Injection molding is fluid flow simulation of a different kind. It’s generally lumped together with computer-aided engineering (CAE), but it’s too specialized to fit into computational fluid dynamics (CFD). So tailor-made software like Moldflow, Moldex3D, and Simpoe emerged to fill the gap. (Come to think of it, mold simulation is the study of filling gaps with hot plastic liquid.)
Even though plastic parts are an integral part of contemporary products (that’s especially true in consumer goods), CAD, PLM, and FEA software makers aren’t particularly keen on developing their own mold-simulation packages. So they certified third-party mold packages compatible with their CAD packages or license such technologies for incorporation into their offerings. But in 2008, Autodesk decided the plastic market was important enough to warrant an in-house technology. The company paid $297 million to buy Moldflow, considered a leader of the pact. Moldflow is now tightly integrated with Autodesk’s flagship CAD package Inventor, but the software can also accommodates parts designed in other CAD packages, including those from Autodesk’s rivals.
Peter Rucinski, a senior product manager for Dassault Systemes, observed, “At least 80% of all plastic parts manufactured are produced by the injection molding process … And, the use of plastics continues to increase over time as new advances in material technology allow them to be used in higher temperature and strength applications.”
This week, Autodesk’s rival Dassault Systemes snatched up Simpoe, which touts its mold-simulation products as “easy to use and affordable solutions,” for an undisclosed sum. Rucinski said, “Simpoe products are great for the mainstream or casual user because of the ease of use, but they also have the power of advanced functionality — such as predicting plastics part warpage — that serves the high-end users.”
Simpoe currently offers SimpoeWorks for SolidWorks users, SimpoeEdge for Solid Edge users, and SimpoePro for PTC software users. In addition, Simpoe offers Simpoe-Mold, a standalone version that works with neutral 3D file formats; and SimpoeXpress, a lightweight version distributed for free. Simpoe-Mold has an interface (“direct integration,” as the company calls it) that allows SpaceClaim software users to automatically optimize plastic parts design and manufacturing in Simpoe-Mold. It also interacts with CATIA, Dassault Systemes’ high end modeler, through the SimpoeLINK module.
Simpoe’s technology has already been incorporated into Dassault Systemes’ SolidWorks, under the name SolidWorks Plastics. The module is described as “an easy-to-use injection molding simulation” software. Dassault Systemes’ high-end CATIA software suite currently has CATIA Plastic Parts, but the product is strictly for designing plastic parts, not for simulating mold operation. This will likely change now that Dassault Systemes has full access to Simpoe. According to Rucinski, a Simpoe-based mold simulation product for Dassault Systemes’ SIMULIA brand is also under consideration.
Simpoe also has an Original Equipment Maker (OEM) agreement with PTC, a competitor to Dassault Systemes. According to PTC’s February announcement, “This Agreement has authorized Simpoe to develop a new extension for PTC Creo for the plastic industry which will replace PTC’s Plastic Advisor extension.”
Rucinski noted, “There will be no changes in the short term” to Simpoe’s commitment to PTC.
Moldex3D, another well-known mold simulation software from CoreTech, is tightly integrated into NX 3D CAD program from Siemens PLM Software. The outcome is NX EasyFill Analysis, which appears inside NX 8.5. (For more, read “NX 8.5 Plugs Mold Gap with EasyFill,” December 2012.)
Though the demand for mold simulation is undeniable, the number of players and robust products serving the niche market is relatively small. And the number continues to shrink as bigger fishes swallow up smaller ones.