Metal-forming processes are used in many manufacturing
areas, such as in the production of components for cars, aircraft and
household appliances. The efficiency of the metal components will depend
on the precision with which they are made, which in turn depends on the
effects of metal-forming processes on the properties of the metal used.
Simulation studies are often used to examine how a metal will behave when
manipulated during production. But the accuracy of these simulation studies
depends entirely on the information used to conduct the simulation. A
team of scientists and businessmen across the EU have, therefore, come
together to develop software that will facilitate the inclusion of accurate
material data into simulation processes.
||Metals are Magic
The special properties and indeed the beauty
of some metals have made them highly valuable since time immemorial.
Men have fought and died over precious metals like gold and silver.
Today metals are in widespread use in more practical, albeit less
glamorous applications, such as in the manufacture of aircraft and
car components, household appliances and medical equipment. The
performance and safety of these products depends on the processes
and tools used to fashion the metal into the desired shapes. And
in order that these processes are as efficient and economical as
possible, we need accurate and precise information about how these
metals are going to react when manipulated into the desired shapes.
||Garbage in equals
Before carrying out real production processes,
modern manufacturers use computer simulations to examine how a particular
metal is going to behave when it is deformed during the manufacturing
process. But these simulations are only as good as the data fed
into the computer. And, as project leader Yvan Chastel of the CEMEF,
Ecole des Mines de Paris, says, "If you put garbage in, you
get garbage out."
With this mind, the TESTIFY project has put
together a team of eight partners from five European countries to
develop software for use in simulation techniques. The team will
obtain material data from all the main classes of metals. "This
data," according to Chastel, "will be used to develop
software programs that take into account all the stresses experienced
by a metal when it is deformed during the manufacturing process."
Metals may be rolled, stamped, twisted and contorted
into complex shapes or heated to extremely high temperatures, all
of which can affect the microstructure, and hence the physical properties
of the metal. "We are going to conduct a series of tests on
metal samples, such as aluminium, copper and steel, and use this
data to come up with software that we can sell to industry,"
says Chastel. "It will also be applicable to many non-metal
materials that are also used in industry, such as ceramics or plastics.
This will allow us to develop the best manufacturing processes at
the best price."
||An extra dimension
The project, which began in March 2000 and is
due to run for 3 years, has already reached an important milestone.
"We have already reached the two-dimensional (2-D) level, which
is the first level of difficulty in terms of shapes," says
Chastel. "We have developed 2-D software that deals with metals
in simple forms, like sheets or cylinders. And we are in partnership
with a company that is commercialising this product and has made
it available to industry."
The next stage is the production of 3-D software
that will deal with the manipulation of metals into more complex
shapes. Polish academic partner, the University of Mining and Metallury
in Krakow, will play an important role in this task. "We are
delighted to be involved in this kind of project," says Maciej
Pietrzyk. "It provides us with the opportunity to exchange
knowledge and to develop systems for our metal-forming systems.
The funding we get from the EU will also help Poland, a newly associated
state (NAS), to become more credible and competitive on the European
market. And it gives us the opportunity to go in new research directions
and work with new partners." The second Polish partner is Huta
Czestochowa, a plate mill company that can provide industrial validation
of tests used.
"This project is of value to people using
metal across the globe," says Chastel. "There is a large
push to use simulation to optimise industrial processes. It is important
to have simulation tools to study how things perform in general.
Good simulations require good simulation data, and that is where
we come in. The software we produce will help to insure the success
of EU industry but will also be of interest to the international
community. We think that eventually we will be selling our product
on the world market."
For more information on the TESTIFY project,
Research under the 'Measurements
and testing' generic action of the Growth Programme supports
the development of software for use in the design of tools used
in metal-forming processes.
TESTIFY, Mechanical tests and identification
for metal-forming projects (G6RD-CT-1900-00109)