The Challenges of 3D Sheet Metal Fabrication

Something you don’t read every day on the ANSYS blog are stories of how our technology helps manufacturers with 3D sheet metal fabrication. The reality is that many engineers and manufacturers use ANSYS SpaceClaim 3D technology for sheet metal design and the unfolding of problematic sheet metal bodies for punching and fabrication. MB-Technik in Neumarkt, Germany, is one such company that has built up a solid clientele with sheet metal parts, based on their unique expertise in how to punch, bend and powder coat final products. To implement complex client requirements even more rapidly, for about a year now, the company has ramped up their use of ANSYS SpaceClaim with its compelling direct modeling tools.

ANSYS-SpaceClaim-MB-Technik-sheet-metal-enclosure-finished 3D Sheet Metal FabricationFinished sheet metal enclosure fully designed and optimized in ANSYS SpaceClaim

About eleven years ago, when Thomas Markert and his partner Michael Berchtold founded their (second) joint venture MB-Technik, they knew what they were letting themselves in for.

“Clients want the impossible. And we didn’t want to get involved with the production of simple mass production parts that can be processed by any large sheet metal fabricator,” Markert says. “Clients with special requirements like demanding designs, perfect surfaces or powder coating are in good hands with us.”

The company’s core competency is the punching of parts and special components made of aluminum, steel and stainless steel sheets. Ten employees work in single-shift operation to serve the demanding clientele in industries such as automotive, aerospace and prototype manufacturing.

Getting to production faster

“As a medium-sized business, we don’t have much time for design,” Markert says. “It’s about rapidly modeling production-ready sheet metal parts from our client’s sketches or STEP files to quickly get to them onto the machines.” MB-Technik has a variety of CNC machines that punch different material types and thicknesses, and special shapes such as louvers.

“Whatever can be produced on these machines, we must be able to define with a 3-D CAD system quickly and easily,” says Markert. “That’s why I’ve kept an open eye for CAD solutions that tackle existing problems with fresh approaches.” In his search, he came across ANSYS SpaceClaim through ConWeb, an authorized ANSYS reseller in Germany. “The innovative functions in SpaceClaim get me up to speed fast, so I can take full advantage of my equipment,” he says. “With certain tasks I can finish them between 30 percent and 50 percent faster.” MB-Technik initially leased one license for these tasks because, as Markert says, “I thought this offer from ConWeb was fantastic, because this gave me enough time to really get to know the system before making my decision to purchase.” If you opt to buy the system, any money spent on lease payments goes toward the price of purchase. Meanwhile, they have been using SpaceClaim along with another CAD tool that focuses on other design aspects.

Exporting external data

Many of their clients already supply them with 3-D files. They export data to a STEP file, from which a great deal of information is removed. In Markert’s experience, many CAD systems either cannot handle the conversion or else stop running with an error message — but not ANSYS SpaceClaim. “The system is very tolerant of non-native geometry,” says Markert. “Most imported geometries are displayed correctly.” Along with this automatic translation, users can also intervene during the translation by detecting the error sources and deciding whether to remove them right away or make corrections later using direct modeling. “The system has excellent repair functions for all the usual geometry errors in files,” he says. He sees common problems such as varying thickness, incorrect corner or edge treatments or overlapping flanges.

Production preparation

Markert says the direct modeling technology of SpaceClaim lets users process and upgrade external models quickly and easily, with just a few clicks to add brackets, perform partial sections or set embossments. They simply select readymade sketches with embossments, deep drawings, punch geometries or louvers and place them on the model. They can create parametric control sketches for these patterns just as quickly – for example for keyholes, which can later be modified via radius and length.

MB-Technik often uses perforated plates, whose holes are arranged in a specific pattern. If the perforated plate needs to be enlarged, they can simply choose whether to have the holes proportionally redistributed or to keep the old coordinates. To ensure that a perforated plate with 600 three-dimensional hole geometries doesn’t take up too much computing time, SpaceClaim offers the option of showing only one hole with graphics and metadata and viewing the other ones simply as dashed lines. “This saves a tremendous amount of time for each change and each backup,” says Markert. “Before we started using SpaceClaim, this was the time when I used to have to go drink coffee.” Later, when the holes are needed during final processing, all model details output without issue.

ANSYS-SpaceClaim-MB-Technik-sheet-metal-enclosure-model-isometric-view 3D Sheet Metal FabricationFinal production model designed entirely in ANSYS SpaceClaim

More convenient options

Markert also enjoys the fact that SpaceClaim stores models, assemblies, processings, sketches and drawings in one file. “That is very convenient for transferring data. You’ve got everything together, up to date and you save time that can be used, for example, to retrace patterns,” he says. Other systems use separate files to store different data, but in SpaceClaim they are integrated with the model. Markert takes full advantage of the 2-D drawing capabilities to create partial sections, straight edges or embossing patterns to finished patterns and thus achieve results that cannot be shown with other systems. “That was one reason to buy SpaceClaim,” he says. “It works quite well.”

ANSYS-SpaceClaim-MB-Technik-sheet-metal-unfold-dimensions-3D Sheet Metal FabricationUnfolded model in ANSYS SpaceClaim. Customizable bend tables in SpaceClaim help determine bend allowance and K factor, and therefore unfold dimensions.

Bend allowance or K factor?

Depending on the material thickness and bend angle for a selected radius during the forming processes, a K factor value or bend allowance must be established (this determines the neutral axis and will have an affect on unfold lengths). Markert utilizes built-in tables with extraction values for the given parameters which give exact results with a high degree of accuracy. “An excellent solution,” says Markert. “I am also significantly faster with corrections than when I have to go over the K factor every single time. The executions, which are finally output as a DXF file for the machines, perform correctly 100 percent of the time.”

Easy entry and great value

Having experience with several CAD tools over the years, Markert is impressed with the user experience of SpaceClaim. “You get the impression the developers really worked hard to put themselves in the position of the user,” he says. “It’s important to me that development doesn’t stand still, but continues making progress with functions that are important for sheet metal processing. I have found all the necessary commands are right in front of you — no need to look for them. You can cancel any process easily by pressing a button. The program is always prompting you to do things, which really helps users navigate their way through the program.” That’s why, to this very day, Markert has never been to a training course for SpaceClaim.. He has found the tutorial videos on the website helpful, in addition to various instructional videos on YouTube. “When you see how others build a model, you quickly figure out the best approach,” Markert says. When all else fails, “the support from our reseller ConWeb is fast, reliable and competent — even if they don’t have sheet metal experts there,” he says.


ANSYS SpaceClaim includes collaborative functionality call LiveReview which lets two or more users who are geographically far apart communicate more effectively. In real time, any user can make suggestions, illustrate changes and view others contributions. It makes images further come alive to interactively collaborate this way. When MB-Technik recently invited two clients to SpaceClaim’s online LiveReview, they were both quite enthused: On the internet you can process a model together — not just view it and take notes!

Thomas Markert is just as enthusiastic about the  time savings and the outstanding cost/benefit ratio of using SpaceClaim for sheet metal fabrication: “You get the job done fast,” he concludes. “In particular, small businesses get an excellent return on their investment.”

If you are at all intrigued by MB-Technik’s story, we invite you to try ANSYS SpaceClaim for yourself and experience just how easy it is to use. You can try it right now in the cloud, or request a downloadable version.

Interactive Script-defined Tools Change the Game in Modeling

If you turn on the TV or browse the internet these days, automation is a familiar topic. From smart homes to learning thermostats, the drive to save time and effort by automating repeated tasks is everywhere. We use words like ‘smart’ to indicate that our devices are no longer one-size-fits-all but instead adapt and can be programmed to better suit our needs and behaviors. So, too, should be the case with our engineering software! That is why we have spent over a year to add scripting, a broadly applicable interface for automation and customization of modeling, to the ANSYS SpaceClaim geometry modeling environment.

In a previous blog post, we introduced SpaceClaim scripting and how it can automate repetitive or tedious tasks. With ANSYS 18.1, we’ve taken it a step further and made it easier to share and use SpaceClaim scripts outside of the editing environment. By publishing scripts to dedicated buttons in the user interface or calling them from within a Workbench script, you can now use the power of scripting in more places than ever before. Furthermore, we have extended the interaction with scripts to allow for user input of selections and values during execution. Let’s take a closer look at these improvements. Continue reading

Free Download – New ANSYS Student Product Downloads Released

Who was it that said “Nothing in life is free?” Whomever it was, they were wrong. There are a ton of amazing things in life that are free — including our ANSYS Student Version products! Speaking from experience, there has never been a time I have appreciated something free more than when I was a student working my way through college.

In late 2015, we launched our ANSYS Student free download, and since then have released several updated versions. Just recently we made some exciting changes with our new Student Product page boasting two new ANSYS Student Products for Windows x64: ANSYS AIM Student 18 and ANSYS Student 18. Both are now renewable, 12-month product licenses with a shorter and simpler download process. Best of all, we’ve eliminated the need for you to fuss with a separate download key! Continue reading

Enabling Digital Exploration with ANSYS 18.1

Digital exploration has never been more vital to long-term business success than it is today. The product design space is exploding, driven by increasingly smarter devices, advanced materials, and next-generation manufacturing technologies like 3-D printing and mass customization. At the same time sustainability and cost put pressure on identifying and eliminating unnecessary safety margins, while still ensuring long-term product strength and durability. Design engineers have an unprecedented opportunity to innovate and explore product designs, but also orders of magnitude more complexity to manage. Continue reading

Ideal Upfront Simulation Tool for Design Engineers

A few days ago someone asked me if ANSYS flagship products are appropriate for the “average” engineer, and more particularly design engineers doing upfront simulation. I believe the better question to ask is which ANSYS products are geared toward design engineers, and why.

More often than not, design engineers are quite familiar with 3-D modeling tools, which are the starting point of simulations in the product development process. But given their focus on product design, manufacturability, documentation, etc., they typically do not have time or prior experience required to learn how to use a fully featured simulation tool like ANSYS Mechanical or CFD. Continue reading

ANSYS 18 Innovations for Electronics Cooling

electronics cooling of mobile devicesAs digital electronic devices continue to shrink and put greater functionality within consumer and enterprise products, thermal management continues to grow as the bottle neck for defining next generation architectures. Significant challenges exist today because the heat being generated continues to rise while the thermal envelope remains constant for silicon devices.

While some switching power converters have moved to III-V semiconductor materials such as GaN, the overall system still contains many silicon semiconductor devices that must meet traditional thermal envelopes. The removal of this heat has become a critical aspect of the design process, often being a very significant driver of what can be delivered within an electronic product. Continue reading

Geometry Scripting in ANSYS SpaceClaim for Rapid Model Changes

Geometry scripting, macros and batch files are great ways to automate repetitive tasks or reduce a complicated workflow to a single mouse click. Although you may have never written or recorded your own script, there’s a good chance you’ve benefited from one created by someone else.

ANSYS SpaceClaim recently introduced a geometry scripting environment that further eases common geometry related tasks. More specifically, it’s a simple way to record or write a set of commands that will automate repetitive tasks or make complicated workflows easy. It also serves as a method of extending the user interface to make otherwise impossible geometry by expanding the different things you can do with geometry. From replaying recorded changes on imported models to parameterizing variables only thought possible in a feature-based system, scripting is a powerful ally in making smart, robust geometry. Continue reading

3-D Design Helps Pool Cleaning, Accessibility Go Swimmingly

What comes to mind when you think of public swimming pools?  A refreshing escape from the summer heat? Children playing and swimming? Free-swimmers, divers, and water polo players jockeying for limited space? How 3-D design makes pools cleaner and more accessible for everyone? Hmm. I may need to explain that last one.

While many of us focus on the positive aspects, there are some of us who avoid public pools: non-swimmers, of course; people concerned about bacteria and other health issues; and people with reduced mobility (PMR) who find accessing public pools difficult to manage and unwelcoming.

Hexagone, a French company founded in 1987, has made its mission to serve these last two categories of recreationists, designing and equipping public pools with professional high-tech cleaning devices and creating solutions that increase PMR accessibility and safety. Continue reading

Dragonfly: The Mysterious Insect Driving Engineering Innovation

Who hasn’t dreamt of flying like a bird? From Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of flying machines to Otto Lilienthal’s gliders, inventors have focused, quite logically, on human transport. We now take flying on airplanes for granted. But mechanical flight on a smaller, insect-level scale is less well-known. Micro-air vehicles (MAVs) have gained popularity in recent years due to wide range of small-scale applications in areas such as military, transportation, electronics, security systems, search and rescue missions, video recordings and many more. Successful prototypes depend upon valid, yet imaginative, designs as a starting point.  Continue reading

Multiphysics Simulation of a Car Side Mirror with ANSYS AIM

One of the most important problems in the automotive industry is the general multiphysics simulation of coupled phenomena, where multiple — and sometimes conflicting — conditions need to be accounted for, all at the same time. One common application is the resistive heating of a car side mirror.

Designing the mechanism for keeping the mirror defrosted must also take into account the structural response of the mirror as the external environmental conditions, such as air pressure and cold temperature, cause physical stress and thermal deformation. The task is a base requirement of the automotive industry and requires a full multiphysics approach, which is still a challenge for common finite element method (FEM) simulation. In this post, we’ll show you how our engineers at SVS FEM used ANSYS AIM to model a side mirror and multiphysics analysis to solve some of its difficult design problems. Continue reading