Luxembourg — A division of sensor, software and automation supplier Hexagon AB introduced a material and process simulator to virtually assess the capabilities and cost of polymer-based additive manufacturing against conventional methods.
Hexagon's manufacturing intelligence division has a unit called e-Xstream engineering that developed the simulator, which can be used to validate a composite microstructure with CT scans of manufactured parts, the company says in a press release. The goal is to optimize product performance by using the right materials and manufacturing process for the right application.
Hexagon officials say additive manufacturing with composites, such as continuous fiber reinforced polymers, is gaining traction in the market as a way to create stronger and lighter components than metal processes.
Global demand for composite 3D printing is expected to grow to $1.7 billion by 2030, but applications have been limited to date due technical challenges, according to Hexagon.
The company says its latest software (Digimat) lets manufacturers CT scan a part and import the 3D raw image to build a finite element model of its microstructure to model its behavior. The validated material model is embedded in the tools so a design engineer can perform analyses that account for variations to reduce material use or avoid points of failure.
Predicting the material behavior, such as creep, can be a computationally intensive process, but Hexagon says "benchmarks show" the time required to analyze the stiffness of a material is reduced by 98 percent.
The new version of the software also has a model for progressive failure analysis to define safety margins for a structure and make optimal use of the expensive materials and processes. Hexagon says the software performs complex Camanho model analyses twice as fast and makes it possible to perform a parametric study to define defect tolerances and maximize yields.
Hexagon says businesses can simulate the 3D printing process and calculate the cost pf producing each part from material and energy utilization to employee time to the required post-processing steps. The information is presented through plots and pie charts so the cost breakdown can be analyzed for different scenarios.
In addition to determining the best process chain for production, the tool can be used to perform batch optimizations to increase manufacturing capacity and reduce lead time and to amortize the total cost of machine ownership over projected production volumes.
For more information, go to www.e-xstream.com.