February 19, 2001
As the stamping industry heads into a new century, it continues to be driven primarily by the automotive industry.
Editor's Note: This column was prepared by the staff of the Engineering Research Center for Net Shape Manufacturing (ERC/ NSM), The Ohio State University, Professor Taylan Altan, Director.
As we face the 21st century, the stamping business continues to be driven primarily by the automotive industry. The market forces that influence modern automotive technology also will affect future developments of stampingtechnology.
Major trends influencing automakers' future plans include:
1. The fastest-growing auto markets are in developing countries that are building up their own auto industries. Thus, these countries are expected to develop capabilities in manufacturing, including stamping, rapidly. Increasingly, they also will compete to supply components and subassemblies to North American OEMs.
2. More so than today, future car models must be designed and manufactured to address environmental, safety, and fuel economy concerns. Thus, issues such as lightweight structures, recycling, and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes must be confronted. This will require the development of innovative processes to stamp difficult-to-form materials such as high-strength steels and aluminum alloys.
3. OEMs depend increasingly on global suppliers. The cooperation between suppliers and auto manufacturers will continue to increase, which will require that first- and second-tier suppliers increase their R&D efforts to develop components, subassemblies, and novel processes to satisfy customer requirements.
4. The public wants vehicles that are safer and use less fuel but also retain current levels of performance, size, comfort, and utility. Furthermore, customers like to have customized models that must be manufactured in smaller production lots than traditional models. Thus, cost-effective processes must be applied to provide these special models at acceptable prices.
Lightweight Materials. Forming of aluminum alloys, tailor-welded blanks, high-strength steels, dual-phase steels, bake-hardened steels, aluminum, and steel sheet with textured surfaces to improve lubricity, etc., all present new challenges and the need to learn new stamping practices.
Small Production Volumes. One of the challenges for meeting demands for small production volumes is to reduce die costs dramatically. One way to achieve this is to manufacture dies by casting them from liquid molding compounds, by CNC machining of cured polyurethane boards, or by using composites such as a cement and polymer mixture.
Another method for reducing overall die costs would be the use of sheet hydroforming methods, in which fluid pressure is used to press a blank against a single hard die to form a sheet metal component. Considerable research is being conducted on sheet hydroforming in Europe. This includes an application that involves first welding two sheets together at the edges and then blowing them apart against two dies of different geometries to form container-like parts such as fuel tanks.