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Conceptual Lightweight Design Simulate First, Design Later

Editor: Alexander Stark

It's never too early for the right decisions: The use of simulation in the concept phase and in lightweight design has many advantages.

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In order for simulation to drive design forward, simulations are now carried out before construction.
In order for simulation to drive design forward, simulations are now carried out before construction.
(Source: Altair)

Until now, the motto was: build first - simulate later. In the past, simulation was used very late in the product development process to check and validate designs. Designers only had analytical calculation methods at their disposal, some of which took a long time to learn or were located in other departments and had to be operated by simulation experts. Calculations were therefore limited to essentials and were only used for validation or when problems arose. In bridge construction, for example, the concepts were not validated, but only the final drafts were checked according to the current state of knowledge. However, these designs were already based on a large number of design decisions, resulting in a limited scope for improvement for the designer at this late stage.


Reduction of Product Development Costs

Today the possibilities are greater. Thanks to higher computing capacities and decreasing costs for computing power, calculations and simulations have become more affordable. In addition, the tools are getting increasingly user-friendly and are aimed at a much larger number of users. If it is possible to use simulation early in product development and make it available across departments and disciplines - from design and development to production - manufacturers will benefit from significantly reduced additional costs during product development in general and for lightweight construction in particular. In order for simulation to drive design forward, simulations are now carried out before the actual construction.

Conceptual Lightweight Design - the Complete System at a Glance

In classic lightweight design, the motto of "weight reduction through material substitution" has long been the guiding principle, whereby the added value of lightweight design results from innovative materials. However, lighter materials often entail high costs both in purchasing and in design and usage. In addition, potentials for optimization and savings cannot be exploited if a design structure defined once in the concept phase remains unchanged. Modern lightweight design methods such as conceptual lightweight design take this one step further: They consider the overall system and thus already focus on weight reduction during the concept phase. In conceptual lightweight design, the early use of simulation enables teams to identify potentials and carry out optimizations already during the concept phase, so that they can achieve their design goals more easily. This approach is described as simulation-driven design or the use of simulation as a design tool.

Simulation During the Concept Phase: New Approaches - New Advantages

Simulation tools have become an indispensable part of today's product development. Simulation also plays an increasingly important role in the concept phase, enabling more companies to evaluate concepts in the early phase of product development and make important design decisions in good time. By using simulation and optimization, potentials for lightweight design can be evaluated already during the concept phase through early structural optimization, which can result in competitive advantages.

Structured Lightweight Design - Pushing the Right Buttons

Altair's simulation platform, Altair Inspire, is designed to take into account a variety of constraints and parameters at the very beginning of product development, enabling more focused development from the outset and leading the design to optimal construction. Altair Inspire, provides all stages of development, from structural optimization, structural simulation and manufacturing processes to material selection, right from the design phase. With the Inspire cross-discipline platform, the user quickly receives a design that has already been optimized and validated for structure, kinematics, and the desired manufacturing method. And it does so quickly and easily in a single, intuitive simulation environment that enables users, regardless of their level of knowledge, from designers, engineers and system developers to production experts, to validate functionalities and perform feasibility studies on the platform. Utilizing lightweight design potential in the concept phase with simulation tools such as Altair Inspire and methods such as simulation-driven design enables an efficient product development process that results in even better and lighter products. It is never too early to make the right decisions, not least in product development and the manufacturing industry, where time and costs play a key role.

This article was first published by konstruktionspraxis.

Original: Juliana Pfeiffer / Translation: Alexander Stark

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