Verbesserung Designprozess durch Designautomatisierung
4. März 2019
trinckle bietet eine parametrische Plattform für additiv gefertigte Teile und Produkte. In einem Projekt mit Ford wurde ein Konfigurator für kundenspezifische Positioniervorrichtungen entwickelt. Dieser innovative Showcase wurde für den Swiss AM Guide 2019 ausgewählt.
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Leveraging Additive Manufacturing for the fabrication of jigs and fixtures is one of the more widespread value adding applications of AM. As examples in different industries (e.g. automotive) have shown, firms can reduce costs in operations through the means of additively manufactured tools. The resulting parts do not necessarily require sophisticated materials or manufacturing processes, meaning that often times Fused Deposition Modeling with regular PLA or ABS is sufficient. Still, scalability of this application is hindered due to the time-consuming process of manually designing jigs and fixtures. trinckle has developed an automated design solution in collaboration with car manufacturer Ford. Their configuration tool shall be discussed in this showcase.
Description of the Showcase
At Ford, additively manufactured tools have already been utilized in more than 50 cases. For example, jigs are used to position vehicle type and model badges in order to glue them precisely on the car body. The benefits of AM within this value adding application are the following: lower part costs in small quantities when compared to conventional processes, lower weight than their metal counter parts and faster availability in case of unplanned demand.
Still, one major challenge remained regarding the scalability of this application: up to 50% of the total costs per tool is associated to the manual design effort of the part. For each new car series and each special edition, jigs need to be individually configured to position the corresponding badges accurately. As the tools have to adapt exactly to the surfaces of the sheet body, the final shape is rather complex including free-form surfaces. When done manually, this process easily took between two and four hours. In order to shorten the design process and therefore enable scalability, Ford teamed up with trinckle to develop an internal software application for the efficient creation of these jigs.
The Berlin-based startup offers specialized solutions for design automation and product configuration in the domain of Additive Manufacturing. Its main product, the cloud software solution paramate, enables automated creation of AM designs that can incorporate the respective user into the design process. Product configurators enabled by paramate include highly individualized industrial components as copper inductors and vacuum grippers, or lifestyle and consumer products as jewelry and surfboard fins.
In the case of Ford, the workflow of designing a new jig starts with an upload of the car model data and letterings to be placed. Afterwards, the user can add preconfigured standard elements, as for examples handles, magnetic holders for attaching the jig onto the car body, mechanical stops and custom labelling. All of these features can be accessed with a few mouse clicks within an intuitive user interface. Afterwards, the application automatically creates the geometry of the tool using the algorithms of the paramate platform. The resulting jig precisely fits the contour of the car and is individualized regarding user needs.
Leveraging the capabilities of the paramate platform, trinckle’s configurator reduced the duration of the design process from 2-4 hours down to 10 minutes. Furthermore, the application does not require any knowhow in CAD or design for Additive Manufacturing, enabling regular assembly employees to use the configurator. Since the later users are now able to design the jigs themselves, time consuming feedback loops between designers and tool users can be eliminated. Therefore, the overall process is streamlined since designers are relieved from this activity and shop floor employees are empowered to shape their tools to their respective needs.
Compared to the former design process, this approach offers even more potential for the future: by analyzing historical user configurations, the jig and the software tool itself can be optimized over time. In the case of Ford, the software tool could for instance automatically propose an initial draft which is optimized using the most common configurations. As seen in this example, automated design configurators offer a direct way of acquiring and handling customer / user insight.
All in all, the showcase of trinckle and Ford demonstrates that value adding applications of Additive Manufacturing require an holistic consideration of all process steps involved. Only by improving the design process through design automation, the feasibility of the business case has been ensured.