The Metal Forming Division’s press-hardened steels are in great demand internationally. To broaden its position even further in the future, voestalpine Automotive Components Schwäbisch Gmünd is now expanding into the area of hot-forming high-strength aluminum.
The future is unstoppable. Lightweight parts are being built into more and more cars—to reduce carbon emissions and fuel consumption. High-strength, lightweight materials are also increasingly used in electric cars to compensate for the weight of the batteries. The press-hardened, hot-formed voestalpine steels have become a solution that is in demand around the world. The phs strategy in particular is a resounding success. According to voestalpine experts, in the future cars could contain up to 30% phs. Today, they usually contain somewhere between 5% and 15%.
Aluminum as a good supplement
Despite the excellent order situation, Automotive Components Schwäbisch Gmünd, the Competence Center for phs and hot forming, is working hard on expanding its portfolio. Specifically on using other materials like aluminum that are considered a good supplement to press-hardened steels. High-strength aluminum alloys are already in use in the aerospace industry. Forming these into car doors, tailgates, and hoods requires a lot of know-how, and that is continuously being acquired in Schwäbisch Gmünd. In 2014, Schwäbisch Gmünd received the first series order for a high-strength aluminum part from a premium automobile manufacturer. voestalpine was the first supplier to receive such an order. The experience gained on this order is now being used to optimize the aluminum capability of existing systems. “Aluminum is lighter than steel, but much more difficult to form. Corrosion protection is also a complex topic, which is why there is still a lot to research and to test. The colleagues in Schwäbisch Gmünd have been working hard in this area because the company wants to be number one in areas other than hot-forming press-hardened steels.
Unlike steel, there is no material basis in house. But with AMAG Austria Metall AG, the Schwäbisch Gmünd voestalpine team has an experienced cooperation partner at their side. Together, they are making the site’s systems and employees—and in the future other voestalpine Group sites—“aluminum-fit”. Though the focus remains on press-hardened steels, the combination with other materials will become even more important in the future. voestalpine is ideally prepared to meet this challenge.