Breakthroughs in Automotive Applications with Simpleware's Image-Based Solutions

Posted on 25 November 2015 by Theo Verbruggen

Image-based modelling offers many advantages for automotive design and R&D workflows. At Simpleware we have developed software that faithfully reproduces 3D image data (CT, micro-CT, FIB-SEM…) and creates robust virtual models for a variety of inspection and simulation applications.

These techniques provide many benefits for comprehensive analysis of components in the automotive field, including:

  • Automotive metrology, reverse engineering and NDE
  • Creating meshes for physics-based simulation
  • Generation of lattice structures for additive manufacturing
  • Human body impact and injury modelling

Challenges and Solutions in Automotive Metrology, Reverse Engineering and NDE

Analysing parts and components during different manufacturing and testing stages can be a challenge. CAD models typically represent idealised geometries that do not fully reflect the structure of the manufactured part. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) wanting to rapidly and accurately reverse engineer parts and analyse components therefore require solutions that preserve complex features while potentially cutting down on research time. In addition, those working on components such as fuel cells have to overcome the challenges of complex materials characterisation.

With image-based workflows, it is straightforward to visualise, segment, quantify and export models based on 3D scans for CAD and simulation processes. Our software solutions are used by automotive engineers to reduce the complexity associated with these models, from visualisation and analysis through to the creation of robust numerical models, or meshes.

Reverse engineering and detection of defects in an engine manifold

Automotive users working with Simpleware ScanIP obtain volume data from a scanning modality such as CT or micro-CT. At this stage, image data is processed in Simpleware ScanIP to segment out regions of interest, including pore networks and any cracks or defects within the part; this approach is valuable for 3D inspection of part defects. Image data reveals errors produced during manufacturing phases, and creates the potential for more comprehensive analysis and quantification of material characteristics.

Automotive customers use ScanIP software to rapidly quantify porosity, tortuosity and other characteristics from image data; this is carried out at multiple length scales, increasing the range of data for part inspection purposes. Information on crack sizes, lengths and distribution statistics provide researchers with valuable data on scanned parts to use in quality assurance and design and manufacturing. Failure analyses, including of delamination, have shown excellent results in assessing part performance and system compatibility, and demonstrate the crucial role of image-based modelling in automotive workflows.

Find out more about NDE & Reverse Engineering with Simpleware software and read our case study on Reverse Engineering Automotive Parts.

Creating a Bridge to Physics-Based Simulation

Once relevant information has been segmented and image data quantified, models are exported, for example, as NURBS (Non-Rational-B-Splines) for CAD, or as multi-part meshes for FEA/CFD to analyse performance under different conditions, as well as internal fluid structures in parts. The meshing techniques in Simpleware software module +FE are particularly robust for handling complex multi-part geometries. Models exported for FEA and CFD are used for a wide range of physics-based simulation, including performance evaluation, part durability, test part crashworthiness and safety, taking full advantage of the complex geometries generated in Simpleware software.

High-quality mesh of a manifold generated in Simpleware module +FE

When analysing automotive parts, established image-based approaches are now being extended to use our recent breakthroughs in calculating effective material properties using homogenisation methods through our Physics Modules. Homogenisation aims to approximate a complex heterogeneous material, such as a metallic alloy, with a homogeneous material whose response to external loading resembles as closely as possible that of the original material. With this approach, materials image data is analysed by working with 'effective' material properties that link micro and macro-scale modelling.

A built-in finite element solver calculates the response of a cuboidal sample of a material to a sequence of boundary conditions, enabling effective properties such as stiffness, elasticity, absolute permeability and electrical conductivity to be obtained. Researchers are using this approach to rapidly and accurately obtain material properties from their image data, with specific application to inspecting and characterising composite parts for permeability, stiffness and other material characteristics.

Image-based mesh generation workflow of a composite structure with effective property calculation in the Physics Modules

Weight-Savings with Additive Layer Manufacturing

Image-based methods also have the advantage of guaranteeing the creation in Simpleware ScanIP of watertight STL files from automotive data for additive layer manufacturing using metals and other materials. Lattice generation tools available in Simpleware software enable a reduction in the weight of manufactured parts. Replacing the internal volume of a part with a lattice in Simpleware ScanIP allows the weight of a part to be reduced without compromising mechanical strength; easy adjustments to the lattices are made by working within image space, allowing for design optimisation prior to production.

Research and development into new parts and components within the automotive industry is already benefiting from this ability to test out new designs. Significant recent advances have included using lattices in the design of new engine valves, as well as the development of new solutions for manufacturing in Innovate UK projects such as SAVING and LIGHT. For example, successful research was carried out into reducing the weight of racing bikes by replacing the internal structure of a rear wheel brake caliper hanger with a lattice.

Adding lattice structures to a bike caliper with Simpleware software

Realistic Simulations with Human Body Models

As well as visualisation and materials applications, Simpleware software is being used to generate very robust human body models suitable for simulating different forms of impact. High-quality meshes are adapted to a range of simulated crash scenarios, offering users more flexibility than the 'fixed' models usually created for automotive projects. Users are customising meshes to suit specific applications, rather than relying on existing generic models. Models created from segmented image data are available through our Human Body Models service for these types of simulations.

Simpleware/NRL head model and simulation showing effects of head impact in LS-DYNA

Find out more by reading our case study on the Development of a Biofidelic Human Head Model.

Preparing for the Future of Automotive Simulation

There are significant benefits involved in applying the image-based techniques available in Simpleware software to automotive tasks. Automotive engineering is one of the many areas where we have seen exciting applications of image-based techniques that are well-established in the life sciences. We are committed to adapting the software to make it faster and easier for automotive workflows using 3D image data to be carried out, taking into account the increasing availability of scanners and desktop simulation resources. Image-based modelling is only going to become more crucial to automotive research and development, and our software is ideally placed to build upon its core strengths for ensuring robust models.

See our automotive solutions in action by downloading our Simpleware for Automotive Applications webinar on-demand.

Try our software with a free trial.