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Materials Today: Proceedings 10 (2019) 226–233

Aluminium Two Thousand World Congress and ICEB 2017

The application of FEA for optimization of die design

Marcus Engelhardta,*, Schamil Kurmajeva, Joachim Maiera, Christoph Beckerb,
Pavel Horab
WEFA Singen GmbH, Rudolf-Diesel-Str. 11, 78224 Singen, Germany
ETH Zurich, Institute of Virtual Manufacturing, Tannenstr. 3, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland


The use of finite element analysis (FEA) to predict material flow and die deflection is well implemented in the scientific
community but it is still new in the extrusion industry or for die makers. This paper deals with the advantages and limitations of
FE-analysis to predict material flow and to optimize die design from an industrial point of view. For this study two software
packages, HyperXtrude® and PF-Extrude®, have been used to predict the material flow in two applications, the optimization of a
heat sink profile and the filling process of a porthole die.

© 2018 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or Peer-review under responsibility of Conference Committee of Aluminium Two Thousand World Congress and
International Conference on Extrusion and Benchmark ICEB 2017.

Keywords: Aluminum; Porthole die; FEM; PF-Extrude; HyperXtrude; Bearing; Material flow; filling of die

1. Introduction

The use of FEM simulation software for the design of extrusion dies is a promising possibility for both, extruders
and tool makers. The available software packages offer user friendly interfaces and provide the user with a wide
variety of results such as differences in extrusion speed, profile temperature, tool deflection, occurring stresses, and
evaluate the lengths of charge welds or the quality of longitudinal weld seams [1-4]. The modelling of friction
conditions during extrusion, especially in the bearing channel, has been the focus of research throughout the last
years [5, 6]. Even though some of the results and findings are of secondary importance to extrusion tooling
designers, the influences of the extrusion speed and the possible tool deflection due to inhomogeneous material flow

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +49 7731 95 34 535; fax: +49 7731 83 90 33.
E-mail address:

2214-7853 © 2018 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or Peer-review under responsibility of Conference Committee of Aluminium Two Thousand World Congress and International
Conference on Extrusion and Benchmark ICEB 2017.
Marcus Engelhardt et al /Materials Today: Proceedings 10 (2019) 226–233 227

offer great advantages to them. The possibility of die design corrections without the need of field testing not only
saves time and money but also leads to a satisfied customer.
One of the downsides using FEM simulation is the need of simulation specialists for their correct preparation and
analysis. Depending on the complexity of the die design, these tasks can take between hours and days without
counting in the time needed for the actual calculation of the solution. Thus, this reduces the attractiveness of
simulation processes for industrial applications due to yet enhanced design times and additional costs for software
and staff. However, new software packages promise accurate results with adequate times for preparation and
At WEFA Singen GmbH, two FEM simulation software packages are currently implemented in the die design
process: PF-Extrude® (PF) and HyperXtrude® (HX). Both software packages allow for the computation of profile
speed, profile deformation, and tool deflection but offer different possibilities and advantages for the user. PF uses
an Arbitrary Lagrangian Eulerian formulation to simulate the filling process of the die as well as uses a self-
developed temperature and pressure dependent friction model [7]. HX uses a Eulerian approach with a fixed mesh,
thus, it cannot simulate the filling of the die but offers possibilities such as reduced computation times and an
automated pre-processing with solidThinking Click2Extrude™ Metal [8]. This work deals with the usability and
limitations of PF and HX from an industrial point of view. For this, two examples have been chosen, the material
flow optimization of a heat sink profile and the filling of a multi-hollow die.

2. Influence of friction conditions on the material flow optimization for a heat sink profile

In the first application, the material flow of a heat sink profile showing waviness and profile deflection during
extrusion should be optimized based on simulation results. The profile consisted of eleven inner fins with a width of
1 mm and a spacing of 3 mm in between, two outer fins of 1.5 mm wide, and a high bottom with a thickness of
10 mm. A schematic section of the profile can be found in Fig. 1 (a). The selected used material is the Aluminium
alloy EN AW-6060.

Fig. 1. (a) schematic cross-section of the heat sink profile; (b) view of the original die setup

For the first extrusion trial, a die design (Fig. 1 (b)) consisting of a feeder plate having a bridge located above the
fins and a flat die with a rectangular pocket of 7 mm depth were used. The bearing length for the fins was 3 mm
(1.5 mm cylindrical with 0.5° relief on another 1.5 mm) and 15 mm for the thick bottom. The purpose of this
experimental design was to test if covering the roots of the fins (next to the bottom of the profile) would homogenize
the material flow during the filling of the die. The material is separated into two streams, so that the fins are filled
from their tip, and both material streams meet approximately at the root of the fins. This way the thin ribs of the die
plate could be protected from the main pressure during the filling of the die, thus stabilizing its thin parts.
228 Marcus Engelhardt et al / Materials Today: Proceedings 10 (2019) 226–233

The original die design was extruded at Gerhardi Alutechnik GmbH & Co. KG using a 20 MN extrusion press.
The container size was 203 mm and the extrusion ratio was 34. The extruded profile showed a very inhomogeneous
exit speed resulting in a strong curvature upwards as the thick bottom part was too fast compared to the thin fins.
The front part of the profile can be seen in Fig. 2 (a). As a result of this inhomogeneous material flow, high bending
forces were exerted on the thin ribs of the die which collapsed during the first part of the extrusion process, leading
to the stop of the extrusion trial.
To analyze the resulting material flow in the die, a Steady-State simulation of the process was conducted using
the Eulerian approach in HX. Due to the symmetry of the chosen geometry, a half model was created using
Click2Extrude without manual adjustment of the model. The boundary conditions were chosen with a billet
temperature of 480 °C and a profile exit speed of 3.5 m/min. The Material data for EN AW-6060 was taken from the
HyperXtrude material database. In order to take the possible deformation of the die into account, two sets of analysis
parameters were used: one with tool deflection and the other without. For the tool material, the stele H13 was
selected for both mandrel and die. The billet length was set to 550 mm. The total number of elements was 1,900,000
including analysis of tool deflection and 1,350,000 elements without.

Fig. 2. (a) front-end shape of profile and according HX simulation results of profile velocity for the original die design (b)with and (c) without die

The simulation results indicated an inhomogeneous material flow (Fig. 2 (b) and (c)), qualitatively representing
the behavior of the profile. Especially, the exit velocity of the bottom was more than four times faster than the tips
of the inner fins which represented the biggest problem for the extrusion process. Nevertheless, no obvious
difference in extrusion speeds were found between the simulations with and without tool deflection.
Based on the first results, the die design was redone varying the position and shape of the bridge as well as
creating angled bearing surfaces at the fins. The die designs were analyzed using Steady-State simulation not
including tool deflection, since the simulation of the original design showed no significant influence of tool
deflection on the extrusion speed. The final design consisted of bearing surfaces inclined 7° towards the bottom part
of the profile and the bridge positioned above the bottom of the profile. In addition, the port on the bottom side was
split in order to reduce the inflow of the volume representing the bottom part, while allowing for a more
homogeneous filling of the die. Using this design the simulated overall difference in extrusion speed could be
reduced from +45%/-75% to +2%/-10% as shown in Fig. 3.
The optimized die design was then produced and used for the second extrusion trial. Nevertheless, the front-end
of the extruded profile in Fig. 4 shows a very inhomogeneous material flow. This time the bottom part is slower than
the inner fins, resulting in a strong bending of the profile towards the bottom and leading to a premature failure of
the die at the ribs. Therefore, the simulation could not successfully predict the actual material flow in the die.
Marcus Engelhardt et al /Materials Today: Proceedings 10 (2019) 226–233 229

Fig. 3. comparison of die design before (a) and after (b) optimization

Fig. 4. front-end shape of extruded profile of optimized die design

Fig. 5. (a) Different modelling of bearing length and simulated extrusion velocity for (b) 0.5 mm and (c) 3 mm bearing length

Given that the friction conditions along the bearing are vital for accurate simulation results [10], the influence of
the bearing length on the extrusion speed was investigated. For this, two different bearing lengths were chosen to
represent the maximum and minimum friction conditions in this investigation. The first model consisted on a full
cylindrical bearing length of 3 mm (cylindrical part + length of relief) and used the viscoplastic friction model
included in HX with a friction coefficient of 0.3, thus ignoring the relief. For the second model, a bearing length of
0.5 mm (reduced cylindrical part) was used. The respective modeling of the bearing lines is shown in Fig. 5 (a). As
can be seen in Fig. 5 (b), the investigated friction conditions showed no significant influence on the resulting
extrusion speeds.
In addition to the HyperXtrude simulations, PF-Extrude has been used to analyze the material flow. PF-Extrude
allows the simulation of both the filling and the subsequent extrusion process. For this purpose, the volume inside
the die and the head of the profile were meshed with tetrahedral elements; however, these elements were deactivated
230 Marcus Engelhardt et al / Materials Today: Proceedings 10 (2019) 226–233

at the beginning of the simulation process. Due to the results of the calculated velocity field, these pre-meshed
elements were then activated. A flow surface tracking method is also applied to map the material flow inside the die.
After the filling process is accomplished, new elements were added at the profile exit to virtually describe the
extrusion process [7]. Re-meshing can be avoided after the activation of the elements due to the preceding close to
the geometry volume mesh.
The mesh setup for the extrusion simulation of the heat sink profile consists of the introduction of a symmetry
plane to reduce the number of elements and simulation effort. The pre-mesh used about 1.85 million tetrahedral
elements. Material and friction parameters for the EN AW-6060 alloy were assigned to the input file using the
Zener-Hollomon / Tong material model as well as the process parameter friction model (T,v,p)-model described in
[5,7]. The model parameters are specified in Table 1 and 2 respectively.

Table 1. Material model parameters for EN AW-6060

C [N/mm²] Q [J/mol] m [-] b [-] N [-]

0.2704 28078 0.1362 0.0992 4.726

Table 2. Friction model parameters

u [-] v [-] w [-] z [-] T0 [°C] p0 [N/mm²] v0 [mm/s]

9.683 1.205 0.875 0.005 660 100 50

The simulation results reveal an inhomogeneous exit velocity of the profile head and especially of the thin walled
fins, the outer fins, and the thick bottom part. As it can be seen in Fig. 6 (a), the inner fins leave the bearing channel
with the highest velocity, while the bottom part, and particularly, the outer fins are exiting with lower velocity. In a
qualitative comparison between the virtual and real extruded heat sink profile head, a good accordance of the results
can be recognized (Fig. 6 (a) and (b)).

Fig. 6. (a) PF-Extrude simulation result of the heat sink profile head and (b) the comparison with the extruded profile tip.

The results show the importance of friction conditions on the bearing surface. The viscoplastic material model
used in HyperXtrude seems to have difficulties predicting extrusion speeds for flat profiles, leading to the
underestimation of the actual influence of changes in bearing lengths. However, in this case, a process parameter
dependent friction model allows for a qualitative prediction of material flow in these types of dies.
Marcus Engelhardt et al /Materials Today: Proceedings 10 (2019) 226–233 231

3. Filling of the die

In the second application, the filling of a porthole die for a multi-hollow profile has been investigated. Steady-
State Eulerian based simulations offer faster results compared to transient simulations using an Updated Lagrangian
or Arbitrary Lagrangian Eulerian approach, but neglect the filling process of the die. Thus, the prediction of the
profile’s front end shape often shows discrepancies as can be seen for the example in Fig. 7 (a) and (b). The front
end of the extruded profile showed a higher material speed in the middle of the flat bottom , very fast corners 
(especially at the top part ), a slower middle section at the top , and a very slow flow of the central webs . In
contrast to this, the simulation results showed a more or less homogeneous material flow at the flat bottom in
addition to a less prone difference in the front end shape. The reason for this is that the simulation results represent
the virtual profile shape during the steady-state of the extrusion process. Hence, flow inconsistencies during the
filling stage cannot be considered.

Fig. 7: (a) front-end shape of profile and (b) according HX simulation results of profile velocity and shape

In this investigation, the possibility to use a Steady-State simulation for the prediction of the filling process with
respect to the shape of the front end of the profile was tested. For this, the material flow of the multi-hollow profile
shown in Fig. 7 (a) was simulated using the Steady-State Eulerian approach in HX. The extrusion conditions were
chosen with a billet temperature of 500 °C and a profile exit speed of 7.2 m/min (extrusion ratio of 29.8). The
Material data for EN AW-6060 was taken from the HyperXtrude material database.

Fig. 8: Half-model of the multi-hollow die (a) with pocket and profile, (b) simplified and (c) view of ports
232 Marcus Engelhardt et al / Materials Today: Proceedings 10 (2019) 226–233

The billet length was set to 600 mm. Two half models were created using Click2Extrude without any manual
adjustment of the model and no tool deflection was considered. The first half model (original model) consisted of
1,700,00 elements and included the original bearing geometry (Fig. 8 (a)). The second model (simplified model)
consisted of 600,000 elements and was a simplified version using the welding chamber as bearing length (Fig. 8 (b)),
and therefore, using the welding chamber geometry as the profile geometry. The computation time was 7.5 hours
and 1.2 hours respectively. For the analysis, the maximal material velocity inside the ports (Fig. 8 (c)) was evaluated
at different z-positions. The material velocities for each port, as nominated in Fig. 8 (c), at a z-position of 15mm
(beginning of the port), of 85 mm (end of ports / beginning of welding chamber), and of 105 mm (end of welding
chamber, only for die with original bearing geometry) are stated in Table 3. The velocity values are given in percent
of the minimal velocity for the ports P1 to P6 (= 100 %) for better comparison. The change in velocity between both
models is most pronounced at a z-level of 15 mm. Here, the speed difference between the outside ports P1 to P6 and
the central ports CP1 to CP3 is over 700 % for the simplified model, while the difference at a z-value of 85 mm is
under 170 % for the original model. The differences between each port for the simplified and the original model
varies for the different z-levels; however, the original model always presented significantly lower velocities for the
central ports.
The simulated velocities using the simplified model predicted ports P3 and P4 (side wall / corners) to flow into the
weld chamber the fastest, followed by ports P1 and P6 (middle), and finally by P2 and P5. The central ports showed
to be significantly slower than the previously mentioned ports. Using the original model, and thus taking the
difference of bearing lengths and wall thicknesses into account, an increased speed in Port P5 and P6 at a z-level of
85 mm was measured. This leaded to a more homogeneous material flow at the flat bottom and a slower material
flow at the top part (see Fig. 7 (a)). These results state that the used simplified die simulation could help predict the
filling into the welding chamber. On the other hand, the obtained results for the material velocity at the exit of the
ports for the original die simulation seem to illustrate the velocities of the areas which are not directly fed by the
ports when the profile first exits the die until Steady-State is reached. Therefore, a simplified die simulation could be
then promising to help predict a possible die deflection during the filling of the die, nevertheless, its applicability
needs further investigation in order to be verified.

Table 3. Comparison of material velocities inside the ports at different z-positions throughout the die

Port 105 mm 85 mm 85 mm 15 mm 15 mm
(original) (simplified) (original) (simplified) (original)
P1 102% 108% 117% 108% 143%
P2 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
P3 127% 113% 137% 112% 111%
P4 123% 113% 127% 112% 105%
P5 113% 100% 125% 102% 117%
P6 114% 108% 148% 109% 179%
CP1 53% 42% 87% 14% 48%
CP2 62% 58% 90% 18% 48%
CP3 53% 42% 87% 14% 48%

4. Conclusions

This paper dealt with two applications of FEA software packages for extrusion industrial applications which
could help predict material flow therefore simplifying the tool design process. The first investigation used
Marcus Engelhardt et al /Materials Today: Proceedings 10 (2019) 226–233 233

simulation methods to visualize and optimize the material flow during extrusion of a heat sink profile with complex
geometry displaying waviness and profile deflection. The results showed that viscoplastic friction conditions are not
sufficient for the prediction of the material flow, in particular where the bearing lengths seem to have a bigger
influence. For these applications, a more sophisticated friction model, such as a process parameter friction model
(T,v,p)-model, has to be used. In addition, for the second investigation, a more precise prediction of the profile front
end shape and the filling of the die using a modified multi-hollow die design as well as a Steady-State simulation
was evaluated. The material velocity at the exit of the ports provides hints for the filling process of the weld
chamber. This, in combination with the material velocities in the original model, offer a better prediction of the front
end shape of the profile. Overall, this investigation showed that the chosen simulation methods could successfully
predict material flow and therefore, it could simplify the tool design process by cutting design time and costs in
industry applications. However, these methods need further development and verification of the results in order to
replace practical testing.


This paper is partially based on the project EP 150233 funded through the Central Innovation Programme (ZIM)
of the Federal Ministry of Economics Affairs and Energy of the German Parliament. The authors would like to give
their special thank Gerhardi Alutechnik GmbH & Co. KG and Sapa Extrusion Deutschland GmbH for carrying out
the extrusion trials and the approval of this publication.


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