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Virtual Material and Process Development – Save Time and Reduce Risks by Computer Simulation

Prototype manufacturing and testing is time-consuming and costly. To save time and to reduce cost, use of computer simulation is state-of-the-art in many industries, e.g. for product development or process optimisation. Nevertheless, simulation requires some invest in software, skilled people, and time for model development and validation. For this reason, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) often hesitate to make use of simulations for their R&D activities or technical services. To overcome this hurdle, VM&P Virtual Ma-ter ials and Processes GmbH/DE offers its simulation expertise as service particularly for SMEs. Virtual material and process development means optimisation of existing and development of new materials or technical processes based on computer models and simulations. In this regard, a model is called a computer-based representation of a material or technical process. This could be e.g. a model of a refractory material or of a heating process within a furnace. Sometimes, it is referred to also as digital twin. Simulation means the use of a model, for example to predict the behaviour of a component in an industrial production process. A material model may describe the high-temperature mechanical behaviour of a ceramic or refractory material under certain application conditions. To implement that model, certain physical material properties such as thermal conductivity, thermal expansion, Young’s modulus, or high-temperature strength must be known or be determined experimentally in advance. If that model correctly predicts the material behaviour in an experiment under similar conditions as expected in application, it is called a validated model. Such a validated model is essential for virtual material and process development, as it can be used to develop new products or to test product design variations by computer simulation. Fig. 1: Temperature distribution and thermal stresses in a ceramic heater support Fig. 2: Inductive heating of a rotational symmetric metallic piece with radial step (l.); by optimisation of the coil design, hotspots at the edges are avoided (r.) For example, the said ceramic might be used as mechanical support in an electrical heater for industrial furnaces (Fig. 1). In this application the ceramic is subject to rapid temperature changes when the furnace is heated up fast. Radial notches in the support reduce the resulting thermal stresses. The deeper the notch the lower are thermal stresses. On the other hand, deep notches reduce the mechanical stability of the support and complicate the handling during installation. To guarantee optimal thermal stress resistance at good handling behaviour, the effect of different notch depth on mechanical properties and thermal stress resistance are simulated using a validated material model. Only the optimised support design is produced and tested in application. Fig. 3: Competences of VM&P Virtual Materials and Processes GmbH. Thus, a validated model allows for faster testing of a higher variety than it would be possible by experimental testing of physical prototypes. This reduces cost for testing and time to market for new products. Furthermore, hazardous operating conditions of a component or construction can be detected in advance using simulations. So, product safety is increased, and follow-up cost are reduced. Finally, in many cases the effect of innovative product features can be simulated faster, cheaper, and at lower risk than it would be possible using physical prototypes. An example is shown in Fig. 2. A metallic piece with a radial step is heated by a single induction coil. This yields an extreme thermal spot at the edge with larger diameter. When the inductor is designed with two coils, a much more homogeneous temperature distribution is achieved. Despite material or process development, modelling and simulation is useful also to communicate innovative product features to interested customers. In this case too, a simulation – a so-called virtual prototype – offers advantages over physical prototypes. In a running production process, the exchange of components is associated with high technical and financial risks. A validated model offers an easy possibility to replace one component within a system by a new one and to show the related improvements. Thus, modelling and simulation also offer new opportunities to marketing and technical sales. VM&P Virtual Materials and Processes GmbH is service provider for modelling, simulation, and technical consulting. The core business are solutions that require coupling of various technical or physical disciplines, such as thermomechanical or thermoelectrical problems – so called Multi-physics (Fig. 3). Particularly, the company provides simulation of: •  transient non-linear mechanical behaviour,
•  3D-heat transfer,
•  effects of exposure to flames,
•  liquid and gas flows (e.g. heat transfer in furnaces or heat exchangers),
•  electromagnetic machines,
•  plasma and coating processes. The company combines longtime expertise in simulation of plasma and high-temperature processes with experience in ceramic, carbon, and graphite production and application. Of course, state-of-the-art hardware and software is utilised. As discussed above, tests and experiments are of mayor importance for simulations to generate input data for modelling as well as for model validation. In case such data must be collected, the company provides a strong network to various industrial labs and research facilities. Martin Christ
VM&P Virtual Materials
and Processes GmbH
86159 Augsburg, Germany
E-mail: martin.christ@vm-p-gmbh.com

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