Saving Costs, Boosting Engineering OperationsBy Alejandro Enríquez | Tue, 04/28/2020 - 05:00
Q: What is AutoForm’s contribution to the automotive industry?
A: AutoForm has 250 employees worldwide and over 1,000 customers. We work with Volkswagen Group, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, PSA Group, Renault, FCA Group, Honda, Toyota, Kia, Ford and GM. We are also working with heavy-vehicle OEMs and with 80 percent of the most relevant Tier 1 suppliers worldwide. We still have room to grow in the US, Latin America and Asia, though. Almost 80 percent of our operations are directed to the automotive industry, 15 percent are oriented to aerospace, and the rest is focused on home appliances.
AutoForm is a simulation software for metal stamping processes. Our contribution is to predict any issue a metal-stamping company might have before reaching production. For metal stamping, you need the design, the tooling and a press. Only when the press strikes its first hit will you know if the design and tooling equipment are 100 percent successful. This implies ongoing tests that make production processes more expensive. Often, companies need to perform 40-60 iterations to get the component right. With AutoForm you can simulate from design to testing. The software can validate all steps involved in the stamping process.
We organize an AutoForm users’ meeting every two years where we invite users to share their experiences, and the feedback is always positive. This has enabled us to demonstrate to the international market that Mexico can perform engineering operations while providing support to other parts of the world. Our contribution is to validate processes while saving costs without relying on a global headquarters to complete the process.
Q: What advantages does AutoForm offer in terms of costs?
A: An AutoForm license costs around US$50,000 to US$60,000. However, some of our customers have mentioned that using the software has resulted in savings that are worth eight times the value of the license. Several Tier 1s and OEMs were present at our last gathering of users and the figures they presented had a major impact. We also help save time, which can be more valuable than costs. In a time-sensitive industry, as a deadline approaches, rushed decisions are made that can lead to errors. We prevent that.
Q: What are the obstacles Mexican companies face when trying to use this kind of software?
A: The lack of an adequate labor force is a challenge. We do not have enough qualified people to operate technology such as ours. To overcome this, we agreed with our users to develop and train their people over a three to six-month period. For our licenses to flourish, we need someone who knows how to use it. Trainees need metal-stamping background experience, not only in theory but in practice, since AutoForm allows them to play with a virtual press to produce the parts.
We have partnerships with a variety of companies and universities. Through our partnership with Schuller and its dual-education center in Puebla, the company manages the tooling and press maintenance and we do the simulation. We are establishing a partnership with Quintus to simulate hydroformed press processes. We can also perform deep metal stamping as well. We are also focusing on partnerships with steel suppliers and we are looking to have a relationship with Mexican universities like IPN, Tecnológico de Monterrey and UDLAP to develop talent.
Q: What are the distinctive features AutoForm offers to its users?
A: A major feature is the cost projection of the tooling equipment. Also, the software tells you the right size of the blank for a successful component, reducing waste. We are a CAE software that feeds on CAD designs to perform an early formability analysis to determine if the parts that will be manufactured are going to be successful. We validate, not design. We are working with Volkswagen in Puebla to develop a range of minimum and maximum hardness. If a company delivers components within this range, pieces will be acceptable. Volkswagen can evaluate their suppliers and if their parts are found wanting, suppliers can come to us to run the simulation and we see how the process will perform.
Another differentiator is that we have five engineers trained in Germany and Switzerland. Our technical support in Spanish is highly valued in the market. All users from OEMs to Tier 2 companies affirm our main strength is our technical support. Our competitors outsource these services to other countries where language can be a major barrier. Our support makes our customers feel more secure about their process without any additional cost.
AutoForm is Swiss-capital company recognized as the leading supplier of software solutions for die-making and sheet metal forming. The company works with major automotive OEMs and their suppliers