Leveraging Digital Manufacturing Solutions to Create Temporary Shelters

Pallet Shelter

Pallet Shelter and M2 Technologies, now Symetri, work together with Autodesk Foundation to refine workflows and processes. 

Proper housing is an inherent human right, but for many it can be inaccessible due to poverty, migratory work or natural disasters. Pallet has set rectifying this situation as its mission, with a goal to end homelessness on a worldwide basis by providing shelter for the unsheltered. By quickly building transitional shelter villages, Pallet gives security to those searching for long-term housing. The social purpose company is quickly going national by expanding from the West to Central agricultural areas and East Coast cities.  

Autodesk recently engaged with Pallet during a round of investor funding and prompted them to consider transitioning to a new CAD ecosystem. The team was also drawn to the non-profit arm of the AECO solution leader, the Autodesk Foundation, and the research and development-driven Autodesk Technology Centers. The resources available through Autodesk would allow Pallet to refine their workflows and processes in parallel with their expansion.  

The growing Pallet team and impact footprint also required a single platform to bring internal engineers and designers together with external structural and electrical professionals. The digital manufacturing platform in place for over 20 years had limitations in terms of collaboration, and a new phase of redesign presented the opportunity to start fresh with a new data management software provider. This would allow the designers and engineers to recreate their digital assets while improving upon their most-utilized shelter designs. 

M2 Technologies was brought onboard by the Autodesk Foundation to support a transition to Autodesk Inventor in September of 2021. This solution connects with the full suite of Autodesk software while allowing native CAD files from legacy providers to easily integrate into the platform. Also, the easily shared models and comprehensive layouts employ data from Revit, Navisworks and AutoCAD in 3D, 3D+2D and 2D layouts. With Inventor, Pallet can manage large assemblies without slowing processing power. Additionally, the software has easy-to-use pack and go, model states and express modes to reduce model complexity and speed load times. Finally, a subscription model ensures access to the latest software version and ongoing maintenance. 

Consultants from M2 Technologies provided product onboarding and training to help Pallet get the most out of their new software. To create Inventor files from legacy CAD models, M2 provided training to promote Pallet’s success in this process. Internal outcomes are already being seen as power users are leveraging their knowledge to support their team members’ Inventor expertise. “The team is learning Inventor as well as learning best practices for how to think about the design process and how best to leverage the power of Inventor for derivative design” said Greg Milholland, Director of Production at Pallet. 

Pallet anticipates the full transition from their legacy CAD ecosystem to Inventor will take approximately four to six months. Once Inventor is fully in place, Pallet plans to utilize Product Lifecycle and Product Development solutions from Autodesk to further enhance their processes. The planned expansion into the East Coast means varying levels of insulation to meet wide cold and warm weather spectrum needs. Generative design and supply chain management will also help mitigate material costs in terms of leaner designs and cost optimization. As Pallet continues to increase their area of impact, their digital manufacturing tools will scale with them to ensure their goals and the needs of their beneficiaries are met.  

*M2 Technologies has rebranded since this article was written and is now doing business as Symetri. 

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