I attended the Siemens PLM Connection event in Berlin last week – a gathering of over 1,000 users of engineering and product lifecycle software applications such as Teamcenter, Simcenter, and NX. Aside from the very entertaining iPad magician at the gala dinner, two things struck me from the conference sessions and discussions with other delegates.


The first was the emphasis on Additive Manufacturing (AM), with Siemens PLM launching new capabilities such as topology optimization for additive applications. There was a strong sense from attendees that this is a technology coming into its own, and an interest in how it applies to them. Of course, data about materials, processing parameters, and the relationship between the two is vital to developing effective AM.


A delegate from a major automotive OEM made a good point in one session that I attended. During a discussion about how materials data might be captured within PLM, he asked: how do we deal with the fact that data about AM materials can’t be treated like data about traditional metals, because of the complicated machine- and process-dependencies of the properties? His question was reinforced by a conversation I had with a simulation expert, who pointed out the risks of delivering property data to designers or analysts for complex situations such as AM or composite lay-up. He asked: how do we make sure that the end-user understands the context and limitations of that information?


I think Granta has an interesting answer for the first of these questions with GRANTA MI:Additive Manufacturing, which provides a configurable database that captures not only properties for AM materials, but the related process and other parameters. As for the second question: it will be interesting to see how organizations approach this as more and more roll out materials information management projects.  It’s exactly the kind of question we at Granta face regularly, as we configure systems at the engineering enterprises we work with. The answer varies based on the exact situation – I’m sure our Services team will be having lots more conversations about how we, for example, present contextual information to designers, or trigger workflows to validate a design if certain materials are assigned.



Authoring approved materials data into PLM.


My second observation was that interest within the PLM community about materials information management continues to grow – a sense we had already taken from the equivalent Siemens PLM event in the US and the PTC Liveworx conference earlier this year. As well as more companies now talking about their projects in this area, the PLM system providers themselves are beginning to introduce native material object models. At Granta, we provide tools that can author approved, traceable data into these models, and keep it synchronized with a company’s gold source of such data (see our white paper here, for more on this topic).  Although the number of organizations that have yet to do anything systematic about controlling materials data remains surprisingly high, there is a clear recognition when you speak to these companies that fixing this issue should be a priority. They acknowledge that there is little point investing in expensive simulations or tools to optimize geometry if the information you are using about the materials from which your product will actually be made is inconsistent, inaccurate, or out-dated.


Additive Manufacturing and materials information management integrated with PLM: watch this space; there is bound to be more to follow.  Oh, and you can see the iPad magician here.

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