ESI Group is sponsor of CaFFEET’14 on Smart Factory. Today, Michael Bloor, COO at ESI Group North America tells us more on Virtual prototyping and additive manufacturing

Could you please tell us a bit more about ESI Group and your work as COO of ESI Group North America?

 ESI is a leader in product engineering by supporting our customers to develop better, safer, and cost effective designs to improve the lives of their customers. This is accomplished by designing and evaluating product performance in a virtual world, long before any physical prototypes are made. This technology is also applied to the manufacturing space in support of the “Factory of the Future”, to ensure that factories are as efficient and flexible as possible. In North America we are leveraging our manufacturing expertise, developed with extensive knowledge from automotive and aerospace industries, and applying it to their supply chain and other industries, such as energy, electronics, defense, etc…

 What is ESI Group vision on smart manufacturing/ smart factories? Do you have concrete use-cases that you can share with us?

 Our vision for smart manufacturing/smart factories is to support our customers in designing and developing products and production facilities in the shortest possible time, with the most economical process, and with the highest quality. We enable this by simulating the lifecycle of the product from design, through manufacturing and product use, and including recycle-ability. We have numerous examples of our customers’ successes for virtual assembling and building, aerospace investment casting, composites material processing, etc… These examples can be found on our website

At CaFFEET’14, you will be speaking about the added value of virtual prototyping for hot forming processes. What is the key advantage of virtual prototyping for such processes?

 Hot forming has been developed in order to manufacturing parts out of new high strength steels. It is taking a process that has been established for many years for cold forming and adding substantial complexity in order to handle new materials. The hot forming process requires more energy and substantially more complex tooling; this adds cost in initial tooling development and ongoing operations. The virtual prototyping of this process ensures that the tools work correctly the first time and that the whole process is designed for energy efficiency. Hot forming tools cost over $500,000 each, a typical car requires 50 hot formed parts. There is no room for error so every tool and all processes are simulated with virtual prototypes to ensure the tool functions as designed and that the whole process is optimized for energy efficiency and flexibility.

Hot part in the die Virtual Reality (Courtesy of AP&T)

Hot part in the die Virtual Reality (Courtesy of AP&T)

To a broader extent, does additive manufacturing represent a threat or an opportunity for ESI Group and virtual prototyping?

 Additive manufacturing is a great opportunity for both our customers and ESI. The benefit for our customers is the flexibility that it affords for their manufacturing line. This enables very fast change over from part to part as there is minimal tooling, one machine can make infinite types of parts and therefore a factory can transition from one product to another overnight. The benefit is not only for the initial production but also for repair parts, no need to stock a variety of parts, just make the replacement part on demand reducing inventory, storage requirements, and waste. The opportunity for ESI is that in order to ensure the process is robust and that the parts meet their performance and quality specification they need to be built and validated virtually first. This is no different than any other manufacturing process, and is actually more complex, requiring more simulation of the process to ensure that the process is robust.

To register for CaFFEET’14, go to EventBrite