To err is human. To err in a virtual environment early in the design process is intelligent. When design and manufacturing companies launch new or improved products, it’s difficult to always get it right the first time. It’s nearly impossible to get it perfect. Simulation, or virtual prototyping, is the most cost-effective way to transition a design to production and is a key technology to consider within Industry 4.0.
Core Functionality, Not Always in Place
Anyone looking to embrace Industry 4.0 must have a few particular tools in place as a baseline to begin. Most would agree, probably, that CAD data for designs is a must-have. Digital models in 3D are as ubiquitous as clearly-defined quality specifications and production orders. While Simulation is not as widely adopted as these, a case is easily made that it should be. Before manufacturing is turned loose with its connected, intelligent, automated processes they need to be confident that the product being made is the right one. In fact, virtual prototyping can dramatically impact a product’s success in at least three meaningful ways:
- Prevent failures in the field
- Try more iterations before production
- Shorten the design cycle
Don’t Mass Produce Headaches
Imagine a finely-tuned shop floor with machines all humming in sync with supply, running at peak efficiency, and hitting delivery dates comfortably. Then the quality department notifies production about a high number of customer returns because parts are failing prematurely in normal use. Enough, in fact, that the decision is made to make a design change and flow that into production. The supply chain is subsequently disrupted and production schedules must be altered. It’s almost always going to result in missed deadlines. All the failed parts must be replaced too, so you can tack on inefficiency to this list.
To avoid this nightmare scenario, prototype testing is used before production starts. The idea with simulation is to test your digital product in a virtual environment. You can test more use cases and run them to completion faster on computer models than physical prototypes. Further savings are seen in both time and money since you don’t have to wait (or pay) for things like sample tooling and multiple prototypes to run the tests on.
Good Enough Isn’t Really Good Enough
The pressure to get the best possible design comes from several sources. Competitors always seem ready to pop up with a better mousetrap. Operations and Accounting keep asking to reduce part count, weight, and/or component cost. The design team is certain they can improve performance if they can only squeeze in more rounds of testing for their ideas. With virtual prototyping applied early in the design phase, more iterations on the product are possible at a fraction of the time and cost. Even those crazy, “it’ll never work” designs can be given a shot, just in case. Optimization on the best design takes it even further to minimize weight and cost.
Getting to Market Quicker
The key is to virtually test an idea out early. That way, even the time it takes to fully detail and spec out a design for prototyping can be saved. Every test run on the computer takes less time, of course, but just one unexpected test failure can push back the design cycle by weeks. Some components may be so time-consuming and costly to prototype that you have to skip them altogether, whereas a virtual model can include all parts necessary for valid testing. The next consideration is the complexity of the test to be performed. With advanced simulation software, there are basically no limitations on the types of scenarios you can run the design through. Overall, a recent Aberdeen Group report estimates that virtual prototyping results in a 13% decrease in overall development time for new products.
A Virtual Buffet to Choose From
If you’re convinced of the need for and benefits of simulation tools, your next step is to choose which ones fit best with your product development. The SOLIDWORKS Simulation portfolio covers an impressive band of analysis types in an intuitive environment. A vast majority of failure modes can be tested and verified using linear static analysis, so it’s a great place to start if you’re just getting into simulation.
In addition to structural analysis, virtual prototyping can also be done to test fluid flow and detailed thermal performance in both steady-state and transient conditions. Those situations are best analyzed with a CFD tool like SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation.
For plastic part designs, it’s just as critical that you confirm the moldability of the piece as it is the performance and function. With SOLIDWORKS Plastics you can simulate how melted plastic flows during the molding process to predict (aka “prevent”) costly manufacturing-related defects.
As your needs and analyses grow more complex, SOLIDWORKS has tools to grow with you. SIMULIA roles on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform connect your CAD data to the cloud and make use of the best-in-class Abaqus solvers. Some of the key reasons designers choose SIMULIA tools are the following:
- General contact of components needs to be modeled accurately and accounted for
- Highly nonlinear materials such as elastomers or composites are in use
- Buckling situations need to be tested for or confirmed if desired
- Fractures of materials need to be simulated
A TriMech engineer can help you consider the different capabilities and make sure you’re needs are met. If you have a special “one-off” project and it doesn’t make sense to do the analysis yourself, we also have a team to do those for you on a contract basis.
A New Reality
One final type of simulation worth mentioning is in a totally different area. Extended and Virtual Reality are hot trends that are finally starting to be leveraged in design and manufacturing companies. To summarize, Extended Reality (XR) overlays computer-generated objects upon a real environment. Different levels of interaction are possible with the virtual object, and XR usually uses a camera and screen to blend the simulated with the real world. XR headsets are beginning to see the market, but at the time of this article, they lag in resolution and field of view compared to VR headsets.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a completely digital experience that is observed in a closed environment. While every item in the virtual world has to be digitally created, once that’s done it’s much easier to interact with other digital objects. That’s where digital twins of your designs can get added in. Both XR and VR offer new levels of immersive experiences with our CAD-created 3D designs that were once left to be represented alone on a 2D monitor screen.
Creating virtual prototypes of your CAD model is one way to save money by not creating physical prototypes. Watch the below on-demand webinar for the full walkthrough on how to create these virtual mockups for a new car spoiler. Get an immersive, virtual reality experience allowing us to see how it would look mounted before anything has been produced!