The meaning of the word “material” conjures up different ideas for different people. For some, the look and feel are what first comes to mindfor others it’s the physical properties like weight and stiffness. Madonna’s “Material Girl” perhaps takes the meaning to another level for disco queens and kings of the 80s.
Engineers however, are a bit of a different breed when it comes to discussing materials. This blog focuses on current industry solutions and trends for material information management and as well as some insight on applications.
Current industry solutions
The properties of materials can be described by an array of different parameters like Youngs modulus and magnetic susceptibility. These however, are sometimes dependent on other variables like temperature, magnetic fields and time. The behavior of materials in an operating environment can become quite complex to describe from a material science point of view. Additionally, the fact that the simulation models require numerical models in order to describe the behavior adds a additional layer of complexity.
When it comes to the product documentation for used materials, you’ll often find annotations such as “Ultem”, “2024-T4”, “Arne”, “Rubber, EPDM, Black, Sh 70” in the drawings. This value references standardized materials or commodity names. Some companies instead use product data models to store such material information. Within these, materials are defined by materials items in their PLM or ERP systems and can contain information such as documentation, possible standard references, required properties, where used as well as possible alternatives which are available globally. This extra information helps in production planning to calculate required materials and in turn optimize stock levels.
Current environmental legislation is pushing material information requirements to new heights – the chemical compliance and sustainability are top priority in every electronic, electrical, and mechanical engineering company. Some businesses, like those working with medical devices, pressure equipment and power generation, have additional requirements for traceability of design changes and manufacturing steps.
But hey, how did we get here? How do we decide the material for a product?
Finding the perfect material
Optimization of product performance and quality has historically focused on finding an optimal geometry for the various load cases. This design optimization assumes that the optimal material has been found or is known. Let me challenge your thinking on materials selection: how did you make the selection of the perfect material for your component?
Product requirements for environmental impact, utilization of some production methods, minimum operating temperature, fatigue lifetime and chemical resistance are common. Still, the task to gather and use materials data takes some effort and knowledge from any organization.
Of Course industry experience, standardization, available resources in manufacturing etc. plays an important role in materials selection, but sometimes engineering teams still find themselves in a situation where an analytical process could be used to find an optimal material. This analytic selection process is essentially a screening process where all the available materials are screened against the design requirements.
To implement this will require some consideration. Where can I find reliable and accurate material data with compliance information for each of my markets? How should the data be arranged for easy searchability? How is best to visualize and compare the potential candidates? After finding out the optimal material, how should I feed the downstream applications like CAD and CAE with the relevant material data and material models? How will any changes in the legislation be updated to the data?
The value of material data
If we have systematically managed material data and the ability to reuse it during new product development, we could gain the following benefits:
The insight from materials selection and information will help the design teams to reach the market faster with minimal prototyping. The sourcing will benefit the ability to find similar materials for alternative suppliers.
The simulation teams can reuse material definitions and have consistent approach thus making less room for human error. The information on how the Arruda-Boyce coefficients are fit as well as the data used is available. This enables non-experts to use advanced material models and get accurate CAE results.
At in-house material development or quality control, the variation of individual batches or lots of material can be stored. This can either reduce the amount of material testing required The full description of raw materials and properties of outcome can be used as a teaching dataset for machine learning, thus speeding up inhouse material development.
Should there be data which requires expensive measurements or is hard to obtain, then the material data starts to form valuable intellectual property. The access to this data might be something that requires control. On the other hand, the existence of data can save time and money since the number of tests can be reduced.
The full traceability of material information makes it faster to analyze and report product environmental impacts and product compliance. The teams working on environmental impacts and regulations find it helpful to realize potential risks before a product is launched to market, thus mitigating the risks for quality, cost and brand value.
Any of these possess significant value for organizations delivering new products for global markets.
Materials and digital thread
The material information is valuable and it is important to store in the digital product description. The traditional PLM systems have some ability to describe the material properties, but the situation is similar than with application lifecycle management (ALM). Possible, but not optimal.
Therefore, one could consider additional applications which are connected to PLM/CAE/CAD which would make material information management an integral part of product description. Access to the same data and definitions will provide a competitive advantage which is realized by faster time to market, operational efficiency and minimizing compliance risks.
Solutions for Materials Information Management
When the need for material information increases, one could consider implementing a materials information management or laboratory information management system (LIMS). These kinds of applications enable storing of materials characterization data and support in-house materials development.
Ansys Granta MI is a solution for materials information management. The organizations which use this software find it useful to have single source of truth for materials data and so are guaranteed that materials information is consistent, traceable, and protected.
The Ansys Granta MI can be connected to PTC Windchill PLM for a rich description of material data with full traceability to individual measurements and reports. Connectivity to CAD and CAE applications help with the design of products, the selection of approved materials and the reuse of intellectual property. The regulatory compliance is faster due to a full understanding of product materials and components. This brings significant advantages with time to market, profitability, and ability to mitigate the risks.
Solutions for material selection
Ansys Granta Selector is a desktop application for materials selection. It has a large database of materials and enables one to screen the possible candidates with minimal training. The material property visualization and comparison capabilities really make materials data accessible to all. It has exports for FEA applications as well as Ansys Workbench integration.
Material data for simulation users
Material data requirements solely for simulation purposes are covered by a Ansys Granta Material Data for Simulation license. Curated for users by ANSYS material data analysts, Granta MDS provides you with the data you need in the format you need it in. Focused specifically on simulation, get access to a database of over 2,600 simulation-ready Generic and Producer Grade Materials. Directly embedded within your Ansys Flagship Simulation Solvers: Ansys Mechanical, Ansys Electronics Desktop, Ansys Fluent, Ansys Discovery.