Fast and easy. For years, metalcasting engineers have been hoping to hear those two words in connection to design services. It took a while, but now those words are not only hoped for when talking about designing a mold — they are expected. Since the advent of solidification software in the 1980s, foundries have been able to use such programs to help design casting models with an eye toward optimizing riser design, while studying such issues as shrinkage, microstructures, and stresses — all of which help ensure that quality castings are made. And, the success of using such software has been impressive, to the point where more and more suppliers are offering their design expertise to foundries. A one-stop-shopping approach, if you will, to metalcasting.
Like metal solidification software, mold or sand-core modeling software is a 3-D computer program. Such programs offer an economical and quicker way for metalcasters to detect and solve mold and coremaking problems quickly, or in some cases, before they even occur.
In 2004, Ashland Casting Solutions opened its Design Services Center at its Dublin, OH, headquarters, specifically to offer designto-manufacture support from engineered drawings through casting, and testing. Design Services Center is staffed with engineers dedicated to addressing the diverse concerns of the foundry industry. In addition, customers can avail themselves of the latest technologies and technical support not only to improve their casting designs and processes, but also to increase production and profitability.
One such technology, Arena-flow, has been essential to Ashland's success in providing its customers with the necessary tools for mold design. Developed by Arena-flow LLC, in conjunction with General Motors, NASA, the Dept. of Energy, as well as Ashland Casting Solutions, delivers a picture of the entire coremaking process including the blowing, gassing and purging cycles, as well as the capability to analyze the virtual cores before investing significant time, money, and material. The software also allows tooling manufacturers to validate optimum designs in virtual space to ensure that cold box tooling is optimized the first time. Although the technology can be accessed by software license agreements, Ashland is seeing success with contract engineering projects conducted on the premises of the Design Services Center.
"Our biggest issue is merging design and foundries," explains Ruben Bake, global marketing manager for ACS, a business unit of Ashland Specialty Chemical, a division of Ashland Inc. "It takes a long time to design a part and then make it usable and be able to produce it," he continues. "We try to merge these two things — concept to manufacturing."
Recent enhancements to Arena-flow has made the software even more user-friendly. Version 6.0 includes a new installation wizard and graphical user interface (GUI) redesign, both improvements help the software deliver a complete picture of the entire coremaking process including blowing, gassing, gassing and purging cycles, as well as allowing metalcasters the ability to analyze virtual cores before investing significant time, money, and material in the coremaking process.
"From a user's perspective it (Version 6.0) is easier to interface. It also adds gassing to it and can show how efficient the gassing is," declares Bake.
In addition to Arena-flow, Ashland's design services include Magmasoft, ProCast, and QuikCast software, under licenses. Although geared more toward analyzing castings, all three software packages can be used evaluate molds. ProCast software, developed by ESI Group, provides a complete finite-element solution that allows for in-depth predictive valuations of the entire casting process, including mold filling. QuickCast, also from ESI, also simulates the entire casting process from filling to solidification, including defects prediction using efficient finite difference technology. Magmasoft software, by Magma GmbH, is a comprehensive simulation tool with capabilities that show mold filling, solidification, mechanical properties, thermal stresses and distortions. According to Bake, the advantage of the ACS's Casting Design Services is, "When it comes to molding, often foundries come to us with an issue of quality or productivity-core breakage for example, and look to us to use our expertise and software to help fix it. Arena-flow is a simulation software. The foundry gives us the current parameters, and our software and expertise will tell them where the issue is. That isn't to say that we don't take requests from foundries where they are looking for assistance with a brand new mold. We do. The length of time for that new mold development depends on the project."
Read the complete presentation, "Virtual Mold Design,"