Despite the precision of manufacturing operations, we can’t always predict the future. That’s why simulation is such an asset to Caterpillar, allowing us to apply data and virtual tools to visualize a product or process before we create it in the physical world. Simulation saves us time, money and resources and allows us to iterate quickly to create the best possible solutions for our customers. Here are a few ways that simulation makes a difference in Caterpillar’s operations.
Manufacturing and related processes are complex sequences of events. How many capital assets and people are needed to manufacture the parts? What’s the best factory layout or manufacturing line design to move product quickly? Discrete Event Simulation uses time-based simulation and statistics to analyze these events, and virtual experiments are run to improve efficiency – all before money is spent or production lines are impacted.
Caterpillar uses castings to create machine parts by pouring molten metal into a mold. But before we do this, our foundry team uses software to simulate proposed casting process designs, helping the team visualize the materials in the process and assess the final part’s quality. Virtually selecting the best design increases the number of castings our team creates and keeps our quality high.
Large engines that power ships or oil rigs often create assembly challenges because of the engines’ complexity and size. That’s why Caterpillar uses a virtual build process to develop a safe, repeatable, effective manufacturing process for engines. Analytics tools help us prioritize highly complex engines to run through the virtual-build process, letting us proactively identify potential issues before the engines are built in iron.
The heat generated in the welding process distorts metal structures, which negatively impacts the life of a product. Caterpillar’s welding simulation tools predict this distortion and help our team find the best weld sequence – out of millions or more – to minimize distortion. This saves our team time and money by avoiding the need to straighten metal structures after they’re welded, and it helps to ensure long-lasting welds that our customers can rely on.
Driving high paint-finish quality on our products involves many challenging operations, like electro-coating processes, curing oven design, airflow management and paint spray systems. Using computational fluid dynamics simulation, we review the paint process and streamline it virtually, so we already know the best equipment layout, curing temperature, line speed and other details before the parts ever hit the paint shop. This helps us reduce rework and time to production, increase sustainability and ensure quality.