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September 1, 2003

4 Min Read
Web exclusive: Design tools, Rapid prototyping/tooling

Moldfilling simulation of a 50-pin microconnector molded from LCP in faSolid yielded detailed results.

VX version 8 allows packaging designers to vary dimensions during concept design. If a bottle requires a target volume, for example, the software provides a simple form to test how wide the bottle can be at a given height.

Part and product designers at the OEM and processor levels attended NPE primarily to look for new ideas, according to a DuPont survey. In addition to inspiration from new resin grades, this group was also regaled with improvements in CAD/CAM and CAE (moldfilling analysis) software as well as rapid prototyping and tooling.

Five days before the bagpipers marched down the aisles of McCormick Place, VX Corp. unveiled its newest CAD/CAM release to the world, then brought VX version 8 to Chicago. With its own PDM capability, the new package allows workgroup-level access to popular PDM functions such as file and attribute searching, document control, versioning, and check-in/check-out. Assembly modeling improvements speed the time it takes to display and manipulate complex assemblies by a factor of 10, and the feature now includes dynamic interference checking.

Mold design was also enhanced in VX8. A new function called Adaptive Feedrate Control automatically adjusts material feedrate for CAM users. A comparative function checks product design files to identify only those regions recently modified by designers to speed engineering changes. Users can now specify flow lines to manage plastic flow in the mold.

News from Moldflow centered on the recent shipping of MPI 4.1, which includes upgrades in 3-D functionality, pre- and post-processing, simulation, application programming interfaces, and new hardware support. In addition, MPI/3D now includes fiber orientation prediction and resulting mechanical properties, as well as the prediction of their contribution to preventing part warpage. Tools such as automatic AVI file creation make it easy for users to communicate results to colleagues and customers. New simulation capability includes analysis of Synventive’s Dynamic Feed and Trexel’s MuCell processes.

The company also announced a U.S.-based distribution agreement with Kistler Instrument, in which Kistler will distribute Moldflow Manufacturing Solutions software (for process monitoring and analysis) to its customers to complement the instrument company’s piezoelectric pressure sensors and charge amplifiers.

Plastics & Computer showcased its faSolid suite of injection molding simulation programs, all of which feature automated brick (hexahedral) element meshing to increase flexibility and control of the molding simulation process. Software modules within the suite have been extended beyond filling to analyze packing, shrinkage/warpage, and integrated cooling. Exhibiting with partner Sumitomo, the company demonstrated results from more than 50 analyses completed with the enhanced software, including detailed results for a 30-pin LCP microconnector and a 16-cavity medical syringe hot runner mold that were concurrently molded in the Sumitomo booth.

According to Giorgio Bertacchi, president, this true solid, hexahedral mesh simulation is the most accurate and precise analysis available today for small and mid-size parts, and an automated meshing program greatly shortens the time required for model preparation. The company’s mid-plane program, faBest, has now been adapted for two-shot molding analysis, accounting for the delay times and isolating the character of the substrate component. A moldability and cost optimization feature that can be used at either the project concept or benchmarking stage has been updated to demonstrate the relationship between gate size and both predicted part quality and production rates. This enables designers to more accurately consider cavitation and machine options.

The Dimension 3-D printer builds models using ABS. A new software upgrade for the system has reduced the time it takes to process STL files by 20 percent.

Prototyping progress

Although NPE is not a traditional forum for new announcements in rapid prototyping and tooling technologies, three exhibitors highlighted new systems and showcased capabilities.3D Systems demonstrated its SLS capabilities to produce rapid tooling. The Vanguard SLS system and the company’s LaserForm A6 steel material can produce a tool that’s suitable for small- to midrange runs. The material provides high mechanical properties, allows for complex designs, including conformal cooling chambers, and has twice the thermal conductivity of most tool steels. The system produces parts or tools with Rockwell C hardness of 15, or as high as RC 39 when heat treated.

Stratasys introduced a new rapid prototyping system, the FDM Vantage. The system was designed to allow for upgrades with future material developments in mind, and currently comes standard with ABS and polycarbonate. It offers a high-performance platform that allows the use of high-temperature, high-performance thermoplastics. Appropriate for an office environment, the system requires no special facilities or venting. The system is equipped with Stratasys’ WaterWorks water-soluble support capability, and has chamber dimensions of 14 by 10 by 10 inches.

Dimension, a business unit of Stratasys and supplier of 3-D printers, presented Catalyst 3.4.1, upgraded software for its 3-D printer. According to the company, the software reduces the preprocessing time of STL files by 20 percent. The 3-D printer by Dimension uses filament-form ABS plastic to build parts layer-by-layer.

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