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High-Precision micro-forming of complex 3D parts

Final Report Summary - HIPR (High-Precision micro-forming of complex 3D parts)

Executive Summary:
Europe’s world leading position in manufacturing of high-precision metal parts for high added value products is threatened by developed and developing non-EU countries that catch-up quickly on quality at low cost. Action has to be taken now to prevent Europe from loss of jobs and GDP. Production of complex 3D micro-parts still needs many expensive and energy consuming finishing steps after the forming process to reach required features sizes, accuracies and tolerances. Processing of small-featured tooling needs to be improved in order to fulfill requirements on tool lifetime. Product variety increases and therefore batch sizes decrease: first-time-right is of big importance as well as numerical modeling. Quality control is still often based on sampling and therefore rejection is done on complete batches: reliable in-line 2D-3D quality inspection is needed. Starting from these premises, HiPr wants to demonstrate the industrial feasibility of metal microforming process, to reach the highest quality standards, increasing at the same time the production rate and decreasing the costs and the environmental impact. HiPr has four main objectives: To develop toolmaking technologies and tool demonstrator for high-precision micro-forming of complex 3D parts; to develop a measurement system for Quality Assurance and process monitoring; to develop an innovative numerical models for tool behavior and predictive maintenance, and mechanical properties database; to integrate all these technologies in a pilot industrial line, able to produce high quantity (>500.000 pieces) of micro parts.
The project lasted three years and achieved all the objectives, with no deviation from original plan; a pilot line has been integrated in one of the partners’ facilities (MIME), in Bergamo, Italy. The same quality currently achieved with high cost and energy consuming process (e.g. electro-thermal forming) was achieved by press cold metal forming. A comparative Life Cycle Assessment showed that the environmental impact of the HiPr process, respect to the currently used ones, is decreased of around 90%. Furthermore, the production rate, demonstrated in real industrial environment, is 250 pieces per minute, around 10 times the current rate.

Project Context and Objectives:
Micro-Forming. Metal forming is as an efficient, accurate and low cost manufacturing technology for macroscopic parts. Producing so-called net shaped parts is state-of-the-art for macroscopic parts. However, for complex 3D micro-parts many finishing steps like wire or sinking EDM are still needed after the forming process to reach required features sizes, accuracies and tolerances. In general finishing processes are expensive, energy consuming and result in waste of material. Producing net shaped 3D micro-parts directly by enhanced microforming is then becoming a necessity to strengthen Europe’s competitive position, to reduce the energy consumption during the manufacturing phase of more than 20% and cut the costs for more than 25%.
Mechanics. As a result of decreasing feature sizes, the details on needed tooling become smaller and challenging as well. Especially in the manufacturing of high-performance, high-precision metal parts made of high strength stainless steels this leads to high tool stresses, and therefore tools suffer from fatigue and wear. Hard metals are currently used as tool material in many forming processes because of their excellent properties: high compressive strength, wear resistance and high elasticity ratio. However, it is very brittle and hard to process, especially while going to micro-scale. Processing of these metals and surface roughness need to be improved in order to fulfill requirements on tool lifetime identified by the consortium (tolerances < 1 mm, features dimension ~ 0,3 mm, surface roughness < 0.03 μm , lifetime over 200k cycles and >10 Mln pieces).
Industrial trends. A trend that can be observed is that product variety increases and therefore batch sizes decrease. This increases the pressure on development time and development cost: average tool cost is nowadays about 150 to 250 k€, with about 20% accounting for development costs3. First-time-right is therefore of big importance. Use of numerical models to simulate the process instead of trial-and-error is therefore indispensable as well. Nowadays numerical models are at a mature level to predict forming processes. Tool stresses can be calculated, however, a good model to predict failure is not yet available.
Measurement systems. Quality inspection and adaptive process control solutions both require inline measurement systems. In-line 2D measurements are nowadays commonly used. However, measurements of 3D features on micro-scale are time-consuming and easily disturbed by environmental influences (vibrations, temperature), and therefore not yet suitable for in-line process control. Offline measurement time takes actually about 10 minutes, with average frequency of 1 on 3000 pieces4. Quality control is still often based on sampling and therefore rejection/acceptation is done on complete batches (up to ~ 12000 pieces4). Material properties measurement to adjust process settings is becoming common for macro-scale production (car body parts). However, sensors have to be developed to apply this on micro-scale.
Breakthrough. A breakthrough on all above mentioned areas is needed to remain and strengthen Europe’s leading position in manufacturing of high-precision 3D metal parts. HiPr will therefore assure number of jobs and GDP for Europe.
In order to realise an efficient industrial micro-forming production and strenghten Europe’s competitive position, HiPr project has focused on 3 critical areas: tool liftetime improving, in-line measurement of 3D micro-shapes and properties and numerical modelling for process prediction:
Tool performances. In order to enhance tool lifetime, different areas have been investigated. Two major aspects are tool material and coating selection. In parallel, and very important, is the definition of the toolmaking strategy, to enable micro-features and needed surface roughness: technologies like ultra-precision grinding, laser ablation have been investigated, capable of obtaining the required tool specification and to address novel high-performance materials. Nowadays, tool steels are the common reference also for microfoming tools, while hard metals are increasing importance but still suffer of severe limitations (brittleness and processability). Solutions have been investigated for new materials, comprising hard metals, ceramics and coating or surface modification techniques to enhance surface properties of standard tool steels.
Monitoring. Quality monitoring and adaptive process control strategies require fast, high precision in-line and on-line measurement systems. HiPr has realised 100% quality control by in-line measurement of complex 3D geometries and material properties. Within HiPr these measurements will be used for monitoring of critical-to-quality product features, to validate tool lifetime and to stop production when out of specifications. On-line quality inspection, such as tool force and temperature, will be integrated into the pilot production lines to investigate the possibility to correlate measurements with tool lifetime, acting as tool replacement indicator.
Process modelling. The need for high production flexibility and fast reconfiguration enhances the limitations of trial-and-error methods for process development: too expensive and time consuming. Although currently available FEM tools can predict forming processes and tool stresses accurately, unfortunately no accurate models to predict edge wear and tool fracture initiation/propagation are available yet. HiPr has implemented a tool wear and fracture model that can be integrated as module of commercial FEM software. This includes characterization and modelling of the selected tool material as well as implementation in FEM code and prediction of the selected micro-forming process.

Project Results:
In line with the initial objectives, HiPr has generated four key exploitable results:
• 15t Press micro-manufacturing pilot line
• Sensorized stamping tool
• In-line measurement system
• Tool lifetime prediction model.

15t Press micro-manufacturing pilot line. The HiPr line is an integrated set of equipment that allows stamping of micro components. It is composed by three main parts:
1) The system before the press that guides the fed metal strip through a set of sensors to measure parameters affecting the subsequent stamping steps.
2) The press with a sensorized stamping tool able to monitor continuously the stamping process at the scale of every single punch.
Quality check stage to check max tolerances able to follow the production speed and measure 100% of components, up to 250 strokes/min.
The line can produce micro parts with 10 microns precision at a speed not reached by today's competitive technologies and with a very low energy consumption.
The line allows, for the first time in the market, a mass production of micro-metal components in a cheaper, faster and more sustainable way.
The target market covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing metal forming machine tools, independent from the hands of a human operator, for pressing, hammering, extruding, shearing, die-casting, or otherwise forming metal into shape. The target also includes the rebuilding of such machine tools and the manufacture of repair parts for them. According to industry reports, 983 establishments operated in these categories for part or all of 2010. The U.S. Census Bureau reported industry-wide employment of approximately 6,223 workers in 2009, down from 7,177 in 2008. Of these 2009 employees, an average of 3,700 worked in production. Overall shipments for the industry were valued at nearly $1.11 billion, down from $1.48 billion in 2008. The vast majority of companies in this industry were small or medium sized, with less than 3 percent of firms employing more than 100 workers.
Furthermore, the trend is positive and new markets could be opened, e.g. electric assembly since a) the need to produce downsizing components, b) raising requirements in electrical infrastructure in semi-conductor technologies (laser, LED).
Prospects and Customers are still to ber investigated. They depend on the final decision on the exploitation model. So far 4 options have been identified: 1) Licensing the entire line production to press forming machine users only for Hi-Pr partners 2) Selling it to external users 3) Selling the licence to press machine producers (e.g. Yamada, Bruderer) 4) Implementing the press supplier into consortium to build a new company and sell the all machine.
The first Exploitation Actions foreseen is the direct industrial use by MIME, Philips and Stepper, having some special rights (to be discussed within the consortium). 3) is supposed to be carried out through a new legal entity taking care of the system. Case 4) still to be discussed within the partnership.

The consortium outlined a list of risks, with potential contingencies:
• Industrialization risk: no manufacturer. Assess/secure the commitment of partners to assemble/manufacture the whole Hi-Pr production line; investigate the interest of a third party to participate to the venture as manufacturer. Identify a third party to assemble the different components.
• Dependency on other technologies. Be ready to invest further resources to embed other technologies in the Hi-Pr line.
• HiPr production line is too expensive. Target higher value market segments, invest and demonstrate the possibility to have higher margin/unicity. Evaluate the possibility to reduce cost going to alternative components supplier.
• Counterfeit cannot be proved. Keep investing in the development of the technologies.
• Lack of a clear vision of the exploitation route at partners level. Better investigate the market structure and opportunity, prepare a clear exploitation strategy, devote the right time to discuss draft PUDF at partners level.

Sensorized stamping tool. The tool is a core result of the project: it shall not only guarantee the precision, the requested tolerances and the finishing of the part, but also provide real time data on the punching processes. The tool has in fact been designed to have a certain number of cavities (more than 30) to host sensors for measuring force, strain, noise and all relevant parameters of the process. Nevertheless the cavities, the tool maintains its strength and mechanical resistance.
The tool is "smart", i.e. it can measure and record data from the processes (cutting, coining, bending) in real time. This allows the end user (e.g. MIME) to look inside the process and see if everything is carried on within process specifications and/or there is something, related to the tool, that is affecting the process, for example tool wear or crack initiation.
The tool differs from the state of art for two reasons: the precision and the very high degree of surface finishing able to shape; the embedded intelligence that allows a better evaluation of the current status of the tool and to plan & manage the maintenance.
The target market is the same as for the press (previous result). The positioning is a top level (top quality) among the commercial stamping tools. The tool is designed to take care of such production where micro features and complete control of the process are crucial. As an example, the production of automotive parts or aircraft parts, that shall be 100% controlled, could be advantaged by the use of the sensorized tool. The highest cost of the tool is balanced by the possibility it gives to enter such new markets and/or gain trust by the customers, in terms of production quality.
Competitors are worldwide manufacturers of press tools; the ones that could be more structured to follow this new niche of sensorized tools are: Paragon Toolmaking, Wilson Tools and N&D Precision Products. In any case, the technology gap to be filled is mostly related to the structural design of the tool, able to stand against the common solicitations even if it contains cavities for sensors. At least two research years of advantage is foreseen.
The typical profile of sensorized tools is that of MIME. In fact it is necessary that the customer makes available skilled technicians to support the fine tuning of the tool, during the design and manufacturing stage, and to monitor (and take advantage from it) the actual performances during the normal functioning.
For such reasons, stamping companies too small cannot be a target, as well as very large mass producer, where products are usually not requesting such a degree of precision.
The main costs for the final implamentation of the sensorized tool are related to the test campaigns still needed for sufficiently evaluating its reliability, robustness and durability.
Such costs could vary according to the type of product and press used but can be esteemed between 50 and 100 k€.
A possibility is to run some campaign in cooperation with future potential customers, in order to make them part of the implementation, get their direct feedback and abate the overall expenditures.
The sensorize tool is almost ready to enter the market. It is still missing a few further durability campaigns, in order to evaluate the behaviour with different shapes and along its entire lifetime.
The cost of the tool itself doesn’t change and remains equal to the traditional one. The only extra cost is related to sensors (around 10.000€) that could be definitely lowered, once that sensorized tool becomes a largely produced product.
The consortium outlined a list of risks, with potential contingencies:
• Building trust in new tech. Reduce initial investment made by customer by servitizing the product. Create a marketing campaign based on users experiences
• Higher Cost than traditional tools. Targets are either very demanding markets (with higher spending possibility) or large mass market, where the initial cost of the tool can be easily amortized by its lifetime and productivity
• Customers not able to understand added value. Dissemination and field tests with potential key customers
• Communication with customers. Leveraging on existing networks

Measurement system. The upstream and downstream measurement system is composed by devices (single or integrated into a piece of equipment) to characterize the input material in the process and/or check production outputs. Quality system that collects data from raw material to the process and from the quality point of view. The innovativeness of the system is about the capability to measure good quality of data in a short time; Collecting data not collected since now (mechanical properties of material and data from the tool). This will bring some saving of time (from one work day to detect a problem with input materials to a few seconds, and in a long time saving time with maintenance) and less waste and process knowledge (any single part of the process).
The impact on market is wide: the system is useful for every automatic assembly lines - upstream initial target market: stamping process first customer, automotive/electronics (reducing time in detecting errors) - downstream initial target market: where you need to have 3d data and strict requirements/zero defect, hi-tech/medical/automotive/aerospace (quality/no errors).
Downstream it’s a growing market, several producers, high cost, cyclically, (it's a new technology, need to build trust in the customer) - upstream: low barriers to enter the market, growing market customers need to save time (if the competitor is the market leader, you need money to put it out of the market, if not sell to it).
TNO already started 3 projects with industrial customers, for the customization of OCT sensor developed by HiPr. Another 2 industrial customers have already started to acquire information on it and are evaluating the possibility of OCT implementation.
Heliotis applied the OCT system developed in HiPr in a monitoring system for an industrial customer, in the field of coffee pads production.
The consortium outlined a list of risks, with potential contingencies:

The risks outlined in the table below are those recognized at the outset of the project, where potential contingencies have been identified.
• Building trust in new tech. Reduce initial investment made by customer by servitizing the product. Create a marketing campaign based on users experiences
• Manually teach to the system (not flexible from the customer point of view). Self-teaching system
• High Costs. Series production to lower costs
• Customers not able to understand added value. Dissemination
• Communication with customers. Leveraging on existing networks
Tool lifetime prediction model. The tool lifetime prediction model allows to simulate the tool behaviour in working conditions, predicting its lifetime on the basis of tool material model, process parameters and in-line quality inspection of tools. The aim of the model is not only to give an estimation of the tool life, but most of all to correlate it with defects and non-conformities in the products originated by an out-of-specs tool.
The model is the result of a cross-correlation between a finite element method for the wear quantification of the tool and the exploitation of data provided by the product line sensor equipped.
The model is a valuable solution to reduce trials-and-error methods for process development, indicating an estimation of tool wear at certain working conditions of a product line. Such methodology allows to fully exploit product line data coming from sensors enhancing and guaranteeing productivity, and can be applied independently of type of machine (high customization degree).
The main markets is engineering services. The main locations are worldwide, with peaks of concentration in Europe and BRIC countries. The figures of the market report that global revenues are around 783 b$ (2014)with an annual growth (2010-2015) of 4,2%. Forecast revenue is $1.4 trillion by 2020 and the forecast growth (2010-2020 ) is 50%.
Competitors are single consultants or small, very specialized engineering offices, In-house consulting firms (eg. Altran), Research centres and RTOs, Academy and academic consultancy spin-offs and some Certification bodies (partially).
Customers are small-medium enterprise, reaching global market in metal stamping; Manufacturer of products in the field of consumer goods, automotive, aerospace, automation, packaging; companies with a not fully structured technical office but open minded to innovative approach to stamping.
The cost of Implementation (before Exploitation)is to be evaluated, based also on final testing results. The biggest obstacle we found was the time for computing, since sometimes we needed more than 1 week for calculating the wear of a tool.
The main cost will be to simplify the algorithm and the related calculation load, to speed-up the process, unless difficultly utilizable.
Another issue is that the model was validated only for few materials and certain shapes: we still need time and associated costs for implementing a full test campaign where the range of applicable materials is enlarged and where different shapes are tested and validate with real results.
In total another 200-250k€ are to be planned, for reaching the commercial TRL9.
The model is still experimental and an extensive test campaign is necessary before a full validation of algorithms. The time to market will strongly depend on our capability to reduce and optimize the computing time, that would also speed up the further test campaigns. At least another 1,5-2 years of development are necessary to reach the market.

The risks outlined in the table below are those recognized at the outset of the project, where potential contingencies have been identified.
• Building trust in new simulation tool. Find synergies with some universities and/or RTO, to further academically validate the tool. Create a marketing campaign based on users experiences
• Manually set up to the system according to the CAD of the tool. Provide a didactical module for initializing the software
• Customers not able to understand added value. Dissemination and field test (at reduced fee) with a list of key customers.
• Communication with customers. Leveraging on existing networks

HiPr project’s main goal was to set up a pilot line of metal forming, where the measuring technologies developed in the first phase of the project could be demonstrated. Since the line is to be considered as an industrially relevant environment, we can clearly state that all the exploitable results of HiPr have reached a TRL6.

The original design of the line is composed by a sequence of processes (and related machines):

1. Decoiler of metal strip, type TPF-1500 (state of art);
2. Straightener Millutensil RM 1918-200 (state of art);
3. Table with metal strip measurement system (by 3R);
4. Yamada press NXT50 Wi with electronic power supplier (state of art);
5. Sensorized modular stamping tool (by Stepper);
6. Quality check system for 3D features, based on OCT technology (by Heliotis and TNO);
7. Multi bobbin re-coiler type TF. W. 1001.4.

Potential Impact:
Increased productivity. The increased productivity enhanced by HIPR is a further important strength of its enabling technology. Actually, the main target products to which HIPR process could be applied shall face one (or more) time consuming production step or, in some case, some manual operation. In all cases, they are very high quality small metal parts, that represents a manufacturing sector Europe is still leading; a further technological gap with Far East countries can contribute in maintaining this leadership: European manufacturers will be able to scale-up micro-forming to mass manufacturing to strengthen their competitive position.
Actually miniaturisation of 3D products are time-consuming, and therefore not yet suitable for inline process control. HIPR will develop sensors and control system for monitoring the quality of parts that will warrant a time saving up to 40% for such added 3D microproducts.
Besides the tool life time will be easily predicted, based on numerical models, giving the possibility to foresee tool maintenance or even substitution, avoiding or at least reducing downtimes. A scheduled planning of maintenance operation can reduce the impact of downtimes to final costs down to almost 0%, thanks to the support of HIPR system. This improvement will be warranted also by a good choose of material and relative protective, wear-resistant and antifriction coating.
The advancements in productivity will be verified and confirmed by end-user of the technology, in particular PCL as mass manufacturer.
Rejected outputs. Nowadays still many processes are designed by trial-and-error. However, time-to-market is under continuous pressure to remain market share. As processes become more and more complex it becomes of great importance to increase the quality of the products: considering the typical product features dimensions (about 100 μm), the precision and repeatability should be on the order of magnitude of a micron. The new technology will warrant a 100% product check, according to demanding standards and tolerances: a percentage of 99% of conform product can be expected at full stretch production capacity.
Nowadays measurement of complex 3D micro-shapes is performed off-line. Sampling is applied because of the long measurement time, and acceptation/rejection is done on level of complete batches. For 2D products, in-line quality checks can already be performed. One of the results of HiPr will be a measurement system that can measure complex 3D micro-shapes with high aspect ratio with a measurement timeof a fraction of a second . This will allow better qualification of defects and can be input for adaptive process control systems.
Moreover a robust real-time monitoring system will avoid useless waste of rejected outputs in the transitional production phases (i.e. the preliminary set up or during the changing of a production lot.
Generally during these phases the numbers of rejected pieces varies from 10 to 25: HIPR technology aims to reduce this value to just 1 unit, rejected after being used and checked, in case of destructive tests of production sample.
In line real-time monitoring will also have a positive impact on product losses due to quality assurance controls. An usual quality checking time for high-volume production microforming is based on the sampling of four products with a frequency of 1 hour: this means that 1 out of about 3000 parts is measured and approval/rejection judgment is applied on a whole batch of about 12000 parts41: the potential loss of 12000 parts can be avoided by the new HiPr real-time monitoring system. This, according PCL esteem will reduce material waste percentage of about 30%.
Total manufacturing sector in Europe generates an added value of 1594 Billion Euro and provides 33 Million direct jobs42 of which 15% is related to metals & metal products43. In particular the microsystems occupy a sector in this market that it is estimated in a turnover of 68 billion $ in 2005 with an annual growth rate of 20%44: this is mainly driven by a rising trend of miniaturisation of products. This request of miniaturisation comes both from consumers, who are demanding more compact electronic devices, and from technical applications like medical equipment, sensor technology and optoelectronics. Actually the estimated share for microforming products is about 200 Million Euro 45: the potential enlargement of 3D microformed products inside this market is very promising.
The HiPr aim is to bring to a global cost reduction of at least 20-25%41, thanks to implementation brought both directly on the manufacturing process and on the output of the process itself. In the first categories are included:
• the optimization of tool lifetime (with new materials and new coatings that improve corrosion resistance and hardness), that will increase its lifetime from actual 5000-50000 microforming cycles (in function of performed operations) to 200000 cycles41; it will be realized through improvement of tool corrosion resistance and hardness properties: considering that the average tool cost is 150000 – 250000 Euro, each company will be able to in crease 4 times the single tool production, saving about 450000 – 750000 Euro each 12-40 Million pieces (depending on stamped materials and final product);
• the reduction of finishing steps (i.e. electro-discharge) that will bring to energy savings of about 20%, that for instance for PCL can be evaluated as a cost saving of 1,2 M€ for each product type, on an average of 30 Million of pieces per product type, per year;
• the decreasing in materials waste and use of chemicals.
The impacts directly related to the products are instead:
• the introduction of an innovative quality control system that can be applied to small/medium parts production industries;
• reduce the number of defects in production by 2-5% (actually up to 15%) with real time monitoring system: actually acceptation/rejection needs about 10 minutes long measurements and applies on up to >10k parts batches;
• smaller geometries and tolerances achievable with the microforming tool and lower number of finishing steps, thus major appeal on the market at lower cost.
This cost reduction will bring to an improvement in technology competitiveness and consequently the widening of the market of 3D microforming technology and relative manufactured products. In the project producers of consumer goods, energy and automotive are included in the consortium but positive impacts can be extended to sectors such as medical/surgical, electronics and TLC, etc. considering the challenging functional requirements.
Taking a medium volume product as reference (30 Mln parts/year) with medium-high geometry complexity and which requires additional finishing steps like for example sinking EDM, some rough calculation can be performed to estimate the potential benefit of HiPr technology, shaping the possible return on investment for process end-users. Assumptions are made as follows:
• Average lifetime for the tool housing: about 200 Mln cycles.
Average lifetime for a microfoming tool: in the case of parts with high complexity and small geometries, the end-users experience indicates an average life for a tool of 10 to 100 kcycles. 50 kcycles will be considered as the reference value. Target for HiPr project is to extend the tool lifetime of 4 times, reaching about 200 kcycles.
• Average cost for the tool housing: can vary from 100 to 600 k€. An average cost of 200k€ can be considered as reference.
• Average cost for a microfoming tool: can vary from 1 k€ up to 60% of the housing cost, depending on materials, complexity and dimensions. A reference cost of 10k€ can be considered, since product targeted are very small tools dedicated to specific geometries.
• Quality control: actually, sampling of 4 products is applied with a frequency of ~1 hour and needs about 10 minutes (1,33 hours/day lost for measurements), which effectively means that 1 out of ~3000 parts is measured. Approval/rejection is therefore applied on the whole batch of ~12000 parts produced during the prior hour. Taking into account that for tool with very small geometries end-user experience indicates an average tool life in the order of 10-100 kcycles (we will take 50 kcycles as reference), we can roughly assume for a hypothetical worst case that a non compliance with product specifications arises after about 4,1 hours, i.e. at the beginning of the fifth 12k parts batch to be checked. This means that a batch every 5 hours is rejected, for a total of 12k parts rejected each 60k produced (20% non compliant production). With the real time in-line HiPr monitoring, non compliances would be decrease to virtually 1 part on 60k produced, practically meaning that zero-defect manufacturing is achieved.
• Production time: 200 parts/minute (10800 parts/hour), with production running 24x7 in shifts along the whole year.
• Net production time: the theoretical production for continuous 24x7 running along the whole year would be of about 95 Mln parts/year, thus the net production time can be estimated around 7,8 hours/day, to be increased to 9,75 taking into account the 20% losses due to quality control rejections. A part of time losses is unavoidable and not adjustable (coil reloading and positioning, standard machine maintenance), while another part can be largely reduced by HiPr innovation (quality control on batches, time for tool/housing substitution and commissioning).
• Product costs: product costs can easily vary across 3 orders of magnitude, depending on geometric complexity, tolerances and materials (e.g. gold/silver/platinum coated steels, copper or other special materials), also in function of scale economies applicable and batch dimensions. A reference cost order of about 0,5 €/part can be considered as main target product for HiPr process, accounting for complex geometries and fine tolerances with special materials. This cost is comprised of the following sub-costs: tool, housing, raw material, machine maintenance and working, finishing processes. The actual tooling cost related annual production of 30 Mln parts can be detailed on the basis of previous assumptions (9,75 net production time per day, tool lifetime of about 4,1 hours, 10 k€ for each tool, housing lifetime of about 6,7 years): about 870 new tools are needed every year, representing a cost per year of about 8730000 € (about 0,29 €/part), housing included.
Considering the previous assumptions, the following benefits affecting production times and costs can be easily identified for HiPr project (referring to actual production and evaluating single benefits as independent one by another):
• Global annual cost saving of about 1,2 Mln€ due to the reduction of finishing steps (e.g. sinking/wire EDM), resulting in product cost decrease of about 8% (0,04 €/part);
• Zero-defect manufacturing, leading to save about 20% of net production time losses due to quality control rejections;
• Time saving for batch measurements (1,33 hours/day), increasing net production time from 9,75 to around 11,1 hours/day;
• Potential increase in production of about 60%, from 30 Mln parts/year to over 48 Mln parts/year, without accounting for time losses due to machine maintenance, coil reloading and tool/housing substitution and commissioning. 20% overall cost saving due to in-line monitoring, resulting in overall saving of about 3 Mln€ and potential product cost decrease to 0,4 €/part;
• Decrease of tooling costs of about 25% in the same working configuration (216 tools instead of 870 for 30 Mln parts/year) and increasing of 3 times the tool cost (30 k€ for a HiPr innovative tool), for a final tooling cost of about 0,215 €/part.
As a further rough estimation, a possible target product cost can be therefore estimated:
• Actual product cost = 0,5 €/part (30 Mln parts/year, finishing steps needed, batch quality control, 9,75 hours/day net production time, 50kcycles tool lifetime, 10 k€ tool cost), of which:
- 0,29 €/part for tooling
- 0,04 €/part for finishing steps
- 0,17 €/part for materials and other costs not here detailed.
• Target product cost = 0,32 €/part (48 Mln parts/year, reduced finishing steps, in-line quality control, 11,1 hours/day net production time, 200kcycles tool lifetime, 30 k€ tool cost) for a reduction of about 36%, of which:
- 0,15 €/part for tooling
- no costs for finishing steps
- 0,17 €/part for materials and other costs not here detailed.
On the basis of the previous estimation, a possible evaluation of the return on investment for end-users can be provided (Figure 15), expecting for ROI to evolve positively since 3 years after the end of the project. The estimation have been elaborated on the following assumptions (conservative), referring costs and revenues to a single press machine instrumented with HiPr in-line monitoring system and novel microfoming tools, and roughly considering costs for the industrial scale-up of the process since the last year of the project (2015):
• Average end-user budget for HiPr project (not funded by European Commission): 300 k€;
• Cost for a medium-sized press machine: about 500 k€;
• Costs for technology scale-up and installation of the system (devices integration, monitoring system algorithm scale-up, eventual new components for automation): 750 k€ in 2016, 250 k€ in 2017;
• Parts production: 15 Mln in 2016, 30 Mln in 2017, 48 Mln from 2018 on (full production capacity);
• Production costs: 1,024 €/part in 2016 (target cost weighted on 15 Mln parts), 0,512 €/part in 2017 (target cost weighted on 30 Mln parts), 0,32 €/part from 2018 on;
• Selling price: 0,7 €/part in 2016 (supposed on the basis of actual production costs of about 0,5 €/part, considering a margin of 40%), 0,6 €/part in 2017 (supposed to decrease with increasing productivity of the press machine), 0,448 €/part from 2018 on (20% margin on the target production cost);
• All parts produced are sold by the end of the year.
Environmental impact. The proposed technology, aims also to be more environmental efficient and greener than the currently available 3D microforming in a perspective of an even more wide sustainable progress.
The most useful instrument to evaluate this kind of performance is, as already explained previously, the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) that quantifies the environmental impacts of a system or product from cradle to grave, namely raw material acquisition, materials processing, manufacturing processes, maintenance operations, product end of life. The analysis will be performed according international standards (ISO14040:2006 and ISO 14044:2006) and will take care of various impacts (fossil and renewable energy consumption, ozone layer depletion, global warming increase, acidification, photechemical smog creation, ecotoxicity), making LCA a powerful tool for increasing sustainability, generating an impact also on money reduction.
The LCA methodology will be applied to state-of-art microforming technology, comprising tool making and the results will constitute the basis for project improvements. In fact another life cycle assessment will be conducted on the HIPR developed production technology, and chosing an appropriate comparison unit the improvements will be numerically quantified.
So within the project, the most critical components of the production chain will be analyzed and monitored, in order to pursue these objectives through Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and/or Key ecologic indicators (KEI). The selected set is47:
- G.E.R. Gross energy (from fossil and renewable sources) requirement (measured in MJ)
- G.W.P. Global Warming Potential (measured in kg CO2 equivalent)
- A.P. Acidification Potential (measured in kg SO2 equivalent)
- O.D.P. Ozone Depletion Potential (measured in kg R11 – refrigerant gases equivalent)
- E.P. Eutrophication Potential (measured in kg phosphate equivalent
- P.O.C.P. Photochemical Ozone Creation Potential (measured in kg ethane equivalent)
- H.T.P. Human Toxicity Potential (measured in kg DCB - dichlorobenzene equivalent)
- E.T.P. Eco Toxicity Potentials (measured in kg DCB – dichlorobenzene equivalent)
It is quite realistic to affirm that HIPR improvements in the manufacturing system will reduce the energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions of at least 30%. The introduced improvements will also lead to a reduction of other environmental performance indicators of the same value.
This objective will be pursued principally through two main actions: firstly, improved microforming will strongly reduce the finishing steps, bringing to a reduction of energy consumptions of at least 20%41; secondly, the waste reduction due to the decrease of nonadequate production thanks to new implemented and efficient technologies for high precision 3D parts production, will permit to achieve the final target of 30% of reduction in energy consumption and consequentially of other environmental performance indicators.
As regards the second point, considering a control of quality assurance realized with cycles of 1 hours, in the worst hypothesis, a whole batch of about 12000 pieces do not respect requirements.
Considering that a single steel piece (25x25x0,5 mm) average weight can be estimated in 2,5 grams, the recycling regards a stock that weights about 30 kilograms; recycling operations are based on casting and re-rolling: so each stock of out of specs pieces, according to a preliminary evaluation has a energy impact of almost 2170 MJ and a carbon footprint of 117 kgCO2.48
So HIPR is conceived and designed to improve the manufacturing sustainability through the following goals:
• Lowering waste production of 30%, by the optimization of the product life cycle. This is obtained by both the material selection and the design for manufacturing, considering also the product disassembly and its recycle management;
• Decreasing the energetic consumption of the process of at least 30%, by its optimization and by avoiding finishing operations done in the production system (in particular the sinking or wire EDM finishing) thanks to a correct design for manufacturing and the development of a solid procedure of enhanced energy management;
• Enhancing the usage of low impact materials (both for tool production and coating, and for the lubrication process) by the eco-selection of materials activity scheduled in WP2 and WP3, that will also include minimization of embodied and recycling energy in materials processing.
Enabling a continuative upgrade process by the availability of quantitative numerical data, that can be used as indicators for a continuous improvement and will have a positive impact in decreasing development times and costs as well.
Impact on European manufacturing industry. Applying HiPr results on European level in other manufacturing sectors as well, will lead to multimillion savings and enable maintaining Europe’s leading position in these fields by increasing:
• Flexibility
- Batch size decrease;
- Easy machine configuration;
- Reduced downtimes in production switching;
- Improvement of range of exploitable markets.
• Efficiency
- Monitoring and improvement of machinery working conditions, through KPI, KEI;
- Improvement of production quality and productivity rate;
- Reduction of energy consumptions;
- Reduction of tools development costs.
• Reliability
- Optimization of internal workflow;
- Increase of tool lifetime;
- Robust process control and out-of-spec management.
Possible future products: fuel cells, hearing aids, ball bearings, micro-actuated medical devices.

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