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Products and solutions, 2006-09-19, 11:00 AM

ThyssenKrupp Steel with new manufacturing technology for automotive lightweighting

ThyssenKrupp Steel AG has significantly advanced the technology for manufacturing weight- and cost-optimized tubular components for cars. A pilot press recently went into operation which drastically shortens the manufacturing route for tubular parts. The new machine is based on the ThyssenKrupp Steel-developed T3 technology. It works like a four-column press, has an integrated laser welding head and forms tubular parts from flat blanks in a single operation. The parts can be made with varying cross sections and with secondary design features. ThyssenKrupp Steel will be showing examples for T3 parts in hall 17, booth B05.

Tubular body and chassis parts are regarded as the key to automotive weight reduction because unlike conventional stamped and welded parts they do not require welding flanges. They are also more resistant to torsion and utilize existing space better. ThyssenKrupp Steel has created three generations of Thyssen Tailored Tubes, all made from flat blanks and longitudinally welded by laser. The blanks can have different thicknesses, strengths and coatings, allowing them to be precisely tailored to the load conditions in the finished part.

With third-generation Thyssen Tailored Tubes, the cross section can vary over the length of the component, changing for example from cylindrical to conical to triangular or rectangular. In addition, secondary design features such as recesses or projections can also be integrated. The parts are so close to net shape that car manufacturers can eliminate complete manufacturing steps. In particular the complex process of hydroforming, currently used to give tubular parts their final shape, can be dispensed with in many cases. Compared with conventional stamped and welded parts, tubular components are at least cost-neutral and offer a weight saving of up to 26 percent.

The new pilot press can manufacture all types of Thyssen Tailored Tubes up to a length of three meters and an equivalent diameter of 180 millimeters. However it is particularly effective in manufacturing third-generation tubes. In the pilot machine, previously cut blanks are shaped into tubes in two or more dies and then welded by laser. To produce varying cross sections and secondary design features the blanks are formed against a correspondingly shaped core. Additionally or alternatively, prior to curling the blank can be pressed into a bottom die by means of the core to shape the part in this way.

ThyssenKrupp Steel developed the T3 technology itself and built the world's only machine of its type in association with Karl Eugen Fischer GmbH of Burgkunstadt in a period of only twelve months. The press develops a total tonnage of up to 1,600 tons, including 1,000 tons on a single axis, allowing it to process even high-strength steels. Parts can be positioned in four directions simultaneously, with an accuracy of between one and five hundredths on each axis. The machine is used to manufacture Thyssen Tailored Tubes in low and medium volumes in near-production cycle times. It will also be used as a tryout press for future high-volume machines.

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