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Digitizing the Domain Experience through 3M Solutions

Nov. 30, 2021
By: 3M Industrial Adhesives and Tapes Division - John Merchant, Advanced Platform Development Specialist; Josh Diaz, Global Marketing Excellence Analyst; and Bridget Nyland, Global Marketing Manager

Design and manufacturing don’t always take place in the same location. Finding the right digital resources to ensure your processes run as efficiently as possible when your team is working from home or spread out across the country is a challenge many manufacturers continue to face in an increasingly digital world. Through an end-to-end digital platform, 3M can help you accelerate your design cycle and increase the efficiency of your operations.

Identifying the appropriate bonding technology and the right material for your job

Joining materials is considered to be a significant design challenge engineers face, for reasons ranging from the large pool of available adhesive technologies and products to the challenge of finding an adhesive that bonds all chosen substrates. This challenge is typically solved by engaging experts within a company or running trials of several different types of adhesives to downselect the appropriate technology and product. 3M has simplified this complex process through a digital platform that leverages customer interaction data to give users access to high-grade technical expertise on demand: the 3M Bonding Product Selector. Leveraging insights from countless customer conversations, the Bonding Product Selector replicates common technical discussions in an easy-to-use online tool available to users around the globe.

The Bonding Product Selector platform guides engineers through the entire design process, from identifying the specific challenge at hand to identifying which adhesive families are most likely to work. Users answer questions ranging from “What kind of joint is being designed?” to “Is the bond permanent or temporary?” to “Is gap filling important?”, and the Bonding Product Selector helps them select the most appropriate technology options. The platform’s targeted questions and tailored recommendations are based on a number of interactions between 3M Application Engineers and their customers’ design teams over the years. Technology options presented include acrylic tapes, structural adhesives, hotmelts, two-part epoxies, and other 3M bonding technologies.

Once the technology is selected, the Bonding Product Selector takes the user to a product selector platform powered by 3M’s history of customer interactions and detailed lab data. The product selector is designed with an engineer-first mindset that provides users with the opportunity to find the best solution based on technical requirements rather than product attributes or promotions. For example, if a user is looking to bond two plastics together, the first question a consulting engineer would ask is not “What color adhesive do I need?”, but rather “How do I bond these two plastics together to meet my customer’s needs?”.

Prototyping

In a digital-first world, design prototypes don’t have to be physical. Digital twins are computer models of real-life situations and allow collaboration on the same electronic prototype by users across the globe, particularly as CAD programs incorporate more cloud-based capabilities.

In the past, one limitation of typical CAD modelling was that adhesives were difficult to model and needed to be physically tested. With Finite Element Analysis (FEA), engineers can now engage in computer-based simulations, accelerating the design process and improving overall operational efficiency. For instance, adhesive products can be virtually sampled and tested, allowing for quick iteration and retesting with new selections, as well as instant feedback from engineers around the globe. 

For successful bonding, FEA models require substrate data and information about the adhesives to support the model. At 3M, our tapes and adhesives have undergone extensive testing to understand their mechanical performance and ensure our customers can trust that the simulated performance of their digital prototypes is representative of the real-world adhesive joint. For select 3M products, these Material Data Cards for FEA modeling programs are available on demand through a simple FEA data request form on 3M’s website.

Finally, while scaling technical assistance through digital tools greatly increases design speed, deeper conversations with technical experts may still need to take place. Conversations can range from working through nuances of product geometry and bond configuration to doing more in-depth testing on adhesion performance to user-specified substrates for highly critical applications. The 3M Bonding Product Selector offers both a live chat feature and a form for user questions to connect users with 3M experts from across the globe.

Scaling and Manufacturing

The complexity of distributed manufacturing and design is brought to the forefront of the process when scaling. Through the 3M  Bonding Process Center, designers can examine various pieces of equipment to improve their processes through in-person interactions or virtual visits. Working with the 3M Bonding Process Center can help design and manufacturing teams determine the right level of automation needed to achieve the desired speed and efficiency, tailored to their specific challenge. The center can be accessed in person in St. Paul, Minnesota; Neuss, Germany; and Shanghai, China.

Putting Expertise Online to Help Customers

Through a digital-first mindset, 3M provides customer design teams with greater access to relevant information regardless of their time zone or work schedule. Providing modeling data about adhesive and tape performance also gives designers confidence that digital models are representative of the real-world behavior of bonded joints. However, the human element in manufacturing is undeniable, and 3M recognizes that deeper one-on-one conversations need to take place when it comes to important manufacturing decisions—this is why there is always the option to schedule an in-person or virtual meeting with the right 3M expert.

New digital technologies provide on-demand access to critical design information allowing engineering and design teams to be effective at every point during their design cycle. 

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