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Raceform Report on Automotive Aluminium Part Production via Hot Form Quench Technology

Metal News - Published on Thu, 28 Nov 2019

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This growing need for lightweight automotive components, particularly for alternatively fuelled vehicles, is driving innovation in both materials and production technologies. Collaborative project RACEForm aims to validate Impression Technologies’ innovative Hot Form Quench Technology for the mass production of complex aluminium components and structures. The large program has been successfully led by Impression Technologies and is backed by multi-million-pound funding from the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK, with a total project value approaching GBP 10 million. To enable the successful scaling of HFQ, RACEForm is relying on a number of complementary collaborators including Gestamp, Innoval Technology, Brunel University London and Imperial College London.

The significant interest in HFQ Technology stems from its ability to enable faster, less expensive production of complex and lightweight aluminium structures. It offers OEMs significant savings in weight, cost and system complexity through its ability to produce deep drawn, high-strength aluminium alloys with low cycle times, no springback and a level of formability that is just not possible with other techniques. It also helps aluminium compete with steel in terms of affordability, historically a sticking point for widespread aluminium use.

The HFQ process begins by heating an aluminium sheet in an oven. The sheet is then transferred to a high-speed press for simultaneous forming and cold dies quenching. This allows the aluminium to be stamped while it is soft and then quenched to trap the strengthening capability behavior of the material. The part is then heat treated to gain high strength.

Whilst the HFQ Technology has already been successfully demonstrated in various automotive platforms, the RACEForm project is to certify the HFQ part design and manufacturing process in high-volume structural applications. The project has focused on the production of A-pillar components and chassis assemblies for SUVs and electric vehicles to meet specific OEM requirements.

Collaboration has proved to be one of the projects greatest strengths, with each partner addressing specific challenges. Gestamp, a Tier 1 supplier and key collaborator, is proving out HFQ for high production trials. Its trial at the Gestamp Ludwigsfelde hot stamping line facility in Germany achieved a cycle time of less than five seconds for an A-pillar component and subsequent, larger trials at Palencia in Spain.

Meanwhile, Imperial College London is leading RACEForm’s structural adhesive bonding and pre-treatment test programme, where researchers have completed surface pre-treatment and analysis evaluations. They have been supported by Chemetall and Innoval, who have characterised the microstructure and surfaces of samples. The projects self-pierce riveting test programme is being run by Brunel University, alongside structural simulations and the evaluation and modelling of joining methods.

To prove the technology’s recycling capabilities using lower grade aluminium, RACEForm is being supplied with highly recycled aluminium sheet from Jaguar Land Rover’s REALITY project, another Innovate UK funded programme. A testing phase has been planned to confirm that the HFQ process can maintain excellent formability, even with high levels of impurities and analysis of the resulting parts. Early forming trials have been successful.

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Posted By : Rabi Wangkhem on Thu, 28 Nov 2019
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