Moldflow and FEA

Moldflow Algor Interop

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s nothing like having a prototype to evaluate (The Value of Physical Prototypes & Moldflow and Part Visualization). This is mostly due to the fact that simulations that represent real-world performance are timely and costly to develop. I can’t remember an instance when I relied on FEA alone without empirical testing to establish actual performance of the simulation.

Autodesk is getting closer to bridging this gap between simulation and the real world by integrating key features of its large software portfolio. The first thing they did that impressed me was their integration of Moldflow and Showcase to aid in the visualization of cosmetic defects on plastic parts (re-link: Moldflow and Part Visualization).

Even more interesting and, in my opinion, useful, is their interoperability between Moldflow and Algor (FEA/mechanical simulation) which addresses the issue of simulated material properties vs. real-world material properties. Typically material properties are applied to FEA models with the assumption they are isotropic. But most injection molded plastics are anisotropic. The real material properties of injection molded plastic parts are dependent on many factors. Flow of material through the mold is an important one since it is the material flow that determines fiber and molecular orientation. This is especially important in the case of glass-filled resins; the strength in the direction of the glass fibers is greater than in the transverse direction. The magic bit of the Autodesk offering is that Moldflow results can be imported into Algor where they are used to calculate material properties at each point in the FEA mesh, better representing the plastic part coming out of the mold. Different gate locations and process parameters can be simulated through both Moldflow and Algor to determine how to maximize the performance of the part in critical areas.

Moldflow Algor Interop

It’s not going to eliminate the need for empirical testing of final parts but it definitely helps in optimizing designs early in the process.

{Update February 22, 2011: Thanks to Bob Williams (@ADSKsimulation) for the link to the video}

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Moldflow and Part Visualization

For a while now Autodesk has been talking about digital prototyping as a means to save on costs of real, physical prototypes. True that their portfolio is quite comprehensive but there is nothing like a real, physical model for testing and evaluation. More often than not I have been able to build, test, and tweak a prototype more quickly than setting up a simulation and waiting for it to run. That said, simulations have their place in the design process and Autodesk worked out an interesting integration between 2 seemingly disparate products.

Moldflow is a great tool for evaluating plastic parts and the associated tooling and processing during the execution stage of the design cycle. Showcase is a rendering/visualization tool used primarily by upstream industrial designers. Autodesk has put together a great workflow allowing users to extract geometry from the Moldflow package and visualize it within the Showcase environment. It’s not quite as good as cutting steel and shooting parts, but definitely more cost effective.

Moldflow Insight

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