The UK’s largest maker of leisure vehicles is using the full design capabilities of Farnborough-based PTC
to help it bring its latest model to an expectant market that is booming after lockdown eased.Swift Group
, which employs over 1,000 people at its 100-acre headquarters near Hull, launches Basecamp 6 this month, a popular compact crossover camping vehicle that is ‘fun, stylish and ideal for life’s adventurers’.
Engineers at the family-run business have been using PTC’s Creo design software to introduce several new features, making the most of simulation tools, piping and cabling and advanced assembly to deliver a truly unique product.
It marks a 17-year relationship for the two businesses, with the partnership set to become even stronger with ‘generative design’ features offered by the platform crucial to the firm’s desire to make its vehicles lighter in anticipation of a move towards electrification.
Paul Cunningham, engineering director at Swift Group, said: “Our models undergo significant transition and Creo has enabled us to reduce rework in our factory, check design in more detail and take a thorough approach to ergonomics.”
“Another big step forward has been the way that people from inside and outside the business can engage with 3-D models created in PTC software. Internal users that rely on them include senior decision-makers, members of the sales team and employees from the factory floor responsible for building products.
“External users are typically dealers, who can interrogate Creo Illustrate to identify exactly the part they need to fulfil a customer’s specific requirements and then click through to an ordering system.”
He continued: “What it all means is that we have been able to deliver our most ambitious camper vehicle yet in the Basecamp 6 — on time, to budget and with all the stylish features and benefits.
“These include dual fuel combi heating, panoramic windows, plentiful storage, low energy lighting, along with two dinette areas that convert into bunk beds – the market expects.”
Just like the touring caravans it manufactures, Swift Group has come a long way in the 57 years since it was founded by Ken Smith, who built and sold his first caravan for £289.
Today, the company generates nearly £270 million in annual sales and still focuses on creating products that are well-designed, constructed to the highest standards and represent outstanding value for money.
Mr Cunningham continued: “We are very excited about Creo’s ability to offer us generative design, where we can generate a certain number of outputs that meet certain constraints and then one of our designers will fine tune to achieve the end result.
“One thing we are talking about all the time is making sure that we get the future marriage between electric vehicles and caravans exactly right, so that the two are compatible for the long-term. And that, for us, is going to involve some serious light-weighting in our design process.
“If you look at the current capabilities of battery-powered EVs and where they’re going in the future, we know we need to shed significant weight from our caravans - in the region of hundreds of kilograms, in some cases.
“We need to start taking steps towards that now, which is where I see a big role for generative design, in exploring the options available to us to make progress in weight reduction.”
PTC, which delivers IIoT platforms, augmented reality and product lifecycle management solutions, has enjoyed a strategic relationship with Swift Group following an introduction by Root Solutions, the longest standing PTC Platinum Partner in the UK.
In addition to Creo, the Hull manufacturing specialist also uses PTC Windchill as its PLM ‘backbone’, providing a single point of reference for all the components and parts that go into the company’s large and constantly changing portfolio of leisure vehicles.
Mike Bird, Root Solutions technical director, said: “As the software has evolved, so have the ways that our customers put it to work. They constantly find new areas of opportunity for improvement in their design processes that they want to explore, so it is vital for us that Creo stays well ahead of customer needs and expectations, anticipating them accurately.”
He concluded: “This means that, when clients are ready, the features and functions they require are already there for them: cloud capabilities, generative design, sophisticated simulation tools, sharper rendering and visualisation features, and so on.”