March 24, 2008
Dassault Partners with AutoForm
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Dassault Systèmes (DS) announced that AutoForm Engineering GmbH, a leading global supplier of software solutions, has become a Dassault Systèmes Component Application Architecture (CAA) Software Partner to deliver sheet metal forming solutions integrated with CATIA.

“The integration of AutoForm capabilities within CATIA will enable our manufacturing customers to compress time in their design-to-production processes, which is especially valuable to the automotive industry,” states Ken Short, VP strategy and marketing, SIMULIA, Dassault Systèmes. “As a DS software community partner, AutoForm will work closely with our R&D teams to enhance the capabilities of their sheet metal forming solutions directly in CATIA, as well as extend their solution through integration within SIMULIA’s realistic simulation product portfolio.”

“The partnership with Dassault Systèmes is an integral part of AutoForm’s strategy, and will provide significant benefit to our customers who are leveraging CATIA for product lifecycle management,” stated Dr. Waldemar Kubli, CEO of AutoForm Engineering. “By integrating and complementing our suite of solutions with the highly-productive CATIA portfolio, we will continue to deliver state-of-the-art solutions that enable our mutual customers to bring high-quality products to the market faster and more cost-efficiently.”

AutoForm’s solutions enable product designers, process planners, and tool designers to quickly and efficiently perform early manufacturability and cost assessments during their design process in CATIA. They are able to set up the entire stamping process, make process modifications, and consider and evaluate different process layouts to identify the best ones within the context of their overall PLM process. As a Dassault Systèmes Software Partner, AutoForm will be able to rapidly deliver innovation solutions fully compatible with CATIA—the leading PLM solution in the global automotive industry.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

Metal forming, especially for complex automotive surfaces, is a delicate balance of art and science, as is the software to assist the process. Unless you are in the metal forming business, AutoForm Engineering GmbH may not be company that you’ve heard much about, if anything at all. However, in the world of metal forming, it’s well-known for the breadth and depth of its product line with the software it offers for the die-making and sheet metal forming industries. Founded in 1995, and with all of the top 20 automobile producers as customers, AutoForm is recognized as the top provider of software for product formability, die face design, and virtual tryouts to the
automotive industry.

AutoForm software is intended to improve reliability in planning, reduce the number of die tryouts and tryout time. The company also touts substantially reduced press downtime and reject rates in production – all of which are huge time and cost savers. AutoForm’s software products solutions are a comprehensive, integrated system with highly specialized functions for analyzing, simulating, reviewing, and optimizing all phases of the metal forming process chain (See accompanying graphic). The level of integration the AutoForm software modules is especially important because concepts and results from early phases can be directly used in later phases. The various software
products range from stand-alone modules for SMBs to complete, integrated multi-module systems for larger companies, and are compatible with many CAD systems, although that may change as time goes on for competitive reasons. The products also run under Windows, UNIX, and Linux, again appealing to organizations of all sizes and scales.

AutoForm products are used throughout the metal forming life cycle for the following basic purposes with what the company terms Solutions:

• Feasibility – The AutoForm Feasibility Solution is used to ensure the manufacturability of stamped parts early in the part design cycle for reducing development time and costs. Applied early in the part design cycle, it delivers benefits in terms of robust part manufacturability and performance, as well as reduced manufacturing costs. This solution has proven attractive for concept, styling, product design, and production planning departments.

• Bidding and Planning – The AutoForm Bidding and Planning Solution is a software package for all planning tasks associated with producing sheet metal parts. It lets users define a production sequence, evaluate part feasibility, determine the minimum blank and the associated material cost, and determine the tooling cost associated with a specific production sequence. The solution enables planners to perform cost calculations in addition to systematically evaluating multiple, alternative manufacturing concepts, determine the cost optimized manufacturing process, and create planning data.

• Tooling and Tryout – According to the company, the AutoForm Tooling and Tryout Solution is the most widely used stamping simulation software in the automotive industry. It enables the final validation of the entire sheet metal forming process – from the insertion of the blank into the press, through to binder wrap, draw, trim, restrike, flange, springback, and springback compensation. The entire stamping process can be set up, process modifications can be made, while also considering and evaluating different process layouts to find the best ones. It is a combination of simulation techniques for maximum speed, highest result accuracy and the influence of
process variables on a robust stamping process. This solution offers a mix of functionalities for the generation of fully parameterized tooling geometry. A bi-directional integration between a CAD-system and AutoForm software provides accelerated die face development.

• Tooling Robustness – The AutoForm Robustness Solution allows companies to address stamping robustness issues during early phases of product and tooling design. Companies can develop the best product and the best tool designs for a robust stamping process. Improving the robustness of sheet metal products and processes is a key factor to success in the sheet metal industry. Today, almost every stamping company is faced with production problems. For example, after stamping thousands of parts that meet quality specifications, the reject rate suddenly rises after changing coils, it becomes impossible to meet part quality tolerances. Missed production targets due to the need to
continually adjust the stamping process for slight changes in press parameters (such as lubricant or blank holder forces) or in product features (such as rounder edges) cause an unstable stamping process. These examples all point to the need for addressing tooling robustness.

AutoForm is certainly no stranger to Dassault and CATIA, as it has developed a couple metal forming software products specifically for CATIA. The AutoForm-OneStep for CATIA V5 toolkit was the first AutoForm software module that was fully integrated into the CATIA V5 environment. Embedded within CATIA, the OneStep Feasibility workbench provides functionality for assessing and counter measuring potential splits and thinning on a sheet metal product prior to its release. It also provides detailed strain and thickness evaluations through CATIA V5 GPS module. A second product, the AutoForm-CATIA5 module directly integrates AutoForm software and AutoForm parameters into CATIA V5, making two
programs associatively linked. User control of AutoForm and the management of simulation files are partially transferred to CATIA. According to AutoForm, this integration not only improves the speed and efficiency of design and engineering cycles, but also improves the consistency of part data in CATIA and the consistency of process data in AutoForm.

A partner today, an acquisition target tomorrow? Dassault has gotten into a predictable pattern the past few years of first partnering with a company that fills a gap in its product lineup and then acquires that company to continue to makes its offerings more comprehensive. Will that happen with AutoForm? That remains to be seen, but it makes a lot of sense owing to Dassault’s presence in the automotive and aerospace markets.

The Week’s Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

Bunkspeed announced that it has created an Automotive and Transportation Division to strengthen its customer support presence in worldwide markets. The new division will base its operations in Detroit, Michigan. Newly appointed industry veteran Michael Check will lead these efforts as President, Automotive and Transportation Division. Mr. Check will also focus on expanding sales of Bunkspeed's 3D rendering applications into localized markets. With a client portfolio that includes Ford Motor Company, Chrysler, BMW, Pininfarina, Nissan, Honda, and others, Bunkspeed's HyperDrive has opened up access to high quality CG imagery to the automotive industry. Users can apply a vast palette
of colors and materials to 3D objects created in CAD programs. They also can experiment with different lighting effects, import multiple models for side-by-side comparisons, and create dynamic animations.

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-- Jeff Rowe, Contributing Editor.


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