What is in this article?:
- Extending areas of implementation
- Programmers’ revolt
- Maintaining critical balance
- Considering speed
- The ideal mesh
- New interface, architecture, data structure
- Solving coupled mechanical, thermal problems
- 40 times faster
The finite element mesh of an aluminum carabiner forging at the beginning of stroke. (Graphic by courtesy of DMM International.)
Forging simulation software is no longer a niche application used only by top-level engineers at advanced forge shops. Having established its effectiveness over many years, it is used now to generate forging simulations quickly and accurately. Even the most basic forge shops run simulations prior to die production to ensure that the material will flow correctly, to determine the load required for forging, and to optimize tool life.
However as the use of these most basic functions of simulation software have become commonplace, users at many forge plants continue to demand more features and functionality for specific forging problems as well as faster and more flexible results. To keep up with the industry’s increasing demands, most simulation software has evolved by adding new features and functionality to the old program core that may have been unchanged for years. Most of the recent developments of simulation software have concentrated on extending areas of implementation rather than increasing the performance of the core program itself.
This was exactly the situation QuantorForm Ltd. recognized a few years ago. The popular QForm program was reliable and accurate but it was increasingly difficult to add new features demanded by users around the world because the program core that had been used for years was growing obsolete.
In 2008 a group of energetic programmers that had joined the development team staged something of a revolution: they insisted that the only way to meet the demands of the industry and move successfully into the future was to scrap the old code and develop a completely new program. The founders of the company, who had developed the original commercial code back in the early 1990s, recognized the wisdom in this strategy and made the radical decision to stop development of the existing program.
Then, the company began a new project to develop a completely new program using the most modern programming techniques, incorporating all of the knowledge gained from 20 years of experience in forging simulation software development and implementation. It was a very risky decision, because even for such an experienced team it was anticipated that this task would take several years, and improvements to the existing QForm program in use at hundreds of companies around the world would be suspended, with an unpredictable impact on the company’s market position.
The Demands of Users
Forging engineers have a lot on their plates these days and they don’t have the luxury of being able to spend hours tweaking a simulation to get the required results. Their time is valuable and they demand a program that allows them to set up simulations quickly that will give them the most accurate results. They want faster simulation speeds and more interface flexibility so that experimenting with various scenarios is quick, fluid and intuitive.
Also, existing QForm users wanted to be sure that the new program was compatible with the old version and retained the ease of use and familiar features of the previous version of the software such as simulation of both 2D and 3D problems, detection of laps, flow through, and non-fill defects as well as full tool simulation capabilities including die stress and die wear.
The effectiveness of simulation software requires much more than just the capability to treat large finite-element models. A critical balance between power, flexibility, ease of use and speed must be met. The development team’s objective was to meet the demands of industrial and academic users with a new program that offered a well-balanced combination of high performance, flexibility, speed, and accuracy with a quick learning curve for new, inexperienced users, while also allowing for profound analysis capabilities for the most advanced users and researchers.