Sometimes the past and future are very close together. ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe has not just built a museum for 160 years of steel history at Westfalenhütte in Dortmund; the company has also located part of its Technology & Innovation division there. Museum visitors marvel at steel tools throughout the ages while around 60 engineers are working nearby on the future of steel.
Hot forming has established itself as a pioneering technology in the automotive industry. This production method is optimal for manufacturing especially complex, stable, and crash-proof components, which have to be lighter than conventional solutions made of steel. Yet anyone wanting to use these properties in a cost-efficient way has to precisely understand the variables relevant to the process.
“The process is still relatively new compared to traditional forming simulation,” says Stéphane Graff, Senior Engineer at ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe. “Also, it is significantly more complex due to additional variables such as temperature, time, and forming speed.”
Development costs reduced by up to 20 percent
ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe has a combined simulation and modeling system. “This enables us to adjust the hot forming process precisely,” explains Julia Mura, who maintains contact with the supplier industry at Sales Automotive. “We save our customers valuable time and money because they don’t have to stop their large production lines to conduct the large number of trials that are required.” This enables the steel company to reduce development costs for its customers by up to 20 percent.
The dimensions of the test facilities supervised by Sascha Sikora seem surprisingly compact at first glance, but don’t let yourself be deceived. The same elemental forces as in larger production operations that fill gigantic factory floors are also at work in these facilities. “Our modeling system enables us to conduct tests faster and as needed,” he says. “Later we deliver precise process parameters to our customers so that they know exactly how the sheet with the desired qualities will behave in their own hot forming process.”
Valid results in little time
The secret of this success lies in the combination of the modeling system and FEM simulation (Finite Elements Method). This rapidly leads to valid results. Customers looking to optimize their components or processes will be able to benefit from these experiences.
Synergy effects within the group also make the development of new parts more comfortable for manufacturers. “We work closely together with ThyssenKrupp Systems Engineering,” says Sikora. “We provide our development know-how, and our colleagues there deliver the right tools or even the complete production line.”