I know, you have a few Class III Vault doors already and probably regifted a couple last Christmas, but maybe this will give you a little appreciation for the amount of torching and hammering these massive doors can take.

Vault Structures has been creating security doors for a while. Their newest 9000 lb. vault door, the VSI 360 (pdf link!) was created entirely within SolidWorks. SolidWorks issued a Press Release about it and the rest is unfettered drama.

So I followed-up with Vault Structures to find out more about what the press release didn’t mention. Here’s the scoop.

Drama in the CAD World
When A CAD company, like SolidWorks, issues a press release, there’s a certain amount of “hmmmmm” that goes on. It’s all about PR right, so when a quote like this one is used,

“Using SolidWorks and SolidWorks Simulation helped us design and test the door about 70 percent faster than if we’d used AutoCAD, saving $150,000 in reduced prototyping costs.”

It makes us (and the skeptical writer) question the (obvious) motives behind the CAD company. So, who really cares. This just gives us an opportunity to dig in a little deeper with some good old fashion email and question asking to find out more and learn about all the hard work it actually takes to produce a product like this.

Sara Cheney, Director of Engineering with Vault Structures was nice enough to share more about the testing that goes on with the Vault Door, provide some photos of the testing and go into the process behind the scenes.

What most people do not understand is the design challenge in the security industry. The UL test for Class III (highest level offered) is 2 men at 2 hours (work time only) to make a 6” X 16” opening. They can both use any tool bought or rented by a contractor. Their favorite tools are jack hammers and torches. The torch is 6 oxygen bottles in series with 2 acetylene bottles; they run over 100 psi on oxygen and 15 psi on acetylene with rebar as fluxing rod. They may burn, then jackhammer, then burn again and so on. It may take them 6 hours to do the 2 hour test due to the fact that they stop the clock the second they are not on the door.

UL gets two different attacks on the door. For both attacks they get the same 2 hours with 2 men. The way they work on it, they would burn down a bank before they got the door opened. You should see the blast mitigation testing for the DoD

Here’s two images of two guys doing the UL Test with cutting torches

Sara also answered some questions about hte design process of the 360 vault door

What tools/programs (sketching, 3d CAD, simulation, rendering?) were used in the design process of the vault?

No hand sketching, I see a complete assembly in my head (something is wrong with me, I can work out detailed locking linkage in my head). I started with extrudes and solids to create general geometry. We then added mass weights to the solids for structural loading requirements. SolidWorks was the only 3D program used. eDrawing and PDF’s were used for dealer collaboration.

Were legacy drawings (autoCAD, hand drawings) used to start the design in SolidWorks?

No; (why would someone want to draw in AutoCAD?)

How many iterations did the vault design go through in the engineering?

Using top down design with solid modeling allowed us to use configurations during concept of extrudes and cuts. the actual bolt-work and locking mechanisms where last to be designed once space was defined. Our 1st prototype was actually used as our UL test door (it was made using steel shell not stainless steel) We feel that this was only accomplish with all the great features built into SolidWorks.

What types of manufacturing challenges changed how the vault was designed in SolidWorks?

Knowing from the start that there has never been a Round Vault Door that has passed a UL Security Test, we understood that the “Look” of the door was only going to be a shell to hold a more exotic material that would withstand testing requirements. The main change was how can we build a solid looking shell using just sheet metal.

Was any rapid prototyping used in the development of the vault? How did the vault design/engineering benefit from the 3D CAD and rapid prototyping (if used)?

Yes rapid prototyping was used, but not in a way most people think of rapid prototyping. We did not use a 3D printer to make SLA’s . We used sheet metal programmed right from our SolidWorks into our shop equipment (using Radan for tooling and post G code generation)

Were there challenges with the size of the model in SolidWorks? How many parts does the assembly have?
As with any good design some foresight into sub-assemblies allows a much better performance in the complete assembly. 865 parts. 102 sub-assemblies.

Was supplemental data (, parasolids, PDF’s, AutoCAD drawings, eDrawings) of the vault created for archiving and production?

We use PDM and every part has a PDF  made when it is checked into the vault. Yes we use revision control in product development. EDrawings was used throughout the project for collaboration of both design intent and progress.

Thanks to Sara for providing some further detail on the design.


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.