Heavy equipment manufacturer JCB gave the press a rare look inside its top secret Innovations Center at the company’s world headquarters in Staffordshire, England last night and Equipment World was on hand.
Opened just three months ago, the Innovations Center houses the engineers and designers who are creating JCB’s future new products using advanced engineering concepts, cross-team collaborations, customer input and high-tech tools.
In gearing up for this effort the company has doubled the number of engineers it employs since 2011, said Mick Mohan, group engineering director. The company has also stepped up the pace of new product introductions with 12 new machines in 2010, 38 in 2011, 70 last year and a forecast for 50 or so new products a year for the next three years, he said.
The Innovations Center also houses what the company calls its Power Wall, a display screen that’s approximately 8 feet tall and 20 feet long. Here, engineers, designers and customers can view, modify, rotate and study 3D CAD drawings from multiple perspectives.
In setting up the Power Wall, the company consulted with automotive manufacturers to better understand how to use its capabilities to improve machine fit and finish.
Part of this design process includes the creation of a software-generated avatar called Jack who can be sized up or down to check the fit and ergonomics of the controls and cab.
Attached to both the headquarters building and factory, the Innovations Center also employs an industrial-scale 3D printer which can produce a part from a drawing to a physical sample in under 24 hours. This, along with the modeling software, enables engineers to make design changes with little or no cost.
A big focus for the work done in the future at the Innovations Center will be the integration of the company’s Live Link telematics system with its machines and customer information systems, said Peter Jarrett, head of advanced engineering and research. The company is also keeping an eye on the possibility of autonomous (as in no operators) machines for the future.