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Manufacturing Process Simulation: how to speed up foundry projects, saving time and resources

10 February 2021
Article by José Miguel Silva, development engineer, and Diogo Fula, responsible for business development in the area of ​​advanced manufacturing technologies at INEGI.

Simulation models are used today in all stages of the product development life cycle, from design to manufacturing. Is it feasible to manufacture the product based on this project? Which parts of the part are most susceptible to defects? The answer to this and countless other questions can be determined by simulating the process in a digital environment, providing a broad spectrum of advantages when compared to conventional trial and error methods.

During the design of molds for foundry production, in particular, the use of simulation software allows the engineering team to identify problems in the mold design that were only possible to validate after the construction, assembly and tuning of expensive prototypes.

Thus, it is possible to perform a set of iterations in an expeditious manner and without the need to build tools or prototypes, allowing in most cases to save time, money and resources in the process of developing processes for the manufacture of new parts.

These software are, however, expensive, and require specialized labor and computers with high processing capacity. That is why few companies invest in these tools. Despite the potential savings, with the optimization of the development of manufacturing processes, it is sometimes difficult to justify direct costs that can easily amount to tens of thousands of euros per year.

In these cases, in companies where the cost / benefit binomial does not justify the investment in these software, INEGI has been contributing to the support of projects, as it is equipped with more diverse numerical simulation tools, and the skills to operate them.

Process simulation saves time, money and resources

The casting simulations are very close to reality, making it possible to configure parameters such as geometry, material, temperature, interface between materials, process parameters such as filling speed, radiation, thermal transfer between the mold and the air, and parameters suitable for process that is being simulated.
The use of casting simulation software has numerous advantages. It is possible, for example, to observe the filling of the piece, an important support in the design of the gypsum system, and the identification of potential areas with defects. The visualization of the temperature evolution in the piece and in the mold is also an important advantage, since it helps to define the casting temperature of the metal. Determining filling times, predicting porosity or micro porosity, and areas of the piece may be subject to gaseous porosity, are also some of the capabilities of these tools.

Achieving accurate results can take considerable time. However, the degree of accuracy is adjusted based on the pieces application requirement. In the case of a component for the aerospace sector, for example, the accuracy of the results is of the utmost importance and although the computation time is high (reaching weeks), this principle cannot be relinquished. On the other hand, simulations for the automotive, shipbuilding, domestic equipment, among others sectors, as a rule, such high precision is not necessary.

The calculation time variable is important, as companies in the metallurgical sector are generally very dynamic. Thus, in the projects carried out at INEGI for this sector, we seek to start from initial iterations with more coarse meshes, reducing the computation time, until perfecting the piece's gittering system and at a more advanced stage of the project, where we can increase the precision of the mesh in order to obtain a model closer to reality.

Simulation tools are also at the disposal of SMEs

These capabilities allow one to correct problems associated with the mold design process, even before they are produced, allowing a significant reduction in production costs.

To this end, INEGI has the necessary tools to assist companies looking to use finite element methods in the development of their products and processes, such as Procast, for example, which covers the most diverse industrial casting processes. We work with the main softwares and CAD formats on the market (Solidworks, Inventor, STEP, among others), thus being able to provide a complete support, from the determination of feeding strategies and alloys, to the optimization and fine-tuning of the process.

To go even further, and to fine-tune and validate the numerical models developed, it is still possible to feed the simulations with data taken from industrial equipment, or even to sensor systems "on the ground", namely in terms of filling times, piston speeds (using high-speed cameras) and temperature variations.

In an increasingly global and competitive world, which challenges manufacturers to optimize assets and reduce time to market as much as possible, simulation is becoming an indispensable methodology, which is why we intend to make it available to all companies.

This article was developed under the project with the reference POCI-01-0145-FEDER-032460 - GRIS: Grain Refinement Induced by Electromagnetic Agitation: Development of a Predictive Approach for Medical Implants in Co-Cr, co-financed by COMPETE 2020, through the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER) and National Funds through the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).