Digital first - at RICO, simulations are the first step
Digital first – at RICO, simulations are the first step
Mechanical twin shows what digital twin processes have achieved
“Before we develop a real-life product, we perform virtual tests of its functionality. If the digital version is fully mature, we build a mold and start production. So at RICO, the mechanical twin takes its lead from a digital forerunner,” explains Martin Rapperstorfer, Head of Sales at Austrian company RICO Elastomere Projecting GmbH. RICO maps out a complete process digitally in advance using simulations.
Digital process run-through
RICO produces injection molds as well as silicone and multi-component parts. Manufacturing a silicone product usually involves the same steps: mold design and construction, adjustment of the mold in the Application Engineering department, and finally production. But RICO is a step ahead of this procedure. The company runs through a digital trial-and-error process beforehand, which in turn simplifies the starting and optimization processes used in application engineering and the determination of parameters for final production.
Good simulation is half the battle
When it develops components, RICO first examines product feasibility in terms of mold manufacturing and volume production. Then, analysis takes place using simulations. A good simulation starts with the right choice of material. RICO keeps a comprehensive material database containing laboratory findings from previous projects alongside the latest developments from material manufacturers. Simulations enable the company to find the perfect combination of materials that meet the requirements for the end product.
Finite element calculations support component development and help to analyze the product configuration. This enables RICO to eliminate risk factors in the design, assess mechanical properties, determine the tolerances for tension, strain and deformation, and calculate pressure conditions and shoring forces. Injection molding simulation also focuses on cavity fillings, holding pressure, shrinkage and distortion. “The results of this simulation generate vital insights for our high-volume molds,” comments Rapperstorfer.
Combining simulation and real-life results – developing a database
RICO processes the results and parameters generated by simulations, which then feed into application engineering. The company sells molds to customers and carries out parts production itself, so this step simplifies the handover of the molds to the Production department. “Our customers can rely on our molds to work properly,” RICO’s Head of Sales emphasizes.
But the key point is that different parts of the company do not work unilaterally. As Rapperstorfer underlines: “Our lab manager is in regular contact with application engineers working on the equipment, and plays a part in development on site.” This means that practical conclusions can be integrated into work in the lab, which in turn drives a continuous improvement process. Data from simulations and real-life results are combined, so the knowledge database is being permanently extended and enhanced. When it comes to questions related to adhesion between materials – for example, between liquid silicone (LSR) and thermoplastic (TP) – RICO not only consults the material manufacturer’s specifications; it can also fall back on the extensive experience stored in its database.
Several functions in a single component
When developing components, RICO works closely with its customers. “We want to understand the customer’s application, so we also look at the systems surrounding our silicone and multi-component parts,” says Rapperstorfer. RICO’s developers often discover that functions which the client originally wanted to integrate into several components can be merged into a single product. “Functional integration in a single RICO component saves our customers money and construction space, as well as removing the need for individual parts, and in this respect we can also deliver a pre-simulated, end-to-end concept,” Rapperstorfer adds.