Let’s Go Virtual: High-Tech Manufacturing

From zeroes and ones to Cat® iron: This isn’t your grandparents’ manufacturing era! This is simulation—using data and virtual tools to optimize the manufacturing work happening in our factories all over the world.

Holding It All Together: Welding Simulation
Unless you work on a production line, you probably don’t think about welding—a way of bonding two pieces of metal. But welds hold together structures you see every day: cars, planes, buildings, and, of course, Cat® equipment.

The heat generated in the welding process distorts, or bends, metal structures, which negatively impacts the life of a product. Caterpillar’s welding simulation tools predict this distortion and help our team find the best weld sequence—out of millions or more—that will minimize the distortion. This saves our team time and money by avoiding the need to straighten metal structures after they’re welded, and it helps to ensure long-lasting welds that our customers can rely on.

Doing It Right the First Time: Engine-Build Simulation
Imagine trying to assemble an engine as big as a school bus! Large engines that power ships or oil rigs often create assembly challenges simply because of the engines’ complexity and size.

That’s why Caterpillar uses a “virtual build” process to develop a safe, repeatable, effective manufacturing process for engines. Analytics tools help us prioritize highly complex engines to run through the virtual-build process, letting us proactively identify potential issues before the engines are built in iron.

The Need for Speed: Time-Based Process Simulation
Wouldn’t you like to know if your new factory would be efficient before you ever broke ground? We would, too!

Manufacturing and related processes are complex sequences of events. What parts need to be where and by when to be added to a product? How many capital assets and people are needed to manufacture the parts? What’s the best factory layout or manufacturing line design to move product quickly?

Discrete Event Simulation uses time-based simulation and statistics to analyze these events, and virtual experiments are run to improve efficiency – all before money is spent or production lines are impacted. Factory efficiency means our products get into our customers’ hands faster!          

Color Me Caterpillar Yellow: Paint Simulation
What color comes to mind when you think of Caterpillar? Iconic Caterpillar Yellow, of course!

Driving high paint-finish quality on our products involves many challenging operations, like electro-coating processes, curing oven design, airflow management and paint spray systems. Using computational fluid dynamics simulation, we review the paint process and streamline it virtually, so we already know the best equipment layout, curing temperature, line speed, and other details before the parts ever hit the paint shop. This helps us reduce rework and time to production, increase sustainability and ensure high quality.

From Pixel to Pour: Casting Simulation
Remember those sand castles you built as a kid? You’d fill up a bucket with sand, pack it tightly, and dump it upside down to build part of your castle. Technically, you made a casting.

At Caterpillar, castings are machine parts created by pouring molten metal (your “sand”) into a mold (your “bucket”). Our foundry team uses software to simulate proposed casting process designs, helping the team visualize the materials in the process and assess the final part’s quality. Virtually selecting the best design increases the number of castings our team creates and keeps our quality high.