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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.]

KIT researchers developing low-pressure carbonitriding process for hardening steel with methylamine; applications in downsized engines

November 23, 2015

A team at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is developing a new low-pressure process for hardening steel using methylamine. The new low-pressure carbonitriding (enriching low-alloy steels with carbon and nitrogen) process saves time and process gas. Steels hardened in this way are suited for use in components subjected to high mechanical and thermal loads in downsized, energy-efficient and low-emission engines of the future.

The KIT researchers, along with their colleagues at Bosch, presented the process in a recent paper published in HTM - Journal of Heat Treatment and Materials.

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KAIST researchers develop mechanical nanoscale fasteners for fuel cell membranes; lower cost, higher efficiency, easily manufactured

November 09, 2015

Scientists at KAIST have developed a physical interlocking interface that can tightly bind a sulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) (SPAES) membrane and a Nafion catalyst layer in PEM fuel cells, paving the way for lower-cost, higher-efficiency and more easily manufactured proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. They reported on their work in a recent paper in the journal Advanced Materials.

To generate electricity, PEM fuel cells rely on two chemical compartments separated by a permeable catalyst membrane. This membrane acts as an electrolyte; a negative electrode is bonded to one side of the membrane and a positive electrode is bonded to the other. The electrolyte membrane is often based on a polymer of perfluorosulfonic acid. Due to its high cost, however, a less expensive hydrocarbon-based electrolyte membrane has attracted interest in this technology sector.

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Mazda’s new Aqua-tech Paint System receives Prime Minister’s Award; lower VOCs than Three Layer Wet

Mazda Motor Corporation’s new paint system—the Aqua-tech Paint System—has received the Prime Minister’s Award (Manufacturing and Production Process Category) at the 6th Monodzukuri Nippon Grand Award ceremony. The Aqua-tech Paint System reduces emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) compared to Mazda’s previous oil-based paint systems without increasing energy consumption (and associated CO2 emissions).

Mazda had already achieved world-class low CO2 emission levels with the implementation of the Three Layer Wet Paint System. The company’s follow-on goal was to further reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions to world-class levels.

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Vaporized Foil Actuator Welding technique from OSU uses 80% less energy and delivers bonds 50% stronger; joining dissimilar materials

October 30, 2015

Engineers at The Ohio State University have developed a new welding technique—Vaporized Foil Actuator Welding (VFAW)—that consumes 80% less energy than a common welding technique, yet creates bonds that are 50% stronger. The new technique could have a significant impact on the auto industry, which is poised to offer new cars which combine traditional heavy steel parts with lighter, alternative metals to reduce vehicle weight.

Glenn Daehn, professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State, who helped develop the new technique, explained the new process in a keynote address at the recent Materials Science & Technology 2015 meeting. The Materials Science & Engineering annual meeting is organized by the American Ceramic Society, the Association for Iron & Steel Technology, ASM International, and the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.

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Audi using Alstom H3 plug-in hybrid shunting locomotive at Ingolstadt

Audi has begun using a new 1,000 horsepower plug-in hybrid shunting locomotive manufactured by Alstom in daily operations at the Audi plant in Ingolstadt, Germany. The new locomotive runs without any emissions inside the plant buildings and can operate for up to two hours at a time in purely electric mode. Its battery is plugged in during breaks for recharging with CO2‑free electricity, or is supported while in motion by a diesel engine.

The three-axle Alstom H3 hybrid locomotive is significantly quieter than its conventional counterparts, and can deliver up to a 50% reduction in diesel fuel use, with a concomitant reduction in CO2emissions. This means that the plug‑in‑hybrid locomotive emits up to 60 tons less CO2 each year. For the Ingolstadt plant, this is another stage on the way to the CO2‑neutral factory.

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Acura provides more technical detail on NSX sports hybrid AWD powertrain, body

October 28, 2015

Acura unveiled the production model of the next-generation NSX at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) this past January (earlier post), and now has provided more technical detail on the high-performance hybrid sports car and its new Sport Hybrid-AWD power unit.

At the core of this new hybrid power unit is a bespoke, mid-mounted twin-turbocharged, 75-degree 3.5-liter DOHC V6 engine with dry sump lubrication, mated to an all-new 9-speed dual clutch transmission (9DCT) and Direct-Drive Motor. This is augmented by the front Twin Motor Unit (TMU) driving the front wheels. The NSX Sport Hybrid power unit offers exceptional horsepower and torque with a broad powerband for tremendous throttle response and acceleration. Total system peak output is estimated at 573 horsepower—500 horsepower from the gasoline engine and 73 horsepower from the front TMU.

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Argonne study finds lightweight material substitution increases vehicle-cycle GHGs, but results in total life-cycle benefit

October 12, 2015

A team at Argonne National Laboratory has taken a closer look at vehicle-cycle (all processes related to vehicle manufacturing) and vehicle total life-cycle (vehicle-cycle plus fuel cycle—i.e., the use phase) impacts of substituting lightweight materials into vehicles.

In a study published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they reported that while material substitution can reduce vehicle weight, it often increases vehicle-cycle greenhouse gas emissions GHGs—for example, replacing steel with wrought aluminum, carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CRFP), or magnesium increases the vehicle-cycle GHGs. However, lifetime fuel economy benefits often outweigh the vehicle-cycle, resulting in a net total life-cycle GHG benefit, they found. This is the case for steel replaced by wrought aluminum in all assumed cases, and for CFRP and magnesium except for high substitution ratio and low fuel reduction value.

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GM planning to “own” the customer relationship beyond the vehicle; autonomous Volts, car sharing and fuel cells

October 01, 2015

General Motors CEO Mary Barra and her leadership team outlined the company’s plans to capitalize on the future of personal mobility by owning the customer relationship beyond the vehicle, building upon nearly two decades of connectivity leadership.

GM also said it plans to strengthen its core business through global growth initiatives and an aggressive product launch cadence, while continuing to focus on driving cost efficiencies. As a result, the company expects to increase its earnings per share and generate significant shareholder value. The company shared its plans with investors during a conference at its Milford Proving Ground.

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Honda launches new “Green Path” initiatives for manufacturing and operations; new $210M paint line at Marysville with new 4C2B process

September 25, 2015

Honda has announced several initiatives under its new “Green Path” approach to reducing the total life-cycle environmental impact of its products and operations in North America. Among these is a $210-million investment in a new, more environmentally responsible auto-body painting facility and innovative paint process at its Marysville, Ohio auto plant (MAP), the largest of Honda’s eight auto plants in North America. MAP produces the Honda Accord Sedan and Coupe along with the Acura TLX and ILX for customers in more than 100 countries.

Honda has established a voluntary goal to reduce its total GHG emissions—including customer use-phase—by 50% by the year 2050, compared to 2000 levels; this works out to a reduction of 90% per unit sales—a difficult task, noted Ryan Harty, a former Honda R&D engineer who now manages Honda’s new Environmental Business Development Office.

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DOE announces $70M for Innovation Institute on Smart Manufacturing; advanced sensors, controls, platforms, and modeling for manufacturing

September 18, 2015

The US Department of Energy announced up to $70 million in funding (DE-FOA-0001263) for the next Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which will be focused on smart manufacturing. With this investment, the DOE aims to support research and development advancements that can reduce the cost of deployment for technologies such as advanced sensors, controls, platforms, and modeling for manufacturing by as much as 50%. As part of President Obama’s National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) institutes, the institute will also demonstrate these technologies in manufacturing processes with a goal to increase energy efficiency by at least 15% and improve energy productivity by at least 50%.

Energy intensive industries, such as steelmaking, could see a 10 to 20 percent reduction in the cost of production, making products such as solar panels and chemical materials, such as plastics, as well as the cars and other products they go into, more affordable for American consumers,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The goals of the Smart Manufacturing Institute are to:

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New Mahle piston ring coating for high-output GTDI engines; chromium nitride using high-velocity oxygen fuel process

September 16, 2015

Mahle has developed a new thermal spray coating for modern high-output direct-injection turbocharged gasoline engines (GTDI). Under development since 2011 at Mahle’s thermal spray development labs in Michigan, the new process initially was designed for high-output GTDI engines currently in production by two US domestic automakers. The market for high-output turbocharged engines is expected to achieve a market share of 30% or more by 2020.

The new top ring coating, also referred to as MSC312, uses chromium nitride applied through a high-velocity oxygen fuel (HVOF) thermal spray process. MSC312 improves upon the scuff-and-wear capabilities of Mahle’s MSC385 chrome carbide HVOF coating because of the chromium nitride composition.

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BMW Group leveraging digitalization in production plants; Industry 4.0

August 11, 2015

As part of its continuous optimization of production processes at its plants, the BMW Group is leveraging the opportunities arising from digitalization (i.e., “Industry 4.0”, earlier post). For the automotive manufacturer, digitalization opens up new perspectives with regard to the advancement of innovative and people-oriented production systems.

In turn, the freed potential in the production systems allows the company to respond even more individually to customers’ wishes and to step up the flexibility of the production chain.

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Additive manufacturing company Carbon3D named Technology Pioneer by World Economic Forum; work with Ford

August 10, 2015

Additive manufacturing (3D printing) company Carbon3D Inc. was named one of the World Economic Forum’s 49 Technology Pioneers for 2015. Carbon3D joins the Technology Pioneers program as the first additive manufacturing company to be selected. Carbon3D recently emerged from stealth mode to introduce an innovative approach to polymer-based 3D printing that it says will advance the industry beyond basic prototyping to 3D manufacturing.

The new Continuous Liquid Interface Production technology (CLIP) uses a tuneable photochemical process instead of the traditional mechanical approach, eliminating the shortcomings of conventional layer-by-layer 3D printing technology, rapidly to transform 3D models into final parts in a range of engineering-grade materials. Ford has been working with Carbon 3D since December 2014, and has produced elastomer grommets for the Ford Focus Electric and damping bumper parts for the Transit Connect.

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Ford working with OSU on sustainable alternative rubber sources for non-tire vehicle applications

August 06, 2015

While there are a number of efforts underway exploring the use of sustainable, natural rubber alternatives for use in tires (earlier post, earlier post, earlier post), cars use a great deal of rubber for non-tire applications as well; the Ford Fiesta, for example, contains about 3 kg of the material, excluding the tires.

Ford Motor Company is thus investigating alternative sustainable sources of rubber for automotive use in these non-tire applications. The company is working closely with The Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s (OARDC’s) Program of Excellence in Natural Rubber Alternatives (PENRA) on researching the use of latex from guayule and Russian dandelion root in applications such as the car’s interior (cup holders), floormats, suspension bushings, engine mounts and so on, said Janice Tardiff, Elastomer Technical Expert at Ford.

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Purdue team discovery could reduce energy required to machine annealed metals by >50%

July 28, 2015

Researchers at Purdue University have discovered a previously unknown type of metal deformation—sinuous flow—and a potentially simple method to suppress it. The results, reported in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), could lead to more efficient machining and other manufacturing advances by significantly reducing the force and energy required to process metals by more than 50%.

Annealing is a heat-treatment process used to soften metals for machining. Counterintuitively, however, annealed metals are surprisingly difficult to cut, the Purdue team noted, involving high forces and an unusually thick “chip.” The conventional explanation for this anomaly has used a model of smooth plastic flow with uniform shear to describe material removal by chip formation. In their study, the Purdue team showed that the phenomenon is actually the result of a fundamentally different collective deformation mode: sinuous flow. Using in situ imaging, they found that chip formation occurs via large-amplitude folding, triggered by surface undulations of a characteristic size.

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Renault-Nissan Alliance posts record €3.8 billion in synergies in 2014, up 32.4% from 2013; role of CMF

July 10, 2015

The Renault-Nissan Alliance posted record synergies of €3.80 billion ($4.25 billion) in 2014, up 32.4% from €2.87 billion the previous year. Purchasing, engineering and manufacturing were the biggest contributors. The launch of the Alliance’s first Common Module Family (CMF) vehicles (earlier post), as well as the recent convergence of four key functions—Engineering; Manufacturing Engineering & Supply Chain Management; Purchasing; and Human Resources—helped drive synergies in all three areas, said Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Synergies are generated from cost reductions, cost avoidance and revenue increases. Only new synergies (not cumulative) are taken into account each year. Accounting for synergies helps Renault and Nissan determine if they are meeting their performance objectives.

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BMW and SCHERM put 40t battery-electric truck into service for material transport in 1-year pilot

July 06, 2015

The BMW Group and the SCHERM group have put a 40-ton electric truck for material transport into service on public roads in a one-year pilot. The truck, a Terberg YT202-EV electric tractor, has successfully completed its first test drives. The truck will travel a 2km route (1.2 miles) eight times a day between the SCHERM group logistics center and the BMW Group plant in Munich, transporting different vehicle components such as shock absorbers, springs and steering systems.

The truck battery takes three to four hours to charge. When fully charged, the vehicle has a range of up to 100 kilometers (62 miles). Thus, the electric truck can theoretically complete a full production day without any additional recharging.

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Fraunhofer laser arc method enables diamond-like carbon coating at industrial scale at high rate; friction reduction

June 11, 2015

Fraunhofer researchers have developed a laser arc method with which layers of carbon almost as hard as diamond can be applied on an industrial scale at high coating rates and with high thicknesses. Applying such carbon coatings to engine components such as piston rings and pins contributes to lowering fuel consumption.

Carbon-based coatings are already used in volume production. But now the team of IWS researchers led by Prof. Andreas Leson from the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS in Dresden, Dr. Hans-Joachim Scheibe and Dr. Volker Weihnacht has succeeded in producing hydrogen-free ta-C coatings on an industrial scale at a consistent level of quality. These tetrahedral amorphous carbon coatings are significantly harder and thus more resistant to wear than conventional diamond-like coatings.

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Ricardo supporting Detroit Materials in commercialization of innovative lightweight steels

June 04, 2015

Ricardo Strategic Consulting, the global management consulting subsidiary of Ricardo plc, is providing support to start-up Detroit Materials (DM) for strategy and supply chain development to assist in the commercialization of its ultra-high performance structural materials into the automotive, truck and transportation sectors in support of structural lightweighting initiatives.

Detroit Materials has developed extremely strong, castable low-alloy steel. The DM steel offers the performance advantages of exotic-alloy steels (1300 MPa UTS, 16% elongation) with the ability to cast thin wall sections (3mm wall) and complex geometries at comparable cost per performance to ADI (Austempered Ductile Irons) and GJS ductile irons.

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Researchers develop high-speed friction stir welding technique for aluminum joining at high volume production speeds

May 24, 2015

In partnership with General Motors, Alcoa and TWB Company LLC, researchers from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a high-speed friction stir welding (FSW) process (earlier post) to join aluminum sheets of varying thicknesses—a key to producing auto parts that are light yet retain strength where it’s most needed—at speeds required for high volume production. The PNNL-developed process is ten times faster than current FSW techniques, representing production speeds that, for the first time, meet high-volume assembly requirements. The advancement is reported in an open-access paper in JOM, the member journal of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.

To create door frames, hoods and other auto parts, sheets of metal are welded together end-to-end into a “tailor-welded blank” (TWB) which is then cut into appropriate sizes before being stamped into the final shape. This process allows a high degree of customization. For example, a thicker gauge of metal can be used on one side of a car part, where extra strength is needed, joined via a weld to a thinner gauge on the side where it’s not.

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Mercedes-Benz investing around $558 million in Berlin plant; global center of competence for CAMTRONIC

May 22, 2015

Mercedes-Benz is investing a total of around €500 million (US$558 million) in its plant in Berlin—the Group’s oldest production facility in operation—which is being developed into a high-tech facility for component production. Some €150 million ($168 million) of that will be applied this year. In the future, Berlin will be a global center of competence for the production of the CAMTRONIC engine management system, giving it a unique position within the production network. The V6-cylinder diesel engine is produced in Berlin.

With the agreement of this transformation plan, the plant is continuing to push forward its development into a high-tech component manufacturing facility, focusing on the expansion of capacity for advanced products. In addition to high-precision transmission parts, camshaft adjusters and fuel systems, these include the CAMTRONIC valve timing system that will be the subject of the majority of the agreed investment.

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Tesla posts $154M GAAP loss, $45M non-GAAP loss in Q1 on record deliveries; confident in 55K total deliveries this year

May 07, 2015

In its Q1 2015 financial report, Tesla Motors said it produced 11,160 vehicles in Q1 (10% better than guidance, at an average of 1,000 cars per production week); delivered 10,045 (worldwide), a quarterly record; and posted a $154-million GAAP net loss (non-GAAP net loss of $45 million). The Q1 GAAP net loss was 43% greater than the Q4 2014 GAAP net loss and 210% greater than GAAP net loss in Q1 2014.

Tesla has begun breaking out the revenues and costs of its automotive business from its other activities—i.e., powertrain sales, service revenue, Tesla Energy (the new line of stationary energy storage systems) and pre-owned Tesla vehicle sales. Automotive revenue and related costs reflect activities related to the sale or lease of new vehicles including regulatory (e.g., ZEV) credits, data connectivity and Supercharging.

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ENGEL to equip Open Hybrid LabFactory with v-duo 3600 for integrated composites research

April 24, 2015

Injection moulding machine manufacturer ENGEL is currently building an ENGEL v-duo 3600 machine for the Open Hybrid LabFactory (OHLF) public/private collaborative research partnership in Wolfsburg, Germany where the machine will support research into functionally integrated composite technologies. (BMW uses ENGEL duo injection moulding machines to manufacture car body shell components for the BMW i3 electric vehicle. Earlier post.)

With a clamping force of 36,000 kN, the ENGEL v-duo 3600 is the largest machine in its series. One machine in the same clamping force class is installed at BMW’s Landshut factory, where large structural components of fibre-reinforced plastic composites are manufactured using the HP-RTM process.

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“WaterBone” design wins grand prize in ARPA-E LITECAR Challenge

April 20, 2015

The winning design: “WaterBone”. Click to enlarge.

Local Motors, in partnership with the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), announced the winner of the LIghtweighting Technologies Enabling Comprehensive Automotive Redesign (LITECAR) Challenge. The design challenge served to accelerate innovative ideas by using novel material technologies, structural designs, energy absorbing materials and unique methods of manufacturing to reduce vehicle curb weight while maintaining current US automotive safety standards. 254 conceptual designs were submitted. (Earlier post.)

The winning design, Aerodynamic Water Droplet with Strong Lightweight Bone Structure (“WaterBone”), was created by Andres Tovar, a mechanical engineering assistant professor at the School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and his group of graduate students. The proposed design—which makes innovations in the structural layout, use of multi-materials, and the 3D printing manufacturing process—has the outer shape (envelope) of a water droplet with an embedded trabecular (graded porous) bone-like structure (spaceframe). The water droplet shape provides a low drag coefficient, while the spaceframe provides the mechanical strength and energy absorption capabilities (crashworthiness) required to protect the occupant in the event of a collision.

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Carbon Core of next-gen BMW 7 Series helps reduce sedan’s weight by up to 130 kg; remote control parking

April 18, 2015

BMW presented an initial selection of technology highlights for the next generation of the BMW 7 Series model range featuring developments in lightweight design, driving dynamics, comfort, intelligent connectivity and operation.

Due to the BMW EfficientLightweight strategy, the new BMW 7 Series line-up will weigh up to 130 kilograms (287 lbs) less than the outgoing generation of models. At its heart is a body structure with a Carbon Core based on the transfer of technology from the development of the BMW i models. The use of CFRP for structural elements of the passenger cell based on hybrid construction with ultra-high-strength steels—such as the B-pillars—increases both the overall strength and the torsional and bending stiffness of the passenger cell. To this end, the configuration of sheet metal elements can be adjusted as required, allowing for a significant reduction in the weight of the body.

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Ford investing $2.5B for new engine, transmission plants in Mexico

April 17, 2015

Ford is investing $2.5 billion in new engine and transmission plants in the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Guanajuato, respectively. The investment covers three projects: a new engine plant in Chihuahua; expansion of Ford’s I-4 and diesel engine lines in Chihuahua; and a new transmission plant—Ford’s first in Mexico—in Guanajuato.

The investment, which comes during the celebration of Ford’s 90th anniversary in the country, will bring 3,800 direct new jobs plus additional indirect jobs to Mexico. Ford officials announced the investment today during a ceremony with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and other members of the country’s Federal Government.

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Toyota investing $1B in new TNGA plant in Mexico, realigning North American manufacturing; expansion in Guangzhou

April 15, 2015

Toyota is embarking on a multi-year plan to realign its manufacturing operations in North America in support of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) (earlier post), a comprehensive approach to achieving sustainable growth by making ever-better vehicles more efficiently. Toyota also announced an expansion of its joint venture plant, Guangzhou Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. (GTMC), in China (one of Toyota’s three assembly plants in China).

As part of this strategy, Toyota will invest approximately US$1 billion to construct its newest North American manufacturing facility in the state of Guanajuato in Central Mexico to produce the Corolla. The plant is the first designed from the ground up with TNGA production engineering technologies and will leverage the existing supply base and transportation infrastructure in the region. Toyota will also establish a plant preparation office in the state of Queretaro.

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Toyota progress report on TNGA; half of vehicles sold in 2020 to feature new platforms

March 27, 2015

In 2012, Toyota Motor introduced its new development framework, the Toyota New Global Architecture. (Earlier post.) Designed to balance product advances with cost reductions, TNGA supports the grouping of the development of new vehicles to promote strategic sharing of parts and powertrain components. One goal is the reduction of resources required for development by 20% or more.

Toyota recently provided an update and an outlook on its progress with TNGA, focusing on new vehicle development (powertrain components and vehicle platforms) as well as production systems.

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Daimler putting ~€1B into Stuttgart-Untertürkheim to make it the center of competence for efficient engines, hybrid powertrains and fuel cell system production

March 21, 2015

Daimler is investing about €1 billion (US$1.07 billion) in the Mercedes-Benz plant in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim and is transforming it into a center of competence for highly efficient engines, hybrid powertrains and the production of fuel cell systems.

From 1 June, Untertürkheim will assume responsibility for a facility in Nabern in the greater Stuttgart area where assembly of the fuel cell system will take place. The Nabern facility will remain the center of competence for the overall development of fuel cell drive systems under the direction of Daimler AG.

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Cadillac CT6 mixed-material body structure saves 90 kg over predominantly steel construction

March 15, 2015

Cadillac will use an advanced mixed-material approach for the lightweight body structure of the upcoming CT6 range-topping full-size sedan, which will debut 31 March at the New York International Auto Show. The structure is aluminum-intensive, but the new Cadillac also includes 13 different materials customized for each area of the car to advance driving dynamics, fuel economy and cabin quietness; the mixed material approach saved 90 kg (198 pounds) compared to a predominately steel construction.

Sixty-four percent of the CT6 body structure is aluminum, including all exterior body panels. Thirteen complex high-pressure die cast components make up the lower structure of the CT6 body, along with aluminum sheets and extrusions. The vehicle underbody uses steel close-out panels on the lower structure to create a bank vault-quiet cabin without the added weight of extensive sound-deadening material, often used to compensate for aluminum panels in the occupant compartment.

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Making the Mirai fuel cell vehicle

February 24, 2015

In Japan, Toyota Motor held a production ceremony at the Motomachi Plant, which first began production in 1959, to mark the production of the Mirai fuel cell vehicle, which the company launched in November 2014, and began selling in Japan in December 2014. (Earlier post.)

Motomachi has been home to some of Toyota’s most notable models, including the Publica, Corona, Cresta, Soarer, Supra, RAV4, and the Lexus LFA supercar. The former “LFA Works”—where craftspeople hand-built each of the 500 series limited Lexus supercars—is now the home of the Mirai. Toyota released a set of 5 short videos giving an overview of Mirai production, which delivers an estimated 3 units per day.

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New human-robot cooperation in Audi’s final assembly processes

February 16, 2015

At its main plant in Ingolstadt, Audi has for the first time deployed a robot that works “hand-in-hand” with humans—without a safety barrier and ideally adapted to the employees’ working cycles. It is the first human-robot cooperation at the Volkswagen Group to be applied in final assembly. The technology makes work easier for the assembly employees and makes ergonomic improvements, the company said.

Formerly, employees of the A4/A5/Q5 assembly lines at Ingolstadt had to bend over material boxes to take out the coolant expansion tanks. This might seem a simple task, but with frequent repetitions it can lead to back problems. Now, however, the task will be taken over by a specialized KUKA robot, known internally as “PART4you” (Produktions-Assistent reicht Teil). (Volkswagen AG is increasingly working with Germany-based robot manufacturer KUKA; in late 2012, the Group awarded KUKA a contract for 6,000 robots for various plants—KUKA’s largest single blanket order.)

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ESKAM finishing electric drive axle module for commercial vehicles, new production technologies; vehicle testing this year

February 02, 2015

Electric drive axle module with two motors and integrated power electronics. Groschopp AG. Click to enlarge.

The ESKAM (Electric Scalable Axle Module, Elektrische SKalierbare AchsantriebsModule) consortium in Germany, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), is completing the development of an optimized electric drive axle module for commercial vehicles, consisting of two motors, transmissions and power electronics. All components fit neatly and compactly into a shared housing, which is fitted in the vehicle using a special frame construction also developed by the project engineers.

The individual modules developed by the various partners are complete, as are new manufacturing techniques developed by the partners. The consortium is now putting the individual parts together to make a demonstrator. After that, they want to fit the axle module into a real vehicle for testing by the end of 2015.

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DOE to award $55.8M for advanced vehicle technologies; $35M for fuel cell and hydrogen

January 22, 2015

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a new Vehicle Technologie program-wide funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0001201) for $55.8 million. DOE also announced up to $35 million to advance fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, including enabling the early adoption of fuel cell applications, such as light duty fuel cell electric vehicles. This new funding opportunity announcement will be available in early February.

The Vehicle Technologies funding is targeted at a wide range of research, development, and demonstration projects that aim to reduce the price and improve the efficiency of plug-in electric, alternative fuel, and conventional vehicles. Topics addressed include: advanced batteries (including manufacturing processes) and electric drive R&D; Lightweight materials; Advanced combustion engine and enabling technologies R&D; and Fuels technologies (dedicated or dual-fuel natural gas engine technologies).

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Local Motors 3D printing a Strati at NAIAS; announces two micro-factories to open

January 13, 2015

Local Motors is 3D printing and assembling a Strati—the first 3D-printed car—live from the show floor at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). (Earlier post.)

The design was chosen in May 2014 from more than 200 submitted to Local Motors by the company’s online co-creation community after launching a call for entries. The winning design was submitted by Michele Anoè who was awarded a cash prize plus the opportunity to see his design brought to life. Less than a year after the original design was chosen, Local Motors will premiere a mid-model refresh, which began its inaugural print on Monday, 12 January on the show floor during NAIAS.

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University of Tennessee to head $250M advanced composites manufacturing institute; Ford, Honda and Volkswagen members

January 09, 2015

The Department of Energy and a consortium of 122 companies, nonprofits, and universities led by the University of Tennessee-Knoxville will invest more than $250 million—$70 million in federal funds and more than $180 million in non-federal funds—to launch a Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Advanced Composites—the fifth institute to be awarded of the eight national institute competitions launched earlier (earlier post).

The new Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), announced today by President Obama, will focus on advanced fiber-reinforced polymer composites that combine strong fibers with tough plastics to yield materials that are lighter and stronger than steel. While advanced composites are used in selective industries such as aircraft, satellites and cars, these materials remain expensive, require large amounts of energy to manufacture and are difficult to recycle. IACMI is dedicated to overcoming these barriers by developing low-cost, high-production, energy-efficient manufacturing and recycling processes for composites applications.

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Audi boosting investment over next 5 years by 9% to €24B; 70% to new models and technology

December 27, 2014

From 2015 through 2019, Audi plans to invest €24 billion (US$29 billion)—€2 billion (US$2.4 billion), or 9% more, more than in the previous planning period. 70 percent of the investment will flow into the development of new models and technologies. Audi aims to meet stringent CO2 limits worldwide with a new generation of extremely economical combustion engines and alternative efficiency technologies as well as new features in the areas of connectivity and driver assistance.

Audi also plans to create additional production capacities worldwide in the next five years through large-scale investment. More than half of the planned investment will take place at the German sites in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm.

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DOE to award up to $2M to 3 projects for hydrogen and fuel cell supply chain and manufacturing analysis

December 24, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected three projects to receive up to $2 million in new funding for analysis of the hydrogen and fuel cells domestic supply chain and manufacturing competitiveness. Funded in part by the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, this funding opportunity supports the Department’s broader effort to boost US competitiveness in the manufacturing sector.

The projects selected will support activities that facilitate the development and expansion of the domestic supply chain of components and systems necessary for the manufacturing and scale-up of hydrogen and fuel cell systems in the United States. Awardees will also conduct competitive analysis of global hydrogen and fuel cell manufacturing aimed at quantifying trade patterns and identifying key drivers of US competitiveness.

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Alcoa unveils major advance in aluminum manufacturing technology; new Micromill targeting future automotive aluminum products

December 06, 2014

Alcoa’s Micromill has a much smaller footprint than conventional direct casting technology, and produces automotive aluminum alloys with 40% greater formability and 30% greater strength. Click to enlarge.

Alcoa has developed new manufacturing technology—the Micromill—that will produce what the company says is the most advanced aluminum sheet on the market. The Micromill will enable the next-generation of automotive aluminum products, and equip Alcoa to capture growing demand from automakers for lighter-weight, yet durable and formable materials.

The Alcoa-patented Micromill process significantly changes the microstructure of the metal, allowing the production of an aluminum alloy for automotive applications that has 40% greater formability and 30% greater strength than the incumbent aluminum used today while meeting stringent automotive surface quality requirements. The Alcoa Micromill technology and the differentiated metal it will produce are covered by more than 130 patents around the world.

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