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Lightweight Construction Automotive Revolution Depends on Forming Technology

Author / Editor: Stéphane Itasse / Alexander Stark

Electric cars or vehicles with other alternative drives are still more of a niche product. However, automobile manufacturers are already pushing ahead with these new drives — and are thus placing new demands on lightweight design and production.

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The upheavals in the automotive sector also pose new challenges to production.
The upheavals in the automotive sector also pose new challenges to production.
(Source: Pixabay / CC0 )

At the conference "New Developments in Sheet Metal Forming" in Fellbach, Germany, Jörg Spindler, Head of the Competence Center Metal Forming Systems at Audi, spoke about the challenges of forming technology in the context of alternative drives and globalization. After all, lightweight body construction has also triggered changes in toolmaking. For example, bionic structures reduce the weight of the forming tool and increase its rigidity. Different materials such as cast iron, steel, aluminium or plastics are used in order to shorten the production process, reduce the effort for the try-out or reduce the tool weight. After all, intelligent, self-regulating tools ensure that difficult geometries can be realized.

Software and IIoT Support the Transformation of the Automotive Industry

This is where software and IIoT come into play. Simulations not only for the forming and joining process up to the assembly group are available, but also for their behavior. This is complemented by stochastic simulations for various production parameters. "Simulations provide an insight as to how stable or unstable the process will be," said Spindler. The simulation results and process data are then linked to the real tool in the form of a digital twin.

Thanks to Big Data it is possible to redefine parameters. Audi is also working on sheet metal packages to produce rotors and stators used in electric motors. "Internal production results in cost advantages of $ 17.15 to 28.58 per motor compared to outsourcing. It also ensures that we achieve the desired quality of the electric motor packages and thus greater efficiency and greater range," explained Spindler.

Related to: The Importance of Materials Research for Safety in Autonomous Driving

Dr. Karl-Heinz Füller, Head of Hybrid Materials Concepts AMG at Daimler, dealt with the right material mix for electromobility. "What we are facing today is a topic that will drastically change the automotive industry," he predicts. Driven by politics and legislation to reduce CO2 emissions, body construction has been further developed. Meanwhile, large quantities of lightweight parts are produced worldwide using aluminium and high-strength steels.


Carbon is Usually too Expensive for Cars

He was more skeptical about carbon, which received a great deal of attention in recent years. "You can achieve a maximum degree of lightweight construction with carbon, but the costs are too high," he said. That's why he sees such applications limited to super sports cars or performance vehicles. "Carbon certainly still has potential for further development," he admitted.

But with the shift towards electromobility and autonomous driving, other aspects have to be considered by carmakers. "These issues will occupy us more than lightweight construction itself," the Daimler manager expects. For example, the installation of an electric car battery places higher demands on the bodywork, because critical failures in case of an accident must be avoided at all costs. Other trends such as individualization, digitization, autonomous driving, connectivity and car sharing would also have an impact on future vehicle concepts and material selection.

Christian Juricek, responsible for research and development at Magna Cosma Engineering in Europe, spoke about the challenges faced by production due to future mobility requirements. The supplier produces body and chassis components, mainly made of steel, but also aluminium.

The company has identified three key trends dominating the current situation: Electrification and lightweight construction, autonomous driving and new mobility. "The first trend is driven by legal requirements and thus has different local characteristics," explained Juricek. New components will be required to integrate the additional functions, which in turn will add more weight to the vehicle "This shows the importance of lightweight construction," he said.

Lightweight Construction Becomes More Diverse

However, the upheavals in the automotive sector also pose new challenges to production. Juricek expects a higher number of drive technologies — and each of which places different needs on lightweight construction. He also assumes that more variants of vehicle bodies will be produced on the same production line in the future. He expects further changes from new materials and material combinations, new joining processes and, and finally, rising pressure after lightweight construction becomes affordable. In response, Magna has developed its Light Weight Stack. With this model, the supplier wants to assess the trends and challenges for lightweight vehicle construction, have a simple physical model for a versatile approach to lightweight construction in an early concept phase, better understand the needs of OEM customers and create a technology roadmap for establishing affordable lightweight construction. Using this optimization tool, Magna Cosma Engineering will then be able to develop lightweight construction packages that depending on the requirements and cost pressure will set different priorities.

This article was first published by MaschinenMarkt

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