meet exact size and weight constraints. They also use COSMOSXpress ä design analysis tool to do upfront load testing on beams to ensure they'll stand up to a variety of stresses.
“Designing nano-scale products with molecular precision requires almost unheard of attention to detail,” said Ilya Mirman, vice president of marketing at SolidWorks. “It requires CAD tools that can identify interference between parts measuring a few nanometers or can detect when a microgripper is a few micrograms too heavy. Zyvex's pioneering innovations prove that SolidWorks reaches far into the smallest product designs to guide nanotechnology's frontier.”