Advanced Simulation Software Provides More Confidence

The latest iterations of 3D visualization software packages give manufacturers ways to accelerate prove-outs of their manufacturing cutting and assembly operations, often with near 100 percent accuracy. That capability is essential for improving both traditional machining and new additive manufacturing process efficiencies.

Patrick Waurzyniak, contributing editor at Manufacturing Engineering interviewed Ben Mund, Senior Market Analyst at Mastercam, for the article, “Getting a Clearer Picture with Advanced Simulation Software.” The following includes some highlights Ben discussed about the confidence provided by advanced simulation software in CAD/CAM programming.

“Increased practical realism and more advanced analytics capability remain key trends for all types of simulation,” said Mund. He noted that today’s simulations offer users “a more deeply understood mathematical model of all of a machine’s moving parts, how they interact with the tooling and workpiece, and the ability to identify exactly where and why unwanted motion might happen. These areas are developing in tandem, providing more confidence for the programmer and more productivity on the shop floor.”

Simulation in manufacturing is becoming much more pervasive. Advanced visualizations are used everywhere, from machining on shop-floor CNCs to offline CAD/CAM programming of NC equipment. In the product lifecycle management (PLM) arena, product developers rely heavily on sophisticated multiphysics-based computer-aided engineering (CAE) applications at multiple stages of the design process to accurately determine if their creations will withstand a multitude of thermal, fluid, and material fatigue stresses typically encountered in harsh environments, such as automotive and aerospace, to ensure new product designs meet stringent quality controls.

Accurate simulation is more important than ever in manufacturing. “With the advent of increasingly complex machines, there’s a need for both high precision in NC programming and bulletproof confidence that a machine will run that program correctly,” said Mund. “It’s also useful for shops to have different types of simulation depending on what they need.”

Toolpath-only simulation allows a quick and clean view of the cutter’s motion in the part, with deep analytics available at any point along the path. Machine-level simulation expands that approach by adding the machine environment, showing any potential conflicts from items within the machine itself.

“Simulation is becoming more critical to every shop; as machines and tooling become more advanced, the drive for productivity increases, and the need for connected feedback becomes more common,” said Mund. “Realistic simulation is booming on all fronts. Deep mathematical simulation of interactions between machine, tooling, material, and intended final workpiece drive most of the practical applications a shop needs. This is the ‘core’ of simulation in which manufacturing software companies invest most of their heavy development and testing budget.”

This new level of mathematical realism is enhanced and made more engaging with the addition of on-screen realism. “This takes the physics models and makes them look as real-world as possible to the user,” Mund said. “Here you’ll see visual buildouts of machines and all their moving parts (occasionally including manufacturer logos), color and visual material choice, and other display options that let a programmer easily see and be confident in their program’s results.”

Accessibility to simulation tools has been a barrier for many people in manufacturing, as high-end simulations—especially in CAE—have generally been handled by highly trained simulation specialists. In recent years, however, greater access to these visualizations is being provided throughout manufacturing organizations. This access is provided by connections to host data systems, either via lightweight client apps or by leveraging the power of the cloud with high-performance computing (HPC) and bringing supercomputer-level power to bear on extremely large, complex visualization analyses.

“Simulation has become democratized to the point where it’s an expected component of any CAD/CAM software offering. As general simulation became more widespread, the type and depth of simulation was also dramatically expanded. Over the last two decades, the industry has moved from basic toolpath backplotting to material removal visualization to complete simulation of the machine tool environment. Users’ expectations about what should be available as a standard component of CAD/CAM have moved with it,” said Mund.

“While exceptional stand-alone solutions remain—and have a vital place in many shops—simulation has become such an ingrained part of shop workflow that most CAD/CAM providers consider it almost as important as the tool motion itself,” he concluded.