If you’re not convinced of the value or effectiveness of casting process simulation technology, just wait: no other field of metalproducing technology develops so many new tools and techniques. Nor is there any area with such frequent updates, and none other has such a consistent commercial impact.
For example, just a few weeks ago Flow Science Inc issued an updated version of its Flow-3D Cast software developed for metalcasters, tool makers, and casting designers. As might be expected with any new software, it presents an updated graphical user interface, and offers faster processing speed. But, more important, Flow-3D Cast Version 3.5 introduces new capabilities for modeling iron solidification and shrinkage, cavitation potential, predicting core-gas generation, sand core blowing, and core and mold drying. Also, a new permeable mold model is available to model air-escape during filling. And, users can refer to temperature-dependent material properties to predict solidification-related defects more accurately.
However, version 3.5 also marks progress toward the next frontier of casting simulation with its integrated CAD translation tool. According to David Souders, Flow Science’s v.p. of Sales, Marketing & Support, “Flow-3D Cast was originally developed by foundry-oriented partners of ours. After realizing the usefulness of the industry-focused interface, with its more-intuitive design for model setup, we acquired the rights to the product and made a number of valuable changes.
“Among other things, we’ve streamlined the product development cycle to sync the release of Flow-3D Cast more quickly with the latest version of FLOW-3D’s solver,” Souders indicated. “The addition of the fluid structure interaction and thermal stress evolution models later this year will be the final step in this process.”
Flow-3D Cast is offered in three ascending levels of utility: Basic, Extended and Advanced. Basic is positioned as an affordable entry-level product for foundries, while Extended offers additional capabilities necessary for high-pressure diecasting shops. Advanced is aimed at larger operations seeking sophisticated physical modeling, such as the sand core and mold suite. The Advanced version allows access to the Flow-3D interface to enable the user to run non-casting simulations, such as auto manufacturers modeling sloshing, tank filling, and more. Because all versions use the same core Flow-3D solver, the accuracy of filling and solidification results is equivalent across all versions, Flow Science noted, and all versions of Flow-3D Cast take advantage of parallel processing on multiple cores.
The new release’s advances in specific capabilities (e.g., iron solidification and shrinkage) may be just the thing for some foundry somewhere – and it’s likely that development advanced according to the needs and experiences of Flow-3D Cast users. It’s easy to understand why a product like simulation software develops in such a collateral way. As noted earlier this year by MAGMA Foundry Technologies Inc. president Christoff Heisser, “Not only has the use of simulation evolved, with many foundries having fully implemented this technology in their operations, but simulation tools have evolved, too. Initially only able to predict hotspots, sophisticated tools are now simulating the entire casting process, including predicting micro structures, mechanical properties, stresses and distortion, and die life. They also use automatic optimization to find the optimal gating system or process parameter combination, literally by themselves. Simulation is not a static product. It continuously evolves.”
Heisser further noted how recent advances in simulation functions have improved coremaking and moldmaking, but also emphasized the significant improvements in the quality of cast products resulting from the ability to simulate the effects of dissolved gases during solidification.
In January, ESI Group released its latest casting process simulation software, a suite comprised of the ProCAST and QuikCAST programs. It emphasized this new edition provides foundries with “a predictive evaluation of the entire casting process,” including filling and solidification defects, microstructural changes and part distortion. But, the leading move is that ESI’s Casting Simulation Suite allows visualization of the effects of design changes for cast parts, aiding in design and manufacturing decisions from the early stages of the production process. Virtual prototyping allows foundries to shrink product development costs, reduce time to market, and increase product quality.
ESI noted the new release presents a completely new user environment, too, with a modeler that reduces preparation time because of a new methodology, new interface, and enhanced automatic assembly. Also, it represents the debut of a new pre-processor, Visual-Cast, that conducts the set-up of process conditions straight onto the CAD topology, instead of onto the meshing. As such, it’s possible to adapt the model to the simulation needs without resetting the process definition. This version of the Casting Simulation Suite also provides an advice function that assists users in computing the mechanical properties of aluminum after age-hardening treatment, for parts like wheels, suspension components, cylinder heads, and engine blocks. (This tool was developed by Rio Tinto Alcan, and particularly by Michel Garat, ESI indicated.)
New microstructure models are available, too, for example for Ni-resist alloys and compacted graphite iron materials.
To ensure casting quality, new simulation functions are included for core gassing, oxide-particle tracing, and prediction of burn-on, and mold penetration. Other improvements include the references drawn from global research on lightweight materials and superalloys that will enhance centrifugal casting modeling and prediction of micro-porosity.
To complement of the capabilities of its Casting Simulation Suite, ESI reported it is now distributing a filling system design tool. The French metalcasting R&D body, Centre Technique des Industries de la Fonderie, and ESI agreed on exclusive distribution, support, and development of Salsa 3D. This tool, developed by CTIF, calculates efficient filling systems for pressure diecasting, following experimental and fundamental rules.
Salsa 3D helps to calculate and size gating and running systems for high-pressure diecasting. It assists in designing gates, runners, and overflows by controlling the maximum gate velocity and thickness, based on the available pressure of the machine. This improvement offers potential for increasing yields and reducing die development times, and allows the filling system to be validated using ProCAST or QuikCAST.
Salsa 3D will be integrated gradually into the ESI Casting Simulation Suite, toward the goal of a software combination that helps to maximize productivity, reduce development time, and improve the quality of finished castings.
The frequency of software updates not only guarantees that users have the latest tools available, but acts as a guarantee of their input to the development process, and linking casting simulation to CAD technology will speed the commercial success of foundries taking an active role in the field of simulation.