Aluminum foundry and extrusion plant maker optimizes projects with FEA
Cometal uses Femap to cut costs and increase operational safety
A story of rebirth
Cometal Engineering (Cometal) is a story of rebirth. Cometal was established in 2009 by Bruno Mancini, reviving a brand he created in 1980 and later sold to investors. Mancini gathered a team of former employees and colleagues to create the new Cometal Engineering. The company engineers and manufactures extrusion plants and foundries for aluminum billets and the re-melting of extrusion scraps, serving markets throughout the world. Cometal develops the entire production chain, including extrusion presses.
Femap™ software, a finite element analysis (FEA) solution from Siemens PLM Software, is helping Cometal Engineering achieve success by enabling maximum operating safety and optimized use of expensive materials.
“The extrusion business is characterized by increasing price sensitivity,” says Roberto Albertoni, technical manager at Cometal. “In recent years, Chinese, Taiwanese and Turkish suppliers have entered the market and standard production has shifted to those regions. In Italy, we preserved the business for special and high-tech plants, building three to four plants a year compared to the ten or twelve built by a company we co-own in China. The difference is due not only to market demand, but also to the higher complexity, longer preliminary studies and more engineering stages required in Europe.”
“All plants engineered by our technical department in Italy are designed specifically for each customer’s needs,” Albertoni says. Cometal Engineering’s technical office is the hub of innovation, with engineers constantly looking for suitable technology to help design ever-larger and heavier products, such as plants for the production of metal bars and solid components. Designing these machines requires accurate analysis to maximize safety and optimize the weight and use of costly materials.
Design plays a key role at Cometal Engineering, where design engineers work closely with customers to define the plant layout and the feasibility of requested features and functions. During preliminary studies that can take as much as a year, designers formulate alternative options and perform multiple simulations. “Until a couple of years ago, our designers calculated efforts and stresses manually, using simple electronic spreadsheets,” says Carmine Serio, technical department supervisor at Cometal. “We analyzed stresses to calculate the durability of structures, including presses that are subject to high stress in which material weight has a significant impact.”
For unusual and complex cases, more advanced analysis and simulation capabilities were needed, beyond the capabilities common spreadsheets or even the 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software used by Cometal designers. Albertoni and his team decided to use specific structural analysis tools. After a software selection process, company engineers chose Femap because it offers an advanced structural analysis environment with CAD-neutral and solver-independent technology. As evidence of the importance attached to the use of these tools, a new engineer was hired to perform structural analysis using Femap.
Albertoni was familiar with Femap, having used the software at a previous job: “I attended a Femap seminar to get an update on the software and I found answers to all our key requirements. So, we got in touch with Siemens PLM Software partner Cosmos Italia to provide training and support for the FEA modeler.”
“Femap is an advanced tool for which the designer’s input is essential. It is not a ‘black box’ that delivers generic results,” says Marcello Copetta, the engineer hired to use Femap. “My task is to leverage the full potential of this tool, so that the company can develop expertise in all analysis fields. Femap is used for various purposes, from conventional optimization studies and modifications to the critical areas of a structure, and deformation, which must comply with the limits fixed by the customer.”
Copetta also executes extensive thermal simulations, defining temperature profiles under specific operating conditions and then applying working loads. Using Femap enables him to perform all necessary calculations based on temperature presets, without switching to a different working environment.
“We can also perform transient analysis,” Copetta says. “When you put a piece into a furnace, if heating is not consistent and homogeneous, there will be a concentration of stress. Our plants reach temperatures up to 550 degrees centigrade, so heat stress on materials is massive. Femap enables us to see the areas with the largest delta and determine whether worst-case scenarios might jeopardize the structure.”
3D models are created either directly using Femap, read as Parasolid XT files using embedded Parasolid® software or imported via the STEP data exchange format. Parasolid is the world’s leading production-proven component geometric modeling solution, with approximately 45 percent of global 3D CAD models stored in Parasolid XT file format.
Analysis is usually limited to the minimum number of parts, to speed up computing and deliver feedback more rapidly.
“Femap contributes to squeezing our development cycle, helping us meet the tighter and tighter lead times for orders,” says Serio. “Another benefit is the optimization of projects in economic terms. In the past, we could design by allowing for wider margins and oversizing. Now, we have to calculate all weights and materials accurately to cut costs. For this purpose, it is essential to have advanced tools such as Femap for accurate and sophisticated designs. Plus, by having a single tool for thermal and structural analysis, we can minimize or eliminate the need for physical tests on installed machines.”