Sandvik Coromant designs and manufactures tools for the automotive, aerospace, and other engineering industries that produce metal components with high demands in terms of precision. In today's production facilities, a variety of products are often manufactured in smaller series from different engineering materials. To cope with rapid changes in automated production, manufacturing processes need to be completely reliable and proceed without disruption.
Ashwin Devotta has improved the simulation technology that, in the long run, makes it possible to digitize this type of manufacturing fully. He recently presented his dissertation at University West.
Provides a safer work environment
– My research is primarily about the simulation of the metal chips geometries that are formed during the machining process. It is essential to know their geometry beforehand and how they evolve from the metal during the machining progress. The metal chips are so hard and sharp that they can destroy the product as well as be dangerous to the machine operators. Having better control is paramount to a safe work environment.
– I have also delved into how the physics in the cutting process affect the shape of the metal chips. You need to know this to be able to control the machining process better.
Ashwin has created material models by performing a variety of material tests to understand how the steel deforms when machined by the cutting tool. He has then compared the simulation results with actual machining tests in the lab. The results in the form of mathematical equations help to improve the accuracy of engineering simulations.
Car crash tests provided input
– To create "digital" metal chips, I use, among other things, the same mathematical principles that make up the graphics behind advanced video games. When the physics are incorporated, the simulation becomes very similar to the real-life process. For example, we can predict exactly what will happen during machining when we make small changes to the cutting tool design.
During machining of materials like steel, powerful forces are involved. Ashwin explains that the speeds involved in machining are similar to high-speed car crashes and space satellite – debris collision. These high speeds lead to remarkably high forces. In machining, the tools are subjected to such high forces for considerably long periods, making it more challenging.
– That is why I have also benefited from studying material models used in simulations for car crash tests and collisions between satellites and space debris. All of this provides valuable input to the design of cutting tools. We can develop custom-designed cutting tools in less time, and our customers get more efficient production processes and higher product quality.
Do it right from the start
For manufacturing companies, it is about being able to do right from the start by using reliable automated machining processes. Disturbances and faults in production cost both time and money. Engineered metallic materials can be expensive to make mistakes with, financially for industry and from an energy perspective for the environment.
– Good simulation models that cater to high industrial demands can make a big difference in machining efficiency. Now I continue to apply my research results in the R&D department at Sandvik Coromant. Later it may be possible to implement new simulation models in more product areas and units within the company.
For Ashwin, time as an industrial doctoral student has been an exciting and educational journey. The research area is narrow and little explored in Sweden.
Narrow research area
– I have had some help from a professor in England, but otherwise I have had to solve most of the problems on my own. It has also been very educational to conduct research in close collaboration with a company. I have received quick feedback on what works in practice and a good understanding of the conditions of the industry. It has also been useful to move between academia and industry, which are two very different worlds.
For Ashwin, his career has taken him closer and closer to the Arctic Circle from his hometown in southern India. After an engineering degree at a co-op program and a job as a tool designer in southern India, he chose to study for a master's degree in Germany.
– When this doctoral research ad turned up, I was actually on my way to another job in the US. But Sandvik's ad was tailor-made for me and my skills, so it was a natural choice. Certainly, living here with darkness and cold is very different from India. But I have become accustomed to the Swedish climate and really like it here.
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