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Analysis of Clamping Mechanism for Tailor Welded Blank Forming
Brad Kinsey, Nan Song, and Jian Cao
Northwestern University

Copyright © 1999 Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc.

Tailor welded blanks (TWBs) offer an excellent opportunity to reduce manufacturing costs, decrease vehicle weight, and improve the quality of auto body stampings. However, tearing near the weld seam and wrinkling in the die addendum often occurs when a traditional forming process is used to fabricate this type of blank. Cao and Kinsey [1] proposed a modification to the stamping process where a mechanism would clamp on the weld line during the deep drawing process to improve the formability of TWBs. Critical to the success of this proposed modification is the ability of the clamping mechanism to perform its intended function and avoid creating adverse effects in the forming process. In this paper, experimental results and numerical simulations verify the ability of the clamping mechanism to hold the weld line in place during forming and not severely deform the blank in the area of the clamping mechanism.

[7] and has continued to climb. Fabricating an entire spaceframe chassis from Aluminum provided Audi with a weight savings of 200 kg [8], and an Aluminum chassis Ford Taurus, named Synthesis 2010, provided a reduction of 450 kg in the vehicle’s weight [5]. The Synthesis 2010 demonstrates a disadvantage of Aluminum however as it is estimated that the sticker price for the vehicle would increase between $2000 to $3000 due to the higher cost of Aluminum compared to steel. As potential vehicle efficiency gains through technological advances diminish though, substantial reductions in weight, such as those obtain from Aluminum body components, will be necessary to continue to increase fuel economy levels [3]. A concern however is that reductions in the weight of automobiles will adversely effect the crashworthiness of the vehicles [3,4]. It is estimated that for every 60 kg weight savings, the fuel economy increases by 0.5 mpg [5]. Consequently, in order to increase the average fleet fuel economy from 27 mpg to 40 mpg, once a proposed level for the year 2000, substantial weight would need to be eliminated from automobiles severally decreasing the crashworthiness of the vehicle. Therefore, in order to meet CAFE requirements through weight reductions, a means to cost effectively improve the fuel economy that will not detrimentally effect the crashworthiness of the automobile needs to be developed. A promising solution to this quandary is through the use of Tailor Welded Blanks (TWBs). TWBs are blanks where different sheets of material are welded together prior to the forming process so the automobile designer is able to "tailor" the location in the stamping where specific material properties are desired. These material differences can be in the strength of the sheets, either through different thicknesses or grades, or in the coating, for example galvanized versus ungalvanized [9]. Figure 1, from the Auto/Steel Partnership manual on TWBs [10], shows an exploded view of an automobile body with components that currently are TWBs or could possibly be converted. The major benefits of TWBs are exactly what are required to successfully meet CAFE requirements without adversely effecting other aspects of the automobile. These are: 1) decreased vehicle weight from the elimination of reinforcements and the overlap necessary for spot welding; 2) improved crashworthiness due to the increased stiffness of laser and mash seam welds compared to spot welds; and 3) reduced

Prompted by the 1973 oil embargo, the United States Congress enacted the Energy Policy and Conservation Act in 1975, which established a Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard for the vehicle fleets of automakers. Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also considers greenhouse gas emissions, which lead to global warming, and the nations need to conserve energy when it sets the level of the CAFE requirement. The CAFE standard was instrumental in more than doubling the fuel economy level for automobiles from 1973 to 1988 from an average of 14.2 mpg to 28.6 mpg[2]. These fuel economy gains were obtained through technological advances to produce a more fuel-efficient automobile and by weight reductions through part optimization and the increased use of plastics and other lighter metals to replace steel components. One of the popular choices for steel substitution to reduce weight is Aluminum. Besides being light weight, Aluminum also has additional benefits such as recyclability, corrosion resistance, and a high strength to weight ratio [6]. From 1990 through 1995, the amount of Aluminum per vehicle increased by 2.3 to 3.6 kg annually

To address this problem. care must be taken in developing an application for Al 6111-T4 TWBs to assure that tearing failures do not occur in the material. further details for the specific clamping mechanism which will be incorporated in future forming experiments is given. a mechanism will clamp on the weld line during deep drawing to prevent weld line movement and assure a deformation concentration in the weaker material does not occur. strengths or thicknesses are welded together. This clamping mechanism will move in sequence with the punch ensuring that the clamping force is applied to the TWB during the forming process. [21] demonstrated the potential success of this process modification for a part similar in geometry to a door inner. This can be accomplished by varying the profile of drawbeads.manufacturing costs due to fewer forming dies. While this figure only shows one set of opposing cylinders. generating the binder force [20]. In addition. Aluminum 6111-T4 has properties allowing it to be not only weldable but also formable [17. If blanks with different tailor welded blank weld line punch upper binder ring lower binder ring hydraulic cylinder Figure 2. Schematic of proposed process modification [21]. longitudinal and transverse to the weld line respectively. the elongation of this Aluminum alloy could be reduced by 20% and 75%. TWBs also improve dimensional accuracy and corrosion resistance of the assembled body component. 15. Simulation results in Kinsey et al. In particular. a common TWB design practice is to locate the weld line such that the reduced elongation along the weld line is not large enough to cause failure [10]. To address the concern of reductions in elongation longitudinal to the weld line. In their proposed process. While strength of material calculations were carried out in their initial work to assure the ability of the hydraulic cylinders to perform the clamping function and resist yielding and buckling. further simulations results are presented here as well as experimental results to evaluate the performance of the clamping mechanism. such as nitrogen cylinders. Therefore. more material flow-in is allowed for the stronger material thus decreasing the strain in the weaker material. Cao and Kinsey [1] proposed another method for increasing the formability of TWBs. 18]. Critical to the success of this proposed process is the ability of the clamping mechanism to hold the weld line while not creating any detrimental effects in the process. and reduced scrap. the door inner has also been identified as a potential Aluminum TWB component [14. With steel TWBs. Transverse strains create another concern in TWB forming. elimination of downstream spot welding operations. however. There are formability concerns associated with TWBs however due to material changes in the weld and in the Heat Affected Zone (HAZ) adjacent to the weld. or by decreasing the binder force in the die addendum of the stronger material. as many sets as necessary could be incorporated in the process to improve the formability of TWBs. In addition. these investigations show that the clamping mechanism will not adversely deform the blank during the clamping process. 16]. 12. According to Stasik and Wagoner [17]. Aluminum is also being considered for use in TWBs and is utilized in this research. The substantial elongation reduction transverse to the weld line is caused by material softening in the HAZ. Exploded view of TWB components [10]. Therefore. the weld is stronger but less ductile than the base material leading to reductions in the elongation of approximately half that of the base material for both the longitudinal and transverse directions to the weld line [11. While the weight and manufacturing cost savings from TWBs alone may not be enough to obtain the required improvements to meet CAFE standards while offsetting potential cost increases. 13]. Currently. the interest for Aluminum TWBs is in less structural components such as deck lids and hoods [14]. Due to the potential for additional weight savings. and the material near the clamping area will not tear due to the stress concentration created. This research paves the way for . Most of the current applications in industry involve steel TWBs. as would be possible if the process had a segmented binder [19] or independently controlled mechanisms. the deformation of the process will be concentrated in the weaker material causing the weld line to move. if utilized in the process. hydraulic cylinder Figure 1. it has been identified as a potential Aluminum TWB material and is used in this research. these benefits will be a step in the right direction to achieve these requirements. Figure 2 shows a 2D schematic of the proposed process modification with hydraulic cylinders serving as the clamping mechanism.

location of initial weld line position. The test was replicated eight times using different sheets of metal and neoprene impregnated material or both the dry. non-lubricated. the Miller hydraulic cylinder will be used in subsequent experiments. Figure 3. Figure 3 shows the geometry of the punch used in this research as well as the locations of the weld line and the different material thicknesses. and resist buckling. the Free Case. [21]. [21] assumed a friction coefficient of 0.43 and 0. on the hydraulic cylinders in order for the clamping mechanism to conform to the weld line without deforming the sheet metal. Location and size of clamping mechanisms. the 98. The maximum in-plane reaction force due to the clamping mechanism was found in Clamping Area 2 and had a magnitude of 34.6 mm and a maximum pressure of 223. The safety factors for the three criteria. was identified to attach to the ends of the hydraulic cylinders. with a bore diameter of 101. INITIAL STUDY OF PROPOSED MODIFICATION Since a door inner is one of the most popular applications of TWBs and has been identified as a potential component for Aluminum TWBs. clamping mechanisms. 4.e. Table 2 summarizes the results of the clamping mechanism analysis from Kinsey et al. the simulation results from Kinsey et al. longitudinal and transverse respectively. however. is able to produce more force than the originally proposed hydraulic cylinder and has a larger rod diameter. As was previously mentioned. 63. therefore. which could still have a diameter of 45 mm. and those where a clamping mechanism was incorporated in the simulations. For the lubricated samples. i.implementation of the proposed process modification to improve the formability of TWBs. no details were given for the material and a friction coefficient was arbitrarily assumed. The friction coefficient then was determined by taking the tangent of this angle.35.53 depending on the rolling direction.4 kN. Fig. Figure 4. additional analysis of the clamping mechanism. Further details regarding this research can be found in Kinsey et al. Table 1 summarizes the excellent results obtained in this initial study comparing simulations where no clamping mechanism was utilized. to withstand stresses in the 1 process. which can withstand 69 MPa in compression. [21]. [21] are still valid. Using this method. rolling direction did not have as large of an effect on the coefficient of friction. However. ability to resist weld line movement.4 bar. The proposed process modification allows for additional material utilization improvements since a more complicated weld line geometry. and the average friction coefficient value was 0. a part geometry similar to this was chosen for research by Kinsey et al. on the Slanted and Vertical Weld Lines used to reduce weld line movement and decrease the deformation concentration in the thinner material. their simulation results are 1 This rod diameter is larger than the 45 mm clamping area diameter used in the simulations.3 kN force determined in Kinsey et al. 1. required to prevent weld line movement. EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS Kinsey et al. . strength of materials analysis of the clamping mechanism was conducted in the initial study [21]. Kinsey et al. the average friction coefficients for the dry samples were 0. [21] proposed using a rubber end. A static friction test was performed on this neoprene impregnated material to determines its coefficient of friction. [21] divided by the area produced by the 45 mm circular rod end. Therefore. the Fixed Case. The lubrication was a water based solid lubricant. However. In their original study. were significantly improved thereby increasing the confidence in the proposed clamping mechanism. [21]. can be used as opposed to a single straight weld line currently found in door inner TWBs. Therefore. withstand stresses in the hydraulic cylinder. and material gauge from Kinsey et al. here the two linear weld line segments shown in Fig. Figure 4 shows the location of the two circular hydraulic cylinders. Due to concerns of the ability of the originally proposed hydraulic cylinder to produce enough clamping force and to resist yielding in the process. were necessary in order to further validate the ability of the clamping mechanism to perform its intended function. a new hydraulic cylinder was sought for use in this application. since there will be a rubber end attached to the hydraulic cylinder. Punch geometry. or pad. and lubricated states. including experimental results. A block of material was placed on a sheet of Aluminum alloy and the slope of the sheet was varied until this block just began to slip. [21] with the substitution of the new Miller HV Hydraulic Cylinder. A Miller HV Hydraulic Cylinder. fiber layered material.34. a neoprene impregnated. Natural rubber materials would not be able to withstand the 62 MPa of pressure.5 mm. which constituted the TWB.

Strain Longitudinal to Slanted Weld Line Max. Strain Transverse to Slanted Weld Line Max.close to the lubricated case which is what would be expected in an actual mass production forming process.4% 55. Our expectations are that clamping on the weld line with this large pressure will not allow the material to move during the experiment and thus the forming process. Percentage of Thickness Reduction Max. fiber layered material were performed to provide material data for numerical simulation.7 mm 5. based on calculating the force through the bolt of the C-clamp due to the applied torque. 37.3% -2. Eng.5 mm 20. (Prior to the final draft of this paper. the peak force reached by the tensile test machine was 5. Figure 6 shows the stress versus strain curve of the material from which Elastic Moduli and Poisson’s ratios for various strain states were determined. Strain Transverse to Weld Line FREE CASE 20. an experiment was implemented to simulate the clamping process. Using a tensile test machine. Strain Transverse to Vertical Weld Line Max.1% 36.7% 4.1% 84.5% 52. which was specified in Kinsey et al.4 mm 6.9% 72. Based on this yield strength.1 kN 365 MPa 288 kN 98.84 1. Only preliminary experiments to validate the test method have been conducted to date due to the need to have the tensile test machine calibrated.93 181.3 kN 220 MPa 98.1% 7. was administered to the lower portion of the specimen. Eng. A C-clamp was rigidly mounted to the base of the tensile test machine and used to apply a clamping force to the bottom portion of a sheet metal specimen.4% 80.4 kN reaction force found in the Clamping Area 2 of initial simulations [21]. the width and thickness of the specimen were determined in order to assure no plastic deformation would be produced in the material at the maximum 34. Simulation results from Kinsey et al.2 MPa. VARIABLE Max. Movement of Slanted Weld Line Max Movement of Vertical Weld Line Max.7% 76. Samples of the neoprene impregnated material were placed inbetween the C-clamp and the Al sheet to test the ability of this material to withstand shear loading. 28. This experiment will also demonstrated the ability of the neoprene impregnated. [21].1 mm 5.9% Table 1.8 mm 25. The sheet .66 2.7 mm 78.) Finally.3 kN Table 2.2% % IMPROVEMENT 84.1% -3.6% metal specimen was an Aluminum alloy with a comparable yield strength to Al 6111-T4. These tests confirmed the ability of the material to withstand the necessary stresses that will be produced in the process.1% 19. Picture of experimental set-up to simulate clamping mechanism.6% 79. With this pressure applied to a dry specimen. Eng. fiber layered material to withstand the shear load which will be encountered in the proposed process.5% FIXED CASE 3. CLAMPING MECHANISM CRITERIA Resist Weld Line Movement Elastic Analysis Buckling Analysis LIMIT ACTUAL SAFETY FACTOR 1.25% Eng. Analysis of clamping mechanism results. this experiment will be conducted again with a load cell in the set-up to obtain a more accurate measurement of the simulated clamping force and a clamping pressure of 62 MPa will be applied. A clamping pressure of approximately 7. [21]. compression tests on the neoprene.3 kN. The upper portion of the specimen was clamped in the jaws of the tensile test machine which when pulled would imitate the reaction force produced in the clamping area.4% Figure 5. Strain Longitudinal to Vertical Weld Line Max. Eng. Figure 5 shows a picture of the experimental set-up. the maximum reaction force would be reached prior to material failure. That is. Punch Depth before 6.

of the material under the clamping mechanism.10 mm for the 2 mm material and 0. All elements are well below the FLC.65% in the 2 mm material and 6. These values are plotted in Fig. These simulations allowed the clamping mechanism. the new model accurately imitates the original simulations in the vertical weld line area. and a height of 25 mm. 0. this region was the focal point of this simulation work. Also. shows how small these reductions are in comparison to the thickness of the blanks. . these plots show that the clamping force does not produce “coining”. 9. Fig. This condition is appropriate for the strain state found in Kinsey et al. The upper and lower clamping pads were modeled as half cylinders with a diameter of 45 mm. To examine the concern of stress concentration leading to tearing failure around the clamping mechanism. geometry for 1 mm thickness Figure 8 shows the sheet thickness distributions for both the a) 2 mm material and b) 1 mm material. the process was simplified to include sheets of material with different thicknesses clamped between rubber pads while being uniaxially displaced. tearing failure is not a concern.g. In order to examine these concerns. the maximum and minimum principal strains for the elements surrounding the clamping area were evaluated. The blank was modeled using one layer of reduced integration four-node shell elements (ABAQUS type S4R) with a thickness of 2 mm and 1 mm for the left and right sides of the blank respectively and an overall TWB size of 135 mm by 70 mm. e. a uniaxial displacement of 2 mm on each sheet thickness in opposing x-directions was applied to stretch the TWB. The largest thickness reductions occur outside of the clamping mechanism and are not excessive. [21] represented the most severe forming area along the weld line for the door inner part geometry. A ∅45 mm z y B x Figure 7. The friction coefficient was again set to a value of 0.35 for the neoprene impregnated material on the Aluminum sheet. The transverse strain values adjacent to the weld line away from the clamping mechanism produced by these displacements were 0. [21]. This is typical of TWB forming where the thinner material undergoes more deformation than the thicker material along the weld line. The 560 eightnode brick elements (ABAQUS type C3D8) used in each clamping pad were given hypoelastic material properties which were determined from the physical testing of the neoprene impregnated material. The material properties of the blank material were that of Al 6111-T4. Stress versus strain curve for neoprene impregnated material. or excessive thinning. observe the deformation concentration in the thinner material as is evident when comparing the thickness reductions along the weld line for the 2 mm and 1 mm materials. This is due to the ability of the neoprene impregnated material to deform under the loading. Strain (%) In the first step of the simulations. 10 on a Forming Limit Diagram (FLD) with the Forming Limit Curve (FLC) for Al 6111-T4.063 mm for the 1 mm material.60 50 Eng. Figure 7 shows the mesh and tooling geometry for this simulation work with the symmetry perpendicular to the weld line being used to reduce the computations. and no displacement was allowed for line A-B of the blank to produce the appropriate boundary conditions for the symmetry. perpendicular to the weld line. therefore. excessive deformation of the material caused by the large clamping force and tearing failure due to a stress concentration near the hydraulic cylinder. which were not considered in Kinsey et al.91% in the 1 mm material. Since clamping on the vertical weld line in Kinsey et al. These strain values are approximately the same as the transverse strains to the vertical weld line in the original simulations of the door inner geometry forming. simulations were conducted on the commercially available finite element software package ABAQUS/Standard. a uniform downward pressure of 62 MPa was applied to the top of the upper clamping pad with the bottom of the lower clamping pad fixed to produce the clamping force. Stress (MPa) 40 30 20 10 0 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% Eng. A plot of the thickness values along section A-B. therefore. Again. 2 mm thickness 70 135 Figure 6. to be modeled as opposed to simply fixing the nodal displacements of elements in the clamping area of the blank. the same as was used in Kinsey et al. as was done in the initial work. [21]. [21]. Here. Once clamped. Mesh and tooling ABAQUS/Standard simulations. stretched. in this case just the clamping pads with an applied load. SIMULATION TESTS Concerns exist that clamping on the weld line will have detrimental effects on the sheet metal.

Figure 8. In this paper. the rigidity and the dimensional accuracy of the stampings. The benefits of TWBs necessary to meet CAFÉ requirements are reduced vehicle weight.5 2. Cao and Kinsey [1] proposed a method to improve the formability of TWBs during deep drawing by clamping on the weld line with hydraulic cylinders.0 0. 2. Thickness plot of elements along section A-B. Finally. Forming Limit Diagram for elements surrounding clamping area.0 0 50 100 150 Distance in x-direction (mm) Figure 9. Experiments will be conducted in the near future at Northwestern University’s Advanced Materials Processing Laboratory (AMPL) to verify the formability improvements for TWBs.a) 35% Major Principal Eng. experimental as well as simulation results demonstrate the potential of the clamping mechanism to meet both of these requirements. These excellent results for the clamping mechanism provide confidence to move forward with implementation of the proposed process modification. Strain 30% 25% 20% FLC 15% 10% 5% 0% -20% -10% 0% 10% 20% Minor Principal Eng.5 1. Also.g. Numerical simulation results applying this proposed method for forming a part similar in geometry to a door inner were promising [21]. numerical simulation results showed that the sheet metal would not be significantly deformed during the clamping process and that stress concentrations near the clamping mechanism would not be large enough to cause tearing failure. Marginal Safe Zone y x b) CONCLUSION y x Tailor Welded Blanks (TWBs) are an excellent means for automakers to advance towards meeting Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards while improving sheet metal stampings in general.0 Thickness (mm) 1. e. However. and lower manufacturing costs. Sheet thickness distribution for a) 2 mm half and b) 1 mm half of TWB. more concrete information regarding the clamping mechanism was provided such as the specific hydraulic cylinder which will be used and a neoprene impregnated.5 0. fiber layered material which will be attached to the end of the hydraulic cylinders to prevent sheet metal damage. more analysis of the clamping mechanism was required to verify the hydraulic cylinder’s ability to perform the intended clamping function without detrimentally effecting the process or deforming the sheet metal. Strain Figure 10. improved crashworthiness. .

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