By Frank Senteur
Hundreds of thousands of soccer fans in Switzerland and Austria followed the 2008 European Cup Championship matches on seven huge video screens courtesy of XL Video of Ostend, Belgium. XL Video’s screens were also installed at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, at nearly all European Formula 1 racing events, and at recent concert tours of pop stars George Michael, U2, and Kylie Minogue, among others.
CAD drawings, made with CoCreate Modeling, showing sections of the construction of the 80-square-meter mobile video screens.
The XL Video design team enjoys a challenge, and as a result their made-to-order video screens are in use worldwide today.
XL Video’s screens, designed to fold up into trailers for transportation, comprise electromechanical assemblies developed entirely using CoCreate, the expicit modeling and data management software from PTC. Once a trailer arrives at a site, the screen sections are lifted out one by one and connected to each other with the aid of a mechanical and hydraulic system, which means a huge video screen can be installed most anywhere.
The screens, which XL Video provides in a wide range of sizes, can be rented for events such as trade shows, fashion shows, and conferences. They can also be built to order on location, making them a tailor-made solution for XL customers.
3D CAD drawing of the video trailer with 50-square-meter screen.
In addition to two locations in Belgium, XL Video also has sites in Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands.
“Each site has a specific stock of video equipment that enables it to react quickly to demands from the local rental market,” says Technical Director Kristof Soreyn. “Large-scale projects and customized systems are developed here in Ostend and then built in cooperation with our partners.”
Soreyn explains the company was founded in 1996 as a collaborative arrangement between several companies in West Flanders. It now employs about 250 people and earns approximately $110 million a year. “We have become the international market leader in video screen design and rental,” says Soreyn. “When it comes to the events market, such as concert tours, we not only build rectilinear screens but screens in special shapes and designs as well.”
CoCreate Design Environment
Developing screens for high-profile international events requires careful attention to detail in often tight, non-negotiable production schedules. Because each screen is unique, XL Video requires the flexibility of the explicit modeling approach in CoCreate Modeling to quickly and easily meet last-minute customer requirements and deadlines. “We work on a modular basis as far as possible,” says Demeulenaere. “When a customer sets specific requirements, we can quickly and easily make radical changes to an existing design using CoCreate Modeling. We then derive 2D drawings for our suppliers.”
The design team manages its data with CoCreate Model Manager, which runs under Windows on SQL Server. “With CoCreate Model Manager we can quickly locate all existing data. Potential customers want fast answers as to what kind of configuration we can supply them. We can respond much faster now thanks to our well-organized database.” The company also uses the CoCreate FE Analysis module, which allows structural studies of the screens’ steel assemblies.
Custom Transportation for Custom Screens
XL Video distinguishes itself in the market with its video trailers. These come in several versions to fit five different screen sizes, the largest of which is 80 square meters. (XL Video was awarded a design prize from PTC for the development of this screen.) Wherever there’s a temporary demand for large video screens, such as during World Cup Skiing, XL Video’s trailers are used. The video trailers are designed and manufactured in close collaboration with XL Video’s partners. The chassis are built by the Dutch trailer manufacturer Pacton; the trailer panel work is done by IJntema; hydraulics are courtesy of Vameco Hydraulics of Diksmuide, Belgium; and the mast, screen frame, and internal details are built by Espeel of Belgium. All design work is carried out entirely by XL Video using PTC’s CoCreate product family.
“We use all the functionality and options in CoCreate Modeling,” says Demeulenaere. “A screen measuring 80 square meters is a natural kite. The overall construction, and particularly the steel construction onto which everything is fastened, is designed with extreme accuracy. Then we meticulously calculate and recalculate based on rigid safety guidelines.”
Rapid, Efficient, Flexible Design
“Our design assignments were previously outsourced to our main supplier, Espeel,” says Demeulenaere. “Espeel implemented CoCreate Modeling in 2001. To simplify the exchange of drawings and designs, XL Video implemented CoCreate Modeling in 2002. We found CoCreate Modeling so easy to use and so perfect for the creation of our custom products that we expanded our design team and now design almost exclusively in-house, which of course is very efficient and provides us much more freedom.”
As a result, XL has been able to grow its knowledge base quickly to innovate more directly. Since the company’s design strategy is principally trial and error, it needed a flexible system that enabled quick changes at any time during the design process.
“You need to have good access to everything for purposes of assembly-disassembly and maintenance,” says Demeulenaere. “Designers must therefore be able to analyze the screen in 3D mode to determine how the design will manifest itself in practice. Plus, we are nearly always under intense time pressure, so that the ability to design rapidly, efficiently, and flexibly is crucial for our success.”
Because of rising transportation costs, XL Video has its steel-suspension screens built in the country where the product will be installed, yet fully manages the design work from headquarters. And since many of its suppliers also design with CoCreate software, XL Video can exchange files easily. For other platforms, STEP and IGES files are created. Local production increases flexibility, profitability, and speed.
Frank Senteur is a freelance journalist with S&W Publicaties in Ankeveen, Holland. He specializes in technical and industrial topics. Send comments about this article to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.