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Founded in 1906, Claudius Peters (CP) has manufactured capital-intensive industrial products for more than 100 years. But instead of clinging to its venerable history, CP initiated an innovation journey to transform into an agile company.
They first adopted digital design tools in 2007, but the company realized that staying competitive in the 21st century would also require new digital skills and a culture focused on design thinking and experimentation. Working with technology partners such as Autodesk, CP has adopted new tools to connect processes across sales, engineering, design, and manufacturing.
“But our innovation didn’t stop there,” says Thomas Nagel, the company's Chief Digital Officer and Operations Director. Inspired by a demonstration of generative design in Fusion 360, Nagel set up a workshop for the CP team to learn about this emerging technology.
Autodesk generative design technology takes design goals and constraints and explores the possible permutations of a design solution. The software quickly generates a large number of design options to choose from. After experimenting with a few generic parts, the team decided to try optimizing a part from one of CP’s core product, the transport bottom part of a clinker cooler, a massive machine that cools down molten rock from 1400°C down to 100°C (2550°F to 212°F).
After their first generative design training, the team reviewed their initial result: “We called it ‘the alien part,’” Nagel says. “The result surprised us—how could it be so different from our optimized part? And 30% to 40% lighter?”
Claudius Peters’ skeptical engineers ran calculations and FEM analysis on the “alien part” and were astonished to find it was more effective than their traditionally optimized version of the part. The team began to analyze the design to figure out how to manufacture it. Originally optimized for additive manufacturing, the team had to apply the generatively designed outcomes to traditional fabrication methods such as welding or metal casting.
In the end, the team settled on a design that reduced the part’s weight by 20kg through material reduction, which also translates into €100 savings per part. Because there are often 60 to 100 of these parts in a clinker cooler, that weight and cost savings make a big difference.
The team continues to study design options for the transport part, finding additional opportunities for improvement and even more cost savings. “It should be rolled out into production very soon,” Nagel continues. “I expect the part will be in operation somewhere in the world within the year.”
"We were completely surprised about the shape, and what generative design made out of our already optimized part. How could it be so different from our optimized part? And 30% to 40% lighter?"
- Thomas Nagel, Operations Director, Claudius Peters