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Determining the True ROI of Manufacturing Simulation Software

Manufacturing simulation software promises faster and better insights into a product’s manufacturing feasibility, helping to control costs and reduce physical testing and redesign cycles. When considering an investment in simulation-driven design for manufacturing, however, the initial idea of revamping a production process can be daunting, especially when considering the price of acquiring new software. 

To gain a better understanding of the true value of simulation, it’s often helpful to take a macro view of the steps in your manufacturing process. Once you break down the costs of your company’s existing process, it’s likely that factors such as quality, revisions, and tooling costs add up quickly. 

An estimation of each step’s associated costs can be helpful to determine if an upfront investment in software licenses or user training is worthwhile when compared to the potential savings simulation can offer. If a simulation yields a significant reduction in material costs, prototype testing, engineering man-hours, quality issues, or production costs, then these savings may offset or exceed the upfront costs to acquire and implement the tools. Combining possible cost savings with enhanced design decision-making and development streamlining, the ROI of a simulation-driven approach often becomes more obvious.  

Let’s take a look at some of the most common costs incurred during product design and manufacturing. In this example, we consider a product manufactured using polyurethane foam. 

PU Foaming Design – Direct Costs

Design revision costs quickly add up

Key Considerations

  • Number of new designs produced per year
  • Average number of revisions per design
  • Average cost per foam component design
  • Average cost per foam component design revision

Most companies produce a number of new designs per year, each of which may go through a series of design revisions. If you consider the cost per design, along with the costs and time involved for each revision, expenses can multiply quickly. Giving designers access to manufacturing simulation allows them to validate the feasibility of design decisions and avoid issues that can impact the manufacturability of a part. This early design intervention helps reduce the number of revisions and catch potential issues before they make it to the shop floor. 

Polyurethane foaming is generally more expensive than most other manufacturing processes depending on raw material prices and use cases, and tools like Altair Inspire® PolyFoam™ enable designers to evaluate manufacturability faster from the initial part design, so those expensive material and tool costs can be avoided.

Quality Issues and Software Requirements

Simulation insights in the design stage help avoid downstream quality issues

Key Considerations

  • Number of parts in production with quality issues
  • Annual cost per part relating to quality issues
  • Taxation rate
  • Depreciation period of software (years)

Quality issues found in production and testing can often be traced back to the original design, but without the right tools, it is difficult for design engineers to anticipate production issues that might arise. Simulation-driven design for manufacturing software provides analysis insights early in product development to pinpoint potential production issues and help designers modify their geometry to maximize production quality. 

The complexity of polyurethane foaming doesn’t leave room for error. With multiple material compositions to choose from, product designers can run into challenges with understanding how the foam will fill during manufacturing, or how it will perform under varying load cases and stresses. Products using PU foam can also be susceptible to common manufacturing defects caused by foam shrinkage and porosity, or design flaws involving air traps, weld lines, turn-up, and porosity. Whether a part requires a single foam injection or a complex multi-foam injection process, giving design teams access to intuitive manufacturing simulation tools help to ensure that design issues can be found early before quality issues present themselves later. 

Explore how simulation-driven design can  enhance your current production 

Material and Part Production Costs

Efficient material usage is critical for controlling manufacturing cost

Key Considerations

  • Average cost of polyurethane foam per ton
  • Average cost of PU foam used per part
  • Tons per part
  • Average number of new parts per year
  • Average cycle time per part
  • Estimated cycle time reduction using PolyFoam 
Return on investment with simulation software

There is a large range of materials that can be combined or used individually to produce polyurethane foam. Within Inspire PolyFoam for example, designers and manufacturers can create an array of foaming products depending on their needs, from flexible molded foam components, as well as rigid foam panels. 

Determining what kinds of materials, and for what purpose they will be used for during the foaming process is crucial in maintaining an affordable material usage process. Because of polyurethane foam’s lightweight sustainable nature and low energy requirements for production, its affordability is attractive to manufacturers, until material goes to waste due to part re-design and scrapped parts. Considering the average cost of PU foam used for a specific part, and multiplying that annually for a continuous order, costs can go from affordable to very expensive, fast. 

After taking a broad view of the individual costs associated with design and manufacturing, it’s easier to see how quickly simulation software can deliver a return on the initial investment. With a simulation-driven development process and virtual manufacturing validation tools available to product designers, companies can realize efficiencies and cost benefits throughout the development cycle. If you see opportunities in your own operations to reduce material investment and scrap, design iterations, engineering man-hours, or overall production costs, then manufacturing simulation software may be worth a look. 

Interested in learning about simulation solutions for manufacturing processes like injection molding, casting, metal forming, extrusion, additive manufacturing, or PU foaming? Visit https://www.altair.com/manufacturing-applications/.