Saturday, 26 September 2009

Sustainable Designs helps develop Profitable Products - A SolidWorks Initiative

Sustainability Xpress could not have been released, by SolidWorks Corporation, at a better time, with the world looking at Initiatives to address Global Warming, Reducing Greenhouse Gases and Carbon Footprint. A simple add-in inside SolidWorks, it helps Designers understand the impact of their designs on environment early in the design stage.

In terms of recent economic downturn how do sustainable designs result in higher profit, larger market share and improved sales for engineered products? Sustainable designs need to have Conservation as the central theme. Conservation of:
  • Material
  • Energy
  • Resources
Conservation of Material helps lower cost of raw material used, select material that can be recycled and evaluate alternate materials that are eco-friendly. These objectives align perfectly with the cost reduction objectives of any organization that intends to remain competitive.

Conservation of Energy focuses on Energy used to produce a product as well as energy consumed by the product during its life. By integrating features in a design to reduce manufacturing stages, energy conservation starts getting addressed. Similarly by evaluating alternate methods of manufacture (such as die casting, sand casting, forging among others) not only energy consumption gets the focus it needs, cost-effectiveness also gets evaluated. This necessarily helps reduce product development costs as well. Efficient designs result in energy savings for the consumer - a USP for the product in terms of market acceptance. Again, this finds favour with energy conscious society across the world. Imagine what, a 10% energy savings in a pump used in agricultural application, can do in terms of energy consumption - the focal point in global warming.

Needless to say, initiatives in Energy conservation helps reduce input cost, increases profitability and market share as well !

Conservation of Resources is a conscious effort requiring attention in every organization to stay competitive. In addition to lowering operating costs, resource conservation in air, water and land helps reduce carbon footprint while preserving the eco-system for future generations.

SolidWorks has raised the bar, once again, when it comes to developing eco-friendly designs for a greener earth. By introducing the ability to evaluate Carbon Footprint, Environmental Impact, Water Eutrophication, Air Acidity and Energy Consumption the ability to develop greener design has become a reality.

Other contemporary CAD software should take the example of SolidWorks in enabling designers develop products with a conscientious effort to help sustain a healthy eco-system - a Social Responsibility that protects the Wealth of future generations.

Let us take the example of a flanged-shaft design as shown in the picture below:

If we look at the design in terms of a sustainable product following aspects come to mind:

  • Reduce the number of fasteners
  • Alternate Materials considering processing cost and re-use
  • Manufacturing process with least energy consumption
  • Integration of features for lesser number of manufacturing stages.
The options available are endless. Every one of them leads to a cost-effective design with one difference - Corporate Social Responsibility of a Sustaining Eco-system !

Sustainability Xpress shows the difference between Hot-rolled Steel bar and Normalized Steel bar just in material selection.

What do organizations look for in terms of profitability, increasing market share and cost savings? Weight reduction, VAVE ( Value Addition Value Engineering ), BOM reduction, Optimization and above all reliability.

Sustainable design have complete convergence with Corporate goals for higher growth. In addition to providing for ways and means to reduce costs, it helps designers achieve a sense of satisfaction of having made their contribution for a greener earth - a new experience indeed. Another perspective in Design Validation for a Greener Earth - a small but surely a firm step in the right direction.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Simulation - Cure all for beleagured engineering enterprises?

In these days of economic challenges, companies are forced to look at ways and means of reducing costs to survive and stay profitable. Some of the immediate priorities that need urgent management focus include:

1. How to reduce product cost to sustain healthy margins?
2. How to innovate and deliver products of high value without compromising on safety?
3. How to increase an already shrinking market share?
4. How to eliminate warranty costs, product recall and re-work?

The questions are unending. This is just a partial list. The answers just do not seem to be there.

A careful analysis of all the questions, posed above, provides a common denominator - Design

Product cost is dictated by the Bill of Materials and Drawings. Innovation and USP of a product is driven by product function and efficiencies. Increasing market share is directly related to selling better products of higher value at affordable (read not lower) cost. Warranty issues, recall and re-work relate to product not functioning as intended. All these lead to one common cause - Design, provided the product has been manufactured to specifications provided.

It is well known, without contention, that upto 85% of product cost is influenced by design. Then it would be prudent, on the part of every company that is looking at ways and means to stay profitable, to scrutinize the design process and revisit existing designs to achieve higher levels of efficiency, profitability and success.

If the design teams were to be able to arrive at innovative designs by evaluating a variety of design concepts, validating the same using simulation tools, optimizing designs for least cost and releasing drawings incorporating functional tolerances that meet intended functions, the challenges mentioned in the beginning of this article get addressed with higher levels of reliability, confidence and perfection.

Simulation tools in design are of 3 types. They are:
  • Finite Element Analysis & Fluid Flow computations
  • Kinematic Analysis for Mechanisms
  • Tolerance Analysis for Stack-up calculations - Synthesis and Analysis of Tolerancing strategies for cost-effective design
CAD Integrated FE analysis and CFD computations are commonplace these days. In addition to overcoming the data translation issues found with standalone simulation tools, optimization of designs based on parametric CAD dimensions as design variables provides the design engineer with a rich set of options to quickly arrive at functional, failsafe designs.

Shaft Failure - Case Study of Warranty Problem
Above is a case study of a shaft failure, done using SolidWorks Simulation, that could have been avoided if a simple life calculation had been performed. Not only is it expensive to replace during warranty period, but time and efforts spent in getting it identified and corrected, leads to unplanned expenditure. Needless to say the company image takes a beating where the damages are incalculable.

Another example of a design gone wrong is shown below.

Case study of a Product Recall
Failure due to improper calculation of loads and stresses lead to a correction on the plastic mould. The product was re-designed for better strength, as shown in the SolidWorks Simulation design above, with a higher factor of safety. The product recall costs are staggering in addition to creation of a huge pile of inventory of parts that cannot be re-used.

Efficiency of a cyclone separator was drastically improved, at the design stage, by performing integrated CFD, as shown below in the FloWorks model. By validating early in the design process, a near-optimal cost effective design was possible for chosen configuration. Particle tracking helped understand bottlenecks such as re-circulation in addition to pressure drop calculations.
Case Study of Optimal Design: Flow Simulation of a Cyclone separator
Innovative Designs can lead to creation of a new market for products that have never been explored. In addition to creating a market share, sans competition, it helps leverage better sales for companies, resulting in increased profits.

Tolerance Analysis can help save money for any manufacturing engineering enterprise by allocating required tolerance to meet design function while minimizing costs.
Tolerance Stack-up Analysis/ Synthesis using SigmundWorks inside SolidWorks

Benefits of Simulation are many-fold. Some of the important ones are:
  • Do it Once – Do it Right
  • Give the Best to the Organization
  • Profit on Day One of Product Launch
  • Valuefacture – Eliminates Competition
  • Save our Planet