Why did Dassault Systèmes buy Simpoe’s plastic flow simulation capabilities? Keith Nichols examines the reasoning and the implications for industry.
Experts at industry analyst and market consulting firm Cambashi contribute a regular blog to TM titled Silos Changing exploring how new software applications enable manufacturers to implement business initiatives for the new economy.
Plastics are crucial to today’s sophisticated products. They are cost-effective with a range of benefits which make them easy to produce however complex, with a greater strength to weight ratio, and requiring minimal maintenance.
With strong market growth, manufacturers are expected to produce increasingly complex parts, more reliably, cheaper and delivered faster. Software suppliers also see this as an important market, as illustrated by Dassault Systèmes’ recent acquisition of Simpoe, a supplier of plastic flow simulation software, based in France.
Simpoe has over 3,000 active customers including Canon and Panasonic. By importing the 3D part model through its standard SimpoeLINK interface, plastic flow can then be simulated, melt front behaviour examined and potential trapped air pockets exposed. This early design validation not only eliminates costly prototypes and tooling, but it can provide designers with greater confidence that rework will not occur down the line and result in expensive delays.
But several software providers including Dassault Systèmes with its Catia and SolidWorks applications already have integrations to Simpoe. So why should Dassault go further and acquire the company?
To answer this question, we need to look deeper into the way plastic parts are currently being developed using these integrations:
1 When the designer has released the 3D part model, the mould designer then imports it into SIMPOE, where it can be analysed. By changing the flow parameters, or the model, the design is optimised for least cost and manufacturability. With each iteration, file versions need to remain synchronised so that files are kept in step with each other. But in reality, mistakes do happen, and can prove to be expensive and timely, particularly if the problem is corrected late in the development process
2 Ideally, if the 3D design could remain static until the simulation had been completed, synchronisation between the design and simulation 3D model would be much easier to manage. But in reality, other disciplines are likely to be working concurrently on the same 3D model and if any changes are not taken into account within Simpoe, it could present downstream problems
3 Product life cycle management (PLM) can help to manage the different versions of the 3D model with its corresponding geometry within Simpoe. However, each time a change happens, the simulation potentially needs to be re-run depending upon the nature of the change. And the more changes that occur, the longer will be the overall development process.
As a key part of Dassault Systèmes’ 3DExperience initiative, this acquisition has given it control of the Simpoe software and access to its code, enabling it to chart its own future direction with confidence. It will be able to shape the work process so that synchronisation between the 3D model and plastic flow simulation can be assured, and therefore, are able to overcome the weaknesses of the current approach.
But with such potential opportunity ahead, there is always a few challenges hiding around the corner that need to be addressed:
- Development team members are increasingly being located at specialist centres around the globe. They need responsive IT networks supported by powerful processing in order to support the ever increasingly demanding 3D model environment
- The more sophisticated the 3DExperience initiative becomes, the more it is suited to only those highly competent designers in industries that develop large complex projects such as in aerospace and automotive
- This exceptional 3D capability does not take away the need for strong management leadership and direction throughout the development process. This was apparent with the Boeing 787 programme where a heavy investment was made in IT, but decisions as to how the project was managed with its partners resulted in it being late and thereafter, was plagued with a stream of problems which surfaced just after it went into operation.
We can only watch and learn from the experiences of others who venture down this massively attractive 3DExperieince path.