Vextec is hoping to solve the challenges of certification in additive manufacturing (AM) with its predictive VPS-MICRO software for metallic component durability. According to the company, the software—which models component properties to provide a realistic look at fatigue durability and performance—is gaining traction in AM.
“A lot of times the MRO industry deals with needing to build one-off parts or items from OEMs that are no longer functioning. It can be troublesome and problematic to certify those parts,” says Robert Tryon, Vextec’s chief technology officer. “You can build those parts, but what’s the certification cost of that in order to deem it airworthy?”
Traditional component fatigue testing involves exposing manufactured parts to repeated cyclical stress tests due to the inherent variation in their microstructures. In AM—where there can be wide variability in component properties due to its layer-by-layer build nature—this can be particularly time consuming and expensive. Using Vextec’s VPS-MICRO software, these stress tests can be simulated via virtual microstructures using computational processing. Vextec says that as the only probabilistic microstructure fatigue simulation software for AM on the market, VPS-MICRO can perform required stress tests much more efficiently.
To further VPS-MICRO’s use for AM, Vextec recently began a project with Singapore’s Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre to collaborate with several manufacturers to develop advanced material modeling capabilities for AM processes. According to Vextec, the project will help to ensure that standard 3D-printing parameters are linked to both material properties as well as fatigue and fracture performance—which are critical to product lifecycle management.
Industry collaboration projects are nothing new for Vextec. The company, which was founded in 2000, received more than $25 million in development funding from the United States Department of Defense to create its technology. Tryon says VPS-MICRO was commercialized approximately five years ago and Vextec has worked with clients from a wide variety of industries, such as automotive, energy and heavy industry.
Within aerospace, Vextec’s software has seen demonstrable benefits at American Airlines. According to Vextec, the airline was experiencing premature failures of the auxiliary power unit (APU) bearings on its 777 aircraft. “They came to us to understand why the bearings were failing early in their aircraft,” says Tryon. “Using some limited information they had on their broken parts, we were able to take that and create robust models of their system in order to help them devise a solution to these early failures of their APUs.”
Working with American Airlines, Vextec created a VirtualTwin model that included multiple operating conditions, lubricants, and design and material processing variations. Vextec’s simulations determined that an operational change combined with a lubricant change would eliminate the premature bearing failures. According to Vextec, since the airline made the changes it has experienced no APU bearing failures, which has resulted in a savings of $3-4 million per year.
Moving forward, Tryon says Vextec is looking to work on integrated computational materials engineering (ICME), which typically focuses on using simulation to develop manufacturing materials and processes that produce a certain material property or set of material properties. “We take the same type of tenets of ICME, but we extend it towards the performance of the material once it’s created,” says Tryon. “We’re positioning our software to be the ICME type of solution for durability and fatigue prediction for metallic components.”
VPS-MICRO is Windows-based and run on a subscription license model. Clients can install VPS-MICRO on either a single point of use basis or as a floating license that multiple users can access from a central license server. The company is not currently sharing pricing information.