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Revolutionary Ultra-Fast System for Hot-stamping of light weight structural vehicle components with Artificial Intelligence quality control monitoring

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Car production technique delivers speed and safety

Innovative new tools and techniques could help carmakers achieve production efficiencies while maintaining the highest safety standards, giving them a critical competitive edge.

Industrial Technologies

Car manufacturers typically aim to build vehicles that are as lightweight as possible, while maintaining the highest standards of safety. This has driven demand for materials and techniques that can deliver improved mechanical performance, while guaranteeing weight reduction. A good example of this is the popularity of hot stamping components, which are increasingly used in modern car bodies. These components, made by stamping and moulding steel sheets at temperatures over 800 °C, offer incredible strength and low deformability, and at the same time can be easily shaped. “Hot stamping is used for mass-produced vehicles,” explains RUSH AI project coordinator Daniele Bassan, project manager at CRF in Italy. “One challenge however is that the quenching phase – or rapid cooling – requires up to 15 seconds per part produced, and it is not always possible to tailor the properties of each part.”

Innovative production efficiencies

The goal of the RUSH AI project was to see whether this cooling time could be drastically cut, and whether a new generation of tools could enable the mechanical properties of mass-produced parts to be improved. The ultra-fast hot stamping production line would be quality-controlled by self-correcting, online artificial intelligence. “Our aim was to significantly reduce the quenching time and enable designers to improve the overall performance of vehicle parts,” says Bassan. Achieving these objectives could lead to production line efficiencies, and at the same time raise the bar in terms of safety. The project introduced a novel hydraulic press solution, as well as a die made by additive manufacturing. This aids cooling, and was inspired by human sweat. On the component redesign side, the team was able to develop new parts for a commercial SUV. “Using these new tools, we were able to improve the overall safety performance of the component, while achieving a weight reduction of around 5 %,” adds Bassan. In terms of production efficiencies, the team was able to lower the quenching process time to three seconds, which brought the overall cycle time from around 20 seconds down to 8. Taken together, these improvements enabled the team to deliver a 10 % reduction in component costs.

Successful SME collaboration

Bassan believes that fruitful project partnerships have been a critical factor in achieving these impressive results. “SMEs in Europe have an important role in bringing innovation to the market,” he remarks. “SME engagement throughout this project provided ideas and inputs that we were then able to exploit at the consortium level.” After validation of the prototype RUSH AI production process, the next step will be to scale up the system and achieve commercialisation. This will involve validation of the innovative tools developed in the project in an operational environment, together with completion of the fast AI-controlled press line. The team aims to ensure that the entire system is optimised and operational by project completion in February 2022. “The strong relationship among current consortium members has been critical to improving this manufacturing process,” says Bassan. “We hope we will be able to generate further innovative ideas. Ultimately, reducing the overall processing time means higher productivity and cost reductions for carmakers in what is a highly competitive market.”

Keywords

RUSH AI, vehicle, car, steel, stamping, quenching, mechanical, component

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