21st December 2017 by Richard Yen
Following the Toyota interview on their 2017 Altair Enlighten Award success, and with the 2018 call for nominations just on the horizon, we’re excited to share another interview video, this time with AP&T, who claimed the title for the brand new Enabling Technology category with their multipurpose production line for high strength aluminum forming.
After his award acceptance at the CAR MBS, we sat down with Christian Koroschetz, CTO of Technology Development at AP&T, to learn more about the development of the multipurpose production line for high strength aluminum sheet metal forming. In the video, Christian talks about AP&T’s expertise in metal forming and the role it plays in lightweight vehicle design. You can watch the interview below.
For those that prefer to read rather than watch, here’s a full transcript of the interview:
It it’s truly a great honor for AP&T to win the 2017 Enlighten Award within the category Enabling Technologies. It is actually a huge accomplishment for the whole AP&T team, who is constantly working to produce, to help all customers to produce lighter, safer, and more energy-efficient products. The reaction was really positive from the complete AP&T team, because they knew they put so much effort into the development of this multi-purpose production line. So everyone was working hard doing a lot of overtime, so this is really rewarding for everyone in AP&T.
AP&T develops and supplies sheet metal forming companies globally with complete cost-efficient production solutions, as well as standalone presses, furnaces, toolings, and linear automation products.
There is a shift in the applications of materials, and there is a strong lead towards high-strength materials. As you mentioned, it is a lead in towards even further increase in press-on steel components, but now we have seen good examples. For example, Ford did a tremendous job on the Ford F-150, Jaguar Land Rover is very well known as an aluminum intensive OEM. This has shown us that even in aluminum car bodies, there is a need for implementing high-strength components even more, which allows them to enhance their lightweighting possibilities.
Regulations for passenger safety are setting really high demands on the car body stiffness and therefore the usage of high-strength material is mandatory. Either it is high-strength steel or high-strength aluminum in our case. To be able to fulfill these passenger requirements by using high-strength material, you need advanced processes. This is our specialty. This is where we have our know-how. We are coming from a press hardening of steel, but we’re using the hot-forming process. And now we have the possibility to show also our core competencies.
The development task itself was solved by a holistic approach. We were thinking about the material itself. The high-strength aluminum needs to have an adequate process to be able to form a complex design. That’s why we said we have to involve research or academia. We have to involve our suppliers. We have to involve our customers, in order also to fulfill their needs.
As I mentioned before, our core technology come from press hardening of steel. And now being able to use hot forming of high-strength aluminum allows our customers to produce safety-relevant, lightweight components with a complex design out of high-strength material, where they actually have the possibility to down-gauge the components without compromising on the safety and functional requirements.
Virtual development and simulation is one key part of AP&T’s development, not only within our tooling technology where we use FE simulation or CFD simulation in order to design and create our forming tools for press hardening of steel and also now for hot forming of aluminum, but also virtual development is playing a key role within AP&T for developing our production solutions. So before we start producing our actual machines, which are assembled in these complex production solutions, we start in the virtual development. So we start with CAD and also run the virtual development, how those lines fit together. We actually have them running virtually, so to say. If we have any problems in the process flow, how the machines interact. So its actually playing a key role within AP&T. And everything has to be virtually development before we start actually producing actual machines.
We talk about resistance from automotive industry. Yes, its definitely not easy if you have face-by-face discussions with OEMs, because they think the raw material is much more expensive than when you compare it to steel or low grade aluminum grades. That’s why we took it as one of our tasks to explain the holistic development approach, and don’t think so much about the raw material costs. It is all about part integration, function integration, to create much more out of the high-strength aluminum grade components than you can do with a low-strength aluminum grade component, which then, at the end, saves you a lot of money on the specific component. And on top of that, you have the lightweighting advantages. You can actually create components with even more complex design out of a high-strength material than you would be able to do with the low-grade materials.
So I would recommend each and everyone who has done a lot of development in this type of category to apply for this process. And the recognition within the companies is then really quite high, because everyone sees, hey, this is what have done. We have created something really new. And we have the possibility to apply for such a highly recognized award. Thank you very much to Altair and the Center for Automotive Research for hosting these type of award. And also big thanks to the judges who actually were voting for AP&T. Thank you very much.