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Cost-effective high speed Production for Fasteners in Titanium for the automotive industry

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PROFIT (Cost-effective high speed Production for Fasteners in Titanium for the automotive industry)

Reporting period: 2016-07-01 to 2017-06-30

Starting originally in 1950 with the manufacturing of titanium components for motorsports, POGGIPOLINI became official suppliers for the Formula One (Ferrari and McLaren) in the 80s, the aerospace industry in the 90s (Agusta helicopters) and finally the automotive industry in 2004 (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, McLaren, Porsche and FCA).
Vehicle manufacturers have to improve the efficiency of their vehicles, reducing the fuel consumption and emissions while retaining, or surpassing, current levels of performance. The European Union decided the 2015 emission target to be of 130 gCO2/Km, requiring a reduction of more than 25%, is a significant challenge for manufacturers. Furthermore, in 2021 future emissions targets is of 95 gCO2/Km.
In terms of fuel consumption, the European Union has obliged car manufacturers to ensure:
- For 2015 not to exceed 5.6 L/100km for petrol and 4.9 L/100km for diesel.
- Ana by 2021, to be further reduced to 4.1 L/100km and 3.6 L/100km respectively.
Much has been done technically to improve in this area:
- Forced induction (turbocharging or supercharging).
- Hybrid combustion-electric or fully electric powertrains.
- Aerodynamics and general refinements.
However, most of these technologies add weights to the car. So, one of the best and sure ways to increase car efficiency remains reducing vehicle weight by using lightweight materials. To do so Poggipolini bets for Titanium fasteners.
ProFit proposes a revolutionary manufacturing process for Ti bolts. Poggipolini will move from a semi-manual production (200,000 units/€13.5 production cost) towards a mass production process (potential up to 30 million units/< €5 production cost). Apart from the scientific and technological objectives, there is a focus on the commercial application of the results in the market. The price reduction (> 60%) of the titanium bolts to be obtained with ProFit solution will allow us to expand our automotive market to general cars and by doing so increase our turnover by +€27 million by 2021
The Profit project is based on creating the new standard and state of the art manufacturing process for titanium fasteners. The production of titanium fasterners is very complex and this is why titanium fasteners are expensive, not only because of the raw material price but mainly because of the production costs. During the production of titanium fasteners there are several actions and phases that have to be performed, much more phases than in the manufacturing of steel fasteners that, for Automotive market, is the titanium main competitor.

During this first working period we have focused our developments and efforts on the High Speed Hot Forging Machine and on the High Speed Hot Thread Rolling Machine. Both machines are main base of the automation of the ProFit manufacturing line. Regarding the Hot Forging Machine, the challenge has been to scale up to a larger size machine all the features that were tested during the feasibility period. In fact, in this period, on a smaller prototype machine, working on a 4 mm diameter sample bolts, we understood that it was possible and feasible to achieve the result of forging at high temperature titanium wires offering a finishing of the bolt acceptable to be worked on the thread rolling machine.

Large scale means that we had to develop a machine capable to hot forge, at high speed, up to 12 mm diameters. In the beginning we thought to make a machine with 6 forging steps but then, through all the simulations performed, we understood that a 5 steps was enough. This was a really important achievement because one step less means more compact machine, one tooling kit less and so less expensive for customers, easier to handle, more durable, less maintenance and faster production. This was possible working on the heating/induction side of the machine, reaching the right parameters to best facilitate the material deformation.

On the Thread Rolling Machine, the most difficult part was always related to the heating of the worked rough fasteners. Wrong heating can be very negative not only for the speed of the process but mainly because the threads could result wrong. Therefore to solve this issue we performed simulations and testing and based the Poggipolini hot threading experience, It has been possible to achive the right balance between heating, speed and thread tooling.

The next developments will be performed on the integration between these two main technologies and also with the washing and quatlity inspection phases.
Although titanium alloy fasteners are already commonly used in aerospace and motorsport for their light-weight, high-strength characteristics, in the biomedical industry for their high biocompatibility, and in industries such as the chemical and oil and gas industries because of their corrosion resistance, the target market for POGGIPOLINI and ProFiT will be series production cars (Automobile sector).

Automotive manufacturers need specific solutions to increase vehicle fuel economy while reducing their emissions, and this can be impacted significantly by reducing vehicle weight. For electric/hybrid engine weight reduction is crucial to increase the autonomy of the vehicle as well as its speed. For internal combustion engine, weight reduction improves fuel consumption and reduces CO2 emissions. In order to meet EU regulations, which impose a 27% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions before 2021 without sacrificing the competitiveness in the market, automotive manufacturers need to adopt new cost-effective weight reduction solutions. On the other hand, this trend for vehicle light weighting cannot compromise vehicle safety. Titanium and its alloys are ideal in this sense: they have proven to be the best solution for car body structures and components, ensuring both vehicle efficiency and passenger safety.

Poggipolini has identified several key drivers for ProFiT titanium bolts which are related to emission reduction, fuel economy and vehicle safety. These drivers are directly associated with the main advantages of titanium as a manufacturing material as opposed to steel. The sector that has seen little exploitation of the advantages of titanium alloys, for fasteners and components is without doubt the automotive sector. Titanium components are more expensive than steel and aluminium, due to the raw material cost and the specialist manufacturing required, leading to automotive manufacturers limiting their use in cost sensitive applications, such as cheaper mass-produced cars.

To date, this has been the principal barrier to the adoption of titanium alloy. Not only is the raw material expensive, but also difficult to machine and prone to work hardening, making processing costly. Taking full advantage of Poggipolini´s 60 years of experience and work with titanium, ProFiT has been specifically conceived to overcome this, using hot forging to work the material, automation to reduce the production cost and increase volume, and economy of scale to reduce raw material cost. For applications other than aerospace the cost is further reduced by eliminating the non-essential heat treatment process

ProFiT, by reducing the price of titanium fasteners, will reduce the incremental cost of lightweight titanium bolts, making them a viable alternative for more cost-sensitive car models. ProFiT will give Poggipolini a clear advantage over competitors, leading to production costs below €5/bolt and 100 bolt/min
ProFit Hot Forging Machine, close up