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Simulation Paradigm Shift in Castings Product Development

Editor: MA Alexander Stark

The case study of a wheel carrier shows that simulation as a design tool offers the potential to establish fast, flexible and cost-effective processes in product development. Thus, the casting industry could change significantly through the use of simulation.

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The casting industry could change significantly through the use of simulation.
The casting industry could change significantly through the use of simulation.
(Source: Pexels / CC0 )

Design plays a decisive role in the success of a new product. The product designer must not only consider aesthetic aspects, the product must also fulfil all expected functions, be easy to handle and durable. Last but not least, the price should also be in line with the market.

In the past, particularly the discrepancy between aesthetic design and functionality has caused many time-consuming and cost-intensive iteration loops in the development departments of companies. Main causes for this were design changes made in a very late development stage due to manufacturing constraints or for structural optimization. This has usually resulted in reassessments on part of the calculation and testing departments.

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While at first design tools were used (CAD), simulation solutions (CAE) for digital development purposes have now also become established methods. These simulations were initially purely isolated solutions for experts that were primarily used as virtual tests to validate a design.

Simulation Becomes a Design Tool

Today, computer-aided development tools are available that are easier and faster to use and at the same time form a common basis for industrial designers, design engineers, development engineers and production experts. Simulation in product development has thus evolved from a test tool to a design tool.

In addition to the development challenges mentioned above, the pressure on development departments is increased by shorter time frames, new regulatory requirements and increased environmental awareness on the part of customers. In order to address these increasing efficiency requirements, companies must strengthen the innovative power of their development and adapt their processes and tools to the new conditions.

This is achieved with a new definition of roles that brings design, construction and calculation together and is supported by tools such as Altair Inspire, Altair's new software platform that introduces simulation as a design tool into the early stages of the development process.

Whereas in the past, a CAD model was used as a basis, which then had to be examined laboriously and partly with different models and in different departments for structural mechanics, kinematics, etc. and then for manufacturability, Altair Inspire makes it possible to find new designs that have already been checked for function and manufacturability — especially if the platform is already used in the early development phase.

Acceleration of Product Development

Looking at the development process of a wheel carrier as an example, it becomes clear how a platform like Altair Inspire can speed up the process. The traditional development process would start with a CAD model that is examined and improved in several iteration loops between the design and calculation departments until a validated model is created that is then tested for manufacturability, depending on the selected manufacturing method.

In a development process in which simulation is used as a design tool, the loads are determined by means of motion analysis. Once the installation space has been defined, these load cases are added to the model. In the case of the wheel carrier these include the forces occurring during strong braking, extreme cornering and obstacle crossings. After the optimization, in which the manufacturability can also be taken into account, the user receives a design proposal that includes a load-compliant structure with minimum material input. The optimization result can then be validated with Altair Inspire through a detailed FEM analysis.

Verified Manufacturability with Casting Simulation

Furthermore, it is possible to verify and optimize the manufacturability of the defined geometry by means of casting simulations with Inspire Cast in order to avoid blowholes and critical areas such as weld lines. Since all steps, starting with load determination, concept development, geometric implementation and structural as well as production engineering validation take place in one environment, numerous iterations between design and production can be reduced.

At the end of the design phase, Inspire Cast can be used to accurately simulate the filling and solidification process. This allows the most efficient production method to be selected and production to be optimized. In this way, energy and material consumption can be reduced and the overall process shortened. In the case of the wheel carrier, the models for investment casting were manufactured additively, combining the advantages of both processes, the design freedom of 3D printing and the series suitability of casting.

With Altair Inspire, the user can create a design step-by-step and optimize and validate its structure, kinematics, and desired manufacturing method. It also provides solutions that combine design calculation with manufacturability assurance — all of this on a single software platform.

Simulation Creates Flexibility

Changing existing development processes always involves a certain amount of effort. However, when used as a design tool, simulation offers the potential to establish faster, more flexibleand, most importantly, more cost-effective processes and, last but not least, to develop competitive products. Altair Inspire supports this approach by integrating different simulation disciplines and taking into account many different manufacturing constraints. This all happens on a software platform that is easy to learn thanks to its intuitive user interface. The use of simulation as a design tool offers scope for innovation and creates an overarching platform for designers, designers and calculation engineers.

This article was first published by konstruktionspraxis

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