This post on Innovation Intelligence is written by Martin Solina, who is the Business Unit Manager at Quantech ATZ, developers of the innovative Click2Cast software. Quantech is a member of the Altair Partner Alliance.
Engineers’ perception of numerical simulation software is positive, but in general they find it complex and difficult to use. For this reason, simulation packages are used by specialists who are generally far removed from the production process. This may prevent the analysis of results and the use of these tools where they would be most beneficial.
The casting industry is no exception. The foundry industry is predominantly composed of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), with more than 80% of companies employing less than 250 people. Adoption of new information technology, and in particular of simulation tools, is driven by SMBs. This contributes to the increase in productivity and innovation capacity in the sector.
Despite the great advances in computing hardware and software, high-end computer-aided engineering tools are often hard to afford for the industry. This is particularly true for simulation software. There are two principal reasons for this phenomenon:
1. Commercial simulation software often does not fit companies’ requirements in terms of usability.
2. The design and production departments cannot use simulation to improve both processes together.
Most of the major professional simulation packages have become progressively more and more complex, based on a business model of creating comprehensive suites of even more modules with richer and more complex features. The main target appears to be large automotive and aerospace companies who can afford the high price tag. As a result, simulation software is often over-dimensioned and expensive for SMBs, and requires additional investments in powerful workstations, staff training, and consulting services.
Changing the Simulation Paradigm
By creating a new and innovative graphical user interface for Click2Cast simulation software, the goal was to increase the efficiency of the design, engineering and production processes throughout the value chain, using the tool not only during the engineering phase but also during design and production.
The production of a cast component is typically a process with the following steps:
Cost of Design Modifications
The later we apply simulation tools, the higher the cost becomes of any later modification. As an example, a real case in the automotive industry is the design of a suspension system. The designer can define a perfect buffer in terms of functionality (by analyzing the structural response of the piece subjected to extreme loads) and aesthetics. This design is then sent to production. Often, the engineers detect that the object cannot be manufactured to specification. Sometimes it is not yet in production when the defect is detected, but still in the validation and test phases. In all of these cases, modifications generate high levels of waste in terms of time and effort at the interfaces between departments.
“It is far better to adapt the technology to the user, than to force the user to adapt to the technology.”
– Larry Marine
A new concept developed for Click2Cast focuses on the usability and minimizes the learning process and ubiquity of the tool, making it a shared tool between different members of the team with different profiles and skills. If designers can easily use simulation software, which is not commonly the case today, they can reduce a lot of the waste generated by late modifications to the designs. “Easily use” in this context refers both to the usability of the software and the minimum time consumed to run a simulation.