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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Ecoclean cuts BMW engine plant robot cell power and water consumption by ~30%

October 18, 2017

At the BWM Group’s engine plant in Steyr (Austria), in a reference project accompanied by the Technical University of Vienna, Ecoclean Monschau (formerly Dürr Ecoclean) has significantly raised the energy efficiency of a flexible EcoCFlex Classic robot cell that had been in service for several years. The system’s electric power and water consumption were each cut by around 30 percent.

These energy efficiency measures are now intended to be implemented on another 95 systems of the same type installed at various sites throughout Europe and Asia.

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Strangpresse exclusively licenses ORNL extruder tech for high-volume additive manufacturing

October 14, 2017

Ohio-based Strangpresse has exclusively licensed additive manufacturing-related extruder technology from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory that can quickly print hundreds of pounds of polymer material.

The ORNL inventions include an innovative nozzle that extrudes material to print large parts, such as tooling for aerospace and automotive applications and for prototyping, while achieving fine geometric resolution, and the ability to improve quality significantly and minimize roughness that can occur where the material starts and stops during the printing process.

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BYD unveils North America’s largest electric bus factory; capacity for up to 1,500 vehicles annually

October 10, 2017

BYD, the world’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles, unveiled its expanded battery-electric bus manufacturing facility in Lancaster, California—North America’s largest. The growth of BYD Coach and Bus reflects a rapid transition to electric transportation and will allow BYD to build up to 1,500 battery-electric buses annually.

The opening celebration was held with bipartisan support from elected officials including US House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield); California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon; Congress members Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) and Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-San Pedro); 2018 California Gubernatorial Candidate and former mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa; California Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Lancaster); Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger; City of Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris and BYD leadership including Chairman Wang Chuanfu, President Stella Li and Senior Vice President Macy Neshati.

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NIST researchers devise method for high-speed, in-line process control of fuel cell membrane catalyst layers

October 05, 2017

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have devised a method for high-speed, in-line process control of platinum-based catalyst layers in the membrane electrode assembly of the fuel cell. Their system may have overcome a significant hurdle to manufacturing hydrogen fuel cells by creating a way to check whether the expensive catalysts the cells need have been incorporated quickly and effectively.

Reported in a paper in the Journal of Power Sources, they demonstrated the use of multiple reflectivity-based optical methods, such as optical scatterometry and large aperture projection scatterometry (LAPS)—a new high-throughput approach developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology specifically for fuel cell manufacturing metrology—to take in-line catalyst loading measurements of carbon-supported Pt nanoparticle and Pt-alloy nano-structured thin film catalyst coated membranes.

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Toyota and Hitachi collaborate to build a high-efficiency production model using IoT platform; accelerating PDCA

October 04, 2017

Toyota Motor Corporation and Hitachi, Ltd. will collaborate to build a high-efficiency production model using an IoT (Internet of Things) platform. These two companies will conduct verification at Toyota’s model plants (Toyota, Aichi Prefecture) starting from this October. Through this verification, they intend to establish a platform using Hitachi’s IoT software “Lumada”, which leverages AI and big data analysis.

Using this platform to solve various issues at manufacturing sites allows the PDCA cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act, also called the Deming Cycle) to be accelerated and new issues to be identified and solved from the viewpoint of total optimization, resulting in further improvement in quality and productivity. PDCA, or the Deming Cycle, is a management framework for the implementation of continuous improvements into processes.

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Tesla reports 26,150 delivers for Q3; only 220 Model 3s due to production bottlenecks

October 03, 2017

In Q3, Tesla delivered 26,150 vehicles, of which 14,065 were Model S (54%), 11,865 were Model X (45%), and 220 were Model 3 (1%). This was the company’s best quarter yet for Model S and X deliveries, representing a 4.5% increase over Q3 2016, its previous best quarter, and a 17.7% increase over Q2 2017.

Tesla had previously indicated that second half Model S and X deliveries would likely exceed first half deliveries of 47,077; Tesla now expects to exceed that by several thousand vehicles. In total, the company expects to deliver about 100,000 Model S and X vehicles in 2017—a 31% increase over 2016.

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DOE’s High Performance Computing for Manufacturing Program to issue 5th solicitation in January

October 01, 2017

The High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) program in the Energy Department’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) (earlier post) intends to issue its fifth solicitation in January 2018 to fund projects that allow manufacturers to use high-performance computing resources at the Department of Energy’s national laboratories to tackle major manufacturing challenges.

Led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and National Renewable Energy Laboratory as strong partners, this HPC4Mfg solicitation will seek qualified industry partners to participate in short-term, collaborative projects that are designed to spur the use of national lab supercomputing resources and expertise to advance innovation in energy efficient manufacturing.

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ANSI and America Makes targeting automotive participation in Phase 2 of 3D printing standardization roadmap

September 28, 2017

In February 2017, the America Makes & ANSI Additive Manufacturing Standardization Collaborative (AMSC) published a standardization roadmap for additive manufacturing (3D Printing). The roadmap identified existing standards and specifications as well as those in development; assessed gaps; and maked recommendations for priority areas where there is a perceived need for additional standardization. The original document was largely developed by interests from the aerospace, defense, and medical sectors.

The partners have just launched phase 2 to update the document; one of the target sectors is automotive.  Others are ground vehicle/heavy equipment, energy, and industrial and commercial machinery. ANSI is inviting those in the automotive industry who may have an interest in articulating standardization needs from the sector’s perspective to join the collective effort.

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Toyota to begin hybrid powertrain production in US; $374M investment in 5 plants

September 26, 2017

Toyota is expanding the production of its hybrid powertrains to the US. Toyota will invest $373.8 million in five US manufacturing plants to support production of its first US-made hybrid powertrain and to implement Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) at its Alabama plant. Each of the projects is scheduled to begin this year and all should be operational by 2020.

The investments will include adding new production of hybrid transaxles (hybrid vehicle transmissions) at the Buffalo, West Virginia, manufacturing facility; expanding 2.5-liter engine capacity at the Georgetown, Kentucky, plant; increasing production of 2.5-liter cylinder heads at Bodine Aluminum’s Troy, Missouri, plant; and modifying the Bodine Jackson, Tennessee, plant to accommodate production of hybrid transaxle cases and housings and 2.5-liter engine blocks. The Huntsville, Alabama, plant will undergo a comprehensive upgrade to enable it to build engines that complement TNGA.

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ABB and Northvolt partner for Europe’s largest battery factory; semiconductor foundry as model

ABB and Northvolt have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a wide-ranging supply and technology partnership, including products and services for Northvolt’s planned lithium-ion battery factory and close collaboration on development of battery solutions and R&D activities. Northvolt intends for its factory to supply European customers in the automotive and key industries with high quality and customizable battery solutions. ABB Technology Ventures (ATV) will support the initial phase of this project through an early investment.

Northvolt plans to build Europe’s largest and most advanced lithium-ion battery factory in Sweden, using the semiconductor foundry as a model. Customers will provide specifications, or work with Northvolt to develop an application-specific cell. Northvolt intends to offer one or two basic form factors and perfect the production of these. The company will offer a number of leading industry standard chemistries, which will be improved continuously. For high volume customers, proprietary chemistries will be closely tailored to fit specific needs.

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Mercedes-Benz to set up EV production in US, battery plant; $1B investment in Alabama

September 21, 2017

Mercedes-Benz will set up electric vehicle production in the United States. The company plans to produce EQ-branded SUV models at MBUSI (Mercedes-Benz US International), its Tuscaloosa, Alabama facility. At the time being launched, the EQ models will feature the latest status of automated driving—always under the premise of safety and in compliance with the statutory regulations.

In addition, a battery plant will also be built near the existing passenger-car plant ensuring availability of advanced technology for future generations of Mercedes-Benz vehicles built in the US. In total, Mercedes-Benz plans to invest $1 billion in the expansion of its industrial footprint in the region, most of which is slated for the electric initiative.

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thyssenkrupp and Tata Steel sign MoU to combine European steel activities in 50/50 joint venture

September 20, 2017

thyssenkrupp and Tata Steel signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to combine their European steel activities in a 50/50 joint venture. Their aim is to create a leading European flat steel player to be positioned as quality and technology leader. The new entity is set to have pro-forma sales of about €15 billion (US$18 billion) and a workforce of about 48,000, currently at 34 locations. Shipments are envisioned to be about 21 million tons a year.

To be named thyssenkrupp Tata Steel, the planned joint venture will be managed through a lean holding company based in the Netherlands. It is to have a two-tier management structure comprising a management board and a supervisory board. Both boards are to have equal representation from thyssenkrupp and Tata. The codetermination structures in Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain will be retained.

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Jaguar Land Rover seeking to increase the amount of aluminum from scrap for new vehicle production; 3-year, £2M REALITY project

September 11, 2017

Jaguar Land Rover Automotive is expanding the use of recycled aluminum in its car bodies to cut waste and reduce carbon emissions.

A £2-million (US$2.6-million) project, called REALITY, will work to enable the closed-loop recycling of aluminum from end-of-life vehicles back into high-performance product forms for new vehicle body manufacture. The target is to increase the amount of aluminum coming back from scrap. REALITY builds on the REALCAR project (earlier post) allowing tens of thousands of tonnes of aluminum generated in the manufacturing process to be recycled and reused as a closed-loop. Aluminum from other sources, including end-of-life vehicles, can now be graded and used in the manufacture of new cars.

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New process for lower-cost steel with high strength and high ductility

August 28, 2017

A Hong Kong-Beijing-Taiwan mechanical engineering team led by Dr Huang Mingxin from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has developed a strategy to develop both high strength and high ductility in inexpensive, medium Mn (Manganese) steel. Its material cost is just one-fifth of that of the steel used in current aerospace and defense applications.

Cold-rolling followed by low-temperature tempering developed steel with metastable austenite grains embedded in a highly dislocated martensite matrix. This deformed and partitioned (D&P) process produced dislocation hardening, but retained high ductility both through the glide of intensive mobile dislocations and by allowing the control of martensitic transformation. The as-developed D&P steel possessed an ultra-high yield strength of 2.21 GPa and 2.05 GPa and uniform elongation of 16%.

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Australian, Germany Li-ion gigafactory aspirants sign MoU

Magnis Resources Limited, part of a consortium aspiring to build a Li-ion gigafactory in Australia (earlier post), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with German Lithium-ion battery consortium TerraE-Holding GmbH (TerraE) for the supply of raw materials. TerraE-Holding GmbH has organized 17 major companies and research institutions into a consortium to handle planning for building large-scale lithium ion battery cell manufacturing in Germany. (Earlier post.)

Under the agreement, Magnis will supply raw materials to the TerraE Gigafactories. TerraE plans to build 34GWh of production capacity across two locations in Germany. First stage production is expected to commence in late 2019.

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PNNL ShAPE magnesium extrusion process makes lightest automotive metal more economic, useful

August 23, 2017

Magnesium is one of the lightest of all structural metals—75% lighter than steel, 33% lighter than aluminum—and is the fourth most common element on earth behind iron, silicon and oxygen. But despite its light weight and natural abundance, automakers have been stymied in their attempts to incorporate magnesium alloys into structural car parts. To provide the necessary strength has up to now required the addition of rare elements such as dysprosium, praseodymium and ytterbium.

Now, a new process developed at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory should make it more feasible for the auto industry to incorporate magnesium alloys into structural components. The new extrusion process has the potential to reduce cost by eliminating the need for rare-earth elements, while simultaneously improving the material’s structural properties.

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Toyota and Mazda enter business and capital alliance; $1.6B plant in US, joint development for electric, connected vehicle tech

August 04, 2017

Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) and Mazda Motor Corporation (Mazda) signed an agreement to enter a business and capital alliance, with the aim of further strengthening their partnership. The companies agreed to: 1) establish a joint venture that produces vehicles in the United States; 2) jointly develop technologies for electric vehicles; 3) jointly develop connected-car technology; 4) collaborate on advanced safety technologies; and 5) expand complementary products.

In addition, together with the aim of advancing and strengthening their long-term collaboration, Toyota and Mazda agreed to a capital alliance arrangement that preserves independence and equality for both companies. In the capital tie-up, the two companies have agreed that Toyota will subscribe for and acquire shares to be newly issued by Mazda through a third-party allotment, and at the same time Mazda will subscribe for and acquire third-party allocation shares of treasury stock disposed of by Toyota in the equivalent amount in value to the Mazda shares. The value of the shares mutually acquired by both companies will be equivalent.

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TerraE forms consortium to build large-scale Li-ion battery manufacturing in Germany; 34 GWh/y by 2028

Germany-based TerraE-Holding GmbH has organized 17 major companies and research institutions into a consortium to handle planning for building large-scale lithium ion battery cell manufacturing in Germany. The goal is to gradually build up production capacities of up to 34 GWh/year by the year 2028. The consortium will address industrial and and electromobility with different cell formats.

The consortium includes companies from throughout the supply chain, such as infrastructure manufacturing planners, material producers, machine engineering companies, cell manufacturers, and industrial consumers. The initial meeting to establish the consortium took place on 18 July in Hanau.

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Ducker survey finds aluminum expected to represent 16% of total vehicle weight by 2028; transition to a multi-material design

August 03, 2017

Over the next decade, automakers will continue to increase the adoption of high-strength, low weight aluminum in new car and truck construction at a faster pace than ever before. Total aluminum content is expected to grow from 397 pounds (180.1 kg) per vehicle (PPV) in 2015 to 565 PPV (256.3 kg) by 2028, representing 16% of total vehicle weight, according to a survey of automakers conducted by Ducker Worldwide. The study was commissioned by the Aluminum Association.

This is consistent with the emerging trend of automakers transitioning to a multi-material vehicle (MMV) design approach, choosing aluminum for doors, hoods and trunk lids, body-in-white, bumpers and crash boxes.

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Audi advances in-plant human-robot cooperation; CFRP roof installation

At Audi’s Ingolstadt plant, humans and robots are now working side-by-side without a protective fence in an advance in human-robot cooperation (HRC). “Adhesive application with robot assistance,” abbreviated from the German as KLARA (Klebstoffapplikation mit Roboter-Assistenz), provides support with the installation of roofs made of carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) in the new Audi RS 5 Coupe.

This marks the first time Audi is using an HRC light robot in its main plant for applying adhesive in final assembly. Similar robots are already integrated into production in the body shops in Ingolstadt and Brussels as well as in engine assembly in Győr.

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2017 Chrysler Pacifica wins Altair Enlighten Award for weight reduction in full vehicle category; Toyota, Faurecia and AP&T module, technology winners

July 31, 2017

Altair and the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) announced the winners of the 5th annual Altair Enlighten Award, which strives to promote and celebrate innovation in automotive lightweighting. The winner of the Full Vehicle category was the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, which is 249 pounds (113 kilograms) lighter than its predecessor.

Toyota’s carbon fiber closure panels for the 2017 Prius Prime and Lexus LC500 (earlier post), and Faurecia’s Adaptive Valve for exhaust systems employed on the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado took the top honors for the module category. Swedish metal forming specialist AP&T claimed the Enabling Technology category for its innovative aluminum forming technology used on several European vehicles.

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LanzaTech collaborating with Swayana to convert waste gases from ferroalloy production to ethanol

South African engineering company Swayana has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with LanzaTech to collaborate on developing projects for the production of ethanol and higher value products from waste gases in the ferroalloy and titania smelting sectors.

LanzaTech’s first commercial facility will be online at the end of 2017 in China, producing fuel-grade ethanol from captured steelmaking off-gas. The successful application of LanzaTech’s innovative platform in steel making has led to commercial engagement with companies in the ferroalloy sector.

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New low-cost, lightweight magnesium sheet alloy with good formability for automotive applications; 1.5x stronger than aluminum

July 24, 2017

A research team at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) and Nagaoka University of Technology has developed a new high-strength magnesium sheet alloy (Mg–1.1Al–0.3Ca–0.2Mn–0.3Zn) that has excellent room-temperature formability comparable to that of the aluminum sheet metal currently used in body panels of some automobiles.

The magnesium alloy becomes stronger than aluminum alloy after a heat treatment, uses only common metals, and could be a low-cost, lightweight sheet metal for automotive applications. A paper on the work is published in the journal Scripta Materialia.

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WMG team using ILL neutron beam instrument experimentally correlates spot welding and residual stress in automotive boron steel

July 18, 2017

The correlation between spot welding and residual stress in boron steel was experimentally determined for the first time with neutron diffraction experiments conducted at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL). An open-access paper on the work is published in Metallurgical and Materials Transactions.

A partnership led by WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group) at the University of Warwick (UK), with the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), Tata Steel, and the UK’s Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) used ILL’s SALSA (Strain Analyser for Large-Scale Applications) neutron beam instrument in a new project to examine the safety-critical welds in cars made with boron steel.

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Making tip extraction for fume removal work for robotic welding applications

July 17, 2017

By Mike Hattingh, RoboVent

What’s the best way to control weld fumes from robotic welding? Overhead hoods and full work cell enclosures have long been the standard solution. But new tip extraction technologies are now offering another alternative for many manufacturers who rely on robotic welding.

Overhead hoods are a straightforward solution for many robotic welding applications. Hoods keep toxic weld fumes out of the ambient facility air and make them easier to collect. They work well for smaller parts that are easily enclosed and do not require cranes to move.

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Mercedes-Benz Untertürkheim plant to produce batteries and electric powertrain components

July 13, 2017

Mercedes-Benz will build the fourth battery production factory in its global network—after the two plants in Kamenz and one in Beijing—at its Untertürkheim plant in Germany. As part of a transformation plan introduced in 2015, Untertürkheim—the lead plant in the global powertrain production and the home of Daimler headquarters—is successively transitioning from the production of conventional engines, transmissions and axles to production of the future powertrain components for electric vehicles. This now includes new battery production at the site and the assembly of electric modules for front and rear axles.

The Untertürkheim plant—founded in 1904—will become a competence center for the production of the entire electric powertrain.

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DOE awarding $19.4M to 22 advanced vehicle technologies projects; Mercedes-Benz, GM Li-S battery projects

July 12, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $19.4 million to 22 new cost-shared projects to accelerate the research of advanced battery, lightweight materials, engine emission control technologies, and energy efficient mobility systems (EEMS). Among the awardees are Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America and GM, with separate projects on Li-sulfur batteries, as two of the fifteen Phase 1 “Battery Seedling” Projects.

The Battery Seedling projects are aimed at innovative battery materials and approaches that complement the Vehicle Technologies Office Battery500 Consortium’s research to more than double the specific energy (to 500 watt-hours per kilogram) of lithium battery technologies. These projects enable smaller, safer, lighter weight, and less expensive battery packs that ultimately will make electric vehicles more affordable. Promising phase 1 awardees will be competitively down-selected at the end of 18 months for a second phase of research.

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Tesla blames production shortfall of 100 kWh battery packs for lagging Q2 deliveries; says problem fixed; first Model 3s to be delivered 28 July

July 03, 2017

Tesla reported delivering just over 22,000 vehicles in Q2, of which just over 12,000 were Model S and just over 10,000 were Model X. While the Q2 2017 deliveries represent a 53% increase over Q2 2016, the figure is at the low-end of Tesla’s earlier guidance, and down about 12% from Q1 2017 deliveries. Total vehicle deliveries in the first half of 2017 were approximately 47,100.

Tesla said that the major factor affecting Q2 deliveries was a severe production shortfall of 100 kWh battery packs, which are made using new technologies on new production lines. Until early June, production averaged about 40% below demand. Once this was resolved, June orders and deliveries were strong, ranking as one of the best in its history, Tesla said.

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Mercedes-Benz pilot test for automated driving in production

Mercedes-Benz is pilot testing the use of automated driving in production with its new S-Class. At the Mercedes-Benz plant Sindelfingen, an S 560 4MATIC drove itself independently off the final assembly line, without a driver at the wheel. The vehicle then drove automatically approximately 1.5 kilometers to the loading area within the plant.

Newly developed and patented technology supports the autonomous function. Cameras, together with radar and ultrasonic sensors work in conjunction with software to accelerate and brake the S-Class independently and ensure that it stays reliably on track.

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Germany launches €60M, 3-year consortium project on high-volume production of automotive fuel cells; BMW, Daimler, Ford, VW

June 29, 2017

Germany has launched a ~€60-million, three-year consortium of leading industrial companies to investigate high-volume production of automotive fuel cell stacks. The “AutoStack-Industrie” project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), with €21.3 million in the first year.

The “AutoStack Industry” project is a joint initiative of the German automotive and supply industries and aims to provide the technical, economic and technological basis for the commercial introduction of fuel cell vehicles in Germany and Europe by 2020. The consortium, which is lead by BMW, comprises leading German companies in the fields of automotive and fuel cell technology: BMW AG; Daimler AG; Reinz-Dichtungs GmbH (DANA); Ford Research and Innovation Center Aachen; Freudenberg Performance Materials SE & Co. KG; Greenerity GmbH; NuCellSys GmbH; Powercell Sweden AB; Umicore AG & Co. KG; Volkswagen AG; and Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg.

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Volkswagen IT expands deep learning competence via partnership with NVIDIA

June 28, 2017

Volkswagen IT is cooperating with US technology company NVIDIA with a view to expanding its competence in the field of deep learning. At the Volkswagen Data Lab—named the Group’s center of excellence for AI and data analysis—IT experts are developing advanced AI systems with deep learning.

The Volkswagen Group is already partnering with NVIDIA in other areas, such as in a strategic partnership for the new Volkswagen Group Future Center California in Silicon Valley, where the teams are at work developing an AI-based cockpit. (Earlier post.)

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Warwick team develops new technique controlling brittle stages in production of high-strength, lightweight steels

June 21, 2017

A team at the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), University of Warwick (UK) has developed a new processing route which allows low-density steel-based alloys to be produced with maximum strength, while remaining durable and flexible—something which has been largely impossible until now.

The development could enable the production of high-strength, lightweight steels on an industrial scale, and could lead to safer, greener, more fuel-efficient and streamlined cars. A paper on the research is published in the journal Acta Materialia.

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Ford to import next-gen Ford Focus for N. America from China; production starting 2H 2019

June 20, 2017

Ford announced a series of global manufacturing actions centered on improving the company’s operational fitness, among them that it would source the next-generation Ford Focus for North America primarily from China, rather than Hermosillo, Mexico.

Production of the next-generation Focus begins in the second half of 2019, with models coming from the company’s existing Focus plants globally. Most new North American Focus models initially will come from China, with additional variants coming from Europe later, Ford said. Production of the current North American Focus at the Michigan Assembly Plant continues through mid-2018. Following that, the plant will be converted to produce the Ranger midsize pickup truck in late 2018 and the Bronco midsize SUV in 2020.

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Eck Industries exclusively licenses cerium-aluminum alloy co-developed by ORNL; high-temperature automotive and aerospace applications

June 08, 2017

Eck Industries has signed an exclusive license for the commercialization of a cerium-aluminum (Ce-Al) alloy co-developed by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory that is ideal for creating lightweight, strong components for advanced vehicles and airplanes.

Aluminum alloys at present are limited to applications below 230 °C due to the rapid loss of mechanical characteristics at higher temperatures; however there is a need for aluminum alloys that have good castability and maintain mechanical characteristics above that temperature. Scientists at ORNL, working with Eck Industries and researchers at DOE’s Ames and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, developed the Ce-Al alloy that is easy to work with, lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and exceptionally stable at high temperatures—making it ideal for automotive, aerospace, power generation, and other applications.

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DOE FCTO soliciting CRADAs on roll-to-roll manufacturing for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies

June 01, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) announced a call for cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs) between national laboratories and industrial partners to address roll-to-roll (R2R) manufacturing challenges that will allow rapid transfer of manufacturing and processing technologies from the lab to the plant floor, resulting in less costly and more energy efficient products entering the marketplace. These efforts will be supported with current and prior year funds. (Solicitation Nº ORNL-R2RAMM-2017-02-02.)

A DOE laboratory consortium comprising Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) was formed to enhance battery and fuel cell electrode performance, processing of water, and R2R manufacturing technologies using an advanced materials manufacturing approach. This consortium is now accepting proposals for CRADAs.

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Mercedes-Benz Rastatt plant to produce compact electric EQ vehicles; 3rd center of competence for EQ models in Germany

May 29, 2017

Mercedes-Benz announced that its Rastatt plant—the company’s lead plant in global production of compact cars—will produce compact-class electric EQ models in the future. The decision is based on a declaration of intent, which the company has set up with the works council. All three German Mercedes-Benz car plants—Rastatt, Bremen and Sindelfingen—will now produce EQ-brand EVs.

Future EQ models can be integrated in the series production of existing Mercedes-Benz plants on four continents. With highly flexible structures, the plants already can produce vehicles with different drive types on the same line. The company will decide on the basis of market demand which foreign locations will produce further EQ models within the production network.

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Volkswagen brand intends to almost halve environmental impact of production by 2025 vs. 2010 baseline

May 25, 2017

The Volkswagen brand has set itself new, ambitious targets for reducing the environmental impact of production. By 2025, vehicles and components are to be produced in a way which is 45% more environmentally compatible than in 2010, the reference year for the current Think Blue. Factory. environmental program. (Earlier post.)

To date, Think Blue. Factory. has received more than 30 awards—including the National Energy Globe as the best project in Germany, the GreenTec Award for energy efficiency and water-saving measures in production and the Sustainovation Award. As of the end of 2016, Volkswagen had achieved an average reduction of 29.2% in environmental impact: energy -23.5%; CO2 - 28.6%; waste -58.6%; water -27.5%; and solvent emissions -7.6%.

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Six mobility start-ups launching Volkswagen’s incubator program at Transparent Factory

May 24, 2017

Volkswagen has selected the first six teams for the new start-up incubator at Volkswagen’s Gläserne Manufaktur (Transparent Factory, earlier post) in Dresden: the start-ups Smart City System from Nuremberg; LoyalGo from Dortmund; Tretbox from Berlin; and Ekoio from Leipzig were declared winners on Thursday evening following a pitch competition at the factory. Volkswagen announced the incubator program at CeBIT 2017 in Hanover earlier this year.

They will move into the Gläserne Manufaktur in summer, together with the start-ups Geospin from Freiburg and CarlundCarla.de from Dresden. There they will be able to develop their ideas for the market with support from Volkswagen experts and financial support from the state capital, Dresden.

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Daimler lays foundation for its second battery factory; €500M investment for premium eBattery plant

May 22, 2017

Daimler has laid the foundation for its second battery factory. At its wholly-owned subsidiary ACCUMOTIVE in Kamenz, the second factory for lithium-ion batteries is being built with an investment of around €500 million (US$562 million).

Daimler is investing an overall amount of around €1 billion () in a global production for batteries. “With the second battery plant in Kamenz, we are giving the initial start for the development of the first premium eBattery factory. The local production of batteries is an important success factor in our electric offensive and a crucial element in order to flexibly and efficiently serve the global demand for electric vehicles. This makes our production network very well positioned for future mobility,” said Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain.

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Brunel, Sarginsons developing high-performance cast aluminum alloys for energy-absorbing structures; better bumpers without steel

The Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST), a global leader in metallurgical casting research, is working closely with foundry partner Sarginsons Industries and others on the development of high-performance cast aluminum alloys as part of the Lightweight Energy Absorbing Aluminium Structures for Transport (LEAAST) project.

Advanced aluminum automotive body designs still depend on steel for bumper beams; in rail applications, steel-based crash systems predominate. LEAAST is working to design, manufacture and demonstrate lightweight aluminium systems based on the use of a novel high strength aluminium extrusion alloy that can replace the incumbent steel systems while providing at least a 25% weight reduction using alloys formulated from recycled end of life scrap.

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Infineon launches €106M “Productive4.0” research project; largest European research effort to date in Industry 4.0

Productive4.0”, the largest European research initiative to date in the field of Industry 4.0, was launched at Infineon Technologies in Dresden. Coordinated by Infineon Technologies AG, more than 100 partners from 19 European countries will work on digitizing and networking industry.

Involved in the project are partners such as BMW, Bosch, Philips, Thales, NXP, STM, SAP, ABB, Volvo and Ericsson, and leading institutes such as the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and the TU Dresden. At the kick-off event, representatives from politics, business and research discussed the importance of research programs for connected production.

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Researchers develop microwave-driven, energy-efficient process for magnesium production

May 18, 2017

Magnesium has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of the structural metals; as such, it is attractive for use in transportation as well as in sustainable battery technologies (e.g, earlier post). However, its current production through ore reduction using the conventional Pidgeon process emits large amounts of CO2 and particulate matter (PM2.5).

Now, researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and colleagues at Oricon Energy have developed a novel Pidgeon process driven by microwaves to produce Mg metal with less energy consumption and no direct CO2 emissions. In an open-access paper on the work published in the journal Scientific Reports, the team reports that the microwave Pidgeon process made it possible to produce Mg with an energy consumption of 58.6 GJ/t, corresponding to a 68.6% reduction when compared to the conventional method.

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Team develops electroplating method for Li-ion cathode production; high performance and new form factors, functionalities

May 13, 2017

Researchers at the University of Illinois, Xerion Advanced Battery Corporation and Nanjing University in China have developed a method for electroplating lithium-ion battery cathodes, yielding high-quality, high-performance battery materials that could also enable flexible and solid-state batteries.

In an open-access paper in the journal Science Advances, the team reports using a low-temperature (260 °C) molten salt electrodeposition approach directly to electroplate the Li-ion cathode materials layered LiCoO2, spinel LiMn2O4, and Al-doped LiCoO2. The crystallinities and electrochemical capacities of the electroplated oxides are comparable to those of the powders synthesized at much higher temperatures (700° to 1000°C). The researchers said that the new growth method significantly broadens the scope of battery form factors and functionalities, enabling a variety of highly desirable battery properties, including high energy, high power, and unprecedented electrode flexibility.

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Audi puts steel back in the new A8

May 12, 2017

The new Audi A8, scheduled for release in 2018, features a multi-material body structure (earlier post) consisting of more than 40% steel. That’s a marked turnaround from the all-aluminum body-in-white which Audi developed for the A8 in 1994, in which steel was essentially used for the B-pillars alone, and accounted for about 8% of the body structure.

Since then, steel has evolved significantly. Steel’s strength has multiplied by almost 10 times over the past 20 years, from 270 to 2000 MPa tensile strength. More than 80 new steel products are under development at steelmaker ArcelorMittal, with an automotive steel grade portfolio of almost 200 unique steel grades, half of which were introduced in just the past decade.

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GAC Group begins construction of $6.5B industrial park for electric and intelligent vehicles

May 09, 2017

China-based automobile manufacturer Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC Group), the parent company of GAC Motor, has begun construction of a large industrial park for electric and intelligent vehicles as part of its efforts to boost its electric vehicle business. Located in Guangzhou’s Panyu district in China’s southern Guangdong province, the industrial park has a planned area of 5 square kilometers. More than 45 billion yuan (US$6.5 billion) of investment, from both GAC Group and other enterprises that will locate there, are expected to be poured into the project.

The new electric vehicle plant, part of the industrial park, is expected to be completed by the end of 2018 with a total investment of 4.69 billion yuan (US$679 million). This will provide GAC Motor with a production capacity of 200,000 units per year.

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DOE awards $3.9M to 13 projects using high performance computing in manufacturing; Ford, LanzaTech

The US Department of Energy is awarding nearly $3.9 million for 13 projects designed to stimulate the use of high performance supercomputing in US manufacturing. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Advanced Manufacturing Office’s High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) program enables innovation in US manufacturing through the adoption of high performance computing (HPC) to advance applied science and technology relevant to manufacturing. (Earlier post.)

The 13 new project partnerships include application of world-class computing resources and expertise of the national laboratories including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). Among the awardees were Ford Motor Company and LanzaTech.

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Intelligent Energy tech lead in €3.5M EU DIGIMAN program to advance fuel cell stack mass production; Toyota the automotive partner

May 08, 2017

A new European program has launched to provide a blueprint to enable fully automated future mass manufacture of fuel cell stacks for the automotive market. The objective of the €3.5-million DIGIMAN program is to advance (from Manufacturing Readiness Level 4 to MRL 6) the critical steps of the PEM fuel cell assembly processes and associated in-line quality control and end-of-line testing / handover strategies and to demonstrate a route to automated volume process production capability within an automotive best practice context.

UK-based Intelligent Energy is the program’s technology lead with overall coordination provided by CEA Tech-Liten. The two companies will front a pan-European industry group to further commercialize fuel cells for the mass automotive market.

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Optimizing Fume Control for Robotic Welding

May 05, 2017

By Craig Widtfeldt, RoboVent

The automotive industry has made tremendous progress towards greener, more sustainable manufacturing processes. But how green are robotic welding cells?

Robotic welding, by its nature, produces large volumes of toxic fumes that are dangerous to both human health and the environment. Manufacturers engaged in robotic welding of automotive parts must have an effective air quality system in place to meet OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations. If these systems are not well designed, manufacturers may be wasting energy and putting their plant out of environmental compliance. Here are five steps to make the air quality systems more energy efficient and sustainable.

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GM earns EPA ENERGY STAR Award for Environmental Leadership; energy use per vehicle in manufacturing down 10% YoY

April 12, 2017

General Motors earned a 2017 EPA ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year — Sustained Excellence award for continued leadership in protecting the environment through superior energy efficiency. GM’s commitment to reducing energy intensity saved $73 million in energy costs last year and avoided 388,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to the electricity use of 57,000 US homes.

In the US, GM reduced energy use at its manufacturing facilities by 10% on a per-vehicle basis in 2016 compared to the previous year. Additional achievements include:

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Toyota invests $1.33B in Kentucky plant to introduce TNGA; 2018 Camry to be 1st TNGA car made in US

April 10, 2017

Toyota Motor is making a $1.33-billion investment in Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. (TMMK); the plant will be Toyota’s first in North America to begin producing vehicles using Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). (Earlier post.) In 2015, Toyota announced it was investing $1 billion in a new TNGA plant in Guanajuato, Mexico—the first designed from the ground up with TNGA production engineering technologies. The Guanajuato plant will begin producing the Corolla with Model Year 2020. (Earlier post.)

The TMMK-produced Camry, from the 2018 model year, will become the first Toyota vehicle made in the US fully to incorporate the new vehicle development and production technology.

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Next-gen Audi A8 introduces new four-material space frame; light weight and rigid

April 06, 2017

For the next generation of the Audi A8, an intelligent mix of four materials—aluminum, steel, magnesium and carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP)—is being used for the first time in the weight-bearing body structure—more materials than in any of the brand’s previous production models.

The resulting low weight and impressive rigidity—the upcoming flagship’s torsional rigidity surpasses the predecessor model’s rigidity value by up to 24%—from the multi-material construction of the Audi Space Frame (ASF) offer greater performance, efficiency and safety.

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Porsche and Audi to work on shared vehicle architecture; electrification, autonomy, digitization

April 05, 2017

Within the Volkswagen Group, Porsche AG and AUDI AG now plan to cooperate more closely on future vehicle architectures, with a particular focus on electrification, digitization and autonomous driving.

Brands within the Volkswagen Group have been rolling out modular component matrices, or assembly toolkits, for their light-duty vehicles over the past few years. Until recently, the four main modular toolkits (modularen Baukästen) of the Group were: the MQB (transverse, driven by the Volkswagen brand); the MLB (longitudinal, driven by the Audi brand); the MSB (standard drive, driven by Porsche); and the NSF (New Small Family). (Earlier post.)

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For Greener Manufacturing, Think IAQ

April 03, 2017

by Craig Widtfeldt, RoboVent

The next generation of cars will be cleaner and greener than ever—but a lot of the manufacturing processes that go into them are still pretty dirty. From the frame to the muffler, automotive manufacturing still involves welding, cutting, grinding and machining. These processes can create problems for indoor air quality (IAQ) and hurt your sustainability metrics.

The Problem with Particulates. Welding, cutting, grinding and machining all create particulates with varying levels of toxicity. These particulates have serious health impacts if not controlled in the factory environment. If they are vented to the outdoors, there are also environmental issues to consider. Controlling toxic particulates from manufacturing processes is one of the most important things auto manufacturers can do to improve their sustainability and protect their workers.

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Ford investing $1.2B in 3 Michigan plants; focus on trucks, SUVs, big data & mobility services

March 28, 2017

Ford Motor Company is investing $1.2 billion in three Michigan manufacturing facilities to strengthen its leadership in trucks and SUVs and support the company’s expansion to an auto and mobility company.

Ford is investing $850 million in Michigan Assembly Plant to retool the plant to build the all-new Ford Ranger and Ford Bronco. Employees at Michigan Assembly Plant will begin building Ranger at the end of 2018 and Bronco in 2020.

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Dürr now supports bodies up to 8m long with Ecopaint RoDip rotational dip process

March 21, 2017

Dürr has expanded the capability of its Ecopaint RoDip rotational dip process to handle vehicle bodies up to eight meters in length for the first time. Dürr will be installing this technology in the new Mercedes-Benz Vans factory in North Charleston, SC. It will form part of a complete paint shop being built by Dürr on behalf of Mercedes Benz Vans.

RoDip comes in two versions, RoDip M and RoDip E. RoDip E has an electrically driven transport unit on one side of the tank comprising both transport and rotation drives. RoDip E is very flexible and can be programmed with body-related dipping curves. RoDip M uses two mechanical chain drives, one on each side of the tank. The Ecopaint RoDip E version will be used in the Mercedes-Benz Vans paint shop.

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Novelis enters supply agreement with NIO to provide aluminum solutions for next-gen EVs

March 16, 2017

Novelis, the world leader in aluminum rolling and recycling, has expanded its automotive supply capabilities by signing an agreement with EV company NIO (earlier post), to provide innovative aluminum solutions for its fleet of smart, high-performance, premium electric vehicles. NIO will use Novelis Advanz aluminum alloys to create a wide range of structural components and parts for its aluminum-intensive NIO electric SUV models to be launched over the next five years.

The NIO partnership marks Novelis’ first major commitment in the premium electric vehicle space. Supply for NIO will come from Novelis’ Changzhou plant, China’s first facility dedicated to manufacturing heat-treated automotive sheet. The plant is an example of Novelis’ long-term commitment and capability to supply product in Asia for auto manufacturers based in that region and globally.

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IACMI launches project to optimize resins and sizings for vinyl ester / carbon fiber composites; targeting automotive adoption

March 13, 2017

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), a Manufacturing USA institute driven by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the US Department of Energy, in partnership with Ashland, Zoltek, Michelman, University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), JobsOhio, and Michigan State University (MSU) has launched a project focused on the optimization of vinyl ester resins and fiber sizings for the fabrication of carbon fiber composites.

The effort will identify styrene-free prepreg formulations with longer room temperature shelf life, shorter cycle times, and reduced cost. Advancements in these areas will increase productivity, decrease scrap and material costs, and enable adoption into the automotive industry.

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ORNL, HTS International to collaborate on manufacturing research; conformal cooling

March 11, 2017

HTS International Corporation and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have signed an agreement to explore potential collaborations in advanced manufacturing research such as in conformal cooling. (Conformal cooling refers to the use of a cooling passageway which conforms to the shape or profile of a mold core or cavity to perform rapid, uniform cooling in injection molding or blow moulding.)

The memorandum of understanding follows HTS’s recent decision to locate its headquarters and production operations in a Knox County business park adjacent to DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL. The lab’s expertise and unique facilities in materials science, metallurgy and advanced manufacturing attracted the attention of HTS’s leadership during a 2015 visit to Tennessee.

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Ford testing 3D printing of large-scale parts using Stratasys Infinite Build 3D printer

March 09, 2017

Ford Motor Company is exploring how large-scale one-piece auto parts, such as spoilers, could be printed for prototyping and future production vehicles, as the first automaker to pilot the Stratasys Infinite Build 3D printer.

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Audi wins VDA Logistics Award for automated vehicle transport

February 22, 2017

Audi has won the Logistics Award for 2017 from the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) in recognition of its FTS driverless vehicle transport system. The autonomously operating system has been in production operation at the Ingolstadt site since the beginning of the year. The parking robot, RAY, from Serva Transport Systems, sorts up to 2,000 cars per day for loading onto railway freight cars. (Earlier post.) This application is the only one of its kind to date in the automotive industry.

There are now twelve parking robots in use at Audi’s main plant in Ingolstadt. They autonomously transport Audi models after production for railway loading. For this, one of the roughly six meter long and three meter wide robots uses laser sensors to determine the position and dimensions of a car and adjusts itself accordingly. Then the robot carefully lifts the car up to ten centimeters.

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Government of Canada awards $18.2M for aluminum autoparts and better Li-ion battery management

February 17, 2017

The Government of Canada is awarding a total of $18.2 million to two companies that have developed innovations with the potential to make cars lighter, more fuel efficient and, in the case of electric cars, better performing due to a longer battery life.

Astrex Inc. of Lakeshore will receive a repayable contribution of up to $17 million from the Federal Economic Development Agency’s (FedDev Ontario) Advanced Manufacturing Fund. The investment will enable Astrex, a manufacturer of auto parts, to establish a facility that produces lightweight, high-strength aluminum components. The parts manufactured at this plant will reduce fuel consumption and lower carbon emissions.

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Siemens reports successful full load tests of additively manufactured CM247 gas turbine blades

February 07, 2017

Siemens has achieved a breakthrough by finishing its first full load engine tests for gas turbine blades completely produced using Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology. The company successfully validated multiple AM printed turbine blades with a conventional blade design at full engine conditions—the components were tested at 13,000 revolutions per minute and temperatures beyond 1,250 degrees Celsius.

Furthermore, Siemens tested a new blade design with a completely revised and improved internal cooling geometry manufactured using the AM technology. The project team used blades manufactured at its 3D printing facility at Materials Solutions, in Worcester, UK. Siemens acquired a majority stake (85%) in Materials Solutions in August 2016. (The remaining 15% is held by the founder, Carl Brancher.)

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Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen to produce EQ brand EVs

February 01, 2017

The Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant will produce electric vehicles in the new electric EQ brand (earlier post), according to an agreement the company and works council have signed after intensive negotiations. Mercedes-Benz earlier announced that its Bremen plant will build the first production EQ model by the end of this decade. (Earlier post.)

The new generation of electric vehicles will be based on a scalable architecture developed specifically for battery-electric models; it is suitable for all model series as well as sub-models, such as SUVs, saloons and coupés. Wheelbase and track are variable.

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GM and Honda to establish industry-first $85M joint fuel cell system manufacturing operation in Michigan

January 30, 2017

General Motors and Honda are establishing the auto industry’s first manufacturing joint venture—Fuel Cell System Manufacturing, LLC, FCSM)—to mass-produce an advanced hydrogen fuel cell system that will be used in future products from each company. Over the past three years, GM and Honda have been collaborating on next-generation fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems, aiming at commercialization in the 2020 time frame. (Earlier post.)

The co-developed new generation stack builds on the compact size and high-performance of Honda’s current generation stack in the Clarity (earlier post) by achieving significant cost reductions. FCSM will operate within GM’s existing battery pack manufacturing facility site in Brownstown, Michigan, south of Detroit. Mass production of fuel cell systems is expected to begin around 2020 and create nearly 100 new jobs. The companies are making equal investments totaling $85 million in the joint venture.

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Audi and EOS start development partnership focused on holistic approach for metal-based additive manufacturing

January 25, 2017

Audi AG has started a development partnership with EOS, a global provider of high-end Additive Manufacturing (AM) solutions. The EOS consulting division “Additive Minds" is supporting Audi in the holistic implementation of this industrial 3D printing technology and the development of a corresponding 3D printing center in Ingolstadt.

Audi recognized early on the potential of additive manufacturing for the automotive industry, and now promotes the application of the technology, working closely with EOS. For Audi, toolmaking and the casting technical center for planning are leading applications. Industrial 3D printing is first being applied to equipment and prototype building at Audi, as well as motor sports, where the technology is already in use today.

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FLAC project seeks 40-80% weight reduction in automotive components through 3D printing

January 22, 2017

Engineers at The University of Nottingham are developing lightweight automotive components using new additive manufacturing processes to boost vehicle fuel efficiency, while cutting noise and CO2 emissions as part of the Functional Lattices for Automotive Components (FLAC) project. FLAC aims to achieve significant weight reductions in mass (40-80%) and optimized thermo-mechanical performance in new vehicle components.

The Nottingham team will construct components using selective laser melting (SLM). SLM uses a 3-Dimensional Computer Aided Design (CAD) model to digitally reproduce the object in a number of layers. Each layer is sequentially recreated by melting sections of a bed of aluminium alloy powder using a laser beam. Layer by layer, the melted particles fuse and solidify to form novel structures that can be made up from complex lattices to provide a light-weight component. SLM helps increase functionality and lower the number of separate components in production. This significant mass saving cuts component costs and increases overall vehicle efficiency.

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Ford adding hybrid F-150 & Mustang, PHEV Transit, new BEV SUV by 2020; $700M for Flat Rock for EV production; cancels $1.6B Mexico plant

January 03, 2017

Ford detailed seven of the 13 new global electrified vehicles it plans to introduce in the next five years, including hybrid versions of the iconic F-150 pickup and Mustang in the US, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Transit Custom van in Europe and a fully electric SUV with an expected range of at least 300 miles (483 km) for customers globally.

The automaker also announced plans to invest $700 million to expand its Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan into a factory that will build high-tech autonomous and electric vehicles along with the Mustang and Lincoln Continental. The moves are part of a $4.5 billion investment in electrified vehicles by 2020.

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DOE awarding $12.9M to 6 pilot- and demonstration-scale projects for manufacturing biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower

December 29, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected six projects—entitled, “Project Definition for Pilot- and Demonstration-Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower”—-for up to $12.9 million in federal funding. These projects, required to share the cost at a minimum of 50%, will develop and execute plans for the manufacturing of advanced or cellulosic biofuels, bioproducts, refinery-compatible intermediates, and/or biopower in a domestic pilot- or demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery.

The projects will be evaluated in two phases. Award recipients will design and plan their facilities in Phase 1. In order to continue to Phase 2, projects will be evaluated on Phase 1 progress, as well as the ability to secure the required 50% cost share funding for Phase 2. DOE anticipates Phase 2 awards to be made in fiscal year 2018 to construct and operate the pilot- or demonstration-scale facility. Projects could receive additional federal funds of up to $15 million for pilot-scale facilities or $45 million for demonstration-scale facilities.

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Audi developing modular assembly principle as successor to production line; Győr testing for 2018 e-tron electric motor production

December 19, 2016

Audi is developing a new modular assembly principle intended as the enabler of the post-production line assembly era. Modular assembly—intended to address the need for growing complexity and flexibility in production—breaks up the traditional fixed-rhythm production line into individual process steps.

In the latest issue of Audi Encounter, Fabian Rusitschka, managing partner of Ingolstadt-based startup arculus GmbH, Audi’s partner in developing this concept, noted that while the current A3/Q2 production line has around 160 process steps, modular assembly turns that into roughly 200 spatially distinct stations manned by one or two people. The processes each have different timing, and are flexible. Audi anticipates modular assembly will deliver productivity benefits of at least 20%. While development of the principle is ongoing, Audi has begun to use modular assembly in developing the production process for the electric motor for the 2018 e-tron SUV (C-BEV) (earlier post).

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Continental producing 48V hybrid drives at Nuremberg plant; in use in Renault diesels by end of year

December 16, 2016

Continental’s new 48V hybrid drives are making their first appearance in series production vehicles. (Earlier post.) Manufactured at Continental’s Nuremberg plant, these first series-production 48V hybrid drives will be applied in “Hybrid Assist” diesel variants of both the new Renault Scénic and Grand Scénic models from the end of this year.

Just three years after the start of the project, the Nuremberg location developed a modular manufacturing concept that it uses to manufacture efficiently and in line with the cost structures of the volume market. To do so, the supplier invested around €15 million (US$15.7 million) in new production equipment. Using the currently installed equipment, up to 200,000 vehicles can be furnished with 48-volt drives.

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ITM Power to launch 100 MW electrolyzer plant designs at Hannover Messe 2017

December 13, 2016

ITM Power will showcase a series of large scale electrolyzer configurations up to 100MW in size at Hannover Messe 2017 (24 - 28 April). This is in response to utility and oil and gas industry demand for larger scale industrial installations.

ITM Power has sold a number of MW-scale plants over the last year and is now responding to enquires for much larger plant for bus and heavy goods vehicle refueling stations in the to 10MW range and, increasingly, industrial applications ranging from power-to-gas, refineries and steel-making in the 10MW to 100MW range.

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CMU study suggests difficulties in reaching targeted low price points for Li-ion batteries

December 11, 2016

A new study by a team at Carnegie Mellon University examining the costs for varied cell dimensions, electrode thicknesses, chemistries, and production volumes of cylindrical and prismatic Li-ion batteries finds that although further cost savings are possible from increasing cell dimensions and electrode thicknesses, economies of scale have already been reached, and future cost reductions from increased production volumes are likely to be minimal.

Their findings suggest that prismatic cells, which are able to further capitalize on the cost reduction from larger formats, can offer further reductions than those possible for cylindrical cells. However, none of these changes are sufficient to reach the DOE energy storage target of $125 kWh by 2020, the study found. Even in the most optimistic scenario, when the cells are the largest (20720), electrodes the thickest (100 mm), and the production volume is 8 GWh per year, the cost per kWh for LMO cells is well above the DOE target. NCA cells are $206 kWh-1 and NMC cells are $180 kWh-1. Their paper is published in the Journal of Power Sources.

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Nissan introduces driverless towing system at Oppama Plant using modified LEAF

December 05, 2016

Nissan Motor has introduced Intelligent Vehicle Towing (IVT), a fully automated vehicle towing system, at its Oppama Plant. The IVT system uses a modified Nissan LEAF autonomously to tow trollies carrying finished vehicles between designated loading and unloading points at the plant.

Unlike conventional automatic guided vehicle systems for transporting parts, which often require the installation of rails or extensive use of magnetic tape, this system does not need any special infrastructure to operate. This new project, which utilizes mapping and communication technologies to link an intelligent and all-electric car to infrastructure, is a step towards the realization of Nissan Intelligent Integration, a component of Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility vision.

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BMW Group expands BMW i Ventures role with new €500M fund; widened scope of investment, greater independence

December 01, 2016

The BMW Group is expanding the remit of its BMW i Ventures venture capital unit and creating a new fund of up to €500 million (US$531 million) over ten years to support it. The new fund will allow BMW i Ventures to make investments in a wider range of areas, such as autonomous driving and digitalization, and to secure continued access to the technologies of the future.

BMW i Ventures’ previous focus on mobility services and electro-mobility will be expanded to cover the BMW Group’s full innovation spectrum in all areas of Strategy Number ONE > NEXT, even those outside of the traditional automotive value chain. Future topics for exploration will focus on “Enabling Technology and Digital Vehicle Technology”, “Mobility and Digital Services”, “Customer Experience” and “Advanced Production Technology”.

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Daimler/Secar CRP hybrid struts receive AVK Innovation AWARD; intelligent material mix allows large-scale production

As part of a development project, researchers at Daimler AG and the Austrian CRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastics) applications specialist Secar Technologie GmbH have developed an innovative new CRP composite pultrusion process enabling carbon fibers and metal to be pultruded in profile form in larger volumes.

Pultrusion is a continuous molding process in which reinforcing fibers are saturated with a liquid polymer resin and then carefully formed and pulled through a heated die to form a part. Pultrusion results in straight constant cross section parts of virtually any shippable length.

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Audi deploying smart glove Mark from ProGlove in logistics department at Ingolstadt

November 29, 2016

Audi has begun using smart gloves from Munich-based startup ProGlove in its international logistics department at the Audi plant in Ingolstadt, where the group handles the worldwide dispatch of car components.

The glove—named “Mark”—has an embedded barcode scanner on its back; employees trigger the scanning function by pressing the thumb and first finger together. As a result, the users have both hands free and can work more ergonomically, without needing to pick up and put down a conventional barcode scanner. After a four week pilot phase, Audi employees are now using ten of these wearables in five positions in the Ingolstadt plant.

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BMW, Dürr, BASF integrated paint process cuts 12 kt CO2 annually

November 23, 2016

The BMW Group saves 12,000 tons of CO2 annually during automotive production at its Munich plant by eliminating one step from the paint process. In other words, compared to a conventionally coated vehicle, a car coated with the shortened process can drive the first 420 kilometers with a net zero carbon footprint. In addition, the process saves as much energy as the amount needed by 250,000 Munich residents to wash one load of laundry every week.

These are the findings of a new TÜV-certified study conducted by the BMW Group together with the mechanical and plant engineering firm Dürr and BASF’s coatings experts.

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Volkswagen investing €3.5B in German plants for e-mobility and digitalization; MEB production, pilot plant for batteries and modules

November 18, 2016

Volkswagen will invest €3.5-billion (US$3.7-billion) investment in the future-oriented areas of e-mobility and digitalization for its German plants. As part of an agreement with its General Works Council (i.e., labor), the Board of Management announced that the Volkswagen brand’s German plants will develop and produce electric vehicles and components based on the Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB). (Earlier post.)

The MEB is the foundation for an entirely new generation of long-range battery-electric vehicles that will be connected, autonomous, open and priced for the volume market as required by Volkswagen’s positioning. The first production MEB vehicle, a version of the I.D. concept shown this year at the Paris show (earlier post), will—with a range of up to 373 miles and a market introduction in 2020—be priced approximately at the level of a diesel Golf, before any subsidies.

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Dürr introduces new generation of painting robots with greater kinematic freedom; Industry 4.0

November 11, 2016

Dürr has introduced its next-generation of painting robot: the new Ecopaint Robot. With its greater kinematic freedom, the EcoRP E043i model with its seven-axis kinematic system enlarges the work zone and can eliminate the need for a linear displacement rail. This can significantly reduce investment and maintenance costs in the paint booth. Another newly developed product, the EcoRCMP2 robot control, is a key module of the Smart Factory.

Conventionally, paint robots are usually equipped with six axes. A displacement rail in the booth wall ensures that the robot can move parallel with the car body in the paint booth and thereby reach all car body areas. The new Dürr robot has now been equipped with a seventh rotatory axis. This significantly increases flexibility and versatility,said Dr. Hans Schumacher, President and CEO of Dürr Systems AG.

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Borgward to build manufacturing facility in Bremen; all-electric-drive Borgward BX7 first model; Industry 4.0

October 27, 2016

Borgward Group AG, the reincarnation of the German automaker that ceased operations in 1961 (earlier post), will be returning to Bremen and building a production facility there. Bremen was the former home of Borgward, and the German automotive company produced around 1.2 million Borgward, Lloyd, and Goliath brand vehicles here from the 1920s until it ceased operations.

In accordance with Borgward’s announcement that it will begin sales in Europe with electric SUVs, the first model to be produced in Bremen will be a Borgward BX7 with an all-electric drive system. (Earlier post.) The company also plans to manufacture electric and plug-in-hybrid versions of the BX5 series and other models. Construction of the new manufacturing facility is scheduled to begin in early 2017. Production will be launched at the plant a year later, in 2018.

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Columbia team develops new prelithiation method to increase Li-ion battery energy density by 10-30%

October 24, 2016

A team at Columbia University, with colleagues from Institute Recherche d’Hydro-Québec (IREQ), has developed a new pre-lithiation method to increase the energy density of lithium (Li-ion) batteries by utilizing a trilayer structure that is stable even in ambient air. This makes the battery both longer lasting and cheaper to manufacture. The work, which may improve the energy density of lithium batteries by 10-30%, is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

Li-ion batteries are produced in a discharged state; however, a considerable amount of active Li+ ions are lost during the initial charge due to the formation of the solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) on the anode surface. This results in a low initial coulombic efficiency and lowers the energy density of full cells. This step is even more critical in nanostructured anodes with high specific capacity, such as Si and Sn, due to their high surface area and large volume change.

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