Originally a trained biologist, Müller-Pietralla has been saying it for many years now: CO2 emission regulations will fundamentally change vehicle concepts, car sharing will fundamentally change consumer behavior, and cities will fundamentally change their infrastructures due to electromobility. Speaking at the 2015 VDI conference, Müller-Pietralla stated, “People expect that technology will adapt to their and also to the environment’s needs. Quality of life is a central concern in the 21st century.”
More than most others, the automotive industry is forced to engage with the major societal developments of our time – globalization, megacities, urbanization. Three quarters of all Europeans are predicted to live in urban environments by 2050; in the U.S., it may be up to 90 percent. This necessitates entirely new concepts of mobility and transport versatility. “The mobility of the future will connect all areas of life,” said BMW’s CEO Harald Krüger when presenting the BMW Vision Next 100 study.
IAA: presenting four topics for the future
The automotive segment of thyssenkrupp is meeting the big questions of the future head-on, employing innovation and expertise in the development of materials and components as well as in the design of state-of-the-art assembly lines. As a full-scale systems provider, thyssenkrupp enables automotive manufacturers and parts suppliers to produce vehicles that are at once sustainable, autonomous, connected, and suitable for mass production.
thyssenkrupp is one of the leading materials and components suppliers to the automotive industry, as well as a go-to partner for engineering services at this year’s International Motor Show in Frankfurt; this is the first time in ten years that we are represented at this important trade show again directly. We have four key topics this year: E-mobility, Intelligent Chassis Systems, Autonomous Driving and the Future Automotive Factory.
Steel boosts electromobility
thyssenkrupp Steel devises innovative material concepts for lightweight construction as well as for high-performance electric and hybrid drivetrains. It represents an important contribution to the manufacture of vehicles that are weight-optimized yet secure, no matter what type of drive is involved. Internal combustion engines won’t be disappearing overnight, and despite the lofty targets set by the German government, it seems highly unlikely that there will be one million electric vehicles on German roads by 2020.
Steel is still the most economical construction material for most types of vehicles. In cars with internal combustion engines, the weight reduction provided by lightweight construction achieves considerable reductions in fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Electromobility, on the other hand, is becoming more affordable thanks to cost-optimized steel solutions.
Steel is also highly advantageous in terms of safety. Used in the body framework, it provides excellent passenger protection thanks to its resilience and its ability to absorb impact energy. In electric vehicles, steel has an additional advantage: It is used to house the battery. A steel enclosure protects the battery against accident damage, which in the worst case is fire. Also, where would today’s electric vehicles be if it weren’t for thyssenkrupp’s highly efficient electrical steel? This is crucial as a base material in the design of low-loss, high-speed electric motors. These qualities are the secret to making electric motors more efficient and expanding the vehicle’s range.
Predictive damping systems
The chassis experts at thyssenkrupp are also embracing innovation. Right now, they are developing active damping systems that can react to driving behavior and surface conditions in advance.
These dampers are integrated into the vehicle’s environment recognition system, interconnected via radar, camera, GPS and the cloud network. Electromagnetic dampers can respond to each wheel individually, providing just the right amount of damping required for the driving situation. This increases passenger comfort, vehicle responsiveness, and even safety. Active chassis systems such as this one are becoming more important for ensuring that passengers enjoy the best possible travel quality as autonomous driving gains in popularity – no matter if they are doing work while traveling or just surfing the Internet.
thyssenkrupp’s steering specialists have a new area to focus their development on: steer-by-wire systems. With these, the steering motions are translated entirely electrically, just like in an aircraft. This technology makes it possible to integrate the steering function into entirely new vehicle architectures. The cockpit can be designed very differently because the mechanical connection between the steering column and the wheels on the road is largely made redundant. Steer-by-wire also eliminates the need for different construction designs for right-hand and left-hand steering. And when – in the not-too-distant future – there will be driving situations where the steering wheel is not needed at all for sustained periods of time, this technology even makes it possible to move the steering wheel out of the way. This will open up truly new possibilities for the passenger cabin.
Automotive factory of the future
The digital transformation will drastically affect the entire automotive industry. At last year’s IAA, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche described his visionof the future: “Manufacturing plants will become smart factories, and systems and components will be seamlessly connected through networks. Most importantly: Robots and human workers will complement each other in the future.”
thyssenkrupp System Engineering develops and assembles individually tailored systems for automotive manufacturers and parts suppliers – both for vehicle assembly as well as the production of engines, transmissions, and batteries. No matter if it’s individual components, prototypes, or entire systems, thyssenkrupp’s engineers can provide the required tools and assembly lines. This ensures that customers can produce both cost-efficiently and at top quality levels – anywhere in the world. The concept of the Future Automotive Factory is already being implemented very successfully and extends into areas such as Industry 4.0, data analytics, and the Internet of Things, as well as virtual reality, robotics, and human–machine collaboration.
The bold vision proposed for tomorrow’s automotive factory is that productivity will be increased and energy consumption reduced. Maximum process flexibility will be pursued without compromising product quality. Different processing steps will be ergonomically matched, and they will require less floor space. Perhaps most importantly, every single aspect – from assembly right through to product shipping – will be fully traceable.
Horizontal as well as vertical networks will enable the individual workstations to function both independently and in tandem; operators will be able to engage manually at any time and interact directly with any of the automated modules. Before all this can happen, however, the assembly line of the future is planned out in every little detail: layout, operation, system response, process control, and many other aspects, too.
All the individual parts can be inspected and modified using a virtual 3D model of the line. Operators use wearable computer sensors, smart glasses, and other augmented-reality devices in order to interact with the digital assembly line. Another important aspect is the harmonious and safe interaction of humans and robots in shared working situations. While robots may be unable to make complex decisions and are generally not very flexible, they do offer incredible accuracy as well as continuous operation. All these examples demonstrate that thyssenkrupp is positioning itself as an innovative force within the automotive industry. Most of the manufacturers exhibiting in Frankfurt are already taking advantage of thyssenkrupp products. That’s why we will present our Group in exactly the right place at IAA: by our customers’ side.
...with around 27,000 employees, this Business Area represents one of the world’s leading suppliers of high-quality flat steel. Customers range from the automotive industry to machine and plant engineering, the energy sector, the packaging and construction industries, as well as special vehicles and domestic appliances. thyssenkrupp Steel has been working for the automotive industry for a long time and knows this sector like few other suppliers do, offering extensive, industry-specific expertise for materials and technologies alike.
The many advantageous properties of steel make it the material of choice for vehicle bodies, and its success will continue into the future of automotive manufacturing – sustainable, economical, and efficient.
thyssenkrupp Components Technology...
...with around 30,000 employees, this Business Area produces high-tech components for the automotive industry and for machine engineering. thyssenkrupp components can be found worldwide in nine out of every ten premium-class passenger cars, and every third heavy-goods vehicle features drive train components from thyssenkrupp.
In the industrial sector, Components Technology supplies parts for construction machinery, wind turbines, and numerous other types of machines and devices.
thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions...
...has around 21,000 employees, specializing in the construction of large-scale industrial plants. This Business Area not only designs but also builds and services plants and systems for customers from across the chemical, fertilizer, cement, mining, and steel industries.
In the automotive area, Industrial Solutions develops and supplies process chains for the assembly of vehicle bodies and drive trains, as well as the corresponding testing systems.
In addition, this Business Area works closely with the battery and aviation industries, as well as developing highly specialized solutions for naval vessels.