Rapid Diagnostics Device Developed Using Figure 4 Standalone

Product: DLP Print
Industry: Electronics and Semiconductors

The sudden and alarming global rise of COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of accessible and rapid disease detection. The ability to test for disease not only enables better containment to prevent further spread, but enables epidemiologists to gather more information to better understand an otherwise invisible and mysterious threat. From revealing means of transmission to rates of infection, the criticality of testing for infectious diseases has now been felt worldwide.

A team of researchers at Imperial College London, led by Dr. Pantelis Georgiou, is tackling this problem head-on with a project called Lacewing for pathogen detection. Offering results within 20 minutes from a smartphone app synced to a cloud server, Lacewing makes disease testing portable, including SARD-CoV-2-RNA, and automates the tracking of disease progression through geotagging. It is a sophisticated “lab-on-a-chip” platform that promises to fill the access- and information-gaps in the world of diagnostics by combining molecular biology and state-of-the-art technology. Whereas other diagnostics technology requires large and expensive optical equipment, the electrical sensing method and small size of Lacewing is a true evolution in approach.

Key among the technologies behind Lacewing is 3D Systems Figure 4® Standalone 3D printer and biocompatible-capable, production-grade materials. Used for both prototyping and production of microfluidics and functional components, Imperial College PhD student and research assistant Matthew Cavuto says key Lacewing components were designed based on the capabilities he knew he had with Figure 4. “Microfluidics are a tricky thing, and fabrication has traditionally been done through slow, expensive, and labor intensive cleanroom processes,” says Cavuto. “With the Figure 4, we’re now able to rapidly print parts with complex internal 3D fluidic channels for transporting sample fluid to different sensing areas on the chip, greatly improving our microfluidic production capabilities.”

As critical as the design element is to this project, it is just one piece of a highly sophisticated solution. Beyond the part complexity and detail fidelity enabled by 3D Systems’ Figure 4, this 3D printing solution has helped the research team through print speed, print quality, and biocompatible material options.

Microfluidics cartridge for Lacewing diagnostics device 3D printed using Figure 4

Quick iterations to answer the need for COVID-19 testing

The Lacewing platform has been in development for a little over two years now, and is a molecular diagnostic test that works by identifying the DNA or RNA of a pathogen within a patient sample. This type of test makes it possible to determine not only if someone is infected with a certain disease (dengue, malaria, tuberculosis, COVID-19, etc.), but to what degree, which provides more insight into the severity of the symptoms.

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the impetus for this test was to enable portable testing in remote areas of the world. Although portability is often taken for granted in a smartphone age, molecular diagnostics have traditionally required a large and expensive pieces of lab equipment. Lacewing has replaced the previous optical technique with an electrical one using microchips, and has been quickly prototyped, iterated, and produced using the Figure 4 Standalone and biocompatible materials. Each Lacewing microfluidic cartridge is roughly 30 mm x 6 mm x 5 mm, printed in 10-micron layers.

As the research team began adapting the test to answer the global testing needs of COVID-19, it started printing new designs almost daily. For this, Cavuto said the speed of the machine was a major benefit. “At one point, I was able to print and test three versions of a particular component in a single day with the Figure 4,” he says. This ability to rapidly iterate designs has removed the friction of trying something new, and the resulting experimentation and increased information gathering has led to improvements in the overall system. “We’ve easily gone through 30 versions in the last 2 months,” says Cavuto.

The team designs all its parts in SOLIDWORKS, and uses 3D Sprint® software to set up each build. 3D Sprint is an all-in-one software by 3D Systems for preparing, optimizing, and managing the 3D printing process, and it has been useful to the research team in finding and resolving unexpected issues. “Occasionally we’ll get an STL error that 3D Sprint can solve for us in the prepare tab,” says Cavuto. 

Having worked with many different 3D printers in the past, Cavuto says Figure 4 is different because there are less barriers to printing in terms of time, cost, and quality. With other printers, he would question whether a print was worthwhile in terms of both time and material cost, whereas Figure 4 has removed that friction. “I print a part, and see if it works. If it doesn’t, I redesign and print again just a few hours later,” says Cavuto. “I’m able to iterate super quickly just because of how fast the printer is.”

Truly biocompatible materials do not inhibit chemical reaction

 Microfluidics cartridge 3D printed in Figure 4 MED-AMB 10

Despite the time pressures for rapid testing options, speed was not the most important factor for the research team. Because this application comes into direct contact with DNA, it is only possible with certain biocompatible materials.

The Imperial College team is using Figure 4® MED-AMB 10, a transparent amber material capable of meeting ISO 10993-5 & -10 standards for biocompatibility (cytotoxicity, sensitization and irritation)*, and that is sterilizable via autoclave. This material is used for the translucent microfluidic manifolds. “Figure 4 MED-AMB 10 has shown impressive biocompatibility for our PCR reactions,” says Cavuto. “A lot of materials we’ve tried in the past have inhibited them, but Figure 4 MED-AMB 10 has shown low interaction with our reaction chemistry.” This is critical to the entire project, as any interference by the production materials could delay or prevent the intended reaction from happening.

Using Figure 4’s diverse portfolio of materials

Not only is the team using Figure 4 MED-AMB 10 to print the microfluidic components for Lacewing, but they are also using Figure 4® PRO-BLK-10, a production-grade, rigid, heat-resistant material, for the device enclosure, and Figure 4® RUBBER-65A BLK, a newly released elastomeric material, for gaskets through the device.  One part of Lacewing is even made from Figure 4® FLEX-BLK 20, a material with the look and feel of production polypropylene.  Besides the electronics and some hardware, nearly the entire device is currently produced using the Figure 4 system.  

Fully cleaned and post-processed in under 20 minutes

A clean and smooth surface is critical to the final functionality of the Lacewing cartridges. For this reason, the research team is foregoing any nesting or stacking capabilities of Figure 4 to print the cartridges in single layers. As the project is still in the design phase, the team has not yet fully loaded the build plate, but estimates a maximum build of approximately thirty microfluidic cartridges at a time.

Given the sensitivities of the application, post-processing is critical. Once printed, parts are washed in an IPA bath, cured, sanded, and washed again to ensure the parts are all free and clear of residue or sanding particles. “We want to avoid contamination at all costs,” says Cavuto. “Making sure the parts are clean and sterilized is important for a successful reaction and accurate diagnosis.”

In total, Cavuto estimates that post-processing takes under twenty minutes, and many parts can go through the process at once.

Rapid diagnostics device developed using Figure 4 technology at Imperial College London

New capabilities for development and innovation

“Figure 4 has changed what I can print, or what I think I have the capability of creating,” says Cavuto. “In terms of resolution, speed, surface quality, range of materials, and biocompatibility, there’s nothing that compares to Figure 4, and I’ve probably used every type of 3D printer you can imagine.”

The Imperial College research team plans to have the COVID-19 test validated soon with the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS), paving the way for scaled production within the next six months. For a complete look at how Lacewing works, explore this information page by the Imperial College research team.

NX certification improves design proficiency at ASML

Product: NX CAD
Industry: Electronics and Semiconductors

Leading lithography machine maker uses certification to work more effectively and improve quality with NX CAD

Knowledge and skills development

Employees are every company’s true capital. Making the most of this capital requires continuous development in every area of competence. High-tech company ASML is more aware of this than most other firms. Working on staff development to bring know-how to the highest possible level – and keep it there – is common practice at ASML.ASML is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of chip-making equipment. The company invents, develops, manufactures and services high-tech lithography, metrology and software solutions for the semiconductor industry to enable ever smaller, cheaper, more powerful and energy-efficient semiconductors. This results in increasingly powerful and capable electronics that enable progress within a multitude of fields, including healthcare, technology, communications, energy, mobility, and entertainment. ASML is a multinational company with over 70 locations in 16 countries and employs more than 14,000 people. The company uses NX™ software from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens Digital Industries Software for computer-aided design (CAD).


Knowledge development encompasses more than traditional expertise, it also incorporates knowledge of the software used in product development. But how do companies determine if the right knowledge is available and whether it is being applied? “Knowledge and skill are influential in two important ways,” says Denis Loncke, group leader, mechanical development of the wafer stages, ASML. “First, they help users perform their tasks faster and, second, they improve the quality and stability of the NX CAD data, including models, assemblies and drawings.” ASML machines are utilized to the greatest extent possible and kept up-to-date by ASML technology experts during their life-span. “That means the NX CAD data has to be rapidly understandable to all engineers. This is achieved through a structured process and correct usage of the NX design software,” notes Loncke.

To determine whether knowledge and skills are at a sufficiently high level and being applied correctly, ASML needed a measurement method. “Our Siemens Digital Industries Software training manager came up with the idea of introducing certification,” says Loncke. “We thought an exam would be too perceived as a performance review.” Instead, ASML’s top management wanted to help employees develop and progress within the organization. The case studies that allow employees to earn certification are jointly developed by Siemens Digital Industries Software training staff and key engineers from ASML. These incorporate specific software features that ASML uses on a daily basis. Skill assessment matrices are also written entirely in collaboration to eliminate different interpretations of the assessment.

Certification intake for training

“For an initial pilot project, nine engineers were invited to participate in a certification process,” says Loncke. “The results varied greatly and were, in some cases, really sub-standard. However, it was always clear to those taking part that the result in itself was not relevant. It serves as an intake, so that appropriate training can be provided for the focused development of knowledge and skills.” Certification exercises and assessment matrices are divided into a number of modules: Teamcenter® software integration for NX, NX modeling, NX assemblies and NX drafting. Each user must score a minimum number of points on each module. If the minimum score is not achieved, training is required.

Because roles within projects can vary strongly, approximately 750 employees at ASML will be eligible for certification. The remaining NX users work at the concept level and do not create NX CAD data used in product development.

Siemens Digital Industries Software total care

Processing these numbers requires considerable effort. “Within ASML, we took care of coordinating certification of internal staff,” says Loncke. “We proposed a date to everyone on which they could take the three-and-a-half-hour certification, within a four-week deadline. Some flexibility was required, but all involved did their utmost to make this work.” As a result, all certification could be completed in the short period between October 2013 and April 2014. Certification of so-called “farm-out” companies started in April 2014. These farm-out companies take care of certain development tasks for ASML. Siemens Digital Industries Software is responsible for all planning and implementation, including the financial arrangements. “Siemens Digital Industries Software has taken a lot of work off our hands.” says Loncke.

Training requirements are met with Siemens Digital Industries Software’s standard training offering. No ASML-specific components are included. Many farm-out companies have been asking for employee certification of their own accord in a proactive approach that emphasizes the quality of their cooperation with ASML.

Securing and embedding processes

One-off certification is not sufficient to secure and embed practices and knowledge in the organization. “We won’t be checking the engineers’ daily output to see whether they’re working according to the defined processes,” says Loncke. “These should be second nature. With NX Checkmate validation tools, we do have a control model available, but this is geared towards standards compliance of models and drawings. Guaranteeing that processes are fully embedded will be realized by repeating the certification every two years.”

Reactions from participants and management have been extremely positive. Even very experienced users who trained to pass the certification test remarked that they had learned a great deal. “Certain people scored 100 percent in all areas,” says Loncke. “They have been lauded for this. Their NX knowledge and skills perfectly match the job they have to do.”

Faster upgrade to new versions

Responses from certification participants have also included proposals for improvement of the roll-out of new versions of NX within ASML. In addition, input on the operation of NX has also been collected. This input has been evaluated by Siemens Digital Industries Software representatives and addressed in the development of NX.

Productivity benefits

The key benefit of certification is increased productivity. “We already knew the indica-tors before and after certification from the pilot,” says Loncke. “After training and recertification, engineers were, on aver-age, 50 percent more efficient with NX and Teamcenter.” That metric was specifically derived from exercises not completed on time, and the use of prolonged work-arounds. “After the training, exercises were completed within the allocated time and engineers went straight for the best solution using the right features,” Loncke continues. “We have calculated the return on investment and arrived at a business case that unequivocally supports the value of training.”

Electromechanical components manufacturer elobau saves costs with Teamcenter product cost management.

Product: Teamcenter
Industry: Electronics y Semiconductors

Siemens’ solution helps elobau reduce processing time for quotations by 40 percent

Ideal interface between human and machine

Founded in 1972, elobau is intimately familiar with machine optimization as it is globally recognized for its engineered, innovative and rugged component parts. With innovative, non-contact sensor products, elobau supports customers worldwide in the manufacturing of industrial machines. The company also sets the standard for performance, operator comfort, safety and quality. Elobau covers a range of application requirements with products for operating and controlling mobile (off-road) machines. One of the world’s leading providers of non-contact sensor technology, elobau supplies globally recognizable companies with systems and components for commercial vehicles, machine safety and level measurement. Renowned commercial vehicle manufacturers from the agricultural and construction machinery sector are among elobau’s long-standing customers.

Industry pioneer for sustainable products

In 2017, elobau received the German Solar Prize. Elobau supports sustainable production by producing more electricity than it consumes and boasts a 100 percent own electricity quota. In 2016, the company was nominated for the German Sustainability Award. With the development of a modular vehicle operating system, elobau is a sector pioneer in the field of sustainable control elements.

Due to a large extent of in-house manufacturing (90 percent), elobau achieves high manufacturing speed, flexibility and reliability while maintaining high product quality. These requests are often customer-specific. Acceptance tests are necessary to design a control system to the exact requirements of a commercial vehicle for specific development work including product design, construction, hardware and software development and tool design and construction as well as simulation. At elobau, almost all development and production processes are conducted in-house. Elobau develops the tools and produces them in the compny’s tool shop. Production and testing systems are also planned, designed, developed and manufactured in-house. This accelerates a series introduction and keeps the necessary flexibility to react to customer requests.

Existing spreadsheet solutions were no match for the requirements

In the past, elobau encountered challenges in product and tool cost calculation. Differing company-wide calculation methods used in individual segments made it extremely difficult to track and optimize product and tool costs. Different information technology (IT) structures and a lack of storage systems standardization challenged elobau’s cost analysts in exchange and access-distributed calculations. The preparation of cost calculations with different versions of a spreadsheet-based software resulted in individual, non-standardized calculations in each region and segment. This lack of standardization of quotation calculations led to different sales prices, resulting in competitive disadvantages. The complexity of offers increased, making, timely quotation submissions full of risk.

A comprehensive approach to calculation

Elobau recognized the potential to optimize the cost calculation process and introduced a process- and database-based solution. One of the key requirements of the new system was to connect product and tool costs within one system to simulate the influence of changes in tool cost calculation on product cost. Following a strenuous benchmarking of competing products, elobau adopted Siemens Digital Industries Software’s Teamcenter® product cost management software.

The complexity of current development projects is reflected in the bidding phase. Elobau’s quotation processes are handled by a project team from different departments to offer customers the best possible solution.

For example, an elobau armrest consists of more than 2,000 individual parts. If a significant number of new parts need to be developed, more effort is required for the quotation. Due to the nature of today’s constantly evolving marketplace, elobau requires a detailed cost calculation. Calculating quotations is a comprehensive analytical task that covers areas such as value engineering/value analysis, development and purchasing. This phase is crucial for new orders. Accurate quotation calculations are crucial for winning a contract and securing the financial success of the future product.

Elobau uses the Teamcenter solution for product costing to calculate complex quotations achieving optimal calculations. The Teamcenter solution for product costing also allows elobau to create the necessary transparency for the customer and provide financial benefits.

Calculate more efficiently and use advantages

After a project has been awarded, the calculations begin. The advantage of using the Teamcenter solution for product costing is evident early in the process. The 3D design data, generated with Siemens’ NX™ software, the system the company uses for computer aided design/computer-aided engineering/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAE/CAM), can be used for calculations. Elobau uses Teamcenter’s database with reference processes for plastic injection molding. Significant calculation elements include manufactured parts, raw materials, work plans with manufacturing processes and additional costs, such as tools and assemblies.

During the project, the result is a calculation based on a detailed bill-of-materials (BOM). Once the cost details for the individual items have been obtained, elobau performs regular target cost reporting. With the defined figures, the product costs are compared with previously established target costs. The cost analysts can use Teamcenter to track the development cost of individual processing steps and immediately identify critical projects.

Faster, more accurate and less error- prone tool cost calculations

Starting from the part geometry in the tool costing area, the tool components are automatically dimensioned and calculated using Teamcenter® software for tool costing. This is made possible by integrating the product and tool cost calculations using Teamcenter. Using NX Feature2Cost, the integrated tool for tool costing in NX CAD, elobau can accurately calculate mold tool costs based on the detection of costly geometric parameters such as surface area, volume and wall thick-ness. The ability to simulate the implication of the changes gives elobau fast and reliable decisions for each assembly and tool.

“Teamcenter product cost management allows us to reduce any deviations between quotation costing and final costing,” says Christian Herter, Calculation/VAVE Department, elobau.

Despite frequent customer changes during the quotation phase, elobau remains flexible and can adjust quotations in a very short time. “Teamcenter optimizes our quotation calculation processes, reducing the time for quoting by 40 percent,” says Herter.

Today, elobau relies on Teamcenter. All parties in the calculation process access the same data and have the same level of knowledge. Elobau minimizes error sources and calculates additional variants with minimal effort through a structured representation of the cost and use of consistent standards. Teamcenter enables elobau to work much more efficiently throughout the calculation process and pro-duce traceable results. With Teamcenter, elobau has achieved a structured and standardized global process.

“Teamcenter product cost management helps us identify cost saving potential for new products as well as optimize costs for series production,” says Herter. Elobau will continue to rely on Teamcenter in the future to continue realizing high quality while optimizing costs.

VAULT Supercharges Pre-Production with 3D Systems’ SLA

Product: SLA Printing
Industry: Electronics y Semiconductors

VAULT is a leading manufacturer of enclosures for tablets, offering highly configurable and customizable solutions. With over twenty years of experience in the point-of-sale (POS) industry, VAULT combines its industry knowledge with an agile design-to-production workflow to answer the growing need for quality-made, uniquely branded POS stands and enclosures.

A key technology within VAULT’s process is 3D Systems’ stereolithography (SLA): specifically, the ProJet® 7000 HD 3D printer.  As project timelines at the company continue to shrink, the applications for this machine have expanded. VAULT is using its ProJet 7000 throughout pre-production for everything from proof of concept, to final concept, to mold and tooling set up, to packaging. One major reason for this is speed. “We absolutely love how fast it is,” says Quentin Forbes, VP Engineering at VAULT.

But speed isn’t the only thing. The transparency of Accura® ClearVue™ material improves communication, both between departments at VAULT, as well as with the end-customer. Additionally, the surface finish and accuracy of 3D Systems’ SLA prints enable them to inform tooling, increasing confidence in investment and accelerating timelines.

VAULT was given the opportunity to test its ProJet 7000 when approached by a multibillion-dollar customer with a big request and small timeline. With less than two months on the clock, VAULT needed to design, approve, mold, and produce a final, custom product. When sharing this recap out loud, Forbes said, “It doesn’t even sound possible.” And yet, VAULT delivered.

Nested SLA build at VAULT using Accura Xtreme

Fast and functional 3D prints accelerate customer buy-in

In mid-December, VAULT was charged with devising a fresh concept that needed to be finalized and delivered for a trade show in early February. The company got straight to work on design and 3D printed prototypes along the way. “The speed the ProJet 7000 allows us to work at is what made it possible to achieve what we did on this project,” says Forbes.

Right before the holiday break, VAULT’s team met with its customer with a fully functional 3D printed concept in hand. “They were blown away by the surface finish, the quality, and the overall level of work that we were able to show them based on a conversation we had had just 2 weeks earlier,” says Forbes. “And we didn’t do any post-op finishing on the prints either. They won over our client straight from the printer.”

Clear material facilitates design conversations

Another advantage of 3D Systems’ SLA is the available material selection. In particular, Forbes says VAULT has found AccuraClearVue, a clear resin, to be a major help in optimizing design. When customers want to add new features, VAULT will frequently print new components in clear, allowing everyone to have visibility into what is working and what is not. Prototypes in Accura ClearVue help deliver a full understanding of various mechanisms and space-claims to problem-solve for better outcomes.

“Customers don’t always understand how things will ultimately integrate and fit, so there’s a real utility and cool factor to being able to print in clear,” says Forbes. “When you can see through a part, there’s really no discussion, there’s just solutions and resolved questions.”

Clear 3D printed part helps customers see interferences faster to improve designs

SLA prototypes accelerate mold manufacturing and packaging

Following a successful client presentation, VAULT secured approval to move forward. The company was able to have molds cut in time, to which Forbes was quick to add: “Don’t ask me how!” However, he did say that having 3D printed prototypes available was highly valuable at this stage as well. For final production, VAULT relied on two-ton molds for plastic injection molding as well as aluminum die casting. The 3D printed prototypes were sent to the mold manufacturers to facilitate communication and ensure everyone was on the same page for the desired outcome.

The 3D printed prototypes provided the mold manufacturers with a reference that assisted them in creating the molds faster, as well as accelerating the post-operation set ups, including a foil stamp. Forbes explained that the extreme thinness of the foil stamp and the accuracy required to place it correctly usually forces this step to be delayed until a production part can be used to assist with placement. In this case, the high accuracy of the SLA prototype made it possible to prepare this step ahead of time and not lose momentum.

“The speed and resolution we can achieve with the ProJet 7000 made it possible to get customer approval quickly, start development quickly, and reduce mold manufacturing time,” says Forbes. “We were also able to use the prototype as the basis of all our packaging design, and when the production parts were ready, they fit perfectly.”

Quick and effective training

Looking back on VAULT’s first solo experience operating its ProJet 7000 HD, it didn’t take long for the company to get up and running. In fact, Forbes says VAULT went straight from training on sample prints to a big project without hesitation. “We went from 0 to 100 miles per hour with the ProJet right away,” says Forbes. “To me it’s a testament to how well 3D Systems does training, and how reliable your printers are in building. We came out of our training session and printer installation and didn’t lose any time getting into very large and long prints, without any issues.”

Setting up a part for printing in 3D Sprint software

Success that earns new business

At the end of VAULT’s two-month project window, the customer was able to launch its product as intended. “They are 110% behind this thing,” says Forbes. “It’s a great success story.” In fact, the project ran so successfully, VAULT is gearing up to do it again.

After witnessing the impact of high-quality SLA prints in sales meetings, VAULT’s business development manager Andrew Cagle says 3D Systems’ technology helps the company win new clients. According to Cagle, the work they do with the ProJet 7000 demonstrates that: “We’re industry experts, we’re leaders in this, and the technology we use is cutting edge.”

Design Automation Associates, automated circuit board vibration analysis reduces errors and results in 100x faster process

Product: NX CAD
Industry: Electronics and Semiconductors

Using NX Open to automate iterative design and analysis processes results in highly efficient, standardized operations.

Engineers helping engineers

Founded by three United Technologies engineers in 1995, Design Automation Associates Inc. (DAA) offers a variety of engineering consulting services, with a focus on helping companies automate their product development and configuration processes. The firm, which now has a staff of 20, serves a wide range of industries, including rotating equipment, electronics packaging, industrial machinery, aerospace, military and automotive.

DAA has a great deal of experience in determining which activities are suitable for automation. One of the most promising involves the design and analysis of engineered-to-order (ETO) and configured-to-order (CTO) products. “Iterative problems occur in all areas of engineering design and analysis, but they especially occur in companies with engineered-to-order and configured-to-order products where certain parts are designed so repetitively that automation can provide huge time savings,” says John Lambert, president and CEO of DAA.

As a specific example in electronics packaging, Lambert points to the finite element analysis (FEA) that must be performed for ETO printed circuit boards (PCBs). “For every new order, these companies have to re-engineer their circuit boards. Even when companies use good analysis technology, there is still a lot of work that must be done by hand,” Lambert explains. In many cases, manual calculations are needed to deter-mine loads, for example, and to assess the results of an analysis. “Many of those calculations, such as those used to interpret results, involve specialized procedures that are part of a company’s intellectual property that makes it unique and able to compete,” Lambert continues. “There is a whole domain of logic and calculation that won’t be added to any analysis software as out-of-the-box functionality, because it is company-specific.”

DAA has seen situations where the analysis process for a single ETO product took as many as 40 hours. “And a company might perform that same analysis process 100 to 200 times a year,” Lambert says. “In addition to the time and expense incurred, having to rely on so much manual calculation introduces the likelihood of error.” Whenever DAA does see attempts at automation, it’s almost always in the form of macros, which are, as Lambert points out, “twenty-year-old technology.”

Way beyond macros

DAA engineers use a number of advanced design and analysis solutions in their work, but when it comes to automating complex, iterative analyses and design-analysis loops, the firm relies on Simcenter and NX software from Siemens Digital Industries Software. DAA uses Simcenter 3D and Simcenter Nastran, both part of the Siemens’ Simcenter portfolio, for advanced analysis. “The Simcenter and NX toolset is world-class functionality,” says Lambert. “With Simcenter 3D and NX, we get integrated modeling and analysis capabilities, as well as NX Open.” NX Open is the application programming interface (API) embedded within both Simcenter 3D and NX. DAA uses NX Open, along with some custom coding, for its more complex automations. “The problems we’re focusing on require complexity and automation beyond that supported by out-of-the-box capabilities,” says Lambert. “For that we use NX Open.”

As an example of the automation DAA has done, Lambert describes a finite element analysis of a PCB destined for use in an aerospace application. “This is a great example of a task that must be done iteratively, in part because there are so many design variables, such as the components on the board and the mounts, that can be changed,” Lambert explains. “Also, the boards are subject to random vibration, and depending on the spectrum there can be one or more keep-away zones. You need to iteratively move frequencies to get them away from “keep-away zones” and into areas of lower vibration, but it’s not that simple because you can increase loads and stresses by doing that. When you move frequencies, you have to reassess loads. And often in electronics packaging there are components that have frequencies close to each other, so they magnify each other. It becomes an exhaustive, iterative game to achieve the balance between proper frequency placement and the structural board integrity.”

DAA’s automated version of this process, which looks to the user like native NX functionality, includes geometric modeling, FEA preprocessing, postprocessing and analysis using Simcenter 3D and Simcenter Nastran® software. Starting with the NX geometry model of the PCB, the program automatically creates the finite element mesh and applies the appropriate material properties. Then it iteratively runs a frequency extraction analysis (Simcenter Nastran Solution 103). Custom code written by DAA using NX Open compares the results to the random vibration spectrum, and then continues the iterative looping and modifications to the PCB geometry until the PCB vibration frequencies are out of the keep away zone on the random vibration curve. Next, custom calculations are done to determine loads, followed by analyses of stresses and deflections (Simcenter Nastran Solution 101). Some additional custom code combines those results with industry and process knowledge to generate life predictions, make comparisons against material allowables, and ultimately determine whether the design is acceptable. If not, the process starts again and the iterations continue until the design has adequate structural integrity.

In this example, Lambert notes that thermal analysis is not involved, although it could be: “Generally there is thermal analysis that has to be done and it can be included in the automation as well.”

Huge time savings and fewer errors

One of the most obvious benefits of automation, as illustrated in the PCB example, is the time it saves. Lambert has seen situations where an analysis that previously required 40 hours is now done by the automated process in 15 minutes.

Of course, creating the automation takes time, and DAA has a good rule of thumb for estimating how much time. “It takes approximately 10 times as long to create a somewhat robust automation routine as it does to run a single iteration,” Lambert explains. “So not everything is appropriate for an automation. If it’s an analysis that a company will run only a handful of times, it’s probably not worth it. But if it’s some-thing they’re doing 25 or 100, or 200 times a year, it makes a lot of sense.”

What skill level is needed to create an automation such as the one he described? “You need someone who has a moderate level of programming capability,” Lambert says. “The journaling function will generate a lot of NX Open code for you, but you need to know how to open that code, edit it and enhance it so it’s more suited to a general-purpose application, instead of just recording keystrokes.”

There are several other benefits to auto-mating iterative simulation processes with Simcenter 3D. Automations maintain the NX look and feel, so users who are comfortable with NX CAD need minimal training to use them. Also, once processes are automated by expert analysts, they can be run by users with less education and training, freeing up analysts for more challenging projects. Automating a process also has the effect of standardizing it and eliminating human errors, such as analysts’ mistakes in hand calculations.

DAA has had so much success using NX Open automation that it surprises Lambert that more companies aren’t taking advantage of the software’s programming functionality. “There is very powerful capability in  NX and Simcenter but we rarely see it used even though there is a great need for this kind of automation among our customers,” he says. “In the right situations, automating simulation processes within the NX CAD environment could be well worth the investment.”

ASM Pacific Technology: Semiconductor and LED equipment supplier uses NX to achieve goal of building smart factories

Product: NX CAM
Industry: Electronics and Semiconductors

Siemens Digital Industries Software solutions enable ASM Pacific Technology Ltd. to improve production efficiency and quality by 70 percent

Looking for solutions to keep pace with advancements in electronics technology

ASM Pacific Technology Ltd. (ASM) is the world’s largest supplier of semiconductor and light-emitting diode (LED) manufacturing and assembly equipment. ASM specializes in providing LED manufacturing and assembly equipment for chip manufacturers, integrated circuit (IC) manufacturing and assembly factories, and consumer electronics manufacturers. With the acceleration of electronics technology advancements, upstream manufacturing equipment providers are tasked with producing more sophisticated equipment in shorter cycle times. As the industry leader, ASM places high value on product development and production, investing 10 percent of its yearly sales revenues into product development. But the system and geographical separations between its research and development centers and manufacturing factories (each with locations throughout Asia and Europe) created significant gaps between ASM’s design, development and production activities.

Overcoming challenges using NX CAM

Directly applying three-dimensional (3D) product models to production/manufacturing activities proved difficult because the models lacked complete product information. Also, it was impossible for the manufacturing processes adopted by the factories to capture design intent, making it difficult for product data to flow between computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM).

Because of the significant time required to transfer design changes from the product development center to manufacturing, ASM realized it needed to integrate CAD and CAM. The full integration of design and manufacturing could eliminate problems associated with design and production automation and efficiency, while supporting an upgrade of the company’s business and processes.

“Product development and production are the core parts of ASM,” says Chen Lizhi, director of ASM MIS information and tele-communications technology. “ASM invests 10 percent of sales in product development activities. We have several product development centers and manufacturing factories around the globe. In order to thoroughly eliminate the seamless connection problems in linking design and production, we decided to deploy a computerized system at the production/manufacturing stage, using NX as the standard parts machining soft-ware platform to deploy the computerized system uniformly.

“We began using NX CAM software from Siemens Digital Industries Software in manufacturing factories in 2000. We have deployed more than 100 suites in factories all over the world, including those in Shenzhen, Singapore and Malaysia.” Successful digitalization has pushed productivity to a new level.

FBM keys more efficient processes

The most immediate benefit of applying NX™ software is that its feature-based machining (FBM) capability eliminates the data barriers between design and manufacturing. With FBM technology, NX CAM can automatically read and identify product and manufacturing information (PMI), tolerances, surface machining precision, and other information attached to 3D product models, and automatically select machining methods, processes and tools while also directly driving numerical control (NC) programming and machining.

In addition, feature-based machining enables automatic transfer of related data between CAD and CAM, and automatically identifies features and creates standardized NC programs for machining processes. ASM can now minimize human error while maximizing efficiency and accuracy.

Meanwhile, with the NX CAM integrated simulation and verification (ISV) capability, significantly reducing programming errors and improving machining quality. ASM’s engineers no longer need to conduct tests on physical machine tools. Instead, they can check the NC programming of tool paths for accuracy and reliability in a virtual environment, and verify the tool path and material removal process in a 3D environment. Machine tool simulation driven by G-code drives the true movement of the machine tool’s 3D model (including fixtures and tools), thus ensuring the first-time success of machining in the real world.

With more advanced machining and manufacturing technologies, ASM is marching toward the goal of building smart factories.

“NX CAM’s feature-based machining enables us to truly experience the seamless connection between CAD and CAM, enabling manufacturing to respond more quickly to design changes, thus significantly reducing the time of responding to user requirements and reducing time-to-market,” says Hu Dewen, senior CAD/CAM manufacturing manager at ASM. “Our statistical results show that feature-based machining and PMI have improved the production efficiency and quality of ASM by 70 percent, thus saving a lot of valuable time.”