Optimisation of topology, topography androbustness
Additive manufacturing methods and simulationfor light metals
Crash and process simulation
Material and micro-structural simulation
Material characterisation for thermomechanicalprocesses
Casting, e.g. low-pressure casting, squeezecasting, continuous casting and strip casting
Massive forming, e.g. rolling, extrusion, forging
Sheet metal forming, e.g. deep drawing,bending, active media based forming
To increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions, the weight of a vehi-cle is the decisive factor for future mobility solutions. However, lightermaterials must continue to meet the highest requirements of crash ma-nagement and structural design in order to guarantee vehicle safety. Thereduction in the vehicle‘s weight is therefore crucial to reduce CO2 emissi-ons and to increase the range of purely electric vehicles. The LKR Leicht-metallkompetenzzentrum Ranshofen of the AIT Austrian Institute of Tech-nology is one of the leading international institutes and is developing de-sign methods which pay particular attention to the property profiles oflight metals as well as specific manufacturing methods and resulting his-tories (e.g. residual stress profiles, warpage, uncertainties, etc.). A materi-al group that is attributed a particularly great potential in this respect isthat of aluminium alloys. The formability of aluminium sheets is limited atroom temperature. The state of the art is to form aluminium at elevatedtemperatures. In doing so, the microstructure is changed so that additio-nal processes are necessary to produce the desired sheet state.
REDUCING MANUFACTURING COSTS
As part of the research project „KryoAlu“, LKR scientists have thereforepursued an entirely new approach: The aim is to be able to form alu-minium better at low temperatures. This effect is to be used to lowerproduction costs, but also to achieve more flexibility in production. To-gether with well-known companies from the metal and mechanical en-gineering industries, a process has been developed which enablesforming at temperatures as low as –150°C. The sheet-metal plates arepre-cooled in liquid nitrogen, inserted into the forming press by a robotand removed again after the deep drawing. The tools are also cooledduring this process.
SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED MATERIAL USE
Complex parts which can be manufactured in this way reduce the useof materials significantly. The possible applications are wide-ranging. Intheory, any deep-drawn, automotive aluminium sheet metal componentcould also be produced by cryogenic forming. The process is economi-cal where high demands are placed on component complexity with highstrength and surface quality. Thanks to the high savings potential, themore expensive nitrogen treatment becomes economical. The KryoAluproject won the 2015 Upper Austrian Award for Innovation. And January2016 then saw the launch of the successor project „KryoAlu2“. The fo-cus here is in particular on the industrial implementation of theprocess and the expansion of the range of materials. In KryoAlu2, theLKR is researching new aluminium alloys with optimized propertieswhich can be formed even better at cryogenic temperatures.
PROVING SERIES-ORIENTED PROCESSES
The cryogenic sheet metal forming allows complex parts which havehitherto been made of sheet steel to now be produced using alumini-um. For example, several parts of a car door could be combined andmanufactured as one part in order to reduce joints. This results in atangible benefit for supplier companies which can offer a new segmentof bodywork components in aluminium – and for the vehicle industrywhich can take a step towards achieving their emissions targets.
The involvement of voestalpine (with a focus on steel production andprocessing) impressively demonstrates the potential of this innovativemethod for the forming of aluminium in vehicle construction. The fur-ther substitution of heavier steel sheets – with lower energy consump-tion in production – seems possible. The long-term experience of thescientists in the field of materials science and their characterisation aswell as in the thermomechanical treatment of the light metals alumini-um and magnesium helps LKR to optimally adapt the process solutionsto the needs of the customers and project partners.
DI Andreas Kraly, Managing Direktor LKR:„With the completion of the successor projectKryoAlu2, the development of tool cooling,lubrication and the corresponding alloys shouldbe completed.“