Simulate First, Ask Questions Later: How SOLIDWORKS Users Can Reduce Physical Testing
Michael Alba posted on August 24, 2020 |
A look at two companies that report big savings thanks to simulation with 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS.
Dassault Systèmes has sponsored this post.
Simulating the InFocus Reflex HP/HT drilling motor. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)
Simulating the InFocus Reflex HP/HT drilling motor. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

Need to test out a design? Sure, you could pour thousands of dollars into building a prototype and punishing it with artificial loads. You could see what went wrong, tweak the design, and then repeat the process until the part works properly. You may wind up with a great design at the end, but it’ll probably take a while, and it’ll definitely cost a lot.

There must be a better way, you’re now shouting at the screen. How can I reduce the time and cost of laborious physical prototyping, you plead. Don’t worry. Simulation has your back.

We’ve written extensively about simulation-driven design, an approach to product development that leverages simulation tools early and often in the design process. By doing so, proponents of simulation-driven design argue, engineers can reduce costs and development timelines while delivering better products.

But does it work? In this article, we’ll take a look at two companies that have reaped the benefits of simulation-driven design. SGA, an Italian anti-vibration component manufacturer, and InFocus, a Canadian developer of downhole products for the oil and gas industry, both use the cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS simulation portfolio to drive their designs. And both report big savings.

No More Vibrating Children

Simulation on the 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS platform. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)
Simulation on the 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS platform. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

Headquartered in the Metropolitan City of Milan in Northern Italy, Società Gomma Antivibrante (SGA) produces anti-vibration components for major rail manufacturers such as Bombardier and Hitachi Rail. SGA’s products, which include rubber bushings, bumpers, resilient pads, suspensions, and guiding components, are found in subway, tram, and railway cars across Europe.

“The most important thing to us is to produce good, long-lasting, and efficient anti-vibration products, because we feel deeply responsible for the fact that our products are mounted on trains that transport children, including many of our own,” said Stefano Meli, Quality System/Test Laboratory Manager at SGA.

A collection of rubber bushings from SGA. Rubber bushings are placed between two metallic components to reduce vibration and noise. (Image courtesy of Società Gomma Antivibrante.)
A collection of rubber bushings from SGA. Rubber bushings are placed between two metallic components to reduce vibration and noise. (Image courtesy of Società Gomma Antivibrante.)

One of SGA’s strategies to ensure the safety of its products is simulation, which has played an expanded role in SGA’s product development since 2018, when the company switched to SOLIDWORKS for CAD. That same year, Dassault Systèmes introduced new simulation tools for SOLIDWORKS users hosted on its cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

These cloud-based simulation tools were originally named SIMULIAworks, as they used the Abaqus finite element analysis (FEA) solver shared with the SIMULIA simulation package. Today, they’re part of a wider offering of cloud-based apps for SOLIDWORKS users called 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS, which includes tools for design, simulation, manufacturing, management, and more.

“SIMULIAworks gives us the full range of tools that we need to ensure that our products provide safe, reliable performance,” Meli commented.

SGA put those tools to the test with the Caravaggio, a commuter train car developed by Hitachi Rail for which SGA developed connector arm bushings. The primary types of simulation required for anti-vibration components are large displacement analyses, for which the Abaqus solver is particularly well-suited. Satisfied with its performance for the Caravaggio bushings, SGA has continued to use 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS for simulation and credits the software with expediting prototyping.

The Caravaggio commuter train car. (Image courtesy of Hitachi Rail.)
The Caravaggio commuter train car. (Image courtesy of Hitachi Rail.)

“The biggest savings we’ve experienced using [3DEXPERIENCE WORKS simulation tools] derive from the reduction in lead time between product design and final configuration and from the reduction in costs related to changes to production and control equipment,” Meli said. “Because it enables us to eliminate or minimize the number of prototypes required to achieve final product performance, it helps us to reduce lead time from design to final production as well as reduce both prototyping and fine-tuning costs.”

Drilling Down on Simulation

InFocus Energy Services develops high-performance drilling products from its headquarters in Edmonton, Alberta, just hours from Canada’s largest oil sands. InFocus’s products are designed to withstand high pressures and temperatures (HP/HT to petroleum engineers), and their extreme operating conditions make simulation a natural choice for InFocus.

The InFocus Reflex HP/HT drilling motor. (Image courtesy of InFocus Energy Services.)
The InFocus Reflex HP/HT drilling motor. (Image courtesy of InFocus Energy Services.)

As a user of SOLIDWORKS for 3D design, InFocus relied on SOLIDWORKS Simulation for analysis. However, as the company’s products continued to push the limits, InFocus needed to push its simulation capabilities.

“Our work increasingly involves not only geometric and material nonlinearities but also complex contact problems,” said Peter Kjellbotn, a mechanical engineer at InFocus.

These are the exact type of problems that the Abaqus FEA solver is optimized for, so when Dassault Systèmes debuted its Abaqus-based 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS simulation tools in 2018, InFocus was quick to embrace the cloud platform.

“We signed up for the Lighthouse Program so we could start using the new SIMULIAworks immediately,” Kjellbotn continued. “As soon as we got our hands on it, we started testing it and benchmarking it against known test results.”

InFocus’s first test of 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS was on its Reflex line of HP/HT drilling motors. Reflex drilling motors feature a proprietary bearing section designed for high-torque power sections up to nearly 40,000Nm. According to Kjellbotn, InFocus refined its design for the bearing section through simulation.

“With SIMULIAworks, we were able to evaluate a range of geometric and material options, a process that helped us quickly optimize the tapered, barrel-shaped design of the bearings, and also decide the best high-strength steel for the design,” Kjellbotn explained.

(Image courtesy of InFocus Energy Services.)
(Image courtesy of InFocus Energy Services.)

InFocus’s use of simulation to drive the design of the Reflex bearing section not only accelerated the design process, but saved significant costs associated with physical prototyping. The company performed a few physical tests to validate their simulation results, but otherwise analyzed most options in software. In this way, the design could be optimized rapidly and economically.

“On the bearing section of the Reflex Motor, if we had had to physically test all of our design options instead of evaluating them in SIMULIAworks, it would have taken a lot more time and money,” said Kjellbotn. “To do all of those tests on a high-strength drive shaft—at a cost of thousands of dollars per test—would have blown both the schedule and budget. We saved tens of thousands of dollars, months of time, and extra labor costs by using [3DEXPERIENCE WORKS].”

In Kjellbotn’s words, simulation helped InFocus condense “a process that would usually take months into just a few weeks.” One time-saver was the integration between SOLIDWORKS and 3DEXPEREICENE WORKS, which Kjellbotn praised for speeding up the workflow between CAD and simulation. He also acknowledged several other benefits of the cloud-based simulation platform.

“It’s hardware-independent, freeing up our workstations for other things, and [it] utilizes SOLIDWORKS data, saving time and money because we don’t have to go through time-consuming import/export protocols,” he said. “The solution also automatically stores data in the cloud and supports collaboration.”

To learn more about 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS and the benefits of simulation-driven design, read our recent research report: Simulation-Driven Design for SOLIDWORKS Users.

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