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Simulation Software Benefits Extrusion Process

Michael Kidder

Altair Engineering, Inc.

Phone: 248.614.2400 ext. 269

FAX: 248.614.2411

E-mail: mkidder@altair.com

TROY, Mich., January 1, 2003

Altair Engineering Inc, a Troy, Mich-based engineering, consulting and high-performance computing technologies company, recently introduced a new simulation software tool - "HyperXtrude/PROCESS" - that it claims removes the guesswork from estimating the costs of extruding aluminium products, as well as allowing aluminium to reap significant savings in both materials and time. Myra Pinkhamlooks at the background and practical details.

HyperXtrude/PROCESS is a computer-aided engineering tool specially designed to help aluminium extrusion plants determine the optimum processing conditions, billet length, extrusion speed, billet preheating, taper, etc. to estimate productivity on different presses and to perform cost analyses. Altair says this is a next-generation outgrowth of the company's HyperXtrude software line, which has been popular with a number of European companies since it was introduced in 1999, with some of its most notable customers include Sweden's Hydro Aluminium AS and die manufacturer Compes SpA of Italy.

The roots of HyperXtrude, according to Mahender Reddy, research and engineering manager for Altair and product manager for the HyperXtrude process, extends back to 1994 when Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Inc. asked Altair for help with an aluminium extrusions project. This led to Alcoa helping to fund Altair's research and development of HyperXtrude as well as working with Altair on a series of other projects. Altair started selling HyperXtrude commercially in 1999 and has continually been adding new features to the software ever since then.

Reddy explains that the CAE tool has been of much benefit to aluminium extrusions companies ever since, providing a means to conduct a finite elemental analysis through a numerical method to analyze such factors important to aluminium extruding as material flow and heat transfer through dies. "It is important that companies achieve constant velocity and constant temperature throughout the extrusionproducing process," he noted, "Since if the velocity gradient varies it could cause a part to bend or twist, therefore creating stresses and the same thing is true for variations in temperature. So it is very important to understand how the material flows through the die."

And these are not the only variables that affect the quality of extruded aluminium. Some of these variables include the aluminium alloys used, the extrusion speed, billet preheat temperatures, profile geometry, die shape, bearing definition and the extrusion press used. Reddy noted that HyperXtrude/ PROCESS takes all this information into account and evaluates the optimum process conditions which then can be matched to the appropriate press.

"Through this program companies are able to tell what is the optimum extrusion speed, temperature or billet length for specific applications and if they know that, they can estimate how much material they need and the cost for producing the part. Therefore they can make products of optimum quality with little down time," Reddy declared.

The software, he explained, uses physics-based calculations that allow for accurate productivity estimates before an extruder has even run the die, in contrast to other statistical-based tools that require the input of historical information of a given die or press before being able to calculate the optimal process setting.

"The software calculates the appropriate billet length to reduce scrap and uses the optimum process conditions, billet cost, scrap value, labor and burden costs, die cost and transportation costs to determine the productivity and cost estimates for multiple presses, therefore making everyone more productive," Reddy stated, adding that without using this software preparing a bid could be time consuming and often the estimates are not accurate.

The savings, he said, could be considerable. "If, for example, a company extrudes 30 billets/hr on three presses and the software can take five seconds off the time it takes to extrude each part, the extruder could save as much as $300,000, which is a large saving. And if they could reduce the generation of scrap by just 2%, they could save almost $1 million," Reddy said, warning however that the savings depends on the specific company how the software is used. "If it is being used well, the extruder could see savings the very first day," he said.

Likewise, he could also significantly improve the quality of his product, which, Reddy said could help the extruder meet the high quality requirements of even the very demanding automotive and aerospace industries, and even open up new markets for aluminium extrusions.

One of the differences between HyperXtrude/PROCESS and earlier HyperXtrude products, Reddy said, is that this new software package is simpler to use. "While it is a highly sophisticated tool, you don't need to be an expert in physics or processing to use it. Anyone in the company can use it, including engineers, plant managers and sales people," he said, explaining that extrusion engineers would use it to determine optimum extrusion speeds, optimum billet preheat and taper and optimum billet lengths as well as to reduce scrap and to select the best press for a given profile. Sales managers would use it to remove the guesswork out of cost estimation and to reduce the time spent on preparing cost estimates. Plant managers would use it to determine the billet and product yield estimates, achieve consistency during cost estimation and production, perform productivity calculations on different presses and help with scheduling, maintain a unified database of all extrusion runs and proposal activities and increase plant productivity, reduce scrap and increase product quality. And all of this information can be transferred from department to department easily.

Altair, Reddy said, has just begun marketing HyperXtrude/PROCESS in North America in mid-September and already one US extruder - General Extrusions in Youngstown, Ohio, has expressed interest, he said, as have certain companies elsewhere in the world, including some in Italy and Germany.

"This is a tool that industry needs," Reddy declared. "Without having the necessary data, making an extrusion could be a hit or miss thing, but this software lets people get the information they need without having to use test dies."

About Altair Engineering

Through engineering, consulting and high performance computing technologies, Altair Engineering increases innovation for more than 1,500 clients around the globe. Founded in 1985, Altair's unparalleled knowledge and expertise in product development and manufacturing extend throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Altair specializes in the development of high-end, open CAE software solutions for modeling, visualization, optimization and process automation. For more information visit Altair at www.altair.com

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