Better Simulation for Performance Plastics

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ULTRASIM is a software tool for molded parts that looks at such things as mold filling, anisotropic characteristics, and material properties as a product is being developed. The objective is to make a determination of what part performance is likely to be when the part is actually produced. Performance in the form of structural performance for static and impact loads, fatigue and creep, and vibration and acoustic response.

According to Mark Minnichelli, director of technical development at BASF (basf.com), the company that has developed ULTRASIM, the software is actually something “between mold filling software and finite element analysis.” It allows a reduction in the number of molds that need to be produced in order to achieve an end product with the required and desired characteristics.

The software can not only minimize design and development costs, but also develop more efficient designs for products. One example is the development of a shopping cart design with Bemis Manufacturing (bemismfg.com) to replace the traditional welded metal cart. The cart that resulted has twice the strength and durability as the steel cart, is less prone to problems like wheel wobble, and is 100% recyclable. 

Minnichelli says that BASF has been working on software tools for some 10 years, such as a software package called “FIBER” that looked at the fiber orientation in molded parts. This work has been carried forward into ULTRASIM such that they’re able to predict with 90 to 95% accuracy the flow direction orientation of glass fibers in plastic parts based on the mold design, material, and processing parameters.

Minnichelli says that ULTRASIM analyses are carried out by BASF personnel, but that the technology can be used by customers, as well. And while ULTRASIM works with commercially available software, such as Abaqus finite element analysis (3ds.com/products-services/simulia/products/abaqus), the module contains materials characterization beyond the ASTM and ISO classification systems . . . for BASF plastics.—GSV