Monthly Archives: November 2016

The trend of light weight vehicles

All these industry efforts are to acquire the untapped market in developed and developing counties that is eagerly waiting for the light weight vehicles because of the high emphasis on growing oil prices and greenhouse gasses concerns. So, these light weight vehicles are going to give more mileage with the same amount of energy compared to regular vehicles. However, the challenge lies at pricing of the end product because of the high costs associated with the development and implementation of these advanced materials and production technologies.

 

Technological dimensions of the automotive industry in producing light weight components

 

The industry is considering the large scope of potential in novel materials applications focusing on light alloys, thermoplastics, carbon or other fiber-reinforced polymers, composites, advanced steels and tailored honeycombs, foams, multifunctional materials into the body parts, chassis and heavier interior systems that includes optimization of structural layouts, numerical simulation, multi-functional design, testing, manufacturing processes. The standardization issues are considered on the innovative structural layouts that could let new electric vehicles to easily adapt the materials involved in the assembling process in order to improve safety by enhanced energy absorbing capability. Hence, this leads to a better deal with asymmetric crash conditions for the compatibility of size and weight proportion of the vehicle.
Investment in research by the Oak Ridge National Labs and U.S. Department of Energy produced a low cost carbon fiber using lignin as part of an initiative to produce multiple value added streams from biological feedstock and lightweight components for vehicles. While ThyssenKrupp’s has come up with many chassis solutions & concepts that use the potential of high and ultrahigh strength steels for optimization of chassis structure which helps to reduce weight of the vehicle. These concepts are also announced as cost effective and used hot-rolled complex phase steel with yield strength of 680 megapascals that remarkably stronger than the steels used in the chassis designs till now. So, the players in the industry are equipping themselves with the competitive edge to sustain in the coming up competition.

 

Industry Facts

  • » The global lightweight materials consumption for transportation equipment in 2006 was 42.8 million tons/$80.5 billion that has increased above 9% i.e. 68.5 million tons/$106.4 billion by 2011.
  • » The above metal quantity largest percentage accounts high strength steel and followed by aluminium & plastics.
  • » The passenger cars and light trucks among motor vehicles are the largest end user segment made of lightweight materials.

 

Materials role in light weight materials for automotives

Steel: Among the metals and composites, steel is the most adorable component that has been playing an important role in the automotives manufacturing process. It is the major interest area for steel industry and component suppliers who are investing heavily in its innovation. The inherent capability of steel to absorb impact energy in a crash situation led the material to be often a first choice for the automotive designers. While the components in a body in white structure should undergo tests that proves the metal be able to absorb or transmit impact energy in a crash situation to decide about the suitability of the materials for automotive application.

ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe set up modernized mills to produce high tensile steels for lightweight automotive construction, starting material for tin-plate, plus steels for oil and gas pipelines, and electrical steel. While, Chrysler and many foreign carmakers depends on zinc-iron coatings, which can be made by electro galvanizing or by producing galvaneal, which is an inline annealed galvanized steel, on hot dip lines.

In collaboration with Sumitomo Metal Industries and Aisin Takaoka, Mazda Motor has become the first automaker to successfully develop vehicle components using 1,800 MPa ultra-high tensile steel. Its CX-5 comes under a lighter vehicle, have more rigid chassis largely made of high-tensile steel, that enables the car to feel solid and composed when slogging through rough terrain, either roads or trails. Another car maker Honda has come up with Accord Euro that is manufactured 50% from high tensile steel.

The number of new vehicle models

One of the biggest challenges in today’s automotive production environment is the incorporation of multiple vehicles at the same plant in much higher densities than in the past. Since the demand for new vehicles is increasing every year, OEMs are adding new models and variants by increasing the production capacity of their existing plant.

Driven by the need to increase production capacity and shorten cycle time, manufacturers in numerous industries are taking advantage of various automation technologies. One of these automation technologies is Robotics. Automakers and automotive related industries particularly implement greater use of robots in their BIW assembly line, as their assembly lines are quite complex. Robots automate the production of various components and simplify most of the tasks on assembly line.

Consequently, to successfully apply robotics technology in BIW assembly line, there lay a stronger need for effective analysis and design tools. Robotic simulation is one of the digital manufacturing techniques that help to visualize entire robotic workcells and sort out any problems before investing in costly equipment. Robotic simulation is widely utilized in the automotive industry as their BIW assembly line involves multiple robots, tooling fixtures, humans, etc. that needs to be validated and optimized prior to system build to ensure that it will yield the desired results. Cost savings, safety and user interaction are some of the advantages that makes robotic simulation a valuable tool in the manufacturing industry.

Why Robotic simulation?

Robotic simulation is a technique of building a model of a real or proposed robotic workcell so that the robot’s behavior may be studied. It aims at visualizing and optimizing the performance of a robot in a manufacturing cell, and can help in validating layouts, cycle time estimates, balance multi robot lines, optimize floor space, and check tooling and fixture designs. Everything from cycle time to robot reach to tool validation is performed in simulation. Robotic simulation:

  • » Accelerates new product introduction (NPI)
  • » Ensures a working process
  • » Provides tremendous scope for optimization
  • » Facilitates collaboration amongst design, digital manufacturing engineers, and shop floor
  • » Eliminates costly mistakes
  • » Saves time

About BIW assembly line

Product BOM of the BIW skeleton consists of more than thousands components, which can be broadly divided in four major groups –

  • » Underbody assembly (assembly of motor compartment, front/rear floor, rear compartment, rocker)
  • » Closures (sub assemblies of doors, decklid, hood , fenders)
  • » Inner framing (assembly of bodyside inner, roof bow, shelf, rear-end)
  • » Outer framing (assembly of body side outer, roof, motor rail extension)

All these major components of vehicle body are assembled through robotic operations like material handling, geo spot welding, respot welding, arc welding, nut/ stud welding, clinching, dispensing, pedestal operations, vision system, hemming, tabbing etc.

Essential capabilities of Robotic Simulation in BIW assembly

The core activities of robotic simulation in BIW assembly are:

  • » Validate and optimize the Process
  • » Validate and optimize the Tools
  • » Validate and optimize Plant Layout
    1. Validate and Optimize the Process
      Robotic simulation is a powerful tool that helps in simulating the entire process and verifying that the robots can perform all the desired tasks efficiently. Automotive workcells usually have multiple robots that have to be sequenced properly to optimize cycle times and minimize interference zone wait times.
      A typical automotive BIW has several thousand weld spots to create the assembly from the individual sheetmetal stampings, and a significant amount of time goes in determining an optimum weld spot distribution between the robots. Robotic simulation addresses the early planning phase of spot-welding design process. It facilitates optimum weld spot sequence and distribution of weld points to multiple stations in a simulation environment. Similarly, other processes like material handling, dispensing and arc welding process sequences can also be validated and optimized through robotic simulation. The robotic simulation team works in close collaboration with the processing team to design and validate all processes in a 3D model. The simulation team analyzes alternate scenarios to identify a process with optimum cycle times. By simulating robot motions during design, the team verifies whether the robots will be able to achieve the required motions without interference and arrive at a realistic cycle time and throughput.

A new era of vehicles

Car makers if not cars themselves are intelligent these days and are intelligent enough to bind fuel Efficiency with ever desired Luxury. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we await to see a new tag ‘ EL ‘ instead of the routine Xis, Dis, A/B/C/E/G/M/R/S classes, A-1/3/4/5/6/7/8 series etc.

Luxury is a secondary consideration in car making. Hence, efficiency comes to the fore in present day’s Automotive Industry thought process. Of course, Emission control can also be considered in the tag ‘EL’, but, it any ways is another facet of efficiency. Coming to the efficient proving technologies in the automotive industry, an evolution has to be re-visited.

Engine design, exhaust system design, aerodynamics design and transmission system design are the core entities of a vehicle that reflect in its net efficiency. A particular company selected one among these entities to make their product efficient, and claim it. Whatsoever, moulding the engine design proves concrete in terms of delivering desired (efficiency) results. Several technologies, fuel injection mechanisms in particular, are in an evolutionary use since the diesel combustion engine was first used for automobiles way back in 1930s. The idea of efficiency was reckoned when the fuel injection mechanism was direct, and was first used by Fiat in its Croma during 1986. Since then fuel injection has been a core design component for every company to make a master piece, Efficient vehicle. Add to that, a hint of Luxury, it can be tagged ‘EL’.

The evolution still continues and the next big thing in fuel injection adjacent to Direct Injection technology is the Common Rail Direct Injection technology or in simple terms CRDi. Next to this is a diesel engine specific injection system called the Turbocharged Diesel Injection, in simple terms TDi. Another hybrid out of TDi is the Turbo plus Supercharged Injection (Twincharged) or simply called, TSi. All these are the basically available fuel injection mechanism technologies from which a car maker can choose one to make his product and accordingly design the other vehicle mechanisms to support the engine and its fuel injection eventually giving out an Efficient vehicle.

Modified versions of above mentioned injection mechanisms are used in several vehicles by several companies. Like, Tata used CRDi mechanism in their branded DICOR and CR4 engine design, Ford Motor Company used the same mechanism to design their TDCi brand engine where as General Motors branded CDTi and VCDi are also based on the same injection mechanism.

Earlier mentioned injection mechanisms are basic and can be used in conjunction with certain other vehicle systems modified to produce a better product than before. One such technology that is worth commending now in mid 2011 is the BlueMotion technology, introduced by the Volkswagen in 2006 via MK6 Polo and latest, Passat. The revolutionary BlueMotion clubbed various basic technologies to make an outstanding combination that delivered perfectly what is desired from it.  An engine tagged with BlueMotion uses either TDi or TSi alongside the modified Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) with dual clutch to offer the best in class fuel economy. In addition to a better fuel economy the emissions are also considerably cut in the name of Nitrous Oxide (NOx) emission reduction. It also features injection Start-Stop system in normal, hybrid as well as electric drive. It gives a sheer drive pleasure with all these in perfect sync and hence, BlueMotion technology is considered to be one of many combos that can possibly be implemented to bring the best or the ‘EL’ tag eligible vehicle out.