Additive manufacturing (AM) is very appealing as a manufacturing process for metal parts. It allows manufacturers to create parts and structures that are geometrically complex and would be impossible to make with traditional manufacturing methods. It’s also great for parts consolidation, allowing dozens of parts to be integrated into a single component. In addition, it requires only a single inspection step to certify parts rather than multiple inspections of each component, assembly, and then reinspection. Finally, it can increase part performance and simultaneously decrease part weight.
|Shown are simulation results from ANSYS Additive Print showing displacement for a heat exchanger part. (Image source: ANSYS and Additive Industries)|
There’s no denying, however, that metal AM is an expensive process. That is why it’s generally reserved for prototyping rare or unavailable parts or very small production runs. One of the reasons it’s still expensive is that the process often needs to be repeated multiple times to get a design right, which wastes time and materials. Flaws are discovered after the print, the design is tweaked, and the part is printed again and again until it’s exactly right. This is where simulation comes in. Part simulation before printing can reduce or eliminate many of these disadvantages.
Simulating Parts before Printing
ANSYS Additive Suite is a set of simulation tools to help manufacturers take advantage of the benefits of AM and minimize the drawbacks. The recently updated suite comprises the following: Additive Print, which allows designers to work out all the design kinks before the part is even printed; Workbench Additive, an APDL finite element analysis solver; Topology and Lattice Optimization, which helps users reduce weight and optimize shapes for the AM process within ANSYS Mechanical Platform; and Additive Science, which allows design engineers to determine optimum machine and material parameters for a specific process.
The suite is CAD platform agnostic. Additive Print, Additive Science, and Workbench Additive can be read in any type of CAD format as well as STL files. According to Brent Stucker, director of ANSYS Additive Manufacturing, the suite helps designers answer a variety of questions before printing so they don’t become rejected parts with unacceptable flaws.
“Designers can answer questions like: Will my design distort beyond acceptable tolerances? Is there high potential for blade crash? Where is the best location for my supports? Will the stress distribution be acceptable? They can answer these questions with a simulation, rather than with the much more expensive and lengthy physical testing process of having to print the part to see if their design is printable and up to spec,” Stucker told Design News.
Running Different Types of Simulation
The latter element of the suite, Additive Science, is unique to additive manufacturing. It allows engineers, analysts, and material scientists to determine optimum machine and material parameters for a specific process. Users can run four different types of simulations:
- A single bead parametric study, which—given some permutation of scan speed, laser power, and material type, for example—will provide the user with the meltpool dimensions.
- Porosity calculations to determine the percentage of porosity in a given part. This calculation is necessary to understand the final properties of parts that are manufactured with metal AM processes.
- A simulation of thermal signatures of material as if they’re being viewed through specific thermal sensors. Uses can gain access to a simulated heat color map for a chosen cross-section of the part, as a function of time.
- Microstructure simulation, which uses the outputs from the above calculations, together with ANSYS’s new and proprietary microstructures solver, to provide users with grain size and grain orientation—both of which are needed for extrapolation of material properties of the final AM part.
According to Stucker, the different elements of the suite are designed for different job functions. Additive Print is tailored for designers and machine operators, while Workbench Additive is for engineers and current ANSYS users. For its part, Additive Science is aimed at material scientists, metallurgists, and additive engineers.
“All of these users have different needs,” he told Design News. “An AM machine operator might care more about ease-of-use of a simulation tool, while a metallurgist needs to be able to understand the details of microstructure. ANSYS has designed its current set of additive tools to fit as seamlessly as possible into workflows of these different users.”
Simulation Streamlines the Design Process
Robust simulation saves both time and money. For large platform machines, a single build can take between two and three weeks. A single failed part on a large-platform machine may waste $50,000 to $100,000 and cause a company to miss important milestones. Even prints on smaller format machines can be very expensive: between $2,000 and $6,000 per build. A robust simulation tool allows designers, operators, engineers, analysts, and material scientists to experiment with their designs, their machine settings, and material properties inside a computer simulation before any materials are used, as opposed to costly physical printing trials.
“Our simulation tools will help you reduce the number of parts that users have to scrap due to various modes of failure,” said Stucker. “They allow you to play around with materials and machine parameters inside a computer simulation, as opposed to physically printing parts. In metal AM, simulation is not a ‘nice to have.’ It’s a ‘must have.’”
Tracey Schelmetic graduated from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., and began her long career as a technology and science writer and editor at Appleton & Lange. Later, as the editorial director of telecom trade journal Customer Interaction Solutions (today Customer magazine), she became a well-recognized voice in the contact center industry. Today, she is a freelance writer specializing in manufacturing and technology, telecommunications, and enterprise software.
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