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SMEs to benefit from new manufacturing app

The growing importance of high-performance computing (HPC) to modelling and engineering was highlighted this week by the award of a $1 million grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE). The DOE has awarded the grant to the Engineering Mechanics Corporation of Columbus (Emc2) to develop a cloud-based tool that will simulate welding processes used to manufacture metallic products.

Emc2 is adapting a welding design program called Virtual Fabrication Technology (VFT) into a more accessible ‘app’ format. This will be accomplished by using the Ohio Supercomputer Centre’s (OSC) HPC resources to provide the computational muscle through the OSC’s AweSim programme.

Emc2 will make use of the OSC’s HPC clusters to return valuable modelling and simulation data and the corresponding analysis to clients. This gives an opportunity for small and medium enterprises (SME) to use HPC resources that would be prohibitively expensive for most small companies.

Frederick Brust, a senior research leader at Emc2 said: ‘Small and mid-sized manufacturing firms need improved weld-fabrication processes to ensure improved quality at lower costs to remain globally competitive. A sophisticated high performance computing based tool will be accessible to SMM firms on a supercomputer centre to easily permit use of these tools at affordable prices.

The DOE funding to Emc2 was awarded through the department’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programme, which encourages small businesses to develop and commercialise new technologies.

VFT is a computational tool, originally developed in the late 1990s in conjunction with Caterpillar. Through improvements made in the subsequent years, the code has been optimised to run on HPC clusters.

VFT allows designers to predict weld-induced distortion and residual-stress states so that weld-design strategies can be implemented to improve the performance of products prior to fabrication.

To accomplish this, Emc2 has partnered with the AweSim programme, a $6.4 million initiative led by OSC. The programme was initiated in the summer of 2013 when the Ohio Third Frontier Commission awarded the public/private partnership a $3 million grant to design and deploy easy-to-use advanced manufacturing applications. The remainder of the balance for the three year project will be funded by client partners.

Alan Chalker, director of AweSim said: ‘The AweSim programme is developing advanced manufacturing simulation apps that blend unique manufacturing domain expertise, sophisticated simulation software and powerful cloud-based resources within a digitised workflow.’


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