Beaumont builds technology base with Autodesk Moldflow deal

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Updated — When an injection molding engineer needs data not provided by materials suppliers, Beaumont Technologies Inc. says it can better fill that gap as a result of a deal it made with Autodesk Inc.

Beaumont Technologies Inc. has acquired Autodesk Moldflow’s North American material characterization assets and technologies that boost the Erie, Pa., company’s ability to provide material characterization for Moldflow’s injection molding simulation programs. The deal also fits into Beaumont Technologies’ American Injection Molding Institute and education programs.

This strategic partnership allows Autodesk Moldflow to focus on research and accelerate their development of new advanced simulation programs.

“We are excited about this opportunity to help further advance injection molding simulation technology,” said John Beaumont.

Armed with a stronger set of material characterizations, an engineer running Autodesk’s injection molding simulation programs can better design plastic parts and molds, thereby helping to ensure optimal development of finished parts.

Beaumont Technologies will be moving some existing laboratory equipment and proprietary software to Erie from Autodesk’s site in Ithaca, N.Y. The relocated business will be housed in a temporary facility this spring until Beaumont Technologies opens a new, larger facility in Erie to house all its operations.

“We’re busting at the seams,” John Beaumont said in a Feb. 16 phone interview. The founder of the company that carries his name said Beaumont Technologies will soon announce details about a new, larger facility in Erie.

Beaumont Technologies acquired Autodesk Moldflow’s material characterization business in North America and Europe. Autodesk will continue to maintain its own materials testing and development laboratory in Kilsyth, Australia, to serve customers in Asia and certain specific global accounts. Autodesk’s in-house material characterization capabilities will be maintained to support its own research and development in plastics modeling and simulation activities.

Jeremy Carroll/File photo John Beaumont at his Erie, Pa., company.

Improving the accuracy of material characterization

“Material characterization is the lifeblood of injection molding simulation technology,” John Beaumont stressed. “People often don’t appreciate the importance of high-quality material characterization.”

It is generally assumed that polymers are characterized to the same standard. That simply is not the case, John Beaumont said. An engineer running simulation programs should understand that the accuracy of their simulation is directly linked to the accuracy of the material characterization, he explained.

Although there are several standard tests for material properties, Autodesk Moldflow introduces some unique characterizations to improve the accuracy of the programs.

He cited injection molded shrink plaques as an example. A series of specially designed shrinkage plaques, each having different thicknesses, are molded using a matrix of process conditions to provide more precise data on shrinkage in the mold. These data are used by the Moldflow programs to better predict shrinkage and warpage of plastic parts.

Melt flow orientation within a mold is another variable in fine tuning properties. Published material properties often are derived from standard “dogbone” shaped parts molded with a longitudinal orientation. Autodesk Moldflow’s specialized molds can provide sample test parts where orientation can be at right angle, 45 degrees or any other orientation relative to melt flow pattern. The resultant differences can be significant and can provide a new level of information.

“When collecting material data there is a problem of consistency from lab to lab,” he said. Standard test methodology may describe how a tensile test is done, for example, but it doesn’t take into account how the test samples are molded in terms of temperature, filling, packing and other variables that can significantly influence material properties.

“As a result, there is a lot of room for variation,” he said, in commenting on tests such as widely used ASTM standards. This is also true for all the tests that are required for injection molding simulation programs. Various laboratories can perform what is supposed to be the same test, but get very different results.

The expanded laboratory operation in Erie will provide highly controlled characterization going beyond the basics normally available to an engineer performing injection molding simulation.

“Everyone is hungry to get material characterizations for injection molding into their database,” he noted. Beaumont Technologies will conduct and sell such services to clients in North America and Europe.

His company also will continue to work with Autodesk Moldflow on other injection molding technologies. Autodesk Moldflow is expert at developing new solvers and setting up code for computer programs that model and simulate molding, while Beaumont Technologies can provide feedback on the program’s application and material properties to help Autodesk to fine tune its coding.

“Autodesk’s partnership with Beaumont Technologies will enable us to jointly increase testing capacity and enhance the services that we provide to our customers,” said Greg Fallon, vice president of simulation for Autodesk, in a news release.

“Beaumont’s American Injection Molding Institute is the preferred training partner in North America for our injection molding simulation customers,” Fallon added. “With Beaumont handling our training and material characterization activities, Autodesk can focus its resources on the development and validation of new process solvers, as well as characterization methodologies.

“The result will be a net increase in global characterization capacity, improved throughput and responsiveness as well as subject matter experts into our community,” Fallon predicted.

Beaumont Technologies and Autodesk started discussing the handoff of material characterization to the Erie-based company about six months ago. The deal was formalized in early February. Terms were not disclosed.

“Nobody offers the depth of [injection molding] services that we do,” John Beaumont said. He established the AIM Institute in early 2015. It offers both education and training for a wide range of skill levels, from engineering to technicians to management.

John Beaumont has paid his dues in injection molding technology. He has 40 years of experience that included a position as professor and program chair of the Plastics Engineering Technology program at Penn State Erie. He was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame in March 2015. He founded Beaumont Technologies in 1998 and invented MeltFlipper, Therma-flo and other injection molding technologies. His corporate experience includes stints at Ciba Vision Corp. and the U.S. operations of Moldflow in its early years.