Bringing Casting Simulations Early in Part Development Cycles
Shawn Wasserman posted on May 09, 2016 |
Part design optimizations are useless if they can’t be manufactured. Early manufacturing feasibility...
(All images courtesy of Altair solidThinking.)

(All images courtesy of Altair solidThinking.)

The computer-aided engineering (CAE) industry is seeing a trend toward the democratization of simulation tools.

The aim is to bring the power of computer model predictions to non-simulation experts as a means to guide the early design cycle of a product.

Traditionally, assessing the manufacturing process of a casted product is complicated. Simulation experts are typically needed to assess these two-phase computational fluid dynamic (CFD) problems.

Altair is democratizing casting simulations with its Click2Cast CAE software. This product is part of Altair’s solidThinking portfolio, which aims to bring CAE tools into the hands of non-experts to promote the use of simulation early in the development cycle. These tools offer intuitive user interfaces (UI), which aim to have both CAE novices and experts trained in a matter of hours.

“The traditional approach is to train for days and have one expert who focuses more on running the software than the problem at hand,” said Ravi Kunju, vice president of Altair’s solidThinking. “Click2Cast brings the experience right to the design and manufacturing engineers with its simplicity so anyone can run a simulation in the organization.”

Click2Cast is specifically targeting those who are designing and manufacturing the casted product. It will give engineers and their peers the ability to determine how feasible it will be to manufacture their designs early in the development cycle.

“Manufacturing is disconnected to the product design cycle,” said Kunju. “Many designers will develop something without assessing if it is makeable or not. We want to provide early-design-stage tools to the designers so they can see if the product is castable or stampable. This is where Click2Cast fits in.”

Kunju explained that there can be a significant risk to a concept design that hasn’t had its manufacturing feasibility assessed. In this case, you never know what defects will show up (like porosity, air entrapments, cold shots or blow holes) when the product meets a production facility for metal casting. But with Click2Cast, designers, engineers and manufacturers can:

  • Assess whether a concept design can be manufactured
  • Compare concept designs to others with respect to manufacturing
  • Reduce manufacturing tryouts by creating design guidelines
  • Assess placements of gates, vents, risers and runners
  • Validate the detailed design near the end of the development cycle

How Simulation Can Help Cast Products Throughout the Development Cycle

Wheel upright assessment.

Wheel upright assessment.

Kunju noted that many of the casting trends around the world boil down to the search for lighter products.

“Light weighting is becoming very critical in the future. Emissions regulations are making this a critical component,” said Kunju. “More than 70 percent of metal utilization is steel today, but fast forward 20 years from now, it will be less than 20 percent. Aluminum and magnesium will increase due to their lighter weight.”

The trend to light weighting and the use of non-ferrous metals have forced engineers to explore radical design and manufacturing technologies. The aim of these technologies is to decrease the chances of issues late in the development cycle.

For instance, an engineer can perform topology optimization on a part with solidThinking’s Inspire, assess its castability in Click2Cast, assess the part’s fatigue life using DesignLife (available through the Altair Partner Alliance) and then prototype the part with traditional casting, using 3D printed patterns and molds.  By iterating this process on the computer rather than on the shop floor, engineers can create light-weight parts that are comparable or even better than the original part at lower cost.

“Put Inspire and Click2Cast up front and you can do all the concept design up front while reducing the downstream cycling,” said Kunju. “This will help to reduce costs. Inspire’s 3D optimization gives a lot of freedom. Click2Cast adds the manufacturing feasibility assessment.”

Using this strategy, Kunju explained that a student racecar team was able to optimize a wheel upright. Though the part ended up being the same weight as the benchmark, from a performance standpoint the part was 3-5 times stiffer. The team also proved that the part was ready for mass production.

Using simulation, the team was able to learn a lot about how to manufacture the part in only a few hours. For instance, information, such as where to put the casting ingate, didn’t require physical trial and error. They were able to determine the optimum ingate locations to cast the part with minimal porosity.

Once the virtual testing was complete, the team was then able to 3D print the pattern for casting, and then cast it. By implementing this technique, engineers in industry can improve profit margins and their products.

Click2Cast can also be useful to engineers at the end of a product development cycle. For instance, engineers can determine the optimal positions and shape of risers, inlets and vents to limit porosity and cold shuts in the final product.

Wheel Upright performance.

Wheel Upright performance.

Using Click2Cast, engineers can look into the solidification of the part. This will help to determine where any cavities and pores might develop.

Risers are used as a liquid metal reservoir, which will feed into the part assuring that pore development is reduced. The riser is then cut away from the part once the whole thing is solidified. Click2Cast helps to design these risers.

Cold shuts can also appear when the flow of the liquid metal folds back onto itself. This can also create cavities and weak points in the part as liquid metals at different temperatures meet. Click2Cast can help optimize the placements of ingates to reduce the formation of cold shuts.

As Click2Cast uses two-phase simulations, it can assess the displacement of the air in the cast as it is filled with molten metal. This will create more accurate results to assess the boundary separations and air pockets. Click2Cast can then help determine the optimal placement of vents to reduce the air pockets.

Click2Cast automatically suggests the size and locations of these risers, inlets and vents. However, the engineer can then use their industry knowledge to improve upon these suggestions if they so choose. The platform will not create them for the engineer, the engineer is still in control.

“We use [Click2Cast] to quickly evaluate castings for porosity and other defects as part of our quoting process,” said Stephen Fetsko, engineering analyst at Shiloh Industries. “As we proceed with the projects into production, we use Click2Cast to help optimize the design and location of gates and runners.”

Click2Cast User Interface Simplifies Simulation for Non-Experts

Click2Cast offers an interface designed to be intuitive to expert and non-expert users alike. The platform guides users through five steps to complete the simulation. Users work through these five steps with a series of menus with plug-and-play inputs.

The five steps needed to perform a casting simulation in Click2Cast.
The five steps needed to perform a casting simulation in Click2Cast.
Unfortunately, like many other simulation tools aimed at non-experts, there is always the risk of garbage inputs leading to garbage results. However, Kunju noted that the training for Click2Cast is very short, and users don’t require a lot of exposure to simulation technologies such as FEA or CFD.

“It creates a synergy between the product designer and manufacturing teams,” said Kunju. “You don’t want defects, so you need tools for both the product designer and the manufacturing team. This is where Click2Cast comes in. It doesn’t require any expertise or training.”

Fetsko agreed, saying, “Click2Cast is extremely easy to learn, as it guides you through the set-up process. With minimal knowledge of castings, you can generate meaningful data your first day.”

To perform the simulation, the user must first input their geometry, define an ingate for the metal and define the process parameters. Click2Cast will automatically mesh the geometry and solve the simulation using Altair’s meshing and solver technology, which powers the platform under the hood. Click2Cast supports easy to use templates for gravity casting, high pressure die casting, low pressure die casting and tilt pouring.

Click2Cast templates guide the user through various scenarios.
Click2Cast templates guide the user through various scenarios.
Some parameters the user has control over include:
  • Metal and cast materials
  • Pour temperature
  • Gravity direction
  • Fill time or ingate velocity
  • Assessments to solve (filling and/or solidification)

The user is able to assess preliminary results as Click2Cast is running. This will help the user determine if their assessments are on the right track or if they need to restart the assessment due to input or product failure.

Click2Cast is a complete simulation platform for casting simulations—the pre-processing, meshing, solving and post-processing are all within the same environment. The challenge Altair faces with creating the interface is in making all of these tools easy to use for simulation novices, yet robust enough for seasoned veterans.

Have you tried Click2Cast? Do you think it balances the ease of use and robust simulation capabilities needed for both CAE novices and experts? Comment below.

To learn more about Click2Cast, follow this link.

Altair solidThinking has sponsored this post. They have no editorial input. All opinions are mine. —Shawn Wasserman

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