The mobility and transportation experience of the future demands substantially higher levels of quality, reliability and durability while being scalable, cost-effective and competitively differentiated. One aspect of product design and simulation, which is often disregarded, is manufacturability. Can a design on a screen exactly match what is manufactured? It’s also possible that certain part detail execution is impossible in the preferred method of manufacturing. Inconsistencies between the virtual and physical prototypes are a huge problem in the product development process. To cut through complexity, to virtually test thousands of operating scenarios and to uncover hard-to-find, potentially disastrous problems early on, simulation is pertinent.
Efficient engineering can be implemented in all aspects of automotive manufacturing including Material Intelligence Management (MIM), dyes, painting, anti-corrosion, battery manufacturing, sheet metal, BIW and forming. Each of these has been highlighted below to showcase this.
Every industry feels increasing pressure to launch breakthrough products that outperform competitors. For many design applications that require strong yet lightweight materials, layered composites are ideal. Even so, faster, more frequent product introductions and new technologies cannot compromise ultimate product quality, reliability and speed to market.
Implementing a global, consistent, ‘gold source’ view & management of materials information across divisions is pertinent for automotive companies and so is the elimination of disparate materials toolsets that are difficult & expensive to crossreference, maintain and upgrade. They aim to enable MBSE practice by integrating material with PLM.
To do this, there is a need for an intelligent material database that hosts material information authorised by OEM & suppliers material experts, which is the single source of truth and accessible by all engineering stakeholders. This portal must have access with multi-level user privileges, managing complex workflows of material approvals & updates and CAD/CAE/PLM connectivity, including flexible integration (native & 3rd party solutions) with various engineering platforms. Simulation can do this. With reduced rework & duplicate material tests, enhanced material attribute fidelity & traceability, improved engineering productivity & first-time quality and reduced retooling & warranty recall, MIM can also lead to an average cost avoidance at OEM/supplier customers of $10-$15 million/year. It also brings about a digital thread to trace material information across the enterprise.
Reducing product development time & costs and improving productivity by increasing the speed of the extrusion line is crucial in manufacturing. This can be done by profile extrusion with a dual cavity die, and the balancing of coextrusion dies process parameters. With high fidelity and automated workflow, the product development costs will reduce by approximately 50%, including the cost of material, die manufacturing, operator time and loss of production while testing. The dual cavity die approach can save 20 prototypes and is a cost-effective production. The product quality of the coextrusion die can also be increased with fast & easy geometry handling and high fidelity, which in turn increases production with 3x faster screw speeds with maintained stability. This also leads to higher product quality by achieving greatly improved control limits on both thickness and homogeneity of extruded layers.
Entrapped air pockets during ED-tank travel, especially inner cavities of pillars, sills, hood and door panels, can be identified and also uniform paint contact time can be achieved by electro-deposition coating, which is e-dipping. Minimising liquid paint residues carried over to successive treatment processes of cleaning and oven drying is also needed. Simulation can handle dirty (body-in-white) BIW CAD and fast transient multiphase simulation. This can identify potentially ‘zero’ thickness of paint regions caused by entrapped air pockets and reduce prototype testing by including bleeding holes to remove potential entrapped air pockets early in the design cycle.
Simulation tools can help predict and plan the same in parallel with car design. Multiphase fluid flow, electrostatics, particle tracking, wall film modelling, conjugate heat transfer and radiation, in other words, the physics behind car paint shop, can be modelled and tuned for perfection. By calibrating bulk properties of paint against paint shop test, one can visualise the e-coat thickness on inner cavities, where the physical process requires the teardown of the BIW. The reach of electric potential on inner cavities can be identified and remedial actions can be taken early in the design cycle. One can also test various BIW motion speeds to achieve minimum threshold and uniformity of paint thickness deposition. Thus, there is the optimisation of the residence time of BIW and improved productivity and optimisation of the anode placement to meet the coat thickness criteria while minimising power consumption.
Anti-corrosion of vehicles
Another problem area in automotive is corrosion, and simulation can assist in virtual durability testing, & new material research and optimal anti-corrosion treatment can be applied to the vehicle body by advanced complex physics: considerations related to corrosion, including electrochemistry, ion diffusion, anti-corrosion treatment such as coatings. Porous model can be used to include the effect of anti-corrosion treatment, electric potential calculation including electrochemistry and improved performance with high speed/fast test compared to actual measurement (HPC). There are numerous benefits like testing in a variety of environments, time reduction compared to actual measurement (test time scale is ‘months’, simulation is ‘hours’) & OEMs can perform many more cases than actual measurements and compare actual measurement and simulation results.
Electrode coating in battery manufacturing
Improving electrode coating quality in battery manufacturing by gaining insights into critical process parameters & operating maps of electrode slot-die coating is another crucial aspect of auto manufacturing, as is improving cell quality & safety by ensuring coating uniformity to meet the design specification. Advanced physics simulation flow solver with conjugate heat transfer capability & non-Newtonian material models can use electrode coating. And this can help in well-maintained coating uniformity by optimising slot-die geometry & coating process parameters and reduced downtime by virtual tuning slot-die coating machine.
Digital assembly of BIW structures and chassis components can lead to reduced physical tryouts or tests. This can avoid late process and stamping tooling/assembly jig changes and natively share models & attributes with safety engineering. High fidelity can help process-dependent stamping subassembly and BIW assembly in the virtual world long before the actual build. Computer simulations can accurately predict wrinkles, split, margin, flush and assembly spring back and material properties variations. Full process modelling includes features for component stamping to assembly jig, transfer, clamping, joining with thermal effect & assembly dimension. This can save four weeks in the product design cycle by reducing physical assembly building, tryouts & testing, geometric dimensioning & tolerancing (GD&T) countermeasures development. It can also reduce the risk of expensive stamping and assembly retooling changes, estimated at $10 million, saving over the lifetime of a model year.
Reducing vehicle weight while maintaining the same or higher performance, reducing noise, vibration & harshness BIW parts/structures and chassis components, maintaining the same manufacturing process to include stamping die, welding & assembly, e-coat and paint system and reducing late stamping die changes are crucial aspects in manufacturing and can be done by digital engineering of laminated steel stamping. High fidelity simulation in the virtual world can reduce steel usage, bring down vehicle weight up to 35% compared with monolithic steel and aluminium, increase MPG and save $1 million per vehicle programme. It can also reduce physical stamping die tryout and costly changes long before the actual die construction and save $100K per part/die set and $400K per vehicle platform.
Engineers often spend a lot of time designing and redesigning. Sheet metal forming simulation can help manufacturers detect errors, identify the most appropriate materials and determine the most efficient & cost-effective machining process to use. Simulation can deliver tremendous detail about the design, including identifying structural weaknesses where the metal might wrinkle, tear or buckle. Forming can meet the metal stamping needs of the industry, from the biggest manufacturers and suppliers to the smallest die shops.
An all-in-one forming simulation software that is built to digitally design and validate every step of the sheet metal forming process with speed and accuracy can help validate metal sheet forming with a single tool. This software simulates all metal stamping tasks through an end-to-end workflow that allows one to perform the entire die process in a single platform with the fastest solve time. One can achieve optimal performance and enhance productivity by reducing die cuts and redesign. It is a comprehensive platform to meet all metal stamping needs with the ability to monitor each stage with pre-sets, including feasibility, formability and spring back. Thus, manufacturing and process engineers will streamline their workflows and achieve consistent solutions every time.
Creating innovative, manufacturable products
Simulation tools for manufacturers can not only evaluate product feasibility and optimise the manufacturing process through SDfM but can also run virtual try-outs for many traditional and also Additive Manufacturing processes. Implementing simulation early in the design stage allows engineers to create innovative, manufacturable products beginning at the earliest stage of production.