Posted by Kashyap Vyas on March 11th, 2016
A successfully engineered product is a result of numerous efforts from designers and engineers. However; in an attempt to provide superior strength and sustainability, there is often a lot of conservatism involved in the design process. Conservatism causes an increase in cost of the product and this is one the reasons why most of the well-planned and engineered products don’t reach the market.
Manufacturers today need products that perform well, remain sustainable and are also cost-effective in order to compete in the market. For this, design engineers need to adopt the right technology tools that allow to get rid of unnecessary conservatism and explore new and alternative design concepts that are cost-effective yet sustainable.
To understand how conservatism affects the design process, let’s take an industrial product example of pressure vessel and storage tanks-
Pressure vessel remains an integral part of many industries that stores pressurized fluid safely using high strength material and safe designs. The safety of this critical industrial component is mainly based on the design practice and standards laid by the globally recognized authorities like ASME.
The BPVC code is extremely helpful for designers to develop pressure vessel designs that maintain safety standards and remain sustainable for sufficiently large number of loading cycles. However, the Design by Rule approach as described and detailed by ASME includes many thumb-rule equations that often give a conservative design. This directly means that the design will be costly as material used will be more than actually required to sustain the internal pressure.
In a market that is continuously looking towards light-weighting strategies to build cost-effective and competitive products, the Design by Rule approach thus proves non-productive. Through computational technologies however, a better alternative to conservative designs can be developed.
Using tools like finite element analysis, engineers can identify actual regions in the design space that require attention and can provide more strength to those specific regions. The method thus helps in eliminating the use of additional material in areas of the design space where the need to maintain the strength is less. This approach is also mentioned in the BPVC Code and is known as alternative design rules for pressure vessel or Design by Analysis approach. Using robust FEA solvers, the pressure vessel design can remain light weight and still perform its function of storing high pressurized fluid safely. Similar methodology can be applied for storage tanks or any other industrial equipment by exploring the entire design space and removing excess material from the design where not required.
Topology optimization is one of the most promising approaches to build alternative designs that use less material without compromising the overall strength. The concept of topology optimization is to place the available material optimally within the available design space using finite element solvers. The end result of this optimization is a lightweight design that is good enough to withstand the prescribed loading conditions.
Topology optimization is extensively being practiced by automotive and aerospace industries, as their prime design concerns are to reduce weight and improve efficiency. The concept can also be applied to build products that make use of expensive materials and the manufacturing cost can be brought down significantly.
However, the unconventional designs obtained through this optimization technique are much more difficult and complex to manufacture using conventional techniques. This is where additive manufacturing or 3D printing is best suited. Rather than removing material from the material block, 3D printing adds the material layer-by-layer, making it possible to develop complex designs easily. The possibility to use metals and composites to print the part makes it possible to use the product for actual applications.
It is thus important for manufacturers to equip themselves with right technology tools that enable them to understand their product design more holistically and determine possible opportunities to come out with alternative and cost-effective concepts. Meeting the ever increasing market demands for quality and cost-effective products requires design engineers to identify the conservatism present in their existing designs and try to eliminate those without compromising the quality.
About Author: Kashyap Vyas is an Engineer at Hi-Tech and holds a Master’s degree in Thermal Engineering with several research papers to his credit. He covers CAD and CAE topics for the engineering industry. His contributions are primarily focused on encouraging manufacturers and suppliers to adopt virtual product development tools to build efficient products with reduced time-to-market.
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