In the hills of Morrisville, Vermont sits a unique New England business called Concept2. The company was founded in 1976 by brothers, Dick and Peter Dreissigacker, who were fresh from Olympic training. Using the back of a bread truck, they started making rowing oars with a carbon fiber shaft and carbon fiber blade, radically changing the sport of rowing. Concept2 oars have since gone on to become the oar of choice among the world’s rowers, and innovations continue as the company remains on the cutting edge of oar design.
In 1981, Dick and Peter created the Concept2 Indoor Rower, which swiftly became the best-selling rowing machine in the world. The original Model-A Indoor Rowing Machine transformed the sport of rowing and changed how rowers trained during the long cold northeastern winters. Now several models later, the indoor rower is ubiquitous all over the world for indoor training and the appeal has branched out beyond just rowing. The machines are used by Olympic athletes, cardiac rehab patients, individuals at home and every caliber of rower in-between for a low-impact, full-body, and high-intensity means of fitness.
Since those early days Concept2 has grown to over 60 employees, and their product line includes oars, the indoor rower and the SkiErg. Though they’re much larger now, they remain dedicated to their philosophy of providing the most innovative products and programs to their customers. From product development, testing, modeling, drafting, analysis, production support, equipment maintenance and quality control, the engineering and design team at Concept2 has their hands full. To help maintain their leadership role in their industry, Concept2 teamed up with CAPINC in search for quality design and rapid prototyping options.
Before approaching CAPINC, Concept2’s engineering and design team was using KeyCreator for designs. With KeyCreator they often had issues with design compatibility with vendors, limited assembly capabilities, and limited simulation capabilities. Trevor Braun from the engineering and design department explained how they decided on SolidWorks for their designs and analysis needs:
“The SolidWorks software and the Simulation software are things that we knew about and when we were faced with our entire engineering team getting up to speed on CAD software, it was a pretty easy choice to go with SolidWorks because it’s essentially an industry standard. It didn’t make sense to get trained in our own personal CAD preference. I would recommend it because it has become somewhat a standard and compatibility with our vendors has been important to us.”
Using SolidWorks and Simulation has allowed Concept2 to do more complex designs. With the software they are able to push the boundaries and think about some fairly funky production processes that they wouldn’t necessarily try otherwise. To get the team started, CAPINC’s Principal Engineer Keith Pedersen traveled to Concept2 for customized SolidWorks training. This enabled the group as a whole to get up to speed on the software and begin designing. Engineer Kevin Stevenson elaborated on his favorite aspects of designing with SolidWorks:
“I suppose I love complex modeling more than anything else I’ve had the opportunity to do. The oar blade design involves quite a bit of complex surfacing work. We really need to make sure those surfaces when we’re designing our tooling and our molds, when we’re working on a new blade; it needs to be just right.”
Using Solidworks has also allowed Concept2 to take advantage of Workgroup PDM and improve their document control systems, eliminating mistakes due to multiple files and revisions. Compatibility with clients and vendors has improved and eliminated mistakes due to remodeling parts.
Alongside their SolidWorks solutions, Concept2 approached CAPINC for their rapid prototyping needs. In the past, the team was spending money on external printer services, and was stuck waiting days for their parts. Machined parts were often used for larger prototype runs, but did not give them the final form that we were looking for. They knew they needed to improve the speed of their product development cycle. That’s when they invested in their Stratasys Dimension 1200 3D printer, who they lovingly named Fred.
For over two years now Concept2 has had Fred, their in-house 3D printer, for functional printed parts and prototypes. They had some experience with predominately Stereolithography (SLA), but were interested in more durable, cost efficient alternatives. Kevin explained how they decided on Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM):
“We had a particular need for function prototypes as opposed to aesthetics. We don’t have a board room to go give a flashy presentation to, to a group of management. We don’t need to wow them with a particular physical model – we need stuff that we can print out ten iterations of a design and see what works best and whether it fits, whether it actually preforms and moves the way we expect it to. In a pinch we have used parts in a few small runs of production in nonstructural applications. So the Dimension  was an obvious choice within our budget range for that type of functional printed product.”
Concept2 eats, sleeps, and breaths rowing. Every machine and oar they produce comes from a background of over thirty-five years of excellence. Their primary goal is to promote and encourage the growth of rowing and skiing, both indoors and outdoors. They believe that these sports are lifelong activities, accessible to all, and CAPINC is happy to help enhance their design process by providing their SolidWorks solutions and Stratasys 3D printer.