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TWO INDUSTRIES ‒ ONE GOAL Stahlinstitut VDEh Industrieverband Massivumformung e. V. (IMU)

Steel Forgings for a Lightweight Automotive Future

Further reducing the weight of vehicles is one of the decisive challenges facing the automotive industry at the start of the 21st century. This is because less weight means fewer CO2 emissions as well as improved material and resource efficiency. Thanks to its lightweight design qualities, steel will retain a central role in these developments. With immediate effect, 40 companies from Western Europe, Japan and the US will devote their efforts to determining the lightweight design potential of hybrid vehicles and heavy commercial vehicles in terms of the powertrain, chassis and transmission. The results will be available in the early summer of 2018.  This undertaking represents the start of the third phase of The Lightweight Forging Initiative, which commenced at the beginning of 2013.

The successful five-year collaboration among the companies of the Initiative under the auspices of the German Forging Association (Industrieverband Massivumformung e. V.) and the VDEh Steel Institute (Stahlinstitut VDEh) will now continue with around 40 international partners in project phase III. Under analysis this time is the lightweight design potential of forged components in the powertrain and chassis of a hybrid car – a vehicle type which will become increasingly important over the next few years up to the complete electrification of passenger cars. Furthermore, an additional focal point will be the transmission, drive shaft and differential of a heavy commercial vehicle (truck). Likewise, accompanying studies on the transmission will determine the primary and secondary effects of lightweighting for the transmission of a hybrid vehicle and a truck. Another study will clarify which information is necessary for introducing newly developed higher-strength transmission steels at the customer.

Review:
In 2013, 24 forging companies and steel manufacturers joined forces in The Lightweight Forging Initiative to demonstrate how forging technology contributes to automotive lightweight design. Experts from both industries asked themselves how individual components – from the crankshaft and transmission shafts to gears and fasteners – can be rendered lighter by means of material, production engineering and design measures. And the results are impressive: By successfully optimizing components of a medium-sized passenger car during project phase I, the lightweight design ideas led to an average weight reduction of 10 percent, leading to a weight saving of 42 kg. And in the case of the light commercial vehicle which 28 forging companies analysed during project phase II, the potential weight saving even amounted to 99 kg.

In addition, a research project funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) was launched in 2015. This involved 10 university chairs and institutes analysing ways of making car powertrains even lighter by means of new steel materials, part designs and production methods, while nevertheless fulfilling high service life expectancy.

Chairmen of the Initiative

Dr. Hans-Willi Raedt (Chairman for the forging partners, Vice President Advanced Engineering, Hirschvogel Automotive Group, Denklingen):
"High-tech companies across the world are demonstrating the ways in which forging can contribute to lightweight design."

Dr. Thomas Wurm (Chairman for the steel partners, Head of Technical Customer Support and Application Development at Georgsmarienhütte GmbH):
"We develop modern, high-strength steels for processes and products that offer cost-efficient lightweight design solutions for fulfilling future requirements in terms of performance, driving dynamics and the environment."

Dipl.-Math. Sabine Widdermann (Project Management, Management of Strategy Projects of the German Forging Industry Association):
"Forging the future - we are demonstrating lightweight design approaches, even for electric vehicles."

 

Dr.-Ing. Hans-Willi Raedt
Dr.-Ing. Hans-Willi Raedt
Dr.-Ing. Thomas Wurm
Dr.-Ing. Thomas Wurm
Dipl.-Math. Sabine Widdermann
Dipl.-Math. Sabine Widdermann