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Electromobility Foundry Industry Meets E-Mobility

From Johanna Erbacher

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The rise of e-mobility is quickly changing the entire nature of the automotive industry as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) throughout the sector endeavor to keep pace with ever more stringent emissions regulations and the demands of governments and consumers for cleaner, more efficient vehicles.

Lightweight components produced by GF enable manufacturers to integrate added functions like cooling systems in battery housings.
Lightweight components produced by GF enable manufacturers to integrate added functions like cooling systems in battery housings.
(Source: GF Casting Solutions )

The continued transformation towards e-mobility is strongly supported by supplying industries as the foundry business. By constantly evolving and encouraging further innovations in product development, material development, and casting technology, foundries can provide automotive manufacturers with the components they need to build vehicles for the future.

How the Foundry Industry Drives Innovation in E-Mobility

Electric vehicles are disruptively developed – sometimes completely from scratch. This provides an enormous opportunity to break up old patterns. As structures and assemblies are rethought, the foundry industry can support automotive manufacturers by providing innovative solutions to ongoing issues driven by alternative drives, connectivity, vehicle design, or sustainability.

One approach to solving these problems is to produce components for electrically powered vehicles using manufacturing technologies that have a minimal environmental impact. Ensuring short delivery paths, optimized supply chains, as well as environmentally friendly energy usage in foundries is crucial. Many are furthermore concentrating their efforts on optimized lightweight solutions using light metals with processes such as high pressure die casting and additive manufacturing.

Companies like GF continue to contribute to the development of modern electric vehicles and further enable sustainable mobility. As a full-service supplier, GF utilizes a team of highly experienced experts to deliver turnkey solutions to the many complex issues faced by automotive manufacturers. By being fully involved during the early design and conceptual stages of projects, GF is able to provide a range of innovative cast products customized to match each client’s individual needs. GF showcases its agility with its pioneering approach to developing electric drive components as well as lightweight structural parts.

Electric Drive Components for Light Vehicles

Lightweight design approaches achieved through simulations and according to bionic principles can deliver significant decreases in overall vehicle weight. Increased design flexibility allows more integrated functionalities in components. Prime examples of this type of lightweight design optimization are battery housings for hybrid-electric vehicles. The freedom of design provided by the casting process allows manufacturers to save material wherever possible. In addition, attachment points, as well as cooling circuits, can be integrated into the serial part which can then be delivered ready to mount. In a joint development phase, GF Casting Solutions developed a lightweight die-cast battery housing for Renault’s two hybrid models. The housing is made out of an aluminum alloy, providing high functional integration as well as an integrated cooling circuit.

Currently, manufacturers and foundries are turning to aluminum solutions for battery housings and other electric drive components. Side crash requirements have resulted in the production of housings that are made of 6000 or 7000 wrought alloys in the form of aluminum extrusions. High pressure die casting (HPDC) is rarely used to manufacture 800-volt systems. Pure HPDC applications are more commonly found in 48-volt systems.

Improved Die Casting Technology

In addition to the enhanced weight-savings solutions, GF has developed optimized, innovative processes such as the company’s state-of-the-art Artificial Intelligence (AI) project. AI enables GF to deliver premium quality and environmentally responsible products that can facilitate their customers’ transition towards electric drive engines and e-mobility.

The Swiss-based GF Casting Solutions Research & Development team uses Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning cloud service to analyze data gathered during the HPDC process. The AI project enables GF to systematically analyze production processes, uncover optimization potentials and implement component and process optimization directly with the support of the right data models.

By studying the patterns found in complex casting processes with the latest automated machine learning technology, GF has been able to enhance the excellence of its components while also reducing waste and energy consumption. This results in first-rate products, reduces time to market, and provides more transparency for the customer.

GF stands for Operational Excellence and stability in terms of processes and financials. The GF AI project is a perfect example of how innovative solutions can be attained via great team performance and dynamic research and development.

Lightweight Solutions for Body and Structural Components

By focusing on weight reduction, foundries can assist in increasing the energy economy of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. A lighter vehicle requires less energy to accelerate making it much more fuel-efficient. Reducing overall vehicle weight by just 10 percent can improve fuel efficiency by up to 8 percent in a combustion engine. Applying 100 kilograms of weight optimization to a BEV can lead to up to 4 percent savings in drive energy.

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Typically, weight reduction is achieved by replacing traditional steel parts with components made from light metals such as aluminum and magnesium. Consistently replacing components from steel to lightweight aluminum can deliver weight savings of up to 40 percent. Additionally, switching from aluminum to magnesium components can further decrease weight by another 10 to 15 percent. Thus, we can see that moving from steel to magnesium can result in possible weight savings of up to 55 percent. An explicit lightweight index is only possible via a product development process that considers the individual technical requirements.

The trend towards one-piece casting, (also known as big casting or giga casting), has in some cases cut production costs and resulted in stronger, more precisely engineered automotive frames.

However, this process is still in its development stage and many technical challenges remain to be solved. In terms of sustainability giga casting still has some significant drawbacks when compared to other processes.

As Frank Gensty, CTO at GF Casting Solutions, explains:
“Due to the great computing and software developments of the last years, the possibilities of simulation have grown and made it possible to analyze and shape a product more precisely and in more detail. Our holistic product and process development are ensured by our continuous CAE process chain from topology optimization, linear and nonlinear FEA, thermomechanical simulation, NVH, lifetime prediction, and casting simulation. GF Casting Solutions provides the ideal lightweight solution based on technical specifications and package requirements.”

The move towards more sustainable mobility is only attainable through a continued commitment to innovation. GF Casting Solutions is a proud pioneer at the forefront of developing the next generation of castings and additive components.

The global team of technical experts at GF continues to focus on cutting-edge technologies and forward-looking research and development projects. GF’s agility and dynamic full-service approach enable the company to provide clients with superior products customized to meet their exact requirements.

GF demonstrates its commitment and connection to the future of the casting industry and mobility by constantly seeking out new opportunities. Currently, GF is partnered with Startup Autobahn powered by Plug and Play, an exciting new venture that aims to connect new innovators with established industry leaders in the automotive sector.

As we drive towards a new era in automotive history, GF Casting Solutions stands ready to take the lead in shaping the development of sustainable mobility.

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