Lightweight Design Advanced Material Processing and Handling Solutions for the Automotive Light-Weighting Initiative

Editor: Nicole Kareta

WKW Automotive, a major Tier 1 supplier, has awarded Shape Process Automation, a program valued at approximately USD15M to provide two inline laser systems complete with material handling capabilities. This program has the potential to be the highest throughput aluminum robotic laser cutting line in the world.

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Automotive light-weighting is the concept of using advanced materials to meet increasingly stricter government regulations.
Automotive light-weighting is the concept of using advanced materials to meet increasingly stricter government regulations.
(Source: gemeinfrei / Pixabay )

Shape Process Automation's solution reduces cost and floor space by nearly 50 % by utilizing the NEWTON technology compared to traditional robots that articulate a cutting head. Laser cutting assembly lines with NEWTON enable customers to reduce their long-term program cost by eliminating direct labor, reducing engineering floor labor, increasing quality, and sustaining long term OEE gains. "WKW is excited to work with world-class technology in delivering industry-leading aluminum fabrications," said Prakash Patel, Director, Program Management at WKW Automotive.

This project will push Shape Process Automation's install base of robotic laser cutting robots to surpass 50 units in 3 years. An achievement that would not be possible without repeat customers, SPA's professional team, and proven suppliers like FANUC Robotics and TRUMPF laser sources.

"This automated production line incorporates the latest in robotic laser cutting, delivering big gains for cutting 3D automotive components via the NEWTON cutting head technology. Combined with our other fully integrated manufacturing processes and numerous operational enhancing upgrades, this technology essentially represents the culmination of our 35 years of experience in the industry," said Nino LaDuca, President of Shape Process Automation. "SPA has supported automotive programs dating back to the 1980s, first on the trimming of automotive interior parts and through to the very latest lightweight structural automotive parts. Being awarded this project demonstrates that Shape Process Automation continues to lead the industry in both design and technology."

Automotive light-weighting is the concept of using advanced materials such as ultra-high-strength steel (UHSS), aluminum, and other lighter composite materials to reduce the weight of a vehicle to meet increasingly stricter government regulations. Lowering a vehicle's bodyweight reduces emissions and improves fuel efficiency without compromising safety or performance.

These lightweight materials vary in their methods of assembly and processing (compared to traditional steel). As such, automotive OEM's & Tiers depend on those in the industry who understand these unique properties and have a proven history of expertise in processing them efficiently and effectively while maintaining the materials' integrity.

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