User Story

VDO North America : Moldflow

VDO North America is a leading supplier of electronic information and control systems for original equipment manufacturers in the automotive, heavy duty, industrial, marine, and power sports industries, as well as instrumentation and electrical products to the automotive, marine, and industrial after markets.

An acknowledged world leader in instrumentation, the company also produces a wide range of vehicle systems and components including information, navigation and audio in-car systems, complete cockpit and dashboard modules, complete truck cabins, engine and fuel management modules, cruise controls, throttle body assemblies, and sensors. Its North American customers include GM, Saturn, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen, Bombardier, Freightliner, Land Rover, MACK, Navistar, John Deere, Caterpillar, Paccar, Mercury Marine, Harley Davidson, and Yamaha, among others. VDO is a certified ISO 9001/QS 9000 & ISO14001 manufacturer.

The company's Cheshire, CT-based VDO operation designs and manufactures automotive sensors and actuators. Its main customers are Ford, GM, and Chrysler. There, manufacturing engineer Dana Bryan uses Moldflow software from Moldflow Corporation (Wayland, MA) for simulating and analyzing plastic parts. VDO design engineers use I-DEAS, Catia, and 3CP for Ford CAD packages.

Bryan says, "A little over three years ago, we started using Moldflow Plastic Adviser (MPA) during the upfront design phase to double check wall thickness, for example. Since then, we obtained Moldflow Plastics Insight (MPI) Flow, Cool, Thermoset, Fusion, and Warp modules to aid in gathering all possible data we can to help us make the right decisions the first time. Ninety percent of the materials we use are engineering polymers such as nylons and polyesters and most all are 30+ percent glass filled. Using Moldflow is really critical to predict the warp on parts using these materials." In fact, today we will not select a gate location until we perform warpage analysis.

Meeting design challenges
VDO customers demand high quality, reliable products that are cost effective and delivered on-time. "We know we can meet these challenges," adds Bryan, "because of the upfront analysis work. We use design and process FMEA (failure mode and effects analysis) spreadsheets comprised of possible problems that can arise. Using Moldflow, we can troubleshoot design errors."

In addition, design engineers use Pro/Mechanica software to check for part structural integrity. When designs warrant a change, the redesigned part is re-analyzed using MPA or MPI throughout the product lifecycle to assure that the part and the manufacturing processes are accurate and meet specifications. "We don't want any surprises once the part moves to the manufacturing floor," says Bryan. "The APQP teams are integral to product quality and manufacturability.

"That's why we use Moldflow. We want to make sure that our designs are robust and will fill properly. The software helps us eliminate unwanted knit lines and filling problems. Our parts must be completely sealed. If engine fluids or water seep in, they can damage the sensors."

All the product development information is shared across the board, even with the mold makers. In addition, The CT-based VDO operation maintains a reliability lab where environmental and DV/PV testing is conducted. Bryan adds, "On the shop floor, we also take into account lean manufacturing and Kaizen principles in all of our line set ups. The Kaizen business strategy involves everyone in an organization working together to make improvements without large capital investments. Moldflow is part of all that process."

He says that VDO plans to use Moldflow for 3D-flow analysis in the future. "Many of our parts are over-molded," says Bryan. "We have a thermoset encapsulation that is being overmolded by thermoplastic. I am hoping that 3D flow capabilities will provide a lot of data on the stresses and strains caused the actual part being in there. This functionality is something Moldflow is considering."

Bryan attests that ever since implementing Moldflow software three years ago, his team has enjoyed excellent results. "Today, it's company policy that a part will not be manufactured without performing Moldflow analysis. As a result, we have saved ourselves a lot of design-related issues, problems, and headaches. Performing the simulations is definitely worth it in terms of improving product quality and saving time and money."

Significant projects
Recently, Bryan worked on a reservoir for a GM fuel pump that involves a large mold. "The mold operators were injecting the product from the top of the mold. The part was filling the rounded side of the part first and the flatter side second. As a result, they experienced a thin wall problem on one end caused by core deflection. We used Moldflow to simulate different flow leaders to promote flow to the other side to help the part fill more uniformly. That effort worked beautifully and the team was very pleased that we solved the problem so easily. We saved six to eight weeks in tooling time and $10,000 in tooling costs for just that one part."

Since that project, Bryan was asked to make a change to a different fuel pump. Prior to doing so, he used Moldflow to confirm the flow leader. "The general trend here and throughout the company is to verify the design and/or design changes prior to building or modifying the tool(s). Our teams throughout the world want proof that the designs will work the first time," Bryan notes.

"People are beginning to realize how powerful Moldflow tools really are and subsequently, relying on them to solve problems they’ve experienced in the past and to prevent problems in the future," Bryan adds.

For a recent sensor project called medium data rate (MDR) crank position sensor, Bryan and the MDR team analyzed and molded the parts using different materials such as nylons and PBTs. "For warpage, it was critical that we correctly determined the gate location so that the nose position was correct relative to the flange. We redesigned the whole rear section wall thickness and gating configuration to eliminate the differential shrinkage and orientation effects," adds Bryan.

He says he can conduct multiple Moldflow analyses for his colleagues located around the world. He can provide next-day results. "My ability to quickly deliver simulation results can slash time and money off important projects. I know the software is making a big difference," Bryan explains.

Sales and marketing tool
Design engineers are using Moldflow as a critical sales tool. "Because we do a lot of work for Chrysler," says Bryan, "our designers will analyze the proposed design(s) prior to approaching the customer. Their proactive strategy is helping win new business at the auto maker. The customer has the confidence that we can do the work.

Since the merger of Siemens and VDO, Siemens VDO Automotive Corporation management recently asked Bryan to contribute to a brochure being developed that discusses the capabilities of Moldflow within the organization. The document is meant to instruct the organization how the technology is helping improve productivity and save time and money.

Bryan runs his software on HP UNIX workstations. He says he has a good relationship with the Moldflow support team. "Moldflow's support team have always been easy to work with and helpful," notes Bryan. This week, Bryan is honing his Moldflow skills by enrolling in certification training at Moldflow's corporate training center. "I'm always learning new ways to use the technology. Gaining certification will help promote our organization as more proficient than our competition. Moldflow certification will be an excellent marketing tool in gaining new business," concludes Bryan.

For more information about Moldflow and its products, visit

Author: Laura Carrabine

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Page last modified on May 24, 2002
Copyright 2002 by John Stark