Product design is rapidly changing to keep pace with the requirements of new product development with increasingly short design cycles and high performance requirements. In the recent IKB Deutsche Industrial Bank report on manufacturing, some of the top trends reported are:
- Light weighting is the #1 priority in the automotive industry today (largest consumer of manufactured components), especially to meet the new emissions standards
- Conventional low strength steels are predicted to dip down below 20% of total usage by year 2030 (dropping from 70% in the 1970s)
- Alternative materials like aluminium and magnesium will be on the rise (along with high strength steels)
As the boundaries of product design are being stretched by an ever growing desire to lighten structures first in aerospace, and now in the automotive industry, the importance of upfront manufacturing feasibility has risen to new heights. The emergence of alternative materials such as magnesium and aluminium, along with alloys like zamac (formerly trademarked as ZAMAK and also known as Zamac is a family of alloys with a base metal of zinc and alloying elements of aluminium, magnesium, and copper), as well as the addition of new additive manufacturing techniques to 3D print patterns and dies, have brought new process challenges along with immense opportunities to this struggling industry. It will be increasingly difficult for manufacturing suppliers to differentiate and still keep their profit margins, if they do not maximise the potential to use the latest technologies in simulation tools.
Under these trends, a holistic approach towards the entire product design lifecycle is then paramount as we push the envelope of design with newer materials and manufacturing processes to meet the challenges. We need environments that make great products that are faster to design, better in performance and at the same time easier to manufacture. Is it even possible?
Marriage of additive and traditional manufacturing
An increased number of 3D printings are in rapid rise in the traditional manufacturing industry and specifically for making casting patterns.
As shown in the graphic below, the entire process is highlighted wherein the best of breed technologies can be combined together; topology (free form) optimisation for light and robust design, 3D printing for making the pattern and using investment casting for making a traditional casting. One essence of this entire exercise is that to produce innovative products, manufacturing feasibility has to be embedded into the product design process upfront.
Secondly, a framework needs to exist wherein fast, easy, accurate information can be provided to the design and manufacturing engineers right at their fingertips to meet the challenges, through the entire product design phase irrespective of what stage they are at.
To meet the quality standards, minimise catastrophic (cancerous) casting defects and to improve productivity of castings, manufacturing feasibility has to be part of the design process. The pace of product innovation can be severely hampered if designs are thrown over the fence to foundries, to take the entire burden of making quality components, while still being able to meet their margins and be profitable.
The above problems can be solved in an environment that is easy to use, while being accurate in capturing the physics, and also affordable to ramp up and use effectively. Altair’s solidThinking Inspire is already making the industry turn its head on topology optimisation by providing technologies upfront to the designers, hiding all the complexities. In keeping with the same philosophy, their latest release of Click2Cast 4.0, helps address casting problems effortlessly through process driven templates for all the above casting processes including investments castings.
Early design exploration is key
The advantages of a Simulation Driven Design approach, where exploring different designs and finding the optimum early in the design cycle, should be obvious. Traditional structural simulations allow engineers to check if a design will support the required loads. Inspire enhances this process by generating a new material layout within a package space using the loads as an input. Much like bone growth, topology optimisation is a process whereby unwanted material is removed from the design space and retained where load-paths are prevalent. Such design concepts are not only structurally efficient but can be done taking manufacturability into account through Inspire’s shape controls for symmetry, cyclic repetition, draw directions and extrusion shape control.
Take manufacturing considerations into account as soon as possible
The Click2Cast environment allows users to easily perform their entire casting simulation in five steps, thus bridging the communication gap within the entire product supply chain to make quick decisions, while utilising the best process and simulation tools for the most challenging designs. The five simple steps can be clicked through by anyone in the organisation: import geometry, define the ingate and mesh, setup the process parameters, run the calculation and analyse the results.
Product designers and foundries can consider the casting process right from the beginning. For example the location of the ingates, without having to wait for detailed process experts to design them for them. They can also visualise areas of potential porosity, thus guiding the process engineers to appropriately do the detailed design of the runners and risers and the gating systems. The process engineers can also easily choose the process being used through guided templates to set their problems and run the entire simulation on their own computers.
With a good understanding of requirements, and the use of the right technologies we once again have the ability to catapult manufacturing of unique, high quality products helping engineers think freely and simultaneously benefiting the local economies on this interesting journey.