Innovation Meets Sustainability Empowering Sustainable Mobility Through Lightweight Products and Smart Processes
Climate change is by far the most serious issue facing the world today. As governments move to combat climate change via CO2 reduction strategies, industries will need to adopt new technologies to reduce pressure on the environment and decrease energy use. This is exemplified by recent efforts to develop lighter components and smarter production processes for the automotive industry.
Overcoming the challenges posed by climate change has become a top priority for procurement managers, engineers, and process specialists. Companies such as GF Casting Solutions review their supply chain, products and production processes constantly to meet the issues that industries face.
GF is a development partner with over 200 years of know-how and experience in series production. With its manufacturing sites located in Austria, China, Germany, Romania, Switzerland, and the USA, the company specializes in providing casting solutions for the mobility and energy industry. Through innovation and development expertise, GF seeks to lead the way towards a better, more sustainable future of mobility.
Lightweight Solutions for Sustainable Mobility
The growing focus on sustainability is increasingly forcing manufacturing companies to become more flexible and creative. Automotive manufacturers are trying to reduce their CO2 footprint by decreasing the overall weight of their vehicles. Lighter vehicles have more efficient fuel or energy consumption and cause lower emissions.
The huge lightweight potential in castings can be especially leveraged when casting design experts from the R&D department are involved in the early design stages of a product, such as the concept phase of a car or truck. By teaming up with a reliable partner like GF, the automotive industry can more efficiently work towards achieving environmental targets.
GF is a pioneer in lightweight construction. The company specializes in designing and producing complex casting solutions such as structural parts as well as components for drive systems – not only for internal combustion engines, but also for hybrid or pure electric vehicles.
GF is helping the automotive industry to reduce overall vehicle weight by using light metals like magnesium or aluminum and places a clear focus on design optimizations. They can be reached through different simulation techniques and design concepts following bionic principles. Additionally, the lightweight components produced by GF enable manufacturers to integrate added functions like cooling systems in battery housings or connection points to adjacent components. Adding functions to the casting’s design helps reduce the number of single components and thus reduces overall vehicle weight, as with GF’s magnesium cross car beam.
Artificial Intelligence to Reduce Environmental Impact
Next to design optimization, one further way to improve the environmental impact of a cast part is to analyze and optimize the related production process. Since 2016, GF has reduced its gross energy consumption and its CO2 emissions by more than half and has also drastically reduced its air emissions, water use, and the amount of production waste. This is evidenced in the environmental performance indicators contained in GF’s Sustainability Report 2020.
One new approach GF followed in order to optimize production, is the usage of advanced smart manufacturing processes based on Artificial Intelligence. This methodology has been developed in an innovation project within the company’s innofactory and implemented together with Microsoft Switzerland. Using AI based on massive amount of data from the foundry processes, GF optimizes the production process during the ramp-up phase to maximize the quality of a component, but also to minimize the energy consumption of the process. As with all AI-based processes, the quality and amount of data are crucial in training the system to learn automatically.
The Importance of Innovation in Creating a Greener Future
It may seem surprising that a company involved in a traditional industry like casting is now using the latest AI technology to continuously improve its processes. But GF has created a new innovation process, that has become their new standard in the meantime for innovative ideas and their structured follow-up. This ensures that innovative ideas receive visibility and support within the company and helps initiators pursue their projects in a structured way. In 2018, GF launched the innofactory as a center devoted to encouraging and coordinating innovation across the globe.
Continuing innovation in die casting will provide manufacturers and industries with more efficient and lightweight components to assist them in lessening the impact of climate change. To ensure that GF’s innovations have a respective positive impact, new ideas are not only evaluated according to economic criteria, but also according to their ecological impact.
GF is positioned as a leader in the innovation process of creating a more sustainable supply chain for cast components and is doing its utmost to provide industries with the means to reach a greener future. The company conducts research and development, smart manufacturing, artificial intelligence, and applies methods like design thinking.
Shaping and Empowering Industry Trends
For some years already, the automotive industry has been in a transition phase to new e-mobility technologies as this is a crucial aspect in achieving CO2 neutrality. Vehicles that are powered by electric and hybrid engines will help to move away the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Since 2020, around 30 % of GF’s new orders were for vehicles with alternative drive systems – including hybrid and battery electric vehicles. In recent years, GF has produced a range of products to assist automotive manufacturers in designing more efficient components and designs for their new vehicles. This includes structural parts as well as battery housings for hybrid electric vehicles.
A further leading, but controversial trend in the casting industry is the topic of mega castings. For some industry observers, the development of bigger and bigger machines to cast larger structural parts or battery housings for pure electric vehicles as alternative to sheet metal solutions looks promising. However, for others, the complexity of the process and the number of parameters that need to be carefully evaluated have lowered expectations of the potential of big castings. In addition, the aspect of sustainability has to be carefully evaluated when it comes to these big parts – the transport may negate the positive aspects of less production steps. When it comes to new trends, it is not easy to consider and evaluate all those different angles. With in-house R&D competence for products design, material, processes and validation, GF is in a strong position when completely new trends and concepts need to be evaluated with a more holistic approach.
Known for Swiss precision and longstanding know-how, GF Casting Solutions is developing sustainable solutions for the automotive industry. With unbeatable experience and a pioneering spirit, GF is moving confidently towards a more sustainable future and more and more acts as consultant in early design stages long before serial production is about to start.