Casting process simulation to automotive industry standards
Continental is one of the five biggest international automotive suppliers worldwide. The two group sectors, Automotive and Rubber, provide a range of products addressed to automotive trends in the areas of safety, environment and information. In 2009, the 143,000 employees in six divisions generated sales of approximately 20 billion euros (~$28B).
Cast components can be found throughout engine, brake system, body and interior components. For this reason, Continental, with its three automotive divisions, is one of the world’s largest consumers of castings. Continental does not produce the castings itself, but instead buys these parts in large quantities from outside vendors. In view of the great importance of these components in its products and systems, the Automotive Group devotes a great deal of attention to its cooperation with foundries. For Continental, it is vital that all suppliers reliably meet their quality standards and can guarantee secure processes. If production lines come to a standstill at Continental - or worse, at Continental’s customers - losses can quickly run into the millions.
As a direct supplier to carmakers, Continental is in a sandwich position. The company must guarantee product and process quality to its customers and pass on these requirements to its own suppliers. Consequently, continuous audits of partners are used to assure a constant, sustainable productivity and to ensure the use of the most competitive technologies. The same applies to requirements for product and service quality, which must be highly cost effective, as well as comply with project deadlines.
Casting simulation as foundry selection criterion
When it comes to the quality of purchased castings, Mustafa Ata, Senior Expert Casting Quality, is in demand in Continental’s Automotive Group. He audits the foundries which supply Continental worldwide. “The quality requirements for castings, which are for the most part installed in safety-relevant areas of cars, are extremely high. The prevailing international standards are supplemented by internal group standards, e.g. with regard to service life, material strength, metallurgical properties (microstructure), machinability of the components and optical appearance," Mustafa Ata said when describing what he expects from foundries.
From Continental’s point of view, a reliable compliance with this performance catalog cannot be achieved without the foundries using the latest casting technology and tools. In the case of safety components, the group requires its suppliers to use software for casting process simulation, to check the casting process and analyze the results with Continental before production starts. Continental also requires that their foundries be in a position to optimize the process if necessary.
"Simulation is anchored as an important part of supplier communication. This means that in every casting project, product realization is supported from the very beginning by numerical simulation. We expect our suppliers to possess a simulation tool,” Ata noted, leaving no doubt in this regard.
From design to production - but not without simulation
The casting development process begins at Continental. The design department designs the casting according to the automotive manufacturer's requirements. The 3D data produced goes to selected foundries to enable the latter to simulate the casting process with suitable software. The simulation checks various factors that are critical for casting quality simultaneously.
First, the simulation can determine whether the casting was designed in a casting-appropriate manner or whether the design department, in cooperation with the suppliers (simultaneous engineering), needs to readjust the design to permit standard-compliant parts to be reliably produced in a cost-effective casting process. Second, the simulation results can reveal whether, under the specific production conditions of the foundry, a stable, economical process can be established or whether changes need to be carried out.
Simulation result: production and delivery security
As its final result, the simulation provides Ata with the certainty that the foundry can reliably produce and deliver a casting that meets the requirements at optimal costs. Without casting process simulation, such security could only be achieved with multiple casting trials and machining, at costs and project times that are no longer competitive in the automotive industry.
Simulation with MAGMASOFT® welcomed
In general terms, Continental allows its suppliers to choose which software they use for casting process simulation. But, most foundries opt for the MAGMASOFT® software from MAGMA Gießereitechnologie GmbH, which Ata welcomes for various reasons.
MAGMA is the pioneer in casting process simulation software. As a software developer, more casting engineers work at MAGMA than in many foundries. Because of this, MAGMA is regarded as the worldwide market and technology leader and sets the standard in this field.
The simulation results provided by MAGMASOFT® are extremely realistic.
Empirical checks through real trial castings regularly demonstrate that the results correspond to a large extent with the observable properties of the cast components.
“Simulation results from MAGMASOFT® are accepted as reliable by all parties involved in the production process. As a result, they form the basis on which designers, foundrymen and users can discuss component quality and process optimization, further developments and modifications," according to Ata.
MAGMASOFT® offers solutions for all casting processes and process steps. In doing so, the software covers every possible simulation situation which arises at Continental in the cooperation with foundries. Therefore, the partners do not need to deal with different applications.
In the foundry, MAGMASOFT® users benefit from the simple operation of the software and the service of the provider, which meet the high demands of the automotive industry.
Continental considering using MAGMASOFT® itself
Until now, Continental has only required that its vendors utilize casting process simulation software. However, Continental is now considering using MAGMASOFT® itself. In this way, the design of a component could be checked for casting suitability immediately and the feedback loops shortened further. Simultaneously, communication with Continental's development partners could be improved even more through the common "language" of simulation results.