Design methods for Industry 4.0

In a world where a continuous race to innovation pervades every field of industrial design and production, simulation in virtual environment is an essential development tool. The application of Finite Elements Methods, or FEM Analysis, to predict the behavior of a product has obtained a central role in the new conception of the project.

Developing a new product always required a prototypal approach. The idea is translated into drawings before becoming a physical object. Engineers need to transform the initial idea in numbers, predictions of performance and safety of the mechanism, before drafting the drawings. Experimentation on prototypes becomes the only confirmation of the goodness of these calculations, often supported by higher-then-needed safety factors, in order to cover up for the shortcomings of classic analytical tools, unable to globally handle the interactions between the physical phenomena that singularly act on the system

And what can be done if unexpected events appear? Vibrations, fatigue failure, thermal dilatations, shocks…

The answer to that question is simple and inefficient: design and build a new prototype, based on experimental results. A step-by-step improvement, accompanied by long waiting times for suppliers, vexing experimental campaigns in labs, and eventually the production of costly objects with no market perspective. This is unacceptable in the new industrial paradigm 4.0, and the solutions to these issues are given by the new technologies for advanced simulations.

Among the most powerful tools at our disposal, FEM analysis is one of the most important.

FEM Analysis gives the engineer access to the a virtual lab where the behavior of the product can be calculated in all of its aspects. This can be done before the production of the physical object, and enables the study of the single mechanical components in their interaction with the rest of the system, which is very difficult to obtain in a lab. Moreover, it is possible to look inside the objects, studying how loads and deformations are distributed, and giving fundamental information that are otherwise impossible to obtain.

The most important contribution of FEM is its ability to guide the designer towards an improvement in the product without using multiple prototypes.

For every project iteration, the engineer can verify the effects of the modifications applied to the object directly in the virtual environment. Physical confirmation and experimental campaigns are still the final step of the development process, but FEM Analysis enables us to precisely pinpoint improvement trends. Even when the result of the simulation does not precisely mirror the real behaviour of the object, it is almost always possible to understand the needed improvements.

Eventually you must ask yourself a very simple question: how can you use this innovative instrument to help your business in developing a new product?

The application of FEM calculation is essential even outside of highly technological fields. Find out how FEM can be implemented with success in many industrial fields, and how to obtain the best from the knowledge of the FEM analysts.

Alberto F. SETTE