Project Basics

Current technologies for the production of the automotive frame Roll forming processes Electromagnetic forming Laser forming processes Current technologies for the production of the automotive frame The body-in-white (BIW) accounts for about 27% of the weight of the entire average car. That is the reason the design and production of the vehicle body has attracted much attention of researchers and car producers that try to improve its production due to possible cost reductions as well as potential large weight reductions.

Car weight distribution. Source: JOM journal, 53 (8) (2001), pp 28-32. The vehicle body is a complex assembly of components designed to withstand large mechanical requirements and corrosion. It is usually made of steel sheets coated with zinc for anti corrosion purposes. The sheets are stamped or punched into different components that are afterwards welded or joined with different technologies. The body in white is then fit to be painted in the following production stage. A typical body in white can be made of around 120 stamped steel parts and 130 inserts that are joined together by means of spot welds, laser welds or rivets. In spite of the high machine cost per hour due to the enormous investment costs in pressing equipment, die maintenance cost and non used material by blank cutting, this concept is cost competitive and well established in the industry. It presents also related problems and impossibility of applying the process to aluminium, high strength steels or multifunctional materials. Some other manufacturing processes like hydroforming have been introduced and accepted by the automotive industry even though it is, in general, too slow (22 to 50 sec/part) and has even a high capital need associated with it (press, equipment and tools). The potential for process and material innovations is large and different possibilities are being continuously evaluated by auto makers around the world. Worth mentioning are the evaluation of aluminium alloys and organic composites as alternative materials in order to decrease the weight of the body or the use of tailored tubes and blanks or new welding processes to try to reduce production costs and quality. On the other hand the steel industry is aware of the strategic importance of this market and is also involved in research projects that seek to keep steel as the material choice for the future vehicle bodies. In this way the Ultralight Steel Auto Body (ULSAB) concept aims for


as well as the exterior skin and drive line components of an automobile. to which the drive line. Some recent studies carried out by Thyssen (the NSB concept). Renault. When developing future vehicle structures with these light materials. and full-size luxury car markets. The body itself is tuned to the desired structural performance and functions as the primary load-carrying element in the vehicle system. Fiat. difficulties in achieving good quality parts with the current forming processes due to poor formability and high springback. niche vehicles. Thus. tuned for desired structural performance.producing a steel body that is 24% lighter. The body-on-frame architecture predates the automotive industry itself and is still widely applied in the light truck. It involves a structural platform. hot hydroforming or hot metal gas forming or incremental forming such as roll forming. although this solution has not yet been implemented.. such as hot stamping. appears. have shown the viability of a structural members based on the use of roll-formed profiles. such as impact forming or electromagnetic forming. A spaceframe is a series of structural members assembled to create a skeletal system that supports the interior systems. high temperature forming. the majority of mass-produced vehicles are built with either body-on-frame or unitized body unibosy architecture. The roll forming process is very suitable for this modular concept (possibility of using the same platform for the production of different models. or even flow forming. Spaceframe parts details (ATLAS project) Currently. new technologies are being explored in order to overcome those limitations. suspension. wagon etc. Arcelor (ABC project). Unitary body or unit-body vehicle architecture integrates the body and the frame so that only small engine cradles or structural crossmembers are required to distribute concentrated loads into the body system..) and flexible production (no need to invest in expensive and time consuming new tool productions) and scaling concepts. The ladder frame is typically constructed of stamped welded members and is the primary load-carrying element in the vehicle system. commonly referred to as a ladder frame. 2/11 . and body subsystems are mounted. tube milling. but its use has been confined to ultra-low-volume. 34% stronger and costs 150$ less than the traditional concept. Basically they are related with high strain rate forming. sedan. Responding to the effort to reduce the lengthy delivery lead times associated with producing a built to order vehicle structure commonly referred to as the spaceframe architecture has been around for a number of years. sport utility. Apart from that the requirement for press capacity are so high that the capital investment costs increase a lot and increase the production costs for small or middle production rates.

The economic significance of roll forming is evident from the following figures: 8% of the 700 million tons of steel produced worldwide annually is processed into cold-rolled sections by this method [9] Roll forming according to DIN 8586 is a type of bending process with rotating tools used to manufacture open and closed cold rolled sections.low tool costs combined with long tool life . economical. 3/11 .Roll forming processes Roll forming is a high productive technique that is well-established in industry for the manufacturing of large quantities of profile-shaped products. The accumulator permits continuous operation of the machine even during coil changeover.allows for incorporation of joining and punching operations into the roll forming line . As a result.efficient use of material .low sound emission So far. The roll forming line generally includes an accumulator with an uncoiler.good surface finish can be attained . and a cutoff press. The prevailing technique involves the use of steel materials of changing qualities and thicknesses fed into the machine from a continuous coil. classic roll forming offers a number of technical. At the end of the line. and despite the significant economic and ecological advantages. Procedure of roll forming Compared with other forming processes. the continuous profile section is cut to length by the cutoff press. Roll forming passes in progressive stages by feeding a flat strip of metal through successive pairs of stands to obtain the desired profile. and ecological advantages: .high output per unit of time .a virtually unlimited spectrum of geometries .permits processing high and ultra-high-strength sheet metal . the basic limitation of the roll forming process is mainly due to the fact that traditional roll forming machines have fixed rollers which limit the formed products to straight sections and constant cross sections geometry along the longitudinal axis. the forming machine with in general 20-50 forming stands. the manufacture of customer-modifiable products by roll forming cannot be taken into consideration.

the tool set-up was designed. They are movable by rotation or translation by two spindles driven by servomotors. The desired forming edge can be generated in a CAD-System and read by a control program developed specifically for this tool set-up. Flexible roll forming (TU-Darmstadt concept) The tool system pictured below illustrates the concept of “flexible stand” developed in TUDarmstadt Darmstadt for the production of profiles that have non constant cross sections along the longitudinal axis. The feasibility of manufacturing u-profiles with variable cross sections was shown: Metal sheets with constant width served as raw material from which profiles with fluctuating flange heights are obtained. TU-Darmstadt. developed and integrated into the RF forming line available at the TU-Darmstadt Darmstadt for reversing operation. The line connecting the axes of the forming rolls (inner and an outer roll) in the forming unit is always perpendicular to the bending edge. the flexible stand. which they have called flexible roll forming systems. The control of the aforementioned servomotors depends on the feed rate of the sheet metal.One of the partners of this proposal. The main characteristics of this system are: TU-Darmstadt flexible RF line aims to produce profiles with different cross section geometries lengthwise. so that conventional stands are used for feeding the sheet metal. A bending unit has to be added to the line if a non straight profile is wanted. several sheet metal guides. The test stand essentially consists of conventional stands. The feed rate is measured with the help of a friction wheel rolling on the sheet metal. a friction gear wheel and its control unit. Flexible stand integrated in the roll forming line at the TU-Darmstadt in Darmstadt 4/11 . has recently developed new processes for the manufacture of more complex opened and closed profiles. The forming rolls in such a flexible stand are not driven. Constant flange heights can be achieved by using pre-cut blanks. Concept of the “flexible stand” For an initial evaluation of the idea. A pre-cutting blank is needed.

) is stored in a large capacitor. The process is driven by the primary circuit.000 volts).Raw materials and resulting geometries after flexible roll forming At this moment. the TU-Darmstadt university has the ability to produce prototypes like open and closed profile shapes based on U profiles. or bank of capacitors. A possible contour for continuously produced profiles is illustrated below. joining or even laser-assisted forming and electromagnetic forming to increase the forming possibilities. In combination with conventional roll forming steps for example omega profiles or even closed profiles can be achieved.000 and 30. Different contours of variable cross sections – produced continuously Electromagnetic forming Electromagnetic forming is a non-contact technique where large forces can be imparted to a conductive metallic workpiece by a pure electromagnetic interaction. devices for additional operations such as punching. 5/11 . The goal of such a production line is the continuous and need-based production of any user-defined profile shapes by variation of the control parameters. A significant amount of energy (usually between 5 and 200 kJ. Flexible roll formed profile prototypes at the TU-Darmstadt Actual research work is about defining the limits of flexible roll forming according to the parameters having influence on the process like the profile geometry or material data. by charging to a high voltage (usually between 3. The following step is the further development from a flexible stand frame into an integrated production line. if necessary. Such a production line requires several flexible stands and cutting facilities which are linked with an intelligent control system and.

Improved formability. Large currents run through the coil. the material becomes more ductile. higher intensity is required. The peak current is typically between about 104 to 106 amperes and the time to peak current is on the orders of tens of microseconds. the shape can be developed either by free forming or die forming.Capacitor Solenoid Charging Circuit Ring Specimen Primary & Induced Currents Rogowski Probe Source: Ohio State University Schematic illustration of the electromagnetic forming process The charge is switched over low inductance conductive buswork through a coil or actuator. If the electrical oscillation frequency is too low.Reduced number of operations. and the eddy currents develop their own magnetic field and cause a mutual repulsion between the workpiece and the actuator. creating higher elongations. What this technique brings to the process is the ability for material to achieve very complex forms. 6/11 . and the force developed is low. because at high rates of speed. This creates an extremely strong transient magnetic field in the vicinity of the coil which induces eddy currents in any nearby conductive. The process is actually quite versatile and the workpiece may be cylindrical. Electromagnetic forming equipment at LABEIN Benefits of metal stamping with EMF include: . or an arbitrarily curved surface. Materials of lower conductivity demand higher ringing frequency for effective forming. For these reasons metals with high conductivity such as aluminium and copper are very well suited to electromagnetic forming. intense eddy currents are not induced in the workpiece. Once the velocity is imparted to the workpiece. a flat sheet. Ultimately this can cause the workpiece to deform it plastically and to be accelerated at velocities exceeding 100 m/s. Carbon steel can be formed. That electromagnetic force can produce stresses in the workpiece that are several times larger than the material flow stress. . although one should pay attention to the system ringing frequency.

Rates of 4 . only a small amount of technology development has taken place over the last 30 years.Systems are smaller and more flexible than hydraulic presses of comparable capacity . Nowadays. . One example of the use of electromagnetically crimped joints in a very demanding application is the torque tubes that are used in the Boeing 777. The only problem is that due to the large reactive forces on the coil and on the die (in the case or die forming) and the frequent thermal and mechanical cycles at which the materials forming the coils and the dies are submitted their life in high energy demanded applications is not long enough for production requirement. The electromagnetic forming step takes a fraction of a second. new designs of the coils. and how fast can the material handling system move workpieces in and out of the EMF press.Less reliance on lubricants.Less wrinkling. new designs of the coils or new materials that can support higher intensities.12 parts per minute can be achieved. which concentrate the current in the area to be formed. . the possibilities of EMF for forming outer panels in aluminium was demonstrated. etc.EMFG3RD-CT-2002-00798”. different approaches are proposed in PROFORM: Development of conductive films/coatings. so the only speed limitations are how fast can the EMF system recharge and fire its capacitor banks.. but has not experienced a widespread acceptance among manufacturing engineers.Lower energy cost. For example FORD is developing a project for the use of electromagnetic joining in its new modular car structure design and in a recently finished European Commission funded project. joining. in the automotive sector. EMF technology has been in existence for over 30 years .Improved strain distribution. 7/11 . . there is renewed interest for the process of forming. as a result of a narrow focus by earlier developers of the technology. Consequently. by high speed technologies in general and EMF in particular due to the general trend of decreasing vehicle weight that has promoted the use of aluminium alloys and others high strength metals in automotive body construction. . “Electromagnetic forming of tube and sheet metal for automotive parts. Example of electromagnetically formed parts To be able to electromagnetically form steel sheet or tubes. which increase the current induced in the workpiece. EMF is commonly used to create assemblies by collapsing tubes or rings onto (or into) mating elements. This narrow focus has been primarily to provide EMF equipment to low volume part producers such as aerospace companies.Controlled springback.

The use of nanomaterials that enhance the properties of the resins that protect the coils of the electromagnetic equipment is therefore the proposed alternative. Source: Laser Assisted Forming – A valuable extension of the limits of metal shaping. the capacity of the laser in precise local heating has hardly been exploited in forming processes. the laser technology has been developed and diversified quickly. In contrast. the yield strength is reduced. and the mechanical forces required for forming can also be reduced. wire drawing and deep drawing. Dieter Schuöcker Department of Non-Conventional Processing. Forming and Laser 8/11 . (c) Wire drawing. in which the strains occur. where the biggest deformations only take place in small regions. (a) V-shape drawing. Laser applications in forming processes Laser assisted forming processes Potential application cases for laser-assisted forming are: V-shaped drawing. The experience of INASMET of more than 15 years in working with metal matrix composites will be used for that purpose. is performed. (b) Roll forming. Today. a locally selective heatingup of the zone. This way. In direct (laser) forming. roll forming. there are two types of forming processes in which the laser can be used: (i) laser assisted (mechanical) forming and (ii) (direct) laser forming. the laser is commonly used in material removing and joining processes (mainly cutting and welding applications). The basic principle of both processes is shown in figure. Laser forming processes In the last 30 years. the laser induces strong heat gradients. which lead to inner tensions within and a deformation of the workpiece. In laser assisted forming. In principle. substituting or improving many conventional manufacturing processes. The coil and die durability should be deeply studied from two points of view: better design and better materials. (d) Deep drawing. together with the knowledge of Axyal in resins manufacture.The “Proform” project approaches these main drawbacks.

Pitz. The sheet is heated-up at the bending line or the bend edge while it moves in the roll forming machine.Technology Vienna University of Technology (Austria) Laser Assisted Net Shape Engineering 4 Proceedings of LANE 2004.-simultaneous contour scanning. (Direct) Laser forming LF is a flexible forming technique that uses an unfocussed laser beam to form products by thermally induced tensions instead of external forces. the forming limits could be extended. One unresolved problem is the complex local distribution of the generated residual stress. directed onto the sheet in front of the pair of rolls. Merklein. Laser forming has its origin in a Japanese patent that dates 1979 and that used the forming process for the alignment among pieces. Due to the local heat input. The Japanese have applied this technology in the construction of space stations. that is. This problem appears especially during the profiling of High Strength Steels. Related to the laser assisted roll forming process. Giera. the development of this technology took place quickly starting from 1986. M Geiger University of Erlangen – Nuremberg (Germany). In Germany and Poland. The process is similar to the flame bending that is used thoroughly in the naval industry. M. Afterwards. As a result. Using special beam forming optics or quasi. This often causes profile deformation (longitudinal and traverse curvatures. is used as a continuous heat source. the University of Erlangen has developed a flexible station able to work with metal sheets of up to 4 mm thickness. waves in the folded area. There are multiple variables that affect to this process. the bending of metallic profiles by laser was studied in the 80´s. These internal stresses induce plastic deformations (without any fusing) that shape the components. the strain distribution within the form element could be kept constant which led to higher process reliability. M. and form deviations as well as the mechanical load for the roll forming system could be decreased. Laser Assisted Net Shape Engineering 4 Proceedings of LANE 2004 One of the partners of the project. This method requires no mechanical contact (no hard tooling required). and will be a topic for the project development. torsion. 9/11 . the pairs of rolls are moving to obtain the desired geometry so a precise synchronization with the laser beam it needed. A. Experimental set up for the laser assisted roll forming test. the yield strength of the workpiece could be reduced such that the required forming pressure could be reduced by a factor 30 to 50. Laser Zentrum Hannover has investigated the generation of small functional form elements in a laser-assisted hydro-forming process. A similar system would be developed in the project but inside a flexible roll forming line. A diode laser beam. Source: Laser Assisted Bending and Roll Forming. etc).

10/11 . mechanisms of forming. the automation of the process can be more easily approached. It will be necessary to carry out tests and rehearsals that characterize the different materials. automobile. One difficulty arises from the low superficial absorptive of certain materials which implicates a need for higher laser power. that have retarded its industrial introduction. The most relevant industrial sectors for laser forming are: aerospace. The automotive industry has the potential to be a pioneer in laser (assisted) forming. visual aspect modifications. But it still presents some inconveniences not resolved (lack of repeatability.and also the alignment between cutting tools and metallic parts. The laser is a source of heat of great precision and focussing power which improves the accessibility for the application and allows carrying out more complex pieces. The application of laser forming which is proposed in the project where only some geometry details will be formed is a good example of a suitable use of the laser forming. however with little success. but it is necessary to keep in mind that they are susceptible to suffering thermal degradation.. Laser (assisted) forming may be one of them. that allows to govern of the parameters of the process in order to get the desired form. problems with forming of complex processes). as the forming of metal sheets and tubes there takes place in high number and high diversity. naval and microelectronic. One of the most prominent advantages that presents this process and that makes it so interesting for the forming of metals. although the laser installations are expensive. complexity of adjustment of process parameters. and a bigger understanding of the process has led to an increasing interest in the potential applications of the technology: It can now be said that the technology is now in the stage of crossing the threshold to an extensive industrial application. a working group in the USA (MIT) tried to form ship decks for the navy. The laser forming brings some very attractive benefits as for tool saving mainly. The potential of the laser technology applied to the processing of materials is more and more important. The problem can be reduced by the application of coatings (graphite). Germany and Japan continued to work in the process and finally the development of new laser sources like the high power diode lasers. superficial hardening. Economic studies carried out at world level predict that the number of existent applications at the present time will be doubled in the next four years. swelling of the section. In all ways at the moment several investigation centres and universities are working in this technology. because the basics were not well understood yet. Another problem may arise from the increase of temperature within the material (it may arrive to up to 600 ºC in the area of the laser beam) by which detrimental changes may be caused: martensite and ferrite appearance. is the inhibition of the spring-back effect. The laser forming requires a precise control. Different research groups in United States (MIT). but the introduction of this technology in the industry as a tool has just begun. and the encouraging results show that this technology will be very used in the future. at least to forming of simple forms. laser types.. In this same decade. With the precision and repeatability that the laser allows.

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