Automotive Weight Reduction Expo 2013 (Report 1)

3D additive manufacturing and lightweight metal use



 Below is the first of the two-part report on technologies exhibited at the 3rd Automotive Weight Reduction Expo held January 16-18, 2013, in Tokyo. Report 1 contains additive manufacturing processes using 3D data, and weight reducing techniques using aluminum, magnesium and other lightweight metals.

 Report 2, which is coming shortly, will focus on weight reducing techniques using plastics.

* Click on the photo for a larger image.

Related report: Automotive Weight Reduction Expo 2012 (1) lightweight materials (posted March 2012)

3D additive manufacturing technique

 Four companies, including NTT Data Engineering Systems, Koiwai, Altech and CMET (a Nabtesco group company), exhibited additive manufacturing equipment for making products and parts of complex shapes in a short time. Related materials, services and manufactured products were also exhibited.

 There are a number of variations to the additive manufacturing technique. The basic procedure, for example in the laser sintering developed by NTT Data Engineering Systems, is as follows; 3D data which are created on a 3D CAD software package are sliced into a number of thin layers. Next, powder material is irradiated with laser beams according to the sliced data so that the material is hardened layer by layer. This process is repeated until a three-dimensional model is created. This technique is used to make final products or parts using metal or plastics, and also to make sand molds.

 This system is referred to as laser sintering, additive fabrication, additive manufacturing, etc.

 CMET introduced a stereolithography system apparatus called "Rapid Meister" along with two types of original resins that were developed for that system exclusively. The TSR-884 is the world's first resin that bears both heat resistance and transparency. The TSR-883 gasifies and is lost under heat, a property that enables stereolithography precision casting that replaces the conventional lost-wax process.

 Altech introduced a 3D circuit fabrication process for drawing circuits of complex three-dimensional shape. The process combines 3D printing and laser direct structuring processes.

 According to CMET's brochures, the application of the additive manufacturing method has been used mainly for design verification of a prototype, use as a presentation tool, and for functional or performance evaluation purposes. The company expects that it will be used in the near future more frequently for manufacturing products and parts as well.

Lattice models fabricated by laser sintering
Lattice models fabricated by laser sintering
(exhibited by NTT Data Engineering Systems)

Circuit created for motorcycle's handlebar using laser direct structuring
Circuit created for motorcycle's handlebar using laser direct structuring
(exhibited by Altech)

Transparent engine block fabricated using the transparent, heat-resistant resin, TSR-884
Transparent engine block fabricated using the transparent,
heat-resistant resin, TSR-884 (exhibited by CMET)

Master models for casting turbocharger impellers and the cast parts fabricated by stereolithography precision casting
Master models for casting turbocharger impellers and the cast parts
fabricated by stereolithography precision casting (exhibited by CMET)


Additive Manufacturing

NTT Data Engineering Systems Laser Sintering system  This system allows products having complex shapes to be fabricated as solids, which contributes to reducing the parts count. Although it is used primarily for prototyping, it is also used for small-lot manufacturing of final products. According to the exhibitor, parts made by this method are as strong as cast parts made of the same material.
 The exhibitor offers several apparatuses: (1) EOSINT-S uses casting sand to make the main mold and cores for sand mold casting directly from 3D data, (2) EOSINT M uses metal material to make prototypes, final products or molds using 3D data, and (3) EOSINT P uses plastics to make prototypes, final products or lost-wax models. The company also sells test molding services, and plastic, metal and casting materials associated with its apparatuses.
 (Note) In the lost-wax casting process, the mold is prepared first from which a wax pattern is obtained for actual casting.
KOIWAI Production using Laser Sintering process  Koiwai engages in the manufacture and sales of prototypes and mass production castings. It uses the EOSINT-S (introduced above) handled by NTT Data Engineering Systems to manufacture sand molds. The company also makes prototypes to order and mass produces casting cores. The company is capable of accepting orders for up to 10,000 pieces a month.
Electron beam melting (EBM)  Koiwai has been engaging in the manufacture of products using metal powder by the electron beam melting (EBM) process since 2012. EBM manufactures metal parts by melting and solidifying metal powder with an electron beam. The company exhibited turbocharger impellers and other parts.
 EBM is carried out in vacuum completely free of impurities that may affect the purity of the material used. This leads to high-quality, high-density manufacturing. It does not require heat treatment normally used for removal of post-molding strains. The process also accepts easily oxidizable materials such as titanium.
ALTECH Objet inkjet 3D printer system  The company exhibited an Objet inkjet 3D printer developed by the Israel-based printing firm Objet Ltd. (merged in December 2012 with Stratasys Inc., a U.S. corporation), and samples manufactured by the 3D printer. The Object printer system slices the 3D-CAD data into 16-microns thickness, sprays model resin from an inkjet printer for a single layer at a time (liquid at room temperature) and cures the material with UV lamp. This process is repeated until a three-dimensional model has been fabricated. Model resin may be chosen from more than 17 types that include transparent rubber and ABS.
 Used for the shape and structural inspection of prototypes. The system is also used to check designs and functions, which contributes to reducing the lead time of development and outsourcing costs. This also helps to maintain confidentiality as the design data never leave the laboratory.
 Printed materials were distributed at the Expo introducing Hino Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, the former Sanyo Electric and other companies that use the Objet printers. All praised the printers saying they helped reduce the lead time and cost of prototyping. The H-based emblems currently used on Hino vehicles have been made by vapor deposition on the model molded by an Objet 3D printer.
CMET Rapid Meister ATOMm-4000  The Rapid Meister apparatus developed by CMET irradiates UV laser on a liquid-state photo curable resin based on the 3D-CAD data sliced into specified thickness. The material is cured layer by layer according to the sliced data and the layers are laminated to form a three-dimensional part. In addition to the large-sized apparatus, NRM-6000, the company has developed a middle-sized model, ATOMm-4000 carrying a price tag of approximately 20 million yen, nearly half the larger-sized model marketed for 30 to 50 million yen. The system can mold parts in sizes up to 400 by 400 by 300mm.
Transparent heat-resistant resin TSR-884  CMET developed a transparent, heat-resistant resin dubbed TSR-884 (an epoxy antimony-free resin) for use with Rapid Meister. The development effort was motivated by the potential need of visualization by means of a transparent prototype in the process of new product development (one of the needs is the evaluation of the flow of liquids in the engine). It is used in verifying the recirculating flow of colored water for real evaluation in which the flow is compared against the result of CAE analysis.
 This marks the world's first development of resin that has both transparency and heat resistance. It was used in making the outer lens of an HID lamp prototype and remained intact for eight hours of continuous lighting.
Stereolithography precision casting process (TSR-883 resin development)  CMET has developed a substitute for the conventional lost-wax process. The new process called "stereolithography precision casting process" uses TSR-883 (an epoxy antimony-free resin) that burns without leaving ashes. The resin is used to make a master model by stereolithography in the Rapid Meister from which a casting mold is obtained.
 The stereolithography precision casting process does not require molds as a stereolithography output is used in place of a wax pattern model. This makes it ideal for small-lot production or small-quantity prototyping at an early stage of development. It contributes to a 67% reduction in lead time and 45% reduction in cost in making six impellers for a turbocharger concurrently (the lost-wax process requires a substantially high initial cost for mold design and fabrication when only a small quantity is involved).
 Stereolithography casting processes have been around for over ten plus years but lacked in precision because of the ash residue. Precision casting is now possible after the development of TSR-883.


3D circuit layout structuring on molded parts
ALTECH Laser Direct Structuring (LDS)  LPKF Laser & Electronics AG, a German corporation, introduced a circuit layer structuring method called Laser Direct Structuring (LDS). The process enables efficiently structuring circuits on three-dimensional parts having complex shapes.
 Parts are manufactured by using a thermoplastic resin coated with a special additive that is activated by laser beams. To structure circuit layout on parts, the company's Fusion 3D 1100 laser beam machine is used and the portions receiving a laser beam is activated and works as a catalyst in the copper plating process. Copper plating is applied then to form the circuit.
 The laser beam machine uses CAD data about the product to be manufactured and information of the surface being machined.
 This process is used to make parts associated with the steering handle on BMW vehicles (supplied by TRW Automotive using this technology). VW and Audi are also mulling the use of the process. It is also used widely to make antennas in cellular phones.



Aluminum products and magnesium products exhibited by Morimura Bros.

 As a Japanese agency for leading metal material manufacturers overseas, Morimura Bros., Inc. handles lightweight metals and their manufacturing processes.

Hatchback inner panel by Magontec used on the VW Lupo
Hatchback inner panel using magnesium alloys by Magontec used on the VW Lupo

Cast titanium parts by Akrapovic of Slovenia
Cast titanium parts by Akrapovic of Slovenia (exhibited by Morimura Bros.)

Door inner panel manufactured by super forming process
Door inner panel manufactured by super forming process
(exhibited by Morimura Bros.)

Bumpers manufactured by ECO-AI for Hyundai's Genesis exhibited by IONE & BOWON Light Metal of Korea
Bumpers manufactured by ECO-AI for Hyundai's Genesis exhibited
by IONE & BOWON Light Metal of Korea


Aluminum, magnesium and titanium products and their manufacturing processes exhibited by Morimura Bros.

RSP Technology Fine crystal aluminum alloys
by melt spinning process
 Fine crystal aluminum alloys manufactured by RSP Technology of the Netherlands using a melt spinning process were exhibited. Hot molten alloys are cooled down rapidly in this method. The company's lineup includes several types of alloys including aluminum alloys that present a number of new characteristics, RSA-6061 having a flat surface roughness, and RSA-483 having a low thermal expansion factor and high specific stiffness.
 RSA-708, used to make automotive pistons, presents extremely high strength (1.4 folds of strength of aluminum 7075 alloys, 1.3 folds of titanium 6242 alloys).
Magontec Mg alloys for die-casting  Magontec, an Australia-based manufacturer of magnesium alloys for die-casting, has an alloy foundry in China and recycling factories in Germany, Romania and China. The use of magnesium is increasing in Europe to reduce the overall weights of the powertrain and interior.
 Other than the VW Lupo in the photo, Porsche Panamera is fitted with the valve cover, timing chain case and oil housing, all made of AE44 alloys. The use of the alloys has contributed to 12.5kg weight reduction compared to the cars built with conventional materials.
Mg alloy materials for special purposes  Magnesium Elektron, a British corporation, has seven production sites in total in Europe and North America. The company supplies general-purpose and special-purpose magnesium materials for aviation, electric appliances and automotive industries.
Akrapovic Titanium cast components  Titanium cast components for motorcycles and automobiles manufactured by Akrapovic, a Slovenian corporation, were exhibited. Titanium is 40% lighter than stainless steel. The company makes available its know-how for making mufflers and other exhaust system components that it has accumulated through racing experience. The components are cast by a lost-wax process.
 A superformed structuring process developed by Superform Automotive, a British corporation, was introduced. A sheet alloy dubbed "5083" consisting of aluminum, magnesium, manganese, etc., is placed in the mold and pressed under hot air (450 to 500 degrees Celsius) to form the structure.
 This process enables unique styling with minimum development costs and is used to make door inners, body sides, roofs and other components for Aston Martin and other niche luxury cars, and also in the Boeing 777 aircraft. It allows sizes up to 3 by 2 by 0.6m (depth) and is ideal for making large components having complex shapes.


New Mg and Al alloys developed by IONE & BOWON in Korea
Developed in Korea  New alloys, Eco-Mg and Eco-Al, developed by the Korean government-affiliated Korea Institute of Industrial Technology were introduced. The alloys are produced and supplied by IONE & BOWON Light Metal Co., Ltd. Morimura Bros. is its agency in Japan.
ECO-Mg  ECO-Mg is a new alloy with an addition of CaO that contributes to higher fire retardancy, strength and castability along with lower die-cast defective fractions. This material is used to make the oil pans used on Hyundai Motor's automobiles. Mg is prone to oxidation and requires a protective gas to prevent oxidation in the process of manufacture. This protection is no longer necessary with the Eco-Mg.
ECO-Al  ECO-Al is an alloy with an addition of Eco-Mg (instead of ordinary Mg) that contributes to higher tensile strength and fatigue strength along with improved castability and moldability. It is used to make bumpers for Hyundai Motor's Genesis, seat rails on Kia Motors' Grand Carnival and pistons.


Other aluminum and magnesium alloys and their manufacturing processes

Three new technologies developed by Keishin Aluminum die-cast and resin joining technology  "Die-cast surface roughing (chemical etching)" is applied to an aluminum component and the treated aluminum die-cast part is placed in a resin injection mold for forming. The molten resin fills the etched surface structure of the die-cast part and the two parts are joined together. The patent-protected process may be used to replace conventional automotive components with plastics for weight reduction.
MMC die-casting process  Keishin, jointly with Nihon Ceratec, has developed a precision casting technology using an aluminum alloy material called MMC (Metal Matrix Composites) containing 25 to 30% SiC particles. Because of ideal characteristics including light weight, high stiffness, low thermal expansion factors and high thermal conductivity, the material is preferred for making heat sinks, heat dissipation cabinets, etc.
Undercut die-casting process (using setting cores)  "Undercut" refers to a part which cannot be directly ejected from the injection molding machine because of the complex features such as concavity and convexity or pouch-like shapes. In conventional molding, undercuts are either ejected after changing the direction of the open mold or splitting it into halves, or considered unfit for die-casting altogether.
 The company proposes the use of setting cores that are ejected after the mold containing undercut is die-cast. Several types of cores may be used including the collapsible core having special coating and the soluble core that dissolves in salt after casting.
NNH Mg cast components  NNH supplies Mg alloy castings. The company exhibited the engine head cover used on large (1200cc) motorcycles exported to North America. Mg presents a number of advantages that include being the lightest of all metals for commercial use (2/3 weight of Al), high resistance against deformation, machinability, weldability, and abundance.



Self-tapping screws, resin and metal joining technology and welding machines

 A self-tapping screw is a type of screw that advances when turned while creating its own thread so that the material is fastened without the need of pre-drilling. The untightening torque is large which makes the joint less vulnerable to vibration. Self-tapping screws were exhibited by Yamashina Corporation and Natec.

 Mitsubishi Electric Corporation exhibited the "electron beam welding machine" (1200 units have been sold already), and the "fine process control electron beam machine" released for sale in January 2012 for welding automotive electronics parts and manufacturing components used in secondary batteries.

Thirteen of the TAPTITE 2000 type bolts
TAPTITE 2000 used in the power transfer unit (PTU) on Ford cars.
Thirteen of the TAPTITE 2000 type bolts are seen in the photo
(exhibited by Yamashina).

An enlarged model of
An enlarged model of "DELTA PT Screw" for plastics exhibited by Natec.

Gear for manual transmission and a turbocharger impeller
Gear for manual transmission (welded joint is shown by an arrow in
the left-side photo) and a turbocharger impeller (between the impeller
and the shaft) welded on the Mitsubishi Electron Beam Machine.

Self-tapping screws and joining technologies

YAMASHINA Tapping screw
 Yamashina is evolving technologies provided by Conti-Reminc, a U.S. corporation. The company has been introducing TAPTITE 2000 having a higher axial strength (fastening force) than conventional screws since 2000. It has a larger contact area because of a unique thread design characterized by a swollen side. The tapping screws are used widely by European and American auto manufacturers including Mercedes-Benz, VW, BMW, Ford and GM.
 Yamashina also handles FASTITE 2000 Fastener bolts for steel sheets and MAGTITE 2000 Fastener bolts for Mg alloys.
NATEC Tapping screw
for plastic application
 Natec introduced self-tapping screws for plastic applications, DELTA PT Screw, evolved from technology developed by EJOT of Germany. They are characterized by a unique flank angle that contributes to low tightening torque and high untightening torque. This eliminates the use of the insert nuts (same as "sprews" described below) and allows for easier recycling of the plastic material. According to the exhibitor, the DELTA PT Screws can be used repeatedly without damaging the material.
 They are praised as ideal screws for plastic applications by GE Plastics (now SABIC Innovative Plastics) and The Dow Chemical Company of the United States.
Other tapping screws  Natec also introduced self-tapping screws for light alloys (Altracs Plus), tapping screws for high tensile steel (G.T.O tapping screws) and fasteners made of high strength aluminum alloy (AL7050).
(female screw reinforcements)
 A sprew is a stainless steel wire formed into the form of a cylindrical spring. A sufficient tightening force is sometimes unachieved when the thread is tapped directly in light metal, plastics or timber. In such situations, a hole is pre-drilled and a sprew is driven in and fixed in place. The male screw is then driven in to engage with the sprew.
(resin and metal joining technology)
 MEC proposed a resin and metal joining process called AMALPHA that may be used with stainless steel, aluminum, copper and other metals. The metal is soaked in an etching liquid to form fine irregularities in its surface and molten resin is introduced until it fills the voids and hardens. This creates a very strong joint between the two materials without the intervention of adhesives or packing material. Epoxy, phenol, PPS, PA6 and other plastics material may be used. The company is proposing an ECU box and other components consisting of PPS resin and aluminum.
Electron beam machine
Electron beam machine(EBM)  Electron Beam Welding is a fusion welding process in which electrons are introduced at high velocities in vacuum to cause local heat and fusion upon impact resulting in an instantaneous welding. The specific energy is more than 5,000 times higher than that of an arc welding process. The company has sold more than 1,200 units of its electron beam machines in 30 years that use this process.
 An electron beam has high beam energy absorption factors by metal, for instance, 80 to 90% of the energy is absorbed by copper or aluminum. The bead width (gap between two parts being welded together) is 1/10 to 1/20 that of an arc welding which means less deformation or strain. Since welding is performed in vacuum, the EBM may be used with titanium, molybdenum and other highly oxidation-prone metals as well.
(output waveform controllable)
 The FPC-EBW (Fine Process Control EBW), released for sale for commercial use in January 2012, is an ideal solution for welding copper and aluminum used to fabricate electronic parts. While electron beam is emitted continuously in conventional electron beam welding, the beam output from the FPC-EBW can be controlled in 0.05 milliseconds. This enables beam output control using a desired waveform and reduces weld strain and sputter (small particles of metal expelled during fusion).
 Highly sophisticated technology is necessary in manufacturing automotive electronics parts and secondary batteries. These products are made using copper, aluminum and other hard-to-weld materials while meeting industrial demand for downsizing, weight reduction and circuit integration. The FPC-EBW will help maintain high quality and productivity that could not be met with conventional technologies.



Weight reduction of silent chains, etc.

Silent chain system by Daido Kogyo
Silent chain system by Daido Kogyo

Lightweight in-wheel motor for motorcycles exhibited by Daido Kogyo
Lightweight in-wheel motor for motorcycles exhibited by Daido Kogyo

OETIKER's fasteners used in axles
OETIKER's fasteners used in axles


Weight reduction of silent chains, etc.

DAIDO KOGYO Lightweight silent chains  The engine camshaft is driven by timing chains that may be either roller-and-bush chains or the less noisy silent chains. Daido Kogyo has settled with silent chains and has been supplying its chain systems to Honda and other OEMs in Japan. The company has developed "high-strength thin chain series" achieving approx. 15% weight reduction, compared to the company's conventional products, after special surface treatment of the pins, optimization of the plate thickness and shape, etc.
Supplying chain systems to FAW
in China
 Daido Kogyo has delivered the above-mentioned lightweight chain systems for use on the 2000cc turbo engines of the FAW's HongQi H7, production of which began in the second half of 2012. The company displayed panels showing the engine and chain specifications.
Lightweight in-wheel motor  Daido Kogyo had a reference display of the lightweight in-wheel motor for motorcycles with CFRP-made disks and aluminum-made housing and rim. It has achieved a 35% weight reduction compared to the conventional steel-made in-wheel motor of the same output.
OETIKER Clamps & Rings  The company exhibited fasteners (clamps and rings) manufactured by Oetiker of Switzerland. Developed for fast and simple installation, the products exert excellent sealing performance when used to clamp round hoses and tubes using a special fastening tool.
 In the conventional rectangular fasteners that are tightened using a screw, a gap is often formed between round and rectangular parts, which can cause leaky water or oil. Oetiker's products are free of such gaps since the tightened part is also of a true circle.
 Oetiker has sales and service or manufacturing sites in 16 countries and its products are used widely by automotive and other industries.

Source: Exhibits and printed materials at the 3rd Automotive Weight Reduction Expo

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