Additive Manufacturing Adds Value To Regular Methods

ANSYS, the global leader in pervasive engineering simulation, supports innovative companies to deliver better products to their customers. With its wide portfolio of engineering simulation software, the company solves even the most complex design challenges and creates products limited only by imagination. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, the company also offers a complete simulation workflow for additive manufacturing or 3-D printing that allows the users transit their R&D efforts for metal additive manufacturing into a successful manufacturing operation. Dave Conover, Chief Technology Officer, ANSYS Additive Manufacturing, spoke to T Murrali of AutoParts Asia on the initiatives taken by the company to provide innovative solutions to their customers. Edited excerpts:

Q: What is the role of ANSYS in the additive manufacturing space?

A: We have developed software tools that allow customers to develop products to meet and exceed their expectations. ANSYS helps them in the design process by estimating residual stresses and distortions that occur during the additive manufacturing process. The major role that ANSYS has played is not just in producing tools but in ensuring that our customers know how to use them effectively to their best advantage. We talk to our customers to find out what their problems are, what their needs are, and how we can help them resolve challenging issues.

Q: So you still continue with simulations to provide solutions for customers to get into additive manufacturing from the conventional system?

A: That’s correct.

Q: Is your Civil Engineering background help in out-of-the-box thinking?

A: That was a long time ago, but fundamentals are the same. Engineering is all about problem-solving and figuring out right solutions. That’s how my degree has helped me; an engineering background helps you understand problems. It helps you come up with the correct software solutions.

Q: Does Ansys offer IT-enabled e-manufacturing solutions like prognostics, machine-talking, and artificial intelligence (AI) for the design and manufacture of industrial components?

A: We provide the required simulations in the product life-cycle that would help manufacture and provide a digital thread throughout the progression. We are working with other software vendors also and continuously evolving our software capability.
Let me tell you something about the product. We are concentrating on the additive process that most industries use. As part of that we make use of the electron beam and laser in different layers to bring in different sections together to make up the entire part. The challenge is to bring right solutions from the different design groups with many items in play to check and balance. The question is how to capture the tremendous amount of data correctly. It is very important to understand the quality of the product so that this data can be used to develop the right solution. To go back to your question on e-manufacturing, our software helps you in your digital journey through the manufacturing process. You can use our software’s predictive ability to your advantage.

Q: How well will this go with the Industry 4.0 concept, not from the hardware point of view but from the simulation and software perspective?

A: This is a pure digital thread. In other words, what information you have on the design of the product and the various processes involved have to be brought together to build the right tools for the required specifications. You must evolve a style that contains all the information which can be distributed anywhere in the world to build that part. Aerospace is an example where this is used very successfully. Lots of data have to be managed in the best way possible; you have to use the feedback to build up continuously.

Q: Will there be a role for Artificial Intelligence in making additive manufacturing more cost-effective, flexible and proactive in maintenance?

A: We are generating so much data, which a human cannot digest. The machine will have to understand and make appropriate decisions from that data. You have to look at past concepts and simulations to generate forward solutions; digital software is the tool to make sense of all these.

Q: What kind of solution can additive manufacturing give to make the tool? Is it possible to make it faster?

A: The customer has to design the part and figure out how to orient it to the build, find out the machines and time-frame required to produce the part. Parameters are susceptible to change so you have to simulate exhaustively to get the right solution. Obviously, it takes a lot of effort to do that. You must not only simulate the build but also understand its outcomes. Earlier, most companies would redesign products to meet changed conditions but now simulation helps them go beyond that. You can get faster solutions and turnaround.

Q: How does ANSYS support the complexities of modern multi-material manufacturing which is different from the conventional methods?

A: One of the tools we have for additive manufacturing looks at predicting the microstructure that comes out of the process. That’s going to be the key when we start worrying about multi-materials, especially when you add material to an existing part. Will the bond be strong enough? We have tools to simulate that microstructure as it evolves in the process; we can do many computer-simulated tests to get the right insights on the materials and their performance. The solutions we come up with also help reduce material costs considering all the complexities involved in the process. This can remove many doubts before the live product is brought to the table.

Q: Yes, the microstructure has to be studied and pursued. Does ANSYS have the capability to study that? Do you depend on external agencies for that?

A: Last November we acquired a company, 3DSIM that has many experienced scientists who can develop the right software for all kinds of simulations. We do work with many researchers around the world as well. Additive is an evolving field; there is still a lot to learn with much research going on in organisations and consortiums worldwide.

Q: How will additive manufacturing help reduce the tool-making time for the OEMs, extending from a few months to more than a year?

A: There are two things here. One is that 3-D metal printing is used not just for end-product use but also for building prototypes. It is used to develop a product that can be tested exhaustively. For example, in aerospace there is a very long lead time from design of the blade to manufacture. With additive manufacturing you can develop the prototype faster and mount it on the test rigs. The second thing is the printing of the dies themselves; the lead time in designing and making the die is considerably reduced.

Q: When will this be available for mass production?

A: Almost every industry and every company is looking at additive manufacturing right now; many of them have strengthened their R&D teams to increase their efforts of understanding this concept. They all are at various stages, with some studying the processes, while others are already into production. Certainly, it’s going to evolve, with barriers overcome and costs going down, as time passes. Initially, mass production would take more time, maybe it would be costlier. Companies will have to factor all this in, into the models that the industry develops. Cost benefit will come in as additive manufacturing spreads in the mass-produced space.

Q: Will this technology work faster with EVs and fuel cell hybrids?

A: In general companies are looking at light weighting, especially with battery packs in vehicles, along with better support structures and multifunctional designs using the additive concept.

Q: What is the Return on Investment (RoI) on this and how soon can the investment in additive manufacturing be amortised? How will it help reduce the new product development cycle?

A: When we calculate RoI we have to think about the high value parts; use of exotic materials would mean increase in costs. Understanding the process, the settings on the machines, the power levels applicable, the variety of products to be manufactured – all these must be considered while applying 3D manufacturing. Understanding all these is one of the barriers to adoption right now. Providing the right software tools would give you better insights to bring down the development cycle. That’s what will speed up things and help you go beyond the typical types of testing.

Q: Testing takes a long time in the new product development cycle. Is it there that it would help?

A: Yes, it would help in the widespread adoption of new processes after they undergo the required trials.

Q: Do you see adoption of this technology as being market-specific or will it evolve gradually across the world?

A: Yes, all evolving techniques will have their place in the manufacturing process and adequate product development across industry.

Q: You must have looked at India as a market for various services. What is your view on the Indian market adopting this kind of technology?

A: You have a huge automotive and aerospace component market here. Traditional methods of manufacturing would have to give way to better software-supported systems that add value to customers, OEMs and suppliers.

Q: Do you think additive manufacturing will completely do away with the brick-and-mortar machine tool industry?

A: No, it won’t. It has to be a process, adjacent to machines, making use of the latest technologies, keeping the environment in mind, while applying it to the development progression. It would certainly replace some technologies but not all of them.

Q: Finally, which are the companies that ANSYS is working with globally for additive manufacturing?

A: Globally, I think they are all there. Aerospace has many customers.

Q: In the automotive space?

A: In the automotive we have many suppliers; we are working on some of the vehicles they are supplying to.

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