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Ansys Granta Selector at the world market leader for industrial gripping technology

SCHUNK: Digital material selection

Digital development chains are not simply a competitive advantage, they are a must - even at so-called “hidden champions” like SCHUNK. The Swabians are global technology leaders in clamping, gripping and automation technology. Their digital transformation process is highly advanced, and the remaining gaps are being systematically closed. One example is the digitalized selection of materials.

The daily challenge for development engineers is to reconcile a wide variety of product specifications. Robust, but lightweight; high-quality; but economical, special, but available; durable, but ecological. This list could go on forever. The selection of materials cannot be done without compromise, but which one is the best? This has to be determined individually for each new project because the right combination of choices has a direct influence on the success of the product. Material experts and their specialist knowledge therefore play a key role in the product development process. 

In addition to his work as a development engineer, Daniel Barta also works as a materials specialist in research and development at SCHUNK, the world market leader for gripping and clamping technology. With his expertise in materials and surface technology, he supports both projects and project teams in the development of new innovative products for the SCHUNK range of services, which includes over 11,000 different standard components.

11,000
components
included in the SCHUNK product range
505
million € in sales
generated by SCHUNK in 2021
3,500
employees
work at SCHUNK

However, his understanding of materials issues, in connection with the design of top products, also lets him know that there is actually more to be done. With the help of digital tools, it is possible to combine requirements, expert knowledge and precise material data models in such a way that conflicting goals can be resolved much more efficiently than with traditional methods, which are essentially based on empirical values. As a result, previously unused potential is realized and the products for the customer (which is what it’s all about) are better, more ecological and more economical.

Process optimization through a database software system

Of course, information from various sources such as databases has always played a role in material selection. Therefore, in principle, it was IT-supported, but far from digitalized. This means moving away from static isolated solutions towards a reliable standardized process with a central intelligent platform at its heart, which is easy to use for different user groups and access types.

A sustainable solution that suits SCHUNK and meets the demanding requirements profile is not found by accident. Rather, such a strategic decision must be well prepared, and a lot of time must be invested. Before a software is selected, the specific processes that it should support must be defined. No sooner said than done: At the end of his distance learning degree in mechanical engineering, the concept, evaluation and selection of a database-supported material selection process became the subject of Daniel Barta’s master’s thesis. 

Systematic selection of materials in product development

The optimal selection of a material is of major significance for the function and life cycle of a component. However, the traditional selection of a material based on empirical values can mean that potential for the development of new products remains unused.

To determine the optimum material for a SCHUNK product, a systematic multi-stage selection process was developed, which is schematically based on existing process models. In addition to technical suitability, the key criteria are the cost and availability of the material on the market. The multi-stage selection process consists of the phases of requirements analysis, pre-selection and fine selection and assessment of the material candidates selected up to that point, which are tested for their suitability by evaluation and validation measures before ultimately leading to a material solution.

At the beginning of the development project, the focus is placed on a simple selection of common and known materials, the so-called preferred materials. However, as the project progresses, the focus changes to optimized material alternatives. This change can result from changes and specification of the requirements during the course of the project. Through corresponding exclusion criteria, which result from the requirements on the material, the possible material alternatives are increasingly limited in order to subsequently obtain a few suitable material candidates, which can consist of both known preferred materials or material solutions available on the market.

Evaluation of and decision for Ansys Granta Selector

The right software system now had to be found for this concept. The essential criteria were that all information must be clearly arranged in one place, up-to-date and filterable, with comparison and visualization options based on the relevant material properties. In addition, the platform must be able to be seamlessly integrated into the existing system infrastructure. 

In the master’s thesis, Daniel Barta dealt intensively with three database systems that emerged as potentially the most suitable in the pre-selection process. The decision was made for Ansys Granta Selector, an out-of-the-box solution from Ansys, proposed by CADFEM, SCHUNK’s partner for simulation. A plus point for Granta was the well-established long cooperation in the field of engineering between SCHUNK and CADFEM. However, the deciding factor was the technical possibilities that match the SCHUNK processes in the selection of materials.

Ansys Granta Selector - Application Example of a Wedge Hook

After the concept and the process-supporting database system were selected, the selection process was tested on practical application examples. In one application example, the JGP-P pneumatic 2-finger parallel gripper was used in its development phase to select an optimal material for the wedge hook installed there. In the first step, the requirements were defined, consisting of high strength, good machinability, good surface treatability and the specification of a low material price. Based on these requirements, the internal preferred material “A” used in the previous product is initially selected as the reference material for further material search.

It turns out that the permissible stresses in the component are exceeded in various application scenarios. A material with higher strength is therefore required, and Ansys Granta Selector now checks a large number of very different material options on this basis. To do this, the mandatory requirements that the new material must fulfill must first be defined - in this example, this is the increased strength. The previously selected preferred material serves as the reference material.

The remaining candidates are then displayed in an Ashby diagram (sorted graphically according to the desired properties). Tensile strength is set in relation to cutting speed and modulus of elasticity and the property limits in the software are drawn ever closer. This allows three suitable candidates to be identified quickly and according to transparent criteria.

This pre-selection is examined in detail in a comparison table from Granta, the complete material cards are placed next to each other and directly compared with each other. Based on this comparison, the material solutions could be evaluated with the 4 most important criteria. 

In this systematic software-based analysis in Granta Selector, material solution “A” proves to be optimal, as the material has both a high tensile strength and high machinability compared to the preferred material. In the validation using a solid-state simulation in Ansys Mechanical, a higher strength and thus a longer life cycle of the component could be confirmed.

Result: Without disproportionate compromises in the other criteria, the alternative material that was identified achieved a 25% higher strength than the preferred material.

This shows that Ansys Granta Selector best meets the requirements for software-based support of systematic material selection in product development at SCHUNK. In order to further examine the practical use of the database software for systematic material selection, SCHUNK has decided to continue using Ansys Granta Selector in a one-year trial phase in the area of research & development.

 Daniel Barta<br />Materials specialist and development engineer at SCHUNK
Daniel Barta
Materials specialist and development engineer at SCHUNK

Ansys Granta Selector helps us in finding an optimal material solution through the quick overview of available material types and families as well as the easy comparability of many different properties of several materials.

SCHUNK and CADFEM

SCHUNK and CADFEM have been working together for many years in the field of numerical simulation with Ansys. SCHUNK entered the field of numerical simulation with Ansys at an early stage - with CADFEM as a partner for all questions concerning the procurement of the software, as well as everything necessary for its efficient use such as hardware, training, user support and technical support when new areas of application are opened up.

SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG
Daniel Barta
www.schunk.com

Authors:
Daniel Barta (SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG)
Alexander Kunz (CADFEM GmbH)
Images: © SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG
Published: October, 2022

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