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