Covestro simulations help optimize polyurethane foaming processes

Covestro simulations help optimize polyurethane foaming processes

Example instrument panel: shorten development cycles, reduce complexity and costs

The heart of automotive development – the design phase – is becoming increasingly digital. Automotive manufacturers and direct suppliers in particular often ask for digital verification for specific components, from instrument panels to interior trim. The focus is on simulation calculations that shorten development cycles, reduce complexity and costs, and mitigate risks. Covestro has worked intensively on the simulation of the polyurethane (PU) foaming process and has developed material models and state-of-the-art calculation methods for this purpose, as well as building up powerful computing capacities. To this end, the company will present its current developments at the world’s largest plastics trade show, K 2022 in Düsseldorf.

Product and process design is heavily dependent on the engineer’s experience with customers. Trial and error in setting up the final process is time consuming and costly. That is why simulations have played an important role in the planning of new products for quite some time. In car interiors, however, it has long been a question not only of simulating structure and form, but of creating a digital twin of the possible manufacturing process. To this end, those involved are relying on the science of materials modeling to simulate the foaming process.

This can be explained using the example of an instrument panel. In this application, semi-rigid PU foams based on Bayfill® have become well established, as they enable the economical and reliable production of components with complex contours. In addition, the foams provide a pleasant feel and noise insulation.

“Thanks to Covestro’s digital twin for Bayfill® foams, suppliers and automotive manufacturers receive detailed information about the processing behavior of the material as early as the design phase, before real experiments or trials are necessary,” says Dagmar Ulbrich, Head of Automotive Systems R&D at Covestro. “This helps identify potential challenges early on, when product and tooling changes can still be made at low cost.” 

Polyurethane foams can meet the requirements for instrument panels and other interior parts well, but the foam must be processed within a specific process window. Simulated foaming based on Covestro’s material models helps to optimally adjust the process window.

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