Practical case studies are the focus for UK seminar

Speakers include AWE, GKN Aerospace, Jaguar Land Rover, Doosan Babcock, Rolls-Royce

Daventry, UK, October 13 & 14, 2015—An open seminar on the topic of 'Mastering Materials Information', followed by Granta's North European User Group Meeting, was dominated by case studies of the practical application of materials information technology. Engineers, materials specialists, and managers from manufacturing enterprises across the UK, Ireland, and Scandinavia heard talks outlining materials information management projects at AWE and GKN Aerospace, took part in an interactive panel discussion that also included participants from Jaguar Land Rover, Doosan Babcock, and Rolls-Royce, and saw demonstrations of the latest software tools from Granta Design based on a case study of an automotive part.

AWE case study

The day was opened by Hannah Carver, Project Leader in the PLM Group at AWE, who described her experience of a long-running project to manage materials information for the leading UK nuclear security organization. She began by outlining relevant technical challenges. The systems on which AWE works contain a wide variety of often-exotic materials (metals, ceramics, salts, organics) and require them to handle data on unusual properties and conditions (e.g., radioactive behavior, test results from explosive regimes or plasma). Simulation is an important component of their research, so efficiency in feeding data to and from computational tools is essential. Products have to be maintained over long periods of time, so robust PLM systems that can manage the product definition over lifetimes of 40+ years are a requirement, and materials is one key thread in that PLM story.

AWE logoAWE must be able to manage the materials information lifecycle over these time periods—for example, tracking how materials age, and checking that they are behaving as expected. Control over this information is essential, but it is also important to distribute it in a secure manner to the scientists and engineers who need it, integrating with other systems for physics, electronics, manufacturing, and laboratory information management.

To meet the challenge of materials information management in this complex environment, AWE has had a project for over ten years using the GRANTA MI software. Throughout this time, AWE have been active members of the Material Data Management Consortium (MDMC), feeding their requirements into the development process for GRANTA MI and working with other members to understand best practice in this area. Hannah Carver stressed a number of points as important for a successful implementation, including:

  • It is important to have good data quality metrics built into the system, so that users can have confidence in the data, and its pedigree and reliability can be assessed accurately many years down the line.
  • Its important to have a robust business case for the project that holds through changes in the business environment—AWE focused on issues such as 'de-risking' their engineering process through improved traceability and control over data.
  • While tailoring some aspects, such as the database schema and data import tools, the AWE system has been built as much as possible on 'out of the box' software components, making it much easier to maintain than a custom system.
  • People are important in the system as well as technology—effort has been invested in training staff on PLM principles, and why it is important to manage materials data
  • A staged approach to rolling out the technology makes sense, with clear milestones, agile interaction with the supplier (Granta Design) and active involvement of end-users in the design and requirements definition.

Today, the AWE system consists of two major databases: a Materials Science database, which underpins materials science assessments of chemical, physical, thermal, safety, and mechanical data, and the 'MATPROPS' database, used to provide mechanical property data for product engineering, design, and simulation.

With future stages in the roll-out likely to include systems for environmental compliance and Additive Manufacturing, the AWE project is active and successful, ensuring that staff with technical authority over materials data can control its quality, and providing a robust framework for distributing this data to authorized personnel in the science and engineering community.

Round table discussion

Round table discussion

A lively round table discussion followed (pictured above), for which Hannah Carver was joined on the panel by:

  • Dr Mark Blagdon, Materials Characterization Technical Specialist at Jaguar Land Rover
  • Jeremy Mansfield, Senior Engineer at Doosan Babcock
  • Amandeep Singh Mhay, Engineering Manager at Rolls-Royce

All of the panellists are project leaders for materials information management projects that use the GRANTA MI software.

The discussion was split into two parts, first answering the question: "What materials information issues keep you awake at night?" The panel identified a number of issues that have motivated their organizations to manage materials information more systematically. These included: the "incredibly difficult" challenge of knowledge transfer when senior engineers retire, taking with them a lot of implicit knowledge about materials and their use for specific applications; the risks associated with uncontrolled materials data; engineers using data without fully understanding its pedigree or context; and the need to maintain materials data—for example, as incremental improvements in manufacturing processes such as forging lead to 'design allowable' values becoming out-dated.

Materials information management can mitigate these fears by gathering corporate materials knowledge into one place and making it both controlled and accessible, by ensuring traceability for all of the information captured, and by providing tools to manage the materials information lifecycle. So the second part of the discussion asked panellists to identify the major gains that they have experienced from such projects. Mark Blagdon of Jaguar Land Rover cited more robust design based on more reliable data, quicker prototype sign-off, and improved failure analysis due to availability of data and knowledge. Amandeep Mhay spoke of the lower risk of incidents of using incorrect data during design, and pointed to a Rolls-Royce analysis presented at previous Granta webinars and seminars which showed total productivity savings of £6.9m per annum from materials information management. Hannah Carver reiterated the importance of traceability for data to AWE. And Jeremy Mansfield likened the benefits to the well-known 'aggregation of marginal gains' strategy applied by the British Olympic Cycling team, arguing that many small improvements in productivity, insight, and customer service add up to a significant strategic impact.

GKN Aerospace case study

GKN logoFurther insight into real use of materials information technology in industry was provided by Jing Li, Methodology Engineer at GKN Aerospace, who outlined a year-old enterprise project to implement the GRANTA MI system. The project is managing materials information for the Aerospace division, a major global Tier 1 supplier with products including aero structures, engine systems, and special products such as aircraft transparencies and ice protection systems.

In managing materials information for this large, international, multi-site organization a number of requirements are key:

  • Support for the testing of GKN-owned materials and processes, including managing the full lifecycle from test data, through statistical analysis, to design data, and into manufacturing.
  • Hosting a variety of material data sets to support different applications and material types.
  • An export control tagging policy is required for data transfer.
  • Extensibility to support REACH analysis (GKN Aerospace plans to participate in future EMIT Consortium meetings).

GKN is going through a three-stage process in order to plan and implement the project.

  1. Database evaluation based on detailed company requirements—this process selected the GRANTA MI system.
  2. Creating an implementation team and plan, involving multiple departments at GKN plus Granta experts
    • End-user engagement early in the process was essential to this step
    • Steps included a 'data survey' to understand and document the GKN Aerospace materials information environment, design of a system and development of a project plan, training, and support for roll-out.
  3. Global deployment in 3 major phases: first to the UK and Sweden, then to selected sites North America and Asia, finally globally to share data around the company.

The project has so far reached the first stage of global deployment, with users at the Filton site in the UK and Trollhättan in Sweden managing test and design data. Based on good progress so far, further phases of the roll-out are now planned.

Granta case study

Automotive throttle - the subject of our case studyThe rest of the seminar agenda was built around a case study of an automotive transmission part (right) making its way through the product design and development process. The aim was to demonstrate how materials information technology can help in practice at various points in this process, for example:

  • Initial materials selection: identify a potential plastic replacement for a metal part using the CES Selector software (pictured, below), then perform initial assessement against environmental risks in CAD using the MI:Materials Gateway tool.
  • Materials testing and characterization: use GRANTA MI to manage and analyze test data on specific grades of the candidate material, storing this data for future re-use in a traceable way, and generating data for detailed simulation and design.
  • Detailed design, simulation, and beyond: apply the design data and materials models in CAE and CAD. Apply the data captured during the development process later in the product life, for example, to check current regulatory questions or find out where the material is used.

CES Selector analysis

Identifying potential plastics replacements for metal parts

User group meeting

Following the open seminar, a closed meeting for Granta users provided an opportunity to share experience, get training on the GRANTA MI and CES Selector software, have questions answered by Granta experts and colleagues from other user organizations, and hear product plans and give feedback direct to Granta's development team. This North European event is now a regular fixture in the calendar, and again provided a great opportunity for the local Granta user community to get together, learn, discuss, and help to make more effective use of materials information technology. Attendee feedback was very positive and the meeting will be repeated in 2016—data and venue to be announced.