Virtual Prototyping

 Virtual Prototyping is the process of iteratively testing and refining a system design using specialized software prior to fabrication. A system concept is modeled, and the performance is evaluated by simulating the physical behavior of the system and analyzing the results. Virtual prototyping reveals unexpected behaviors and quantifies behaviors that are otherwise difficult or impossible to evaluate.

Using the results of the simulation, engineers can change the design or develop alternative concepts and perform further tests without leaving their offices or waiting for a new or modified prototype. Virtual prototyping in some cases does not completely replace the need for a physical prototype, but it increases the level of confidence that a physical prototype will perform as designed.

Benefits of Virtual Prototyping

  1. 1. Virtual Prototyping is usable even when it’s impossible or infeasible to build a physical prototype
  2. 2. Changes made to a virtual prototype are inexpensive and time-efficient
  3. 3. Virtual prototyping supports the inexpensive testing of multiple concepts in multiple scenarios
  4. 4. Visualize behaviors and quantify measurements that can’t be observed or evaluated otherwise

Chute Analyst™ by Overland Conveyor Company is specialized software based upon the Discrete Element Method and developed for the simulation of belt conveyor transfer chute performance. With Chute Analyst™, users can take advantage of the benefits Virtual Prototyping has to offer to particle flow system analysis. Users can evaluate chute design concepts by creating an assortment of simulations using different material size ranges, chute materials, belt speeds, flow rates, and other factors. Users can observe the results of these simulations to:

  1. 1. Identify the locations within a chute where plugging occurs and the conditions that cause plugs
  2. 2. Compare design concepts to reduce wear on expensive conveyor belt
  3. 3. Locate/accommodate wear points in chute
  4. 4. Ensure on-center loading of material on a belt and to predict the shape of the material profile
  5. 5. Identify locations in the flow where air-entrainment occurs, to prevent dust dispersion
  6. 6. Reduce the occurrence of “splashing” and spillage
  7. 7. Minimize material degradation and dust creation
Using Chute Analyst™’s intuitive interface, users first create a project in which to store all the information for the system being studied. The system could be a transfer chute or feeder and all the design concepts involved. The Chute Analyst™ interface gives the user easy access to their most recent projects.

Next, users create “components” which perform a specific role in the system model. Components include Chutes, Discharge Belts, Injection Boxes (where particles are created), and Material Conditions. Chute Analyst™ allows the user to collect surface data for components such as Chutes or Belts through interaction with AutoCAD or by importing a DXF file that has been prepared for that purpose.
The next step is to create a Simulation. Simulations are a collection of components that represent the system operating under certain conditions. For example, two simulations can be created that differ only by the material flow rate simply by choosing a different injection box in each.

The last step in the process is to evaluate results. Chute Analyst™ allows our users to create many simulations and add them to a queue for sequential processing. Users can queue many simulations before leaving work for the day, and return to work the following morning to find much of the processing done. Once processed, our DEMView software lets users visualize the results. DEMView shows the user the position of each particle in the system at any point during the simulation time-line. Particles can be color coded according to velocity, pressure, or size to help identify issues.