e-Xstream engineering, a unit in Hexagon's Manufacturing Intelligence division, has launched a new simulation and virtual manufacturing tool that allows users to determine the difference in the cost of producing polymer parts, depending on whether additive manufacturing is applied or a conventional process. This system also continuously improves virtual engineering processes by validating the composite's microstructure with CT scans of manufactured parts.
Additive composite manufacturing is on the rise because it automates the production of components that are stronger and lighter than metal components, and uses a special treatment (e.g. a continuous fiber-reinforced polymer) for the substrate. With the all-new version of Digimat software, companies can simulate the 3D printing process and calculate the total cost of production of each part, including the use of the material, labour, energy and the necessary post-processing steps.
With this new tool, an engineer can have an overall view of the parts production and finishing processes, to determine the best process chain. It can also be used to optimize batch processing, to allow as many parts as possible to be printed in parallel, increasing production capacity and reducing time to market. This tool can also be used in production planning to take into account the total cost of the machines and to offset these costs on projected manufacturing volumes. The user visualizes this information through plots and circular diagrams. This makes it easy to analyze cost decomposition based on a scenario.
Overall demand for 3D printing is expected to increase to $1.7 billion by 2030, but applications are limited due to technical challenges. As the orientation of the fibers changes across the areas of the room, this has a considerable effect on mechanical performance. This information can help engineers solve quality problems and significantly improve the accuracy of performance forecasts. Manufacturers now have the ability to perform a one-piece CT scan and import the Raw 3D image to create a finite element model of its two-phase microstructure (e.g. as part of a carbon fiber-reinforced polymer) in Digimat and model its behavior. By incorporating this validated material model into its computer-aided engineering (IAO) tools, a design engineer can perform analyses that take into account variations in a manufactured part, to reduce the material used or avoid failures.
The combination of physical measurements and virtual testing also improves the accuracy of integrated modeling materials engineering (ICME) when introducing a new system. The performance of the part can be compared to the simulated process to validate and certify the material model. CT scan validation also helps materials professionals refine manually made microstructure models to improve the accuracy of future simulations.
When optimizing new manufacturing processes, users can acquire information about the part, material, 3D printer, process or physical testing, using hardware lifecycle management. e-Xstream engineering's Material Center software establishes a traceable database, validated of these safe material properties, so that they can be used in the product design phase. Lifecycle management makes it easy to document processes within multidisciplinary teams and to share knowledge that can be reusable by authorized users through a company.
Predicting the material behavior of a CT scan microstructure is an intensive computer process. For example, the analysis of complex behaviour such as the creep of a CT scan microstructure can take several days if only central units (CPUs) are used. By optimizing these processes for graphics processing units (GPUs), the engineer can now perform certain tasks interactively because the results are available in minutes. Comparisons show that the time it takes to analyze the stiffness of a material is reduced by 98%. Combined with the introduction of a new control line interface, this rapid analysis time allows the use of Digimat finite element models as part of cloud-based automated optimization streams on high-performance computing platforms.
When manufacturing high-performance structures, such as aeronautical components from composites, the Progressive Failure Analysis (PFA) model defines safety margins for a structure and makes the most of expensive materials and processes. The all-new version of Digimat performs these complex Camanho model analyses twice as fast, allowing for a parametric study to define incorrect tolerances and increase friction.