Die Build Simplified

By: Lou Kren

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Autodie, Grand Rapids, MI, designs and builds tools used to stamp Class A auto panels, among other parts. CAD-based software has paid dividends across the business, from quoting to validation to tool-path generation.
Headquartered in Grand Rapids, MI, with a support facility in Salem, OH Autodie is a juggernaut in the realm of die engineering, program management, build and tryout. It’s 500,000-sq.-ft. plant in Grand Rapids features 24 CNC machines with a maximum table size of 43 ft., and 32 stamping presses with capacities to 4000 tons. Autodie, with 300 employees across two shifts, services the spectrum of automotive OEMs, specializing in stamping dies mainly for Class A body panels, door openings, fenders, hoods and lift gates. Agricultural and aerospace customers also benefit from the company’s expertise. More than 30 full-time engineering and design professionals supply tool and die builders with a 3D solid die design at Autodie.

Software Excels in Quoting and Beyond

With its behemoth operation, the company reasons that it can best control manufacturing costs through accurate and effective engineering. It must design, build and repair dies tasked with shaping mild and advanced high-strength steels as well as, increasingly, aluminum. Catia v5 software powers Autodie’s engineering efforts in designing dies made from primarily common tool materials. At one time, Autodie used software from AutoForm Engineering, Troy, MI, mainly in the quoting process to perform one-step forming analysis and determine blanks, according to Jon Brouwer, Autodie CAE team leader. More recently, the company has implemented the use of AutoForm-ProcessDesignerfor Catia, which seamlessly integrates into the Catia work environment, and is designed to rapidly create CAD-quality surfaces.

“We are currently using AutoForm’s incremental standalone product to simulate the forming process of a part from start to finish, including springback and overbend compensation,” says Brouwer.

Autodie began using AutoForm-ProcessDesigner late in 2015 and has expanded its use this past year into unique areas. One task for the software: In a quality loop, if, for example, an out-of-tolerance condition on a panel necessitates a change that must be retied to the die addendum surface. Catia alone can handle the task, but ProcessDesigner eases the process.

“ProcessDesigner is made for the sheetmetal and tool-and-die world,” explains Brouwer. “While tolerances are tight for radii and other die features, having to work within a software environment with tolerances well beyond what is required slows and complicates the process.”

Explains Michael Wright, Autodie assistant leader of programming: “We deal with parts having plus or minus 0.030-in. tolerances. ProcessDesigner provides the liberties to retie in that tolerance range in a timely manner. We see a 30-40-percent time reduction in tie-back when using ProcessDesigner within Catia.”

This forgiveness of tolerances and the ability to work with less-than-stellar data is a major selling point with Autodie’s engineers.

“We deal with customer data received from a wide variety of sources and CAD systems, and after all of the conversions we may encounter a poor quality surface here or there,” says Wright. “ProcessDesigner does a very good job producing good surfaces with lackluster data.”

Creating fillet radii is another area where the software shines. In one case, an Autodie engineer had to redraw a wall nearly two-thirds of the way around an automotive door ring, which had been imported from a compensated and optical-scanned surface. In straight CAD software, this can be an all-day job as it can be performed only in small sections at a time, with considerable manual effort. With ProcessDesigner, the addenda draw wall was redrawn and a variable fillet radius created, from the bottom of the ring to the top, in only 15 min.

Advantages Upon Part Receipt

The Autodie team obtains excellent results when first receiving a part from a customer, according to Brouwer.

“The software has a lot of tools for tipping a part (orienting it to the most favorable pressing angle), analyzing backdraft and draw angles, determining depths of draw, and establishing a binder shape,” he explains. “With its parametric environment, we can go back in if something did not work well and we did not get, say, an ideal gravity drop of the blank onto the binder shape or a good binder wrap. Tools allow for rapid adjustments to address those issues.”

Adding draw beads and draw bars are other tasks eased via the software, according to Brouwer.

“It offers a nice suite for draw-bead creation, which can be time consuming for us,” he says. “The draw-bead-creation tools are fully parameterized, making it simple to create different transition areas for restraining forces, and seeing those changes take shape.”

And the list goes on.

“You can automatically place bypass notches into a part overlap for the nest trim,” Brouwer says. “And, automated flanging and wiping tools are big assists in the initial tool build. While tools like these are ideal for working with big Class A automotive dies, this software can show immense efficiency gains with small to medium-sized parts as well.”

A user-friendly template structure in ProcessDesigner eases the job process when multiple users are working on the same project, and aids in a consistent work flow among those users, according to Brouwer. In addition, Autodie uses AutoForm QuickLink for rapid data exchange between Catia and AutoForm stand-alone simulation software.

“We don’t have to perform a lot of extra work or translations,” Brouwer says, “as the software handles that in the background, eliminating unnecessary intermediate steps and translations.” MF


See also: AutoForm Engineering Gmbh

Related Enterprise Zones: Software, Tool & Die

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