Plasan Carbon Composites concentrates CAD/CAM capabilities

Automotive composites manufacturer Plasan Carbon Composites has switched from its three-CAD system to Dassault's integrated design, FEA and simulation suite to optimize product development cycles.

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Automotive composites structures supplier Plasan Carbon Composites USA (Bennington, Vt., USA), a wholly owned subsidiary of Plasan of Israel, in an effort to eliminate the trial-and-error aspects of its manual layup manufacturing processes, reports that it has replaced its three-CAD system with a composite design, manufacturing and simulation solution suite from Dassault Systèmes (DS), which combines CATIA Composites Design, Simulayt solutions for fiber modeling and linking and Abaqus FEA from SIMULIA for virtual testing of a design’s structural integrity. Because CATIA, Simulayt and SIMULIA Abaqus are integrated to work within a single user interface, Plasan reports its has saved time, eliminatedtranslation errors, and streamlined training.

With its previous software tools, Plasan could not design the carbon fiber ply kits for its composite parts until an OEM’s molds arrived at its facilities. Now, Plasan can quickly provide accurate quotes to its customers based purely on the OEM’s part data, which is available long before the lay-up tools themselves.

“This first level now takes only about 30 minutes to complete rather than half a day,” says
James Salerno, CAD and FEA (finite element analysis) engineer at Plasan. On its most recent pre-production program, Salerno says, he was able to arrive at a 100 percent 
manufacturable kit for two required parts in just two iterations using CATIA Composites Design, a 50 percent improvement.

Advanced flattening and producibility simulation algorithms in Simulayt allow engineers to understand how fibers in composite materials are conforming or deforming around the complex geometries typical in automotive components. “Our customers are very concerned with inconsistencies in the surface,” Salerno says. “For an automotive component going on an expensive sports car, it has to look like glass. Simulayt lets us see how far we can push our materials before they start wrinkling and causing a problem.”

Plasan also is using its new solution to develop next-generation processes that create parts faster by replacing autoclave treatments of the composites materials with out-of-autoclave (OOA) pressure-based approaches. Savings to date include a 75 percent reduction in curing times, which translates into significantly decreased energy demand and faster delivery to customers.

“We used CATIA and Abaqus throughout the process to make sure our computational tools were conforming to what we were actually measuring,” says Gary Lownsdale, Plasan’s director of Research & Development. “We would not have been able to have the press equipment in place today if not for those two solutions.”