Software Lets Centerline Engineering Dial in Early During Die Design

BY LOUIS A. KREN, SENIOR EDITOR: Metalforming Magazine April 2019

As high-strength steel increased its presence in automotive applications during the early 2000s, Centerline Engineering sought better ways to assess the tough and tricky material’s formability. That led to the company’s initial purchase of eta/Dynaform forming-simulation software from Engineering Technology Associates, Inc. (ETA) in 2003, and it’s been employing the software ever since. Comstock Park, MI-based Centerline Engineering, formed in 2000 and now counting about 100 employees, designs, builds, tries out, and repairs progressive, transfer, and line dies for automotive and appliance stampers. To do that, it fills 68,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space with eight tryout presses, including a new 2500-ton large-bed press from Eagle Press; CNC five-axis, vertical and horizontal mills; wire EDMs; and more. Keeping that machinery running productively, and keeping customers happy with on-time delivery of tooling that produces quality parts, begins with inhouse engineering expertise backed by design solutions such as Dynaform, according to Travis McCall, a Centerline simulation engineer.

“We initially used Dynaform to check the feasibility and help us deal with high-strength steel,” McCall states. “We needed as much information as possible before we moved into the actual die design. Whether assessing springback or other issues, checking feasibility upfront allowed us to achieve a better end result.” Currently using Dynaform Version 5.9.4, the company is set to employ the latest package,

Version 6.0, featuring a streamlined interface and optimized algorithms. Modules include Blank Size Engineering for estimating blank size and nesting as well as predicting predict thinning and thickening, and generating a forming-limit diagram; Formability Simulation for rapid development and validation of single station and progressive-die designs; Die Evaluation to support and analyze CAD-based tooling and engineering designs; Die System Analysis to predict stamping-related concerns within the die production line, as well as analyze scrap removal, die structural integrity and sheet metal handling; Optimization Platform to optimize design; and more.

“Sending a die to the press with the trim line developed and springback compensated using the software can decrease the overall project timing,” McCall says, describing the efficiencies and accuracy that the software brings to the design and build process. “With our newer 2500-ton tryout press, the ability to be accurate, especially on larger dies, allows us to meet the limited timeframe available for that press, as it is one of the few presses inhouse that can handle our largest die-design programs.” Today, with five seats of Dynaform, Centerline uses the software “right from the get-go,” according to McCall, starting with quoting and continuing through the design process.

“We use it to give our customers the best results from the start of a program to its finish,” he says. “During quoting, we may use it to accurately estimate blank size and nesting, important in saving on material usage and cost. The software lets us know where we can hold the blanks using the least amount of material. We can set the pitch and rotate a blank to optimize pitch (the distance between adjacent blanks). Gaining that little bit of extra material on the pitch is huge— enough to hold the blank but not wasting material.” The software also checks the formability of drawn parts based on bead locations and pad pressure—another big plus, according to McCall. And, blank development in Dynaform represents one more advantage for Centerline. “The Trim Line Development module allows us to develop a blank, accurately and intolerance,” McCall explains.

“It provides a very close approximation not only on the blank end but also on the secondary trim for any forming performed afterward. We pretty much just input information and input what we want at the end, and the module cycles through and provides an accurate solution. Again, we perform all of this upfront to save time and costs, and eliminate problems later on.” Report generation represents one more advantage to employing Dynaform, automatic generation of simulation reports, coming in Version 6.0, makes McCall and Centerline even bigger fans. “The automated simulation reports will save us a ton of time,” McCall says. “None of us want to sit there making PowerPoint presentations all day, and continuously updating reports with every change. Automated reporting will take care of that and free us to do design work.”

The Dynaform software ties in handily with the 17 seats of Catia 3D CAD design software employed by Centerline, reports McCall, who also notes that ETA responds immediately to assistance requests and with training and other support. With the software’s many capabilities, backed by the support network Centerline performs the above-mentioned actions successfully no matter the type of material slated for production in the dies, reports McCall. “We build dies for some pretty big parts and a variety of part materials,” he says. “This includes dual-layer material, and the software handles it. For example, we work with dimpled aluminum—two layers of aluminum with insulation between. Simulation involving dimpled aluminum is difficult and takes a bit longer, but when we physically try out the die, the parts look exactly like the simulations. “We’ll always have unique variables and some challenges that are tougher than others,” McCall concludes, “but Dynaform provides accuracy up front, and that saves us time down the line.”

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