Avoid stop in production – test changes virtually

In the machine shop of a manufacturing company, processing machines are spitting parts out in a steady stream. To all appearances, the machines are working at maximum capacity: the cutting fluid is spraying, the tools are in motion and the box of residual metal shavings is gradually filling up. It takes a lot to stop a machine and test new operation steps. What if it could be done virtually, so everything is ready before production is halted to make the change? Is that really possible? Yes, it is, which Emil Hafsteinsson and Richard Hjertqvist have confirmed with their degree project.

When the time came for mechanical engineering students Emil Hafsteinsson and Richard Hjertqvist to begin their degree project, they contacted Powertrain Engineering Sweden, formerly Volvo Cars. Research from the University has shown that the lead time for one of the company’s processing machines could be reduced by changing the positioning of two tools. However, before maintenance technicians physically implement the change, Powertrain Engineering Sweden wanted the research to be verified. Emil and Richard’s task was to develop virtual models and to simulate the step in order to verify the research.

Richard Hjertqvist and Emil Hafsteinsson

- We used a CAD program to build the virtual models and the simulation. We started by setting an object in motion that we then developed more and more, adding additional steps. During the course of the work, the impact that this could have on manufacturing companies became very apparent to both Richard and I, says Emil Hafsteinsson.

Test virtually before implementation

Emil refers to the fact that when a change is to be implemented, companies must halt production, and every minute of downtime is costly. For Powertrain Engineering Sweden, it was a matter of changing the positioning of two tools and then testing it a couple of times to assure performance before restarting. By building the step virtually in CAD and verifying the research in the CAD program as well, Emil and Richard saved Powertrain Engineering Sweden hours of physical manipulation. Emil and Richard both say that the work progressed well, despite encountering some challenges along the way.

- In some cases, it was difficult to see where reasonable limits for the simulation should be set, which aspects should be simulated and which parts could be built upon in future investigations, says Richard Hjertqvist.

Picture of the starting point of simulation

Impressive results that exceeded our expectations

Richard’s and Emil’s degree project demonstrates that there is a lot for the manufacturing industry to gain by taking their work to the next level. Simply starting to work systematically with virtual models, and to use simulation for verification. However, most companies cannot just do this – it takes time and resources, and resources with the right expertise. Although there is some way to go before Powertrain Engineering Sweden are themselves able to work like Emil and Richard, their responses to the degree project were very positive.

- The degree project was an important part of the Virtual Factories with Knowledge Driven Optimization (VF-KDO) project. The virtual verification of optimised process solutions is our goal and Richard and Emil have shown us, very convincingly, the potential of virtual process models. A well-executed project with impressive results that exceeded our expectations, says Goran Ljusstina of Powertrain Engineering Sweden.

“Pleasantly surprised and proud”

The responses from Powertrain Engineering Sweden were very positive and Emil and Richard are themselves both surprised and proud of their degree project.

- Our project exceeded our expectations. We did not know when we started where it would lead and we are both pleasantly surprised and proud of our degree project, says Emil Hafsteinsson.

Utilise technology that makes life easier

What Richard and Emil have achieved by visualising a complete operation step is not just about detailed changes in a virtual model. It is also about transformation, seeing the benefits and starting to utilise the technology that makes life easier. About taking the next step in the digitisation journey and shaping the production process of the future. Emil and Richard have already taken that next step. Emil is now focusing on finishing his studies and graduating. Richard has thrown himself into the working world as a production technician at Volvo GTO’s new foundry. They carry with them the positive responses to their joint degree project from Powertrain Engineering Sweden.

- The future is looking bright and we hope our project will one day be used as we intended it to be, concludes Richard Hjertqvist.