Automotive Adventure with SOLIDWORKS and Trakka

A Trakka motorhome designed in SOLIDWORKS. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS/Trakka.)

Trakka Pty. Limited is an Australian company dedicated to enabling adventure with its lineup of luxury camper vans, motorhomes and other specialty vehicles. If you’ve never spotted a Trakka vehicle in the wild on the open Australian roads, you may have seen one on the cover of a SOLIDWORKS product brochure or featured in a SOLIDWORKS promotional video. Trakka has been designing its products in SOLIDWORKS since 2005, taking full advantage of the computer-aided design (CAD) software to carefully craft premium adventure-ready vehicles.

Michael Lord, Trakka design engineer and R&D manager, has been a long time proponent of SOLIDWORKS and recently spoke at the SOLIDWORKS 2018 launch event at company headquarters in Waltham, Mass. Ever since he was selected as the SOLIDWORKS World Internet Correspondent in 2011, Lord has been an active and friendly voice in the SOLIDWORKS community. He now writes a blog about his use of SOLIDWORKS in designing Trakka motorhomes and other special purpose vehicles.

“The introduction of SolidWorks at Trakka was an exciting and interesting time for me personally, as well as a tremendous change in direction for the company,” revealed Lord in an interview with SOLIDWORKS after winning the internet correspondent role in 2010.

Seemingly a perfect match, SOLIDWORKS and Trakka have been in harmony ever since. Now, we’ll take a look at how Lord and the rest of the Trakka team use SOLIDWORKS to realize their vehicle visions, and what they find most helpful in the new SOLIDWORKS 2018 release.

Switching to SOLIDWORKS

A Trakka SOLIDWORKS design from 2010. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS/Trakka.)

Before adopting SOLIDWORKS in 2005, Trakka used a hands-on, in-vehicle approach to develop its vehicles.

“We needed to adopt a more streamlined, automated approach using production-based models to support growth and began evaluating 3D CAD systems to better support our development effort,” Lord explained. “We looked at a few 3D packages, including SOLIDWORKS software and Solid Edge, before implementing SOLIDWORKS.”

The Trakka team settled on SOLIDWORKS for a few reasons: it would be easy to learn, offered advanced visualization and rendering tools, and included sheet metal design and fabrication capabilities. To Trakka, SOLIDWORKS seemed the best option to delve into 3D CAD—and it turned out to be a good choice, according to Lord.

“TRAKKA can be divided into pre- and post SOLIDWORKS,” he said. “The introduction of SOLIDWORKS changed everything—not just in the way we designed, but how we manufactured.”

Since the switch, Trakka’s business has grown and improved substantially. Some of the many enhancements of post-SOLIDWORKS Trakka include a significant increase in its product portfolio, considerably less product time-to-market, improvements in manufacturing quality and a hefty reduction in prototyping time.

“It put us on a level playing field,” Lord said. “We are a small company, but SOLIDWORKS allows us deal with large multi-national corporations when it comes to technical data.  We receive CAD data from the likes of Volkswagen, Fiat and Mercedes-Benz. This was unheard of prior to us using SOLIDWORKS. It also gave us access to the laser cut and computer fold sheet metal industry, so we went from cut and weld of standard material to a more accurate, lightweight and better product.”

Trakka and SOLIDWORKS 2018

The latest SOLIDWORKS release, SOLIDWORKS 2018, has brought even more features and tools that enable Lord and the rest of the Trakka team to boost their productivity and simplify workflow.

“We try and adapt with each new release and continue to adopt the new features and enhancements, which we see as a benefit to increase our productivity,” Lord said.

One of the features from SOLIDWORKS 2018 that Trakka is most excited about is SOLIDWORKS CAM, which integrates CAMWorks-powered CNC programming directly into SOLIDWORKS. This gives users access to part and assembly machining, 2.5 axis milling, 2 axis turning and tolerance-based machining.

Trakka is eager to explore SOLIDWORKS 2018’s new Tab & Slot feature for sheet metal design, a tool for automating the creation of self-fixturing features. This new tool aims to reduce assembly and setup costs during manufacturing.Check out the video below to see how this works (and keep an eye out for a certain Australian-made recreational vehicle).

While these new SOLIDWORKS features are a welcome addition, they’re not what Lord likes most about the 2018 update.

“For me it’s the smaller enhancements that reduce mouse travel and clicks, which provide some of the greater benefits,” he said. “The new Welcome Dialogue screen is a good example of that.”

The SOLIDWORKS 2018 Welcome Dialog Box. (Image courtesy of Michael Lord).

Other smaller enhancements of SOLIDWORKS 2018 that Lord praises include more versatile mouse gestures, new color-coded folders, improvements to the auto-rotate view normal to sketch plane on sketch creation tool, 2D and 3D sketch mirroring and the new Sketch Ink toolbar. You can read more of Lord’s thoughts on SOLIDWORKS 2018 in his blog post detailing the new release.

The Story Continues

The relationship between Trakka and Dassault Systèmes (DS) SOLIDWORKS has continued to strengthen through the years, and both companies continue to prop each other up. Because of their mutual respect for each other, when Trakka was asked to provide a model for DS SOLIDWORKS to use, they did so without hesitation.

“At the time we were unaware on how DS SOLIDWORKS would use the model,” Lord said.“It’s been quite exciting and a surprise to see the extent and amount of promotion base around our product.”

Now, Trakka motorhomes adorn the landing page for SOLIDWORKS 2018 and are featured prominently in SOLIDWORKS promotional content. As for Lord, an outdoor adventurer himself, using SOLIDWORKS to design Trakka’s adventure-ready vehicles is a fulfilling experience.

“The bottom line is I still enjoy what I do,” he said.“There is tremendous job satisfaction as well as challenges, which keep me coming back day after day.”


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