[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.]
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.
New Unipiston clutch piston technology in series production; enables better fuel economy
November 06, 2014
Federal-Mogul Powertrain’s new high-modulus injection-molded Unipiston clutch pistons are now in series production at the company’s facility in Chivasso, Italy. The technology was a 2013 Automotive News PACE Award Winner in the process category.
Unipiston is a one-piece, rubber-to-metal bonded piston that hydraulically engages clutches to activate the gearshift. The compact one-piece design reduces the number of leak paths while improving reliability and simplifying assembly, and allows transmission designers more flexibility, including increased clutch apply pressures, higher rotational clutch speeds, and larger diameter clutches. This flexibility enables transmissions with additional clutches to be packaged in a smaller space, while providing improved fuel economy, reduced emissions and enhanced vehicle performance.
Mercedes-Benz wins MATERIALICA awards for diesel passenger car steel pistons and CFRP struts
October 25, 2014
Mercedes-Benz received two MATERIALICA Design and Technology Awards at the MATERIALICA 2014 trade fair for materials applications, surface technology and product engineering in Munich. The first was for the new steel pistons for diesel engines (earlier post), the second for high-strength carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) struts.
The MATERIALICA Award 2014 comprised five categories: Material; Surface & Technology; Product; CO2 Efficiency; and Student. The MATERIALICA Design + Technology Award focuses on product and technological developments in all sectors which implement a successful bundling of competencies.
New KIT process could triple manufacturing speed of electrode foils for Li-ion batteries
October 23, 2014
|Intermittent coating with precise edges: The process developed by KIT allows for the coating of electrode foils at new record speed. (Photo: M. Schmitt/KIT) Click to enlarge.|
Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a new manufacturing process for the batch-wise coating of Li-ion battery electrode foils that they say can boost the conventional processing rate by about a factor of three to 100 meters per minute. The team headed by Professor Wilhelm Schabel and Dr. Philip Scharfer of the Thin Film Technology (TFT) group of the KIT Institute of Thermal Process Engineering developed a flexible slot die process that enables production of any pattern with high precision and at high speeds.
So far, a rate of about 25-35 meters per minute has been the industrial state-of-the-art. In its just-released “Roadmap for Battery Production”, the German Engineering Association (VDMA) is targeting reaching a coating speed of 70-100 meters per minute by 2030. (In a recent techno-economic analysis of Li-ion battery manufacturing, a CMU/MIT team used 10 meters per minute as the assumed coating processing rate. Earlier post.)
CMU/MIT study finds large-scale battery manufacturing will do little to reduce unit costs past a 200-300 MWh annual production level
October 22, 2014
A new techno-economic analysis by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and MIT has found that economies of scale for manufacturing current Li-ion batteries for light-duty EV applications (in this case, prismatic pouch NMC333-G batteries and packs) are reached quickly at around 200-300 MWh annual production. Increased volume beyond that does little to reduce unit costs, except potentially indirectly through factors such as experience, learning, and innovation, they determined.
“That’s comparable to the amount of batteries produced for the Nissan Leaf or the Chevy Volt last year,” said CMU’s Dr. Jeremy Michalek, the corresponding author of a paper on the research published in the Journal of Power Sources. “Past this point, higher volume alone won’t do much to cut cost. Battery cost is the single largest economic barrier for mainstream adoption of electric vehicles, and large factories alone aren’t likely to solve the battery cost problem.”
Mercedes-Benz realigning global production organization for passenger cars; organizing by product architecture
September 10, 2014
Mercedes-Benz is realigning its global passenger cars manufacturing activities and is strengthening its German passenger cars locations with investments worth billions of euros. “We want to continue to grow and will significantly increase our production capacities in the coming years. At the same time we want to permanently and sustainably strengthen our competitiveness with a high-performance organization,” said Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain Management, during a media event at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant.
This year alone, Mercedes-Benz is managing 18 vehicle ramp-ups at eight locations worldwide, among them the start of production of the new C-Class sedan on four continents. Through 2020, Mercedes-Benz will introduce and additional 12 models which do not have a predecessor.
Renault and Bolloré form a partnership in electric vehicles; assembly, car-sharing and 3-seat Bluecar
September 09, 2014
Following the letter of intent signed in September 2013 (earlier post), French groups Renault and Bolloré are joining forces to promote electric vehicles through a set of three agreements involving assembly, a car-sharing JV, and new vehicle development. In order to reduce significantly the environmental impact of cars, the partners noted, the development of electric vehicles and car-sharing is not an option—it is a necessary transformation.
The overall environmental impact of an electric vehicle is virtually half that of an equivalent internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, Renault noted, citing its comparative study of Fluence ICE and electric vehicles. (Earlier post.) The three agreements include:
DOE seeking information on clean energy manufacturing technologies
September 01, 2014
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) has issued a request for information (DE-FOA-0001158) on mid- Technology Readiness Level (TRL) research and development (R&D) needs, market challenges, supply chain challenges and shared facility needs in addressing advanced manufacturing development challenges impacting clean energy manufacturing. Submissions are due by 3 October.
Within the manufacturing sector, energy-intensive manufacturing industries account for nearly 75% of all the energy used (more than 20% of national energy use) and offer one of the largest opportunities for potential energy reductions. These industries produce and process basic materials and chemicals that go into many end-use consumer and industrial products. Energy intense industries include primary metals (e.g., steel, aluminum, metal-casting), chemicals/petrochemicals, oil and gas refining, bio-manufacturing (e.g., pulp and paper), and nonmetallic minerals (e.g., glass, cement).
Frost & Sullivan sees 29% growth in dimensional metrology market in automotive by 2018 to more than $1.2B; automation, weight reduction and platforms
August 07, 2014
Rapid automation of automotive manufacturing plants, a focus on weight reduction, and vehicle platform strategies are key factors that will drive the demand for dimensional metrology solutions in the automotive industry, according to new analysis from Frost & Sullivan.
In a new report, Frost & Sullivan finds that the overall dimensional metrology market in the automotive industry earned revenue of $949.2 million in 2013 and forecasts this will grow 29% to approximately $1,225.1 million in 2018 (CAGR of 5.2%). While Frost & Sullivan expects the coordinate measuring machine (CMM) segment to account for 67.8% of the global dimensional metrology market in the automotive industry by 2018, it also expects that inline metrology (automated measurements fully integrated into a production line) will become the most desired solution for automotive applications, with advanced, fully-automated inline metrology systems powering the next-generation dimensional metrology solutions.
UK study finds low carbon policy has bolstered UK automotive sector, but trucks neglected and biofuels stalled
July 17, 2014
|Value of low carbon investments by year and cumulative. Click to enlarge.|
A major new report published at the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership’s Annual Conference shows the UK automotive sector has been revitalized by consistently applied policy centered on cutting carbon.
Carried out for LowCVP by E4tech and the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff Business School, the study was conducted between March and June 2014. The broad industry survey, supplemented by in-depth interviews with senior executives showed that a consistent and sustained policy approach can produce both green results and growth. The link between consistently applied policy and a win-win in terms of investment and emissions performance was validated by the survey involving more than 120 senior industry and stakeholder respondents.
Volkswagen to produce new CrossBlue-based midsize SUV in Chattanooga; $900M investment
July 14, 2014
|The new mid-size SUV is based on the CrossBlue concept. Click to enlarge.|
The Board of Directors of Volkswagen Group of America has decided to award the production of its new midsize SUV to the Chattanooga plant in Tennessee. The Group will be investing a total of approximately US$900 million (€643 million) in the production of the newly developed, seven-passenger SUV, creating 2,000 additional jobs in the US. About US$600 million (€432 million) will be invested in Tennessee.
The midsize SUV, which is based on the MQB-based CrossBlue plug-in hybrid concept vehicle, was developed especially for the North American market. The CrossBlue made its global debut at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. (Earlier post.)
Researchers demonstrate use of 3D printing to produce and operate light-weight, low-cost electrolyzers
July 05, 2014
A team at the University of Glasgow has demonstrated the production and operation of a PEM electrolyzer constructed from silver-coated 3D-printed components fabricated from polypropylene. The use of 3D printing allows construction of light-weight, low-cost electrolyzers and the rapid prototyping of flow field design.
In a paper accepted by the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the researchers report data showing that performance is excellent for a first-generation device in terms of overall efficiency, internal resistances and current-voltage response. This development opens the door to the fabrication of light-weight and inexpensive electrolyzers as well as related electrochemical devices such as flow batteries and fuel cells, they suggested.
Renault-Nissan Alliance posts record €2.9B in synergies in 2013 ahead of launch of first common module family vehicles; targeting €4.3B in 2016
July 02, 2014
|The Common Module Family represents a new approach to engineering for the Renault/Nissan Alliance. Click to enlarge.|
The Renault-Nissan Alliance posted record synergies of €2.87 billion (US$3.9B) in 2013, up from €2.69 billion (US$3.7 billion) in the previous year. Purchasing, powertrain and vehicle engineering remained the biggest contributors as the Alliance geared up for the launch of its first Common Module Family (CMF) vehicles. (Earlier post.)
Purchasing, which is jointly managed by Renault-Nissan Purchasing Organization (RNPO), generated €1.036 billion (US$1.4 billion) in synergies. Vehicle engineering, which relates to common platforms and components, accounted for €714 million (US$975 million) . The co-development and exchange of powertrains accounted for €525 million (US$717 million.
Pilot at BMW Munich plant evaluating use in vehicle assembly of custom orthotic devices produced by 3D printing
A pilot project in BMW’s Munich vehicle assembly plan is exploring the benefits of a new and innovative ergonomic tool—a flexible finger cot, which protects workers against excess strains on the thumb joints while carrying out certain assembly activities. The project is part of a dissertation in cooperation with the Department of Ergonomics at the Technical University of Munich.
Each of the flexible assembly aids is a unique piece, customized to the match the form and size of a worker’s hand. The BMW Group makes these orthotic devices in-house, using additive production procedures—i.e., “3D printing”.
LLNL/MIT team creates ultralight, ultrastiff metamaterials; possible applications for automotive and aerospace
June 20, 2014
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed materials with the same weight and density as aerogel (“frozen smoke”) but with 10,000 times more stiffness using additive micro-manufacturing processes. The research team’s findings are published in an article in the journal Science.
The micro-architected metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit mass density, even at ultralow density. This performance derives from a network of nearly isotropic microscale unit cells with high structural connectivity and nanoscale features, the structural members of which are designed to carry loads in tension or compression, the researchers said. Materials with these properties could someday be used to develop parts and components for aircraft, automobiles and space vehicles.
New robotic friction stir welding method for mixed materials; potential application for battery integration
June 11, 2014
|New friction stir welding tool also functions as a temperature sensor for improved quality. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at University West in Trollhättan have addressed two drawbacks to the robotic friction stir welding (FSW) joining process for mixed materials—path accuracy and temperature—with the development of a deflection model and integral temperature controller.
Car manufacturers are increasingly looking to a hybrid or mixed materials design, in which a combination of different materials such as steel and aluminium are joined, for weight reductions in their vehicles. With classic welding methods, joining of dissimilar materials has not been possible. With friction stir welding (FSW), on the other hand, high quality dissimilar joints can be obtained. (Earlier post.) The use of industrial robots also allows FSW of materials along complex joint lines.
Ducker: automotive aluminum content to hit explosive growth from 2015 to 2025; 50 years of uninterrupted growth “guaranteed”
June 10, 2014
|NA aluminum sheet demand for auto body and closure parts. Click to enlarge.|
By 2025, more than 75% of all new pickup trucks produced in North America will be aluminum-bodied, according to a survey of automakers conducted by global consulting and research firm Ducker Worldwide and commissioned by The Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group (ATG). The study surveyed all major automakers and forecasts that Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler will become the biggest users of aluminum sheet in the next decade.
It also forecasts that the number of vehicles with complete aluminum body structures will reach 18% of North American production, from less than 1% today. Vehicle segments revealed as emerging aluminum content leaders are pickup trucks, sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and both mid-sized and full-size sedans.
New Ford Transit debuts with new two-wet monocoat paint technology; improved durability and sustainability
May 27, 2014
|New two-wet monocoat paint process. Click to enlarge.|
Ford began production of the North American Transit at Kansas City Assembly Plant on 30 April, and vans will be available in US and Canada this summer. Transit vehicles built in Kansas City are the first to use a new two-wet monocoat paint process developed by Ford and its paint suppliers. The technology results in more durable paint, uses less energy and water, and reduces carbon dioxide and particulate emissions compared with conventional paint processes.
The new paint was subjected to testing simulating typical conditions the vehicle will see over 10 year—e.g., resistance to chipping and scratching, pollutants and sun exposure. Data from preliminary advanced weathering testing indicates that paint applied with the new two-wet technology will retain 90% of its gloss at four years in service compared to 1% gloss retention for paint applied using a conventional monocoat process.
GM’s Brownstown Battery Assembly expands; building new battery system for 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV
May 14, 2014
|General Motors Brownstown Battery Assembly Plant worker Tina Oaks attaches wiring harnesses on a Spark EV battery pack. Click to enlarge.|
General Motors will bring all its electric vehicle battery pack building capabilities in-house with production of battery systems for the 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV at its expanded battery assembly plant in Brownstown, Mich.
A newly designed battery system features an overall storage capacity of 19 kWh and uses 192 lithium ion cells. The cells are produced at LG Chem’s plant in Holland, Mich. The battery system weight of 474 lbs (215 kg)—86 pounds (39 kg) lighter than the system in the 2014 Spark EV. The Spark EV battery is built on a dedicated production line at Brownstown, which also manufactures complete battery packs for the Chevrolet Volt, Opel Ampera and Cadillac ELR.
Magnesium alloy VSC Machine successfully begins trial operation at GM China Advanced Technical Center
April 04, 2014
|Magnesium alloy VSC machine. Click to enlarge.|
The GM China Advanced Technical Center (ATC) in Shanghai announced the operation of its magnesium alloy Vertical Squeeze Casting (VSC) machine—the first designed for developing next-generation magnesium castings. GM said that this achievement marks a breakthrough in its lightweight materials research.
Squeeze casting is a process in which molten metal is introduced to casting cavities with minimum turbulence and then solidifies under very high pressure (typically above 100 MPa) within closed dies. The absence of turbulent metal flow, aided by the high applied pressure, can suppress gas porosity, notes Ohio State University Professor Alan Luo in a 2013 review of magnesium casting technologies.
3-year, $75.7M eRamp power electronics research project launches at Infineon
April 02, 2014
The three-year research project “eRamp”, intended to strengthen and expand Germany and Europe as centers of expertise for the manufacture of power electronics, launched at Infineon Technologies in Dresden. Twenty-six research partners from six countries are participating. Infineon, a global market leader in power semiconductors, is leading the €55-million (US$75.7-million) project.
Power electronics—the electronic components and their power semiconductors—help keep the loss of electrical energy as low as possible and help minimize power consumption in a wide variety of applications, including hybrid and electric drive systems. eRamp research activities will focus on the rapid introduction of new production technologies and further exploration of chip packaging technologies for power semiconductors.
President Obama announces two new public-private manufacturing innovation institutes; new manufacturing innovation institute competition
February 25, 2014
President Obama announced two new manufacturing innovation institutes led by the Department of Defense supported by a $140-million Federal commitment combined with more than $140 million in non-federal resources: (1) a Detroit-area-headquartered consortium of businesses and universities, with a focus on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing; and (2) a Chicago-headquartered consortium of businesses and universities that will concentrate on digital manufacturing and design technologies.
Obama also launched a competition for a new manufacturing innovation institute to build US strength in manufacturing advanced composites, the first of four new competitions to be launched this year.
Honda begins 2015 Fit production at new plant in Mexico; plant designed exclusively for subcompacts
February 23, 2014
Honda continued the expansion of its manufacturing operations in North America with the production start of the redesigned 2015 Honda Fit at a new, automobile plant of Honda de Mexico, S.A. de C.V. (HDM). The start-up of the Celaya Plant increases Honda’s annual automobile production capacity in North America to approximately 1.92 million units. In 2013, more than 90% of the Honda and Acura automobiles sold in the US were produced in North America; this is expected to exceed 95% when the Celaya plant reaches full capacity.
Located in Celaya, Guanajuato, the US$800-million plant began production less than two years after construction started in early 2012, and will employ 3,200 associates with an annual capacity of 200,000 vehicles and engines when it reaches full production later this year. In addition to the 2015 Honda Fit, the plant will begin production late this year of an all-new compact SUV.
IHS Automotive forecasts global production of plug-in vehicles to rise by 67% this year
February 04, 2014
|Global electric vehicle production forecast for 2014. Source: IHS Automotive. Click to enlarge.|
Driven by tighter emission standards in Europe, worldwide production of plug-in electric vehicles(PEVs)—including both battery-electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models—will increase by 67% this year, according to IHS Automotive, driven by Polk. The jump in the PEV market this year contrasts with an expected 3.6% rise in global manufacturing of all motor vehicles expected in 2014.
Total production of PEVs is projected to rise to more than 403,000 this year, up from slightly more than 242,000 in 2013. Growth will accelerate sharply from the 44% increase in 2013, based on data from the new IHS Automotive Hybrid-EV Portal. In December 2013, IHS projected total global automotive sales in 2014 of 85 million, roughly resulting in an expected approximate 0.5% share for PEVs in the global market this year.
DOE to award up to $12M for technologies to produce renewable carbon fiber from biomass
The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award (DE-FOA-0000996) up to $12 million in funding to advance the development of a cost-competitive pathway to produce high-performance carbon fiber for vehicle lightweighting from renewable non-food biomass. Reducing a vehicle’s weight by just 10% can improve fuel economy by 6% to 8%.
Carbon fiber composites are lightweight, yet strong, materials that can greatly improve vehicle fuel efficiency when incorporated into structural and non-structural components. Carbon fibers are polymers that are typically made from petroleum and natural gas feedstocks (propylene and ammonia, respectively) that react to form acrylonitrile (ACN) which is then polymerized and spun into polyacrylonitrile (PAN).
Constellium and UACJ plan JV in US to produce Body-in-White aluminium sheet for the automotive industry
January 24, 2014
Constellium N.V, a global aluminum products company formerly known as Alcan Engineered Products and headquartered in Amsterdam, and UACJ Corporation (UACJ), a Japan-based global aluminum manufacturer, are joining forces with a view to supply and market aluminum Body-in-White sheet to the North American automotive industry. To achieve this goal, Constellium and UACJ, through Tri-Arrows Aluminum Inc. (TAA), (UACJ’s subsidiary with Sumitomo Corporation and Itochu Group), intend to create a joint venture company in the United States, as an equal partnership, to serve the North American market.
The JV is expected to include a continuous heat treatment and conversion line with an initial target capacity of 100,000 metric tons supplied by cold rolled coils from both partners’ rolling mills. The planned facility is designed to allow for expansion beyond 100,000 tons. The total joint investment by both parties is expected to amount to approximately $150 million.
Study first to quantify amount of US pollution resulting from Chinese manufacturing for exports
January 21, 2014
|Average annual percentage of black carbon pollution related to Chinese exports. Credit: Lin et al. Click to enlarge.|
Chinese air pollution blowing across the Pacific Ocean is often caused by the manufacturing of goods there for export to the US and Europe, according to findings of a new study to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
China is responsible for only a small percentage of the annual pollution in the US, but powerful global winds known as “westerlies” can push airborne chemicals across the ocean in days, particularly during the spring, causing dangerous spikes in contaminants. Dust, ozone and carbon can accumulate in valleys and basins in California and other Western states.
President Obama announces new $140M public-private manufacturing innovation institute focused on power electronics
January 16, 2014
President Obama announced the selection of a consortium of businesses and universities, led by North Carolina State University, to lead a manufacturing innovation institute for next-generation power electronics. (Earlier post.)
More specifically, the Next Generation Power Electronics Institute is focused on making wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor technologies cost-competitive with current silicon-based power electronics in the next five years. Compared to silicon-based technologies, wide bandgap semiconductors can operate at higher temperatures and have greater durability and reliability at higher voltages and frequencies—ultimately achieving higher performance while using less electricity.
CAR report quantifies automotive’s position as a leading high-tech industry
January 08, 2014
|Percentage of Global R&D Spending by Industry, 2013. Source: Booz & Company “Global Innovation”; Battelle R&D Magazine; Center for Automotive Research 2012. Click to enlarge.|
A newly-released report by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) concludes that the automotive industry is not only “high-tech,” it is frequently a leader in technological developments and applications. The report, supported by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, measures the technological nature of today’s auto industry and compares it to other sectors of the economy often viewed as technologically advanced.
The report authors acknowledge the difficulty of defining “high-tech” in an ever-changing economic environment. After reviewing of the works of several researchers and government agencies, CAR developed a working definition to differentiate high-tech industries from other sectors. Broadly, high-tech industries generally have the following characteristics: