In this interview Christian Beschorner, also known as the “metal whisperer” by his peers, reveals how attitudes have changed towards FEA metal forming solutions, from one of pure disbelief by engineers to witnessing a wide acceptance. “What does AutoForm say” has now become a common reference question at Linde + Wiemann for dealing with problematic parts. Christian, a Calculation-/Process-Engineer, from the Department of Stamping Technologies at Linde + Wiemann SE & Co KG Germany, also discusses the use of several FEA tools, including PamStamp and FTI, and how they all serve as useful decision making aids in his organization.
Christian Beschorner is responsible for concept development, process validation and cost estimation of forming tools. These tools are for large presses up to 3000 tons, as well as interlinked press lines for structural components (of both sheet steel & aluminum) for many well-known automotive companies. AutoForm’s own, Senior Application Engineer, Stefan Davis put the following questions to the Metal Whisperer himself to find out how simulation has organically grown throughout their organization and uncover the perception of such solutions.
Fig 1. Left to Right – Christian Beschorner and his Chief Marcus Wahl from the stamping technologies department at Linde + Wiemann, Dillenburg (Germany) and Stefan Davis from AutoForm, holding the interview at a German Christmas market.
What characterizes one of the few “Europe’s best sheet metal whisperers with passion“?
[Christian smirks]: But out there, are a lot more, I’m sure. We are ambitious and motivated to be better than the day before. WE WANT TO UNDERSTAND THE RESULTS! As for me, I’m just a needle in a haystack. But there are pains if you happen to sit in this role, as you get the call to “Pull the cart out of the dirt.” Personally, I’m not content with everyday things. My curiosity for what is waiting behind the green door is too great. I’m always looking for new solutions to create standards that make work easier for everyone. I live according to the Kaizen principle. That is my passion. A day without new knowledge is lost time. One only need asks; what is still possible with the tools that have been given to you? Where others would stop, I question and try the impossible. That is my engineering understanding in dealing with resources. A hammer can also be the object of art. It depends on the viewer. HOW DOES ONE COPE WITH THE DAILY PRESSURE?”
What does your daily work involve?
“I deal with concept and process planning as well as process validation, carried out almost exclusively with AutoFormplus R7 (using DieDesigner and StampingAdviser). The final active surface compensation however is based on many years of experience and trust in the calculation results of Pamstamp’s Die Compensation by ESI. Our secondary springback compensation of the last tenth deviations succeeds on the basis of initial sample test reports and a special software routine (in-house development) using the CAD system VISI, made by VERO. With this approach we ensure process capability and transfer to production with a significantly reduced number of Q loops after the first tryout.”
“With our in-house routine that depends on an Excel database basis including the XML interface (in-house development) we get information from AutoForm projects by not only pimping the tool calculations for bidding visually and in terms of content, but by also setting a uniform standard which is also resilient for our extensive clientele in every respect during cost breakdowns.”
“The question then arises why not consistently use all of AutoForm solutions? Well, this is partly due to the growth of internal structures as well as to the fact that already existing solutions represented a comprehensive workflow between the departments. New software modules undergo an extensive test phase. Only when it is really certain that the added value will increase is the switch flipped. This is often all too slow for me. Patience is not one of my characteristics. But persistence is. You have to convince the management, even if it takes many, many years.”
How did your work change throughout the last 20 years?
“I can still remember times when the number of tool objects had to be manageable because the space on the screen was limited. Or that the introduction of the fully integrated shell formulation was a long time coming. Other software companies had already integrated this and could, for example, display the physics of flanging more realistically. It wasn’t enough for me to just look at the main forming stage. It was good that early restarts were already possible. But even then, I not only observed the tool closing, but also the tool opening. This led many times to “aha moments.”
“AutoForm has always been fast and the robust solver kept on calculating when elements had already degenerated. There is much scope for interpretation for the user, especially when explaining the results to those not familiar with the subject. The tool offset visually produced in AutoForm was sometimes more and sometimes less successful. Fortunately, however, this could be switched off and the assignment of active surfaces had to be interpreted. But, that was 15 years ago.”
“The expectations when introducing virtual sheet metal forming were initially ambivalent. Chiefs as well as colleagues from the specialist departments and ultimately the management did not really understand the necessity of using computer-based decision-making aids for a long time. Their chant was “we’d better build another test tool to confirm the simulation” or “now you’ve been calculating for two weeks and still don’t have a result.” This attitude held us back in hindsight. The acceptance of the virtual results and their actual relation to reality took years.”
“Today, on the other hand, the new phrase arises: “What does AutoForm say?” is often questioned in meetings during the checking of critical part areas.”
“For example, I had to spend several years convincing people so that our tensile testing machine in the materials laboratory would be equipped with a transverse strain sensor in order to be able to record anisotropic material behavior from current material charges. We did not know sample preparation conforming to norms. We were always looking for contact from AutoForm support, who have consistently been great, be it at conferences, at trade fairs or directly by telephone.”
“Almost 13 years ago, the development of the OneStep solver was lagging behind the competition by lengths. With Fastblank from FTI, a one-step solver was available at the time that could process even complex geometries almost reliably into the plane, the nesting solution of the Canadians was second to none.”
“Today, AutoForm offers a hands-on blanking and nesting solution that guides the user through the entire engineering process, from blank determination to the finished forming process, and allows realistic material weights to be estimated with virtually no errors. Interestingly, FTI’s one-step solver, on the other hand, is now integrated in some CAD solutions (e.g. VISI, CIMATRON) and supports the creation of strip layouts. We have also been using this for several years and are doing well with it. But a change is taking place. In AutoForm, the ProgDie module is slowly maturing and enables the comprehensive consideration of subsequent progressive die processes in a single model. The part geometry can be used to model all the active surfaces required for trimming and forming processes. This gives completely new insights into the complete production process and offers a lot of scope for optimization even before the start of design.”
“In the early years I was a lone fighter and had to fight for every cent spent for new hardware and license extensions. Looking back, I have to admit that a thick skin and staying power was needed. Today we’ve developed a great, highly motivated team of engineers and technicians who are eager to learn and just as hungry as I used to be. Indeed, thanks to the use of simulation software, we have built up an enormous know-how for the unerring implementation of tool projects for e.g. window frames, sheet metal frames, tunnel reinforcements, A-pillars, roof frames, B-pillar reinforcements. I imagine our expertise has become the envy of our competition.”
What do you expect for the future?
“I hope that many more people involved in the development process of sheet metal structures will recognize the potential of systems such as AutoForm-Sigmaplus and that the results of forming results will soon flow into Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing investigations. It must become clear that the vehicle manufacturer is also responsible for offering the supplier only projects that could be implemented within an appropriate framework under certain circumstances with concessions to the required tolerances. The knowledge gained from systematic process improvement and robustness analyses must be put into the heads of decision-makers at the highest level. Similarly, the large family of lateral thinkers here has already succeeded in understanding virtual forming results, even though it took almost 20 years.”
“AutoForm is a robust universal tool for value engineers, process planners and process optimizers. I would like to see a continuous further development with regard to increasing performance in PLM integration, handling and result documentation. Some functionalities I hope to see in future from AutoForm include rotating dies, or a collision check of transfer concepts to optimize speed and press strokes. Estimating taboo areas for construction space and understanding the tool kinematics within the whole would be a nice benefit as a result of that.”
From AutoForm and FormingWorld, thank you Christian & Stefan for this insightful interview!
About Christian Beschorner:
Christian Beschorner has been working with various FEM solvers (Indeed, Marc, PamStamp, FormingSuite, AutoForm) for more than 20 years. After studying mechanical engineering in Siegen and leading a working group for virtual process optimization at the Institute for Business Informatics, he introduced the technology of forming simulation with AutoForm R3 at the Linde+Wiemann Group in Dillenburg, Germany in 2001. He was one of the first users who dared to use AutoFormPLUS R4 in 2011 and was employed productively as Head of Engineering at Gebr. RATH Werkzeugbau in Kredenbach, Germany. To date, he has infected more than 30 engineers, technicians and sales staff with the AutoForm virus and trained them intensively in the use of FEM technology and the interpretation of the calculation results.