Panasonic creates mould cooling channels with generative design and hybrid manufacturing

Panasonic Corporation’s Life Solutions Company has developed a new hybrid manufacturing method for mould cooling water channels by incorporating 3D printing, milling and generative design.

According to a post on the Autodesk Redshift blog, the Japanese electronics company has created a conformal cooling system that reduces cooling time by 20% compared to that of conventional drilled channels. 

Seiichi Uemoto, an analyst at Panasonic’s Life Solutions Company Manufacturing Engineering Center, sought to use generative design to automatically create new metal mould cooling channels having carried out some optimisation work on the design of cooling loops for box-shaped metal moulds using warping data from moulded products to analyse spaces between cooling channels. Uemoto said he felt that automating the design with generative would potentially deliver new designs that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

Panasonic worked with Autodesk to apply generative design, the design exploration technique which delivers optimised design outcomes based on goals and constraints, to the mould cooling water channels for a small, complex, mass-produced fan blade used in duct ventilation systems.

“Topology optimisation can produce only one solution from the conditions provided to the system,” Uemoto told Autodesk. “It is difficult to produce something with smooth contours from the generated result. But it became apparent to me that generative design would inherently result in smoother shapes. I felt with generative design, we would be able to effectively generate multiple concepts that took manufacturing principles into account.”

Constraints and desired conditions were input into the software, which churned out numerous iterations until just the key components remained. According to the post, Uemoto says he was surprised by the unique behaviour of the resulting water channel layout. 

Four different mould samples were manufactured including the original part designed by an experienced engineer, a second automated, generative design based on the original part, a third generative design with looser shape restrictions and finally, a design similar to the first with additional water channels. The moulds were manufactured using the LUMEX Avance-25 hybrid system, which combines metal 3D printing with milling to manufacture complex parts with intricate internal structures. Products from each mould were then measured to assess performance and the results showed there was little difference in performance between the generatively designed cooling channels compared to the veteran engineer’s design. Uemoto says the results were “quite remarkable” and ultimately fulfilled the team’s goal of working with automated design.

Creating advanced cooling systems is challenging and time-consuming, oftentimes taking engineers several hours to design a single mould. Uemoto says he hopes this project will lead to more automated solutions that streamline that process, speed up the workflow, and afford engineers more freedom.

Autodesk’s generative design tools have been applied in a number of projects from automotive to furniture design to optimise product performance. Last year, the company showed how Claudius Peters, a manufacturer of industrial machinery for cement, steel, gypsum and aluminium industries, used generative design to optimise a piece of concrete cooling equipment with a 25% reduction in material, while most recently, supercar manufacturer Briggs Automotive Company used the technology to redesign the alloy wheels for its latest Mono vehicle

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