Current research projects in production technology focus on the increase of resource-efficiency and follow the approach of a fundamental sustainability of products and processes. Resource efficiency refers to the entire lifecycle of the product, used energy and other resources through to reintroduction into the recycling cycle. In the area of aluminum forming, there is a great improvement potential to achieve higher resource efficiency. Components with graded properties through targeted heat treatment enabling an excellent lightweight construction potential may serve as an example. In the electric mobility sector in particular, sustainable lightweight construction is required, as there are limited energy storage capacities.
Objective and approach
Since there is a link between the production processes and the final material or product properties, new approaches in the production strategy are required. The LOEWE* focal point – ALLEGRO (High-performance components made of aluminum alloys through resource-optimized process technologies) is dedicated to this. Within this project, it is to be demonstrated that aluminum as a lightweight material offers considerable potential and, on the other hand, the entire process chain from the original raw material to the final properties of the component is improved. The focus here is on the development of components with locally adapted properties for optimal functional performance. In contrast to the current production where time-consuming and expensive subsequent heat treatments are necessary, a process-integrated realization of the target properties is to be achieved through novel process chains.
The core objective of ALLEGRO is to create a technology base for new efficient processes of integrated shaping and heat treatment of wrought aluminum alloys. The technology development should be accelerated and transferred into the application by a synergistic combination of the relevant technology building blocks (forming, tribology, joining, coating, material characterization, component properties and service life).
ALLEGRO also integrates the “KMU-collaborative project” WarmAp (Hot forming of aluminum sheets for high-performance components of future mobility concepts). In this case, the aluminum sheets should be hot formed in contrast to conventional, cold forming processes. Thus increased shaping possibilities and alloy/process-dependent optimization of the strength properties can be achieved.
The objectives of WarmAp are the implementation and testing of technology advances made in ALLEGRO in an industry-related environment and the development of new product groups with a significant increase in the complexity of the components to be formed.
This subproject with Werner Schmid GmbH in Fulda, whose core competences lie in deep drawing of steel components and the associated tools, is dedicated to the extension of the process limits of sheet metal parts made of aluminum with adapted thickness distributions. This is to be achieved by means of the research results determined in ALLEGRO and WarmAp, which allow the implementation of hot forming under industrial conditions. Through the implementation and integration of selected tool-coating- or lubricant-systems in industrial thermoforming operations, an extension of the forming limits is sought. These enable an enhance in the geometric and microstructural complexity of the products and thus an increased use of lightweight construction potential.
Institutions and companies involved
Participants in the overall ALLEGRO project are in addition to the PtU, the Institute of Materials Science and the Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability in Darmstadt. Three institutes of the University of Kassel, the Institute of Materials Science / Metallic Materials, the Institute of Forming Technology and the Institute of Separating and Joining Manufacturing Processes are also members of the ALLEGRO project team.
Werner Schmid GmbH and Hörmann Automotive Gustavsburg GmbH act as partners for the three dual positions within WarmAp for process implementation and method planning. Added to this is Filzek TRIBOtech as an expert in tribological issues. The area of responsibility of Hörmann includes the development of a heating concept to achieve a flexible arrangement of the zones of local heating. At the same time, Filzek TRIBOtech is responsible for investigating friction and wear phenomena. For this purpose, the existing strip-forming test facility is to be converted for hot-forming conditions to enable long-term tests under the influence of realistic tribological loads.
* LOEWE – “National Offensive for the Development of Scientific and Economic Excellence”
More information about the project can be found at:
This project (HA project no. 548/17-30) is funded in the framework of Hessen ModellProjekte, financed with funds of LOEWE – Landes-Offensive zur Entwicklung Wissenschaftlich-ökonomischer Exzellenz, Förderlinie 3: KMU-Verbundvorhaben (State Offensive for the Development of Scientific and Economic Excellence).
The Institute for Production Engineering and Forming Machines would like to thank LOEWE, the Hessen Agency and the partners involved for their support in the implementation of this project.