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By Shaun Bryant, January 28, 2013
In September 2012, MSC Software (based in Santa Ana, CA) announced that they acquired e-Xstream engineering. e-Xstream’s Digimat software is used for advanced materials simulations through a nonlinear micro-mechanics approach. It models a broad range of materials, taking in to account their manufacturing processes, and interfaces with most FEA structural analysis codes, including MSC’s own Nastran, Marc, Abaqus, and ANSYS.
I chatted with e-Xstream’s Dr. Jan Seyfarth, product manager for Digimat (which stands for Digital Material).
Q: What is your role in the company?
A: I work with the technology side of the software, which has two releases per year. I am based out of the Luxembourg office, which handles sales and marketing mainly. There is also a research and development office near Brussels in Belgium, and an office in Michigan, USA.
Q: How long has your company been around?
A: e-Xstream Engineering was originally founded in 2003as a spin-off from Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. It began with one professor who worked with micro-mechanics, and then moved up to industrial usage in material modeling, delivering material models.
Q: Describe to me the sorts of things that e-Xstream has done.
A: e-Xstream engineering is now an MSC Software company, and we are a software and engineering services company 100% focused on state-of the-art multi-scale modeling of complex multi-phase composites materials and structures. This includes materials like PMC (plastic matrix composites), RMC (rubber matrix composites), MMC (metal matrix composites), nanocomposites, and hard metals.
Our major customers are in the automotive, aerospace, consumer and industrial equipment industries located in Europe, America, and Asia. They use our simulation software for materials such as reinforced plastics, rubber, hard metals, and honeycomb sandwich panels.
Q: Tell me something about your line of products.
A: Digimat is a software platform for material analysis, and it comprises of two base technologies: Digimat MF (Mean-Field homogenization that predicts the nonlinear constitutive behavior of multi-phase composite materials) and Digimat FE (homogenization software based on the nonlinear Finite Element modeling of realistic Representative Volume Elements of complex material microstructures). They are dedicated to composite materials, and can be used for individual materials for the appropriate application.
[Composite materials are made of two or more materials, such as fiber glass and resin, and so are more difficult to simulate than mono-materials, such as steel and concrete.]
When using multi-scale modeling, each step affects the next step. Let's consider injection molding as a process. When we change properties locally in an injection molded part, this influences part performance, and this is a repetitive cycle.
|Figure 1: The repetitive process in multi-scale modeling|
Q: Can you give me some details of specific composites that your
software tests? And who are some of your customers and competitors?
A: We work with the automotive industry, which is using short fiber-reinforced plastics that are nonlinear temperature and strain rate-dependent. We provide a full simulation of car crashes with the plastic parts described at the microscopic level. This sort of calculation is computed overnight, and has great meaning to the automotive industry, providing a great level of detail. It improves structural analysis prediction, and assists in the safety design of the car.
|Figure 2: A graphical representation of short fiber multi-scale modeling|
With the linear approach that we use, we only have one competitor, but they are not really there as they don't offer a non-linear failure strategy like we do, and so there is no real competition. BASF offer a survey with their materials, but there is no direct competition.
We work also in the aerospace industry with unidirectional composites; again, this is working at the microscopic level. In fact, we were really the first successful company to work with a multi-scale approach like this for industrial applications.
|Figure 3: A graphical representation of unidirectional composite multi-scale modeling|
Q: So, what is happening in world of composite materials?
A: Normally, companies employ experiments for material models, but this type of modeling is very expensive and takes up a lot of time. Digimat models the environment and offers a virtual material laboratory and a digital prototyping of the materials used. Therefore, Digimat is less expensive overall, because material characterization is faster, and better.
Q: Composite design, in general - what is the current situation for
processing and structural design; what are the challenges?
A: With Digimat, we have the most effective and efficient tool for the predictive design of injected plastic materials and parts available on the market today.
We are working hard on predicting advanced behavior of materials, such as creep, fatigue, lifetime performance, temperature, and failure models - which are still under construction due to their complexity. Validation is also a challenging point that we face by collaborating closely with material providers and customers. We are developing performance and basic technology for short fibers. This can also be applied to other types of materials, such as long fibers, continuous fibers, reinforced plastics, and woven composites.
Q: What kind of technology do you offer? I am wondering why is
material modeling the key; what is missing?
A: Digimat provides a process dedicated to material properties and part performance. For example, can we produce this design of the part? Can this part withstand the loads placed upon it? Digimat puts it all together in one approach. A composite part is only good with high quality design. It can only replace its metallic counterpart when the weight-to-performance ratio is at an optimum. This means really using the composite properties in the parts.
Material suppliers offer such optimizations as a service to their customers, but they have not been standard over the last 5-10 years. There is a need for expertise and tools, and this is where Digimat e-Xstream comes in by providing technology transfer and engineering services.
Q: How does this technology helps your customers and who are the
customers and how can you help them in their design processes?
A: The experts group on composites at Bosch (well known in automotive supply) were early adopters of Digimat. They used the software to improve their design processes, and so obtain more precise descriptions of their models.
We offer a light version of Digimat to non-expert customers for early design, which provides ease of use and precise response of the part. It still has the same strategic approach, adding value at the early design stage.
Q: MSC acquired your company. Has the transition process been easy?
A: The overall strategy is that we remain an independent company, but now with MSC backing. The transition was positive. We now have extensive technology from MSC, whereas previously we relied on open source software. We are also much more strategic and commercial with MSC, which gives great opportunities and synergy.
Q: Will the acquisition generate more business now that you are
working with MSC?
A: Absolutely. We are now working with MSC clients and providing expert services alongside the strategic commercial services from them. MSC acquired us because there will be greater requirement for simulation over the next 10-20 years.
A comparative example would be Autodesk's acquisition of Moldflow, which simulates injection molding of short and long fibers. When Autodesk acquired Moldflow, Autodesk was very aware of Digimat and e-Xstream, and so Autodesk recommends that Digimat be used on Moldflow results.
|Shaun Bryant is an Autodesk Certified Instructor with sales, support & technical expertise, and CAD managerial skills. Twenty-four years total industry experience using AutoCAD with a skill-set gained whilst working as a consultant, trainer, manager and user. He is also a blogger. More...|