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

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PROFIT (Cost-effective high speed Production for Fasteners in Titanium for the automotive industry)

Reporting period: 2017-07-01 to 2018-10-31

Vehicle manufacturers have to improve the efficiency of their vehicles reducing fuel consumption and emissions while retaining, or improving, actual performance levels. The EU decided the 2015 emission target to be of 130 gCO2/Km, requiring a reduction higher than 25%, being even higher for 2021 (95 gCO2/Km). Which in terms of fuel consumption means:
-not to exceed 5.6 L/100km for petrol and 4.9 L/100km for diesel in 2015
-and 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 solutions add weights to the car. So, one of the best and sure ways to increase car efficiency remains reducing vehicle weight. To do so Poggipolini bets for light Titanium fasteners.
ProFit project propose a new manufacturing process for titanium (Ti) bolts. We 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). With a commercial target mainly focused on the price reduction (> 60%) of the Ti bolts. ProFit solution will allow us to expand and increase our turnover by +€27 million by 2021
Profit project is based on creating a new standard manufacturing process for Ti fasteners. The production of Ti fasteners is very expensive and not only because of the raw material price but mainly due to complex production costs.
During the 1st period we focused on the High Speed Hot Forging and Thread Rolling Machines (base of the automation ProFit manufacturing line).
For the Hot Forging Machine, the challenge was to scale up all the features that were tested during the feasibility period. We had to develop a machine able to hot forge, at high speed, up to 12 mm diameters. From simulations performed we learned that a 5 steps machine was enough. This achievement allowed us to design a more compact machine, one tooling kit less, so less expensive for customers, easier to handle, more durable, less maintenance and faster production.
On the Thread Rolling Machine, the most difficult part was related to the heating of the worked rough fasteners. To solve this issue, simulations and testing based on Poggipolini´s hot threading experience, It was possible to achieve the right balance between heating, speed and thread tooling.
During the 2nd period we focused on manufacturing bolts through the Hot Forging Machine and into the Thread Rolling Machine.
We used the Ti coil (wire) as raw material. We put efforts and testings on the equipment to straighten the coil (1st phase of the Hot Forging Machine). In order to understand if the straighten of the coil was key step of the process many tests were done to calibrate the Hot Forging Machine. In parallel we developed a specific set of toolings to produce the bolt in 5 forging steps, balancing the forging speed with the forging temperature of the Ti material. In fact, we are now able to produce 100 bolts per minute within the quality tolerance requirements, before thread rolling, without any machining operations. This means cheaper, shorter lead time, more flexible and better mechanical performance of the bolt itself.
Regarding the Hot Thread Rolling Machine. After the simulations done in the 1st period, testings and different set ups between temperature and speed, we are able to thread roll more than 150bolts/min even more than 200bolts/min for mid size bolts (< M6). This result could allow us to update a new automation layout with 2 Hot Forging Machine and 1 Thread Rolling Machine, if necessary.
Then, the fully automatic inspection machine was properly integrated. This new machine is equipped with 4 High Resolution scanning cameras and 2 Mechanical inspection machines. This means we can test each single bolt produced on the line under 6 fully automatic inspection steps. The goal was to get to a 100% inspection, so each produced bolt goes through inspection machine to provide customers a zero defect supply.
Finally, in order to have one production line to make Ti bolts from wire to packaging, the inspection machine was integrated to the packaging one. So, an automation was created to bring all the bolts after inspection to the packaging area. The packaging machine fills boxes with the number of needed bolts and finally an operator closes the box for shipping.
So, we have built a continuous production system from Hot Forging Machine to Hot Thread Rolling and finally to the Automatic Inspection and packaging system.
Ti alloy fasteners are already 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 due to their corrosion resistance, the target market for POGGIPOLINI and ProFiT will be Aerospace Engine and Aerostructure applications and Automotive series production Premium cars.
Automotive manufacturers need specific solutions to increase vehicle fuel economy while reducing their emissions, and this can be impacted significantly by reducing vehicle weight. This fact is crucial for electric/hybrid cars to increase their autonomy and speed. For internal combustion engine, weight reduction improves fuel consumption and reduces CO2 emissions. To meet EU regulations, automotive manufacturers need to adopt new cost-effective weight reduction solutions without compromising the vehicle safety.
Ti and its alloys are ideal for this: they have proven to be the best solution for car body structures and components, ensuring both vehicle efficiency and passenger safety. However, Ti components are more expensive than steel and aluminium, due not only to the raw material costs but to the specialist manufacturing required, leading to automotive manufacturers limiting their use in cost sensitive applications, such as cheaper mass-produced cars. Taking advantage of Poggipolini´s experience, ProFiT has been 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. The cost is further reduced by eliminating the non-essential heat treatment process (if necessary).
ProFiT, by reducing the price of Ti fasteners, will reduce the cost of lightweight Ti bolts, making them a viable alternative for more cost-sensitive car models. ProFiT will give Poggipolini advantage over competitors, leading to production costs below €5/bolt and 100 bolt/min.
ProFiT will allow premium OEM automotive manufacturers to reduce the weight of cars to reduce the consumption, emissions of CO2 and to increase the battery life of the full electric or hybrid cars. Using Ti bolts could reach a reduction of 15 to 20kg/car, this result can´t be provided by actual alternative technologies.
Regarding the Aerospace market, the large and global Ti aerospace fasteners producers are not flexible organization and they are not open to change the current bolts design. However, the OEMs are looking for design updates and Poggipolini with ProFiT can help the major aircrafts OEM to re-design and standardize their actual Ti bolts production processes. So ProFiT can impact very positively on the design approach, allowing all OEMs to improve their design systems.