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Materials Today: Proceedings 2 (2015) 4726 – 4731

Aluminium Two Thousand World Congress and International Conference on Extrusion and
Benchmark ICEB 2015

High efficiency in the simulation of complex extrusion processes


using an advanced simulation method
Longchang Tonga*, Christoph Beckera, Pavel Horaa
a
ETH Zurich, Institute of Virtual Manufacturing, Tannenstrasse 3, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract

In order to simulate the entire process of the complex profile extrusion with remarkably reduced computational costs, a new
procedure is proposed in this paper. The FE-mesh is generated previously in the pre-processing stage and the elements are
activated according to the material flow during the FE computation. With this method the problem of instable boundary
conditions that arises from the remeshing algorithm is avoided. The feasibility of this method is demonstrated with complex 3-D
examples. Several important factors for successful simulation are also discussed in this paper.

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Selection andPeer-review
Peer-review under
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responsibility of Conference
of Conference Committee
Committee of Aluminium
of Aluminium Two Thousand
Two Thousand Worldand
World Congress Congress and
International
Conference on Conference
International Extrusion andonBenchmark
ExtrusionICEB 2015
and Benchmark ICEB 2015.

Keywords: Extrusion; Advanced numerical methods; Finite element simulation; Frictional Modelling

1. Introduction

Aluminium alloys have been used to produce complex profiled bars at elevated temperature with extrusion
processes. This method possesses high efficiency as well as high precision. Nevertheless, the design of the extrusion
dies is still based mainly on the experience of the engineers despite the long history of this manufacturing
technology. Try and error method is inevitable for new complex products. Finite Element Method (FEM) has been
used to simulate the extrusion processes of profiled materials for more than 2 decades [1-3]. However, much less

* Corresponding author. Tel.:+41 44 6330522; fax: +41 44 6332596.


E-mail address: tong@ivp.mavt.ethz.ch

2214-7853 © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Selection and Peer-review under responsibility of Conference Committee of Aluminium Two Thousand World Congress and International Conference on
Extrusion and Benchmark ICEB 2015
doi:10.1016/j.matpr.2015.10.005
Longchang Tong et al. / Materials Today: Proceedings 2 (2015) 4726 – 4731 4727

progress in the simulation of profile extrusion has been achieved in comparison with the simulation of sheet forming
processes. The situation is mainly due to several special difficulties.
First of all, the plastic deformation and the strain rate in the extrusion processes is extremely high. If the Updated
Lagrangian Method (ULM) is adopted, the strong distortion of the FE mesh results in numerical errors and stops the
further computation. In these cases the regeneration of FE mesh is indispensable. However, most remeshing
algorithms use the deformed surface of the workpiece as the reference surface. The geometries of the tools are
difficult to be involved. In many cases the new mesh possesses insufficient precision for the geometry of forming
tools. Instable and wrong boundary conditions are caused during the computation. The results of the simulation is
then absolutely wrong, as shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1. Numerical errors introduced by remeshing: a) Incorrect mapping of sharp edges b) Wrong velocity distribution due to mistakes in
remeshing.

Secondly, the properties of aluminium alloys for the profile extrusion are also very complicated. As the extrusion
processes are performed at high temperature, the material behavior is a function of more variables like strain, strain
rate and temperature. To get the reasonable description of the flow function is not a trivial task.
Besides, the behaviors of friction are much more complex than that in the sheet forming processes. The friction force
can be calculated neither with the Coulomb model [4] nor the shear friction model [5]. If the friction is not properly
applied, the distribution of the velocity will have remarkable deviation from the real process depending on the
friction model and parameters.
Last but not least, due to the complex structure of the extrusion tools, very large equation systems are inevitable.
Although the computers are getting faster and faster, the efficiency of the simulation plays always an important role.
There are several special purpose programs for the simulation of profile extrusion processes as well as docents of
general purpose packages for the simulation of bulk forming processes available in the market. However, none of the
general purpose packages can finish the computation for a complex extrusion process in reasonable time. From the
practice we can define the reasonable computational time as a couple of hours for a profile with moderate
complexity and no more than 24 hours for very complicated processes.
Some simulation tools like HyperXtrude ignore the filling process and just calculate the forming of profile. Excellent
results have been reported [6-7]. Anyway, we know that the material flow in the welding channels determines not
only the temperature distribution at the end of the filling but also can cause the damage on the extrusion tools if the
unbalance loads are induced in the filling process.
In order to simulate the profile extrusion successfully, the problems mentioned above have to be solved. Based on
the consideration discussed in previous sections, a new method is proposed in this work. The mesh is generated in
the pre-processing stage and the elements are activated sequentially according to the velocity field during the
computation. Stable boundary conditions are achieved and errors due to remeshing are entirely eliminated.
Computation examples show the feasibility of this method. Meanwhile, the computation time is remarkably reduced.

2. Special ALE-meshing method

A completely new concept has been developed to simulate the profile extrusion processes. Instead to perform
remeshing repeatedly, the whole workpiece include billet, welding channels and a piece of profile is meshed
previously in the pre-processing stage. The element size of the mesh in different zones is elaborately adjusted so that
it can describe the geometries with sufficient precision while too large system should be avoided. Since it belongs to
the pre-processing, the mesh can be iteratively modified without much computational costs.
4728 Longchang Tong et al. / Materials Today: Proceedings 2 (2015) 4726 – 4731

This method is shown schematically in Fig. 2. A basic mesh is generated before the calculation is started (Fig. 2 a).
The criterion for a well generated mesh ensures the accurate description of the geometries and the sufficient number
of elements in the sections of the profiles. Meanwhile, the number of total elements can be limited according to the
capacity of the computers.
At the beginning of the simulation, only the elements for the billet are activated. The velocity field is then calculated.
Further elements are put into usage according to the velocity distribution (Fig. 2 b). The Surface of the material flow
can also be well traced with the velocity distribution.
As soon as all pre-meshed elements are activated, the program generated new elements at the end position of the pre-
meshed profile (Fig 2. c). The newly generated elements are updated to provide the information of the movement of
the extruded material.

a) pre-meshing of the workpiece b) activated elements c) further generated elements


Fig. 2. Schematic explanation of the new method

There are several advantages using this method. First of all, since the mesh gives very exact description for the
geometries of the forming tools, the sharp edges and corners can be well recognized to ensure very stable definitions
of boundary conditions. The numerical problems that comes from the “instable” boundary conditions are then
entirely eliminated.
Although very small time increments have to be adopted to ensure the convergence of the solution, the velocity
distribution does not change abruptly between small increments. In this method, new elements are activated as the
material flows into the volume occupied by the elements. The incremental volume and corresponding time step can
be calculated as,
n

¦ 'V i
't i 1 (1)
punch
v A
where the 'Vi is the volume of the i-th new activated element, vpunch denotes the velocity of the extrusion punch and
A represents the section area of the billet.
Usually the time increment obtained with Eq. (1) is relatively large. Sub-increment are used to keep the numerical
process stable. However, the velocity field can be treated as constant in the increment. Only plastic deformation,
temperature and the convections of the variables are calculated in the sub-increments. This procedure achieves
remarkable acceleration of the computation.

3. Element formulation and direct solver

It is very difficult to generate a mesh to fill a complex geometry with hexahedral elements. For this reason most of
the simulation packages for bulk forming simulation adopt the tetrahedral element formulation. As well know, strong
locking effect leads to wrong results if the linear function for the velocity is adopted because of the incompressible
condition in the bulk forming processes.
In order to overcome the difficulty, the mini element with a bubble function introduced by a middle node can be
used [8], as shown in Fig. 3. The interpolating functions are
Longchang Tong et al. / Materials Today: Proceedings 2 (2015) 4726 – 4731 4729

Fig. 3. A non-linear tetrahedral element.


4
u ¦Lu
i 1
i i  256 L1 L2 L3 L4u m
(2)
4
p ¦L p
i 1
i i

here the Li denotes the linear interpolating function of the i-th node. The whole interpolation satisfies the
requirement of the isoparameteric conditions with higher polynomial expression. The locking effect is eliminated
consequently. Because the middle node is isolated from other elements, it is an internal node and can be eliminated
explicitly from the variables. The equation of an element can be therefore expressed as
ª K uu K up º ­u ½ ­F ½ . (3)
«sym.  C » ® ¾ ® ¾
¬ pp ¼ ¯ p ¿ ¯0¿
A disadvantage of this element formulation is that the system is non-positive definite as the diagonal terms possess
negative values. Therefore the high efficient conjugate gradient iterative solver fails to solve the equation system.
Fortunately, the direct solvers have been well developed with high efficiency and the possibility of parallel
computation. For example, we adopt the PARDISO parallel direct sparse solver from Intel MKL [9]. High
computational performance has been achieved. As one of the examples, Table 1 lists the computing parameters of a
moderate complicated extrusion process shown in Fig 2.
Table 1: The computational parameters for the example in Fig. 2
Number of elements Number of CPUs CPU-frequency CPU-Time

up to 985,000 6 Intel Xeon E5-1650 3.2GH 3.5 hours

4. Implementation of friction model

One of the most important and most sensitive factors for successful simulation of extrusion processes is the
friction model. In comparison with the tribological conditions in the sheet forming processes, the friction stress in
the extrusion processes is much higher and shows much stronger dependency on multi-factors like surface pressure,
temperature and the relative velocity. It is very difficult to measure the friction force directly under the real process
conditions. Besides, the friction force possesses strong non-linear property. It is induced by the relative movement of
the material and can jump abruptly if the contact condition changes slightly.
Significant progress has been achieved recently [10]. The method to measure and to evaluate the friction stress is
proposed in that work. The dependency of pressure, temperature and relative velocities is discussed and the function
to evaluate the friction stresses is well established based on the experiments. Although this description still cannot
distinguish different contact conditions at the smooth surfaces of the tools and at the sharp edges of the extrusion
dies where the deformation rate is extremely high, computational examples verified the validity of the model.
Special attention should be paid to apply the evaluated friction force in the simulation. The friction force is a kind of
passive force. It is induced by the relative movement. If the movement decreases to a sticking behavior, neither the
magnitude nor the directions of the friction force can be determined. Improperly applied strong friction force might
4730 Longchang Tong et al. / Materials Today: Proceedings 2 (2015) 4726 – 4731

result in wrong distribution of the velocity field. Even oscillation of the nodes between iterations can be caused as
soon as the friction force is overestimated.
An alternative method has been adopted for the profile extrusion simulation to avoid the numerical problem caused
by high friction forces in present work. A virtual nonlinear spring is introduced on each node which get friction force
from forming tools to stabilize the computation, as shown in Fig. 4. The stiffness of the spring depends on the
friction force and the relative displacement at the node as
­WA / 'u ('u ! 'uthr ) (4)
K ®
¯ WA / 'uthr

where 'uthr is a threshold value to avoid numerical errors. It is set as 10-4 to ensure the reasonable results.
tool W vr

FE mesh nonlinear spring

Fig. 4. The nonlinear spring model for the friction behaviour.

With this implementation the overestimated friction forces enhance the sticking behaviors of the nodes therefore
stabilized the numerical procedures.
An experiment was set in order to verify the effect of the implementation for the friction forces. Four conical
channels with the same positions and same diameters but different angles are used in the experiment as shown in
Fig. 5 a). The simulation result with this implementation of friction model is also shown in Fig. 5 b) and c). Compare
with the experiment data, satisfactory agreement with the measurement has been achieved.

a) The setup of the experiment; b) Simulation result; c) Comparison with experiment


Fig. 5. The experiment to test the implementation of friction.

5. Computational example

An extrusion process is chosen to demonstrate the possibility using this numerical tool to investigate the
influence of slight modification of the geometry of the extrusion tools. The aluminium alloy used in the extrusion
process is A6082 and the flow function can be expressed using a modified Zener-Hollomon model [11] as
VY A exp(Q / RT )H m *{1  D exp[c(H  H 0 ) 2 ]}[1  E exp( NH n )] . (5)

The parameters for A6082 are obtained using the experimental data as listed in Table 2.
The results from the simulation are shown in Fig. 6. The curvature of the profile indicates the uneven distribution of
the velocity (Fig. 6 a). As the extrusion die is modified with conical form at the corners, improvement can be seen
Longchang Tong et al. / Materials Today: Proceedings 2 (2015) 4726 – 4731 4731

directly from Fig. 6 b). Fig. 6 c) shows the local distribution of the velocity. Since the conical shape has more brake
effect than a vertical bearing it causes the dead zones at the corners. This slight modification improves the velocity
distribution and correct the curvature to certain degree.

a) The simulation of a profile extrusion; b) The result with modification c) Dead zones caused by the modification
Fig. 6. Demonstration of the simulation of a real process

Table 2: The parameters for the flow function of A6082


A Q D c H0 m E N n
0.4902 28177.0 10. 0. 0. 0.0839 0.0893 38.445 1.

6. Conclusions

The method presented in this paper realizes the simulation of the complex profile extrusion processes and
accelerates the simulation remarkably. The computation can be performed on ordinary PCs within reasonable
computational time. The results provide systematic information and can help the optimization of the processes in
many circumstances.

Acknowledgement

The authors would like to express their sincere thanks to the companies WEFA and Honsel for providing the
examples of testing computation. The long term cooperation between FZS, TU Berlin and IVP, ETH Zurich is also
well appreciated.

References

[1] L. Tong, PhD thesis, Institut für Umformtechnik, ETH Zürich, Nr. 11107, (1995).
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[3] A. E. Tekkaya, S. Kavakli, Steel Res. 66 (1995) 377-383.
[4] F. Parvizian, T. Kayser, C. Hortig, B. Svendsen, J. Mater. Process. Technol. 209 (2009) 876-883.
[5] A. Güzel, A. Jäger, F. Parvizian, H.G. Lambers, A. Tekkaya, B. Svendsen, J. Mater. Process. Technol. 212 (2012) 323-330.
[6] M. Schikorra, M. Kleiner, CIRP Annals-Manufacturing Technology 1 (2007) 317-320.
[7] G. Liu, K. Huang, J. Zhou, J. Duszczyk, Comp. Meth. Mater. Sci. 2 (2011) 259-264.
[8] R. H. Wagoner and J. L. Chenot, Metal Forming Analysis, Cambridge University Press, (2001).
[9] O. Schenk, K. Gärtner, W. Fichtner, A. Stricker, Future Gener. Comp. Sy. 18. (2001) 69-78.
[10] C. Becker, P. Hora, J. Maier, S. Müller, Key Eng. Mater. 585 (2014) 25-32.
[11] L. Tong, S. Stahel, P. Hora, Numisheet 2005, 778 (2005) 625-629.

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