Automotive Industry is Trying Different Materials. Is Your Shop Ready?
August 7, 2015
Automakers round the world are faced with a serious dilemma: How do you meet various government emission and fuel economy standards while still producing strong, safe vehicles? Reducing weight is a key strategy, of course, and that means moving away from steel to lighter materials. It’s estimated that steel currently accounts for about 60% of an average automobile’s weight. However steel content decreases as automakers incorporate aluminum, plastics, manganese, composites and advanced high-strength, but lighter weight, steel alloys. The most recent example is the venerable Ford F-150 pickup that now uses aluminum for 25% of its curb weight.
However these lighter-than-conventional-steel materials come at a price. In fact all can add considerable expense to the overall cost of a vehicle. Yet what choice do the automakers have? The current US fuel economy standards require improving average efficiency from 27.5 MPG to 54.4 MPG by 2025. The European Union mandates that carbon dioxide emissions must fall from 130 grams to 95 grams per kilometer by 2021.
This presents a major challenge to the CNC machine shops that serve the automotive industry. In essence they must be capable of not only machining a number of different materials to tight tolerance but also, because of the cost of materials and pricing pressures from their automotive customers, do so extremely efficiently and without scrap and rework.
The first step, of course, is to determine if you have the right CNC machines and other equipment necessary to efficiently make parts from a variety of materials. Aluminum, for example, requires machines with built-in thermal stability to insure accuracy. Plus aluminum creates sticky chips that usually require precisely delivered, high-pressure coolant to keep the cutting area clear and a filtering chip conveyor to eliminate bottlenecks. Composites also create significant heat when being machined, and because they are made up of layers of various materials, require different kinds of tooling than conventional metals. Other exotic metals each have their own unique characteristics. All of this means that it’s critical to match CNC machines with the power, rigidity and accuracy to the materials being machined.
With more than 90 years of experience providing machine tools and peripherals to manufacturers of all sizes, Gosiger has the applications and technology knowledge to insure that you can handle any material challenge. Gosiger’s Engineered Services Division can help you refine your processes and provide applications software support, while Gosiger Automation can show you how robotically automating your process increases your productivity and profitability.