The mechanical properties of sheet metal materials are directional. Their deformation behavior and their strength differ significantly depending on the viewing direction; for example, in the direction of rolling, or transversely to it. Numerous complex load tests must be carried out in order to obtain the necessary material data. These serve as a basis for predicting the behavior of sheet metals during the forming process.
Traditional lab tests are time- and cost-intensive, requiring new experimental setups and material samples for each load state. All possible load states of sheet metals cannot be analyzed, although these are important for computer simulations of the manufacturing process of components. For instance, when it comes to determining the behavior of sheet metal materials in the direction of their thickness, conventional tests reach their limits, and the 1- to 2-mm plate thicknesses are not sufficient to allow preparation of samples for tensile testing in this direction.
To this end, researchers created a simulation model of a material’s microstructure with which the physical mechanisms during deformation are described down to the crystalline structure. This allows them to generate all desired tests in the computer, and draw reliable conclusions about the macroscopic mechanical properties of the material. An automated workflow saves time by allowing the tests to be run virtually.
Because it is possible to perform many virtual tests in a short time, and the underlying microstructure model is very exact, the results from the virtual laboratory allow what is known as a material card to be described far more precisely than with traditional tests. The virtually obtained data can be processed by component manufacturers in the same way as data obtained through experiments. In addition to simulations for component production, this also applies to simulations for predicting component behavior and its lifetime in use.
Critical points where components are frequently damaged during production can be isolated and the microstructure examined systematically, as if with a virtual microscope. The virtual test laboratory is especially interesting for the lightweight construction industry because it strives to use as little material as possible — which accordingly is subject to high levels of stress.