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PUZZLE_DIE: an innovative solution for a faster and cheaper car weight reduction to help carmakers to meet European limits to CO2 emissions.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PUZZLE_DIE (PUZZLE_DIE: an innovative solution for a faster and cheaper car weight reduction to help carmakers to meet European limits to CO2 emissions.)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2019-11-30

One of the most important objectives of the European automotive industry is to reduce the weight of a mid-sized engine segment vehicle by about 200 kg by 2020, and to meet the new EU CO2 emission limits for automakers, otherwise the sanctions would be unbearable.

Automakers have several options they can pursue in parallel. One of these is to achieve weight reduction, mainly by replacing steel with equally resistant but lighter weight materials and Aluminium is one of the leading materials. However, replacement comes at a cost that the end market does not recognize and it is this cost that drives manufacturers choices.
Consequently, one of the main guidelines for action is the gradual replacement of steel and ferrous alloy structural components with aluminium components. The current limit is the production cost of these manufactured products. Since they are made with the die-casting process, they have very high costs because of the special dies employed and their limited lifetime (100,000 to 150,000 pieces).

Our project aims to reduce the current costs of production of components in Aluminium through the engineering of a new technique for construction of the dies, a technique which will revolutionize the world of aluminium die-casting (95% of all automotive parts in Aluminium are produced by the hot die-casting process), making it the competitive material to replace steel. This new method for constructing dies will potentially double the limit of 150,000 pieces, today considered insurmountable, while reducing the cost of the offshoot product, making it cost-effective even for the category of cheaper cars.
During the reporting period a proprietary application software has been developed.
This application software optimizes the present die-casting predictive engineering FEM model, and is able to identify in advance “fracture lines” in the die in a run time shorter than five days (vs some weeks, today!). This application software is designed in a way that even technicians with no knowledge of materials science, FEM, thermal-structural, coupled analysis and fatigue calculations will be able to use it.

According to the plan, a prototype die, together with the die-holder, equipped with sensors that can detect real die-casting process data, has been designed, built and placed into operation. Pressure and temperature data, strain gauge signals and digital deformation were collected, with the scope to compare them with the theoretical data calculated using the new application software, and consequently to fine tune the theoretical model.

In addition, few dies built according to the “puzzle die” technique were built and delivered, for testing in operational environment, to two customers.
Data and technical results were collected and encouraged the customer to let us proceed with the design and construction of deeper puzzled dies.
These new dies were in one case already delivered to the customer and successfully tested, in an other case the dies were tested in house before delivering them to the customer.
Results were fully satisfactory

Finally, the application for the International Patent related to our new technique for dies’ construction (puzzle die) was filed; in parallel the application was filed for EU, International and Canadian Trademark “PUZZLE DIE DIVIDE ET IMPERA”.

In parallel, all marketing and commercial activities required to illustrate and promote the “puzzle die” innovation have been put in place: participation to specialized exhibitions/fairs, organization of specific events, direct contacts and visits to customers.
Furthermore, a dedicated webpage was added to the company website, together with a video illustrating the new “puzzle die” approach, which showed to be the most effective way to spread the idea.

In general, contacted customers have acknowledged and appreciated the benefits of “puzzle die” concept, and some of them have accepted and are willing to further develop the idea for some important high volume projects.

As a side benefit of the project, during the test on the Prototype Die, it was shown that the puzzle die can really be designed to produce 2mm thick parts that are currently considered not feasible in HPDC.
Thanks to our invention automakers will be able to intensify the use of aluminium as a replacement for steel and do so faster and more cheaply than afforded by other light materials, accelerating the process of weight reduction of the vehicle; therefore, it will be technically and economically feasible to produce aluminium car components also for mid-size cars. Besides the clear advantages for components’ producers, the use of these aluminium components on cars with a mid-sized engine would, on the European level, offer a reduction of CO2 emissions equivalent to 317,000 tonnes/year.