ANSYS just acquired 3DSIM, a developer of premier additive manufacturing (AM) simulation technology, and said the move gives it “the industry’s only complete additive manufacturing simulation workflow.” ANSYS’ claim of industry leadership in this area must, of course, be taken in context of similar acquisitions and intensive R&D activity by other top CAE software vendors including Altair, DS SIMULIA, ESI Group, MSC Software and more. While industry leadership will have to be sorted out by user experience of the competing solutions delivered, what’s clear today is that topology, materials and process optimization for AM have emerged as spearpoint investment areas for every leading provider of engineering modeling and simulation technology. See for example our Frustum Generate topology optimization plus 3D Systems DMP expertise slash weight of GE Aircraft bracket 70%
AM is currently the fastest-growing engineering market segment, according to ANSYS and 3DSIM. “While it has the potential to transform the industrial manufacturing landscape,” they note, “companies have several hurdles to overcome before they can broadly replace existing manufacturing methods. Printing metal is particularly challenging because it often involves a laser, which optimizes the metal’s density for each application. But it can also melt the metal in unexpected ways, causing product failure. Additionally, rapid heating and cooling causes stresses that can deform the product. The combined ANSYS-3DSIM simulation solution will mitigate those risks, leading to stronger, yet lighter components in the future.”
ANSYS backgrounds this acquisition with the following—in our experience wholly accurate—observations: “Additive manufacturing (AM) has the potential to revolutionize industrial manufacturing by making it possible to produce working parts with intricate shapes that would be impossible to fabricate using traditional ‘machining’ techniques. But the progress of AM has been slower than predicted because:
- “It has been based largely on trial-and-error methods.
- “Manufacturers often do not understand or trust the properties of AM materials.”
ANSYS says it has now “removed these barriers by offering a suite of tools for simulation-driven additive manufacturing—the only simulation suite offering ‘design-to-print’ capabilities for AM. ANSYS simulation solutions remove the uncertainty of AM by walking you through each step of the process”:
- Design for additive manufacturing—CAD geometry creation, faceted data editing and smoothing tools, latticing of structures for light-weighting, topological optimization, design validation.
- Print design—Automatic support generation, physics-driven stress-based support structure design.
- Print process simulation—Analysis for a given machine, material, geometry, orientation and set of process parameters; determination of residual stresses and distortion; distortion compensation to correct the part geometry for build distortion; build failure prediction.
- In-depth microstructure prediction—Detailed (melt-pool-level) thermal history during printing, residual stress-strain, defect generation, melt pool characteristics, crystal structure.
“By replacing trial and error with virtual simulation and including materials-based properties for AM,” the company says, “ANSYS simulation solutions increase design speed and give the confidence you need in the final structural properties of each part that you manufacture using AM.”
3DSIM: “Simulation-driven innovation rather than physical trial and error”
3DSIM, headquartered in Park City, UT, develops simulation software for metal additive manufacturing. Its software tools “empower manufacturers, designers, materials scientists and engineers to achieve their objectives through simulation-driven innovation rather than physical trial and error,” the company says. Customers include aerospace and automotive OEMs, parts manufacturers, metal AM machine producers and leading research labs.
One of 3DSIM’s key products is exaSIM, an “easy-to-use tool developed specifically for machine operators and designers for additive manufacturing-developed parts. exaSIM provides unparalleled predictions to identify and address residual stress, distortion and build failure, enabling users to achieve part tolerances and avoid build failures without physical experimentation.
Another product, FLEX, enables engineers, analysts and researchers to “dial in the best process parameters for a particular additive manufacturing machine and material combination,” in the company’s words. “That leads to the highest level of part integrity, and predicts microstructure and properties before building the part.”
exaSIM software is a suite of metal additive manufacturing (AM) simulation tools that provide critical insight into the complex physics-based phenomena associated with laser powder bed fusion. exaSIM generates practical solutions to residual stress, distortion and build failure, according to 3DSIM, enabling users to achieve part tolerances and avoid build failures without trial-and-error experimentation. STL files can be automatically distortion-compensated to counteract the distortion that occurs during part production.
Two types of support structures are automatically generated based on residual stress predictions, allowing users to avoid wasting time and material when placing supports. Build failure can be avoided by utilizing the automatically generated supports and the software’s Blade Crash detection feature. For ease of use, greater speed, data storage and rapid feature implementation, exaSIM runs in a secure cloud environment. exaSIM is available in GovCloud for customers who want access within an ITAR-, FedRAMP- and DOD SRG-compliant environment, and one that is ISO 9001/27001/27017/27018-certified.
FLEX enables metal AM specialists, engineering analysts, materials scientists, OEMs and powder suppliers to “dial in the best process parameters for a given machine/material combination to achieve the highest level of part integrity and to predict microstructure, properties and sensor feedback before building the part,” 3DSIM says:
- Proprietary mathematical algorithms produce results orders of magnitude faster than competing finite element software tools.
- FLEX simulations are based on exact scan vectors from a build file or user-defined scan patterns.
- Custom-curated databases include nonlinear temperature-dependent thermophysical properties for each material as a function of physical state.
exaSIM and FLEX plus ANSYS Workbench: “End-to-end AM simulation workflow”
“Additive manufacturing is changing the way companies are bringing products to market, and 3DSIM is helping to lead the way through its innovative solutions,” said ANSYS vice president and general manager Shane Emswiler. “By bringing exaSIM and FLEX onto our Workbench platform, ANSYS can offer customers the only end-to-end additive manufacturing simulation workflow available. That will spark innovation, speed time to market and reduce manufacturing costs for our customers across industries.”
“We are excited to become part of the ANSYS family with its nearly 50-year history of helping customers realize their product promise,” said 3DSIM CEO Brent Stucker. “Combining 3DSIM’s leading additive manufacturing technology with ANSYS engineering simulation solutions will be a win-win for our customers and the entire industry.”