Bionic pressing tools save material and energy

March 14, 2016 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Manufacturing experts at carmaker Audi have developed a new generation of pressing tools that are 20 percent lighter and at the same time 10 percent more stable than their predecessors. The benefits were made possible because the engineers applied bionic principles known from 3D printing as well as lightweight and mixed-material designs.

The new pressing tools, already in use in Audi’s headquarters factory in Ingolstadt, Germany, are up to eight tons lighter than conventional ones made of cast iron and have weights of up to 45 tons. Responsible for the lower weight in the new tool generation was the mix of cast iron, aluminium and plastic materials – a concept Audi already applies to car bodies. The dictum was “the right quantities at the right place”, Audi said. Towards this end, innovative manufacturing methods such as metallic 3D printing were involved.

 

Besides materials, the design methods contributed significantly to the weight loss of the new tool generation. Instead of conventional stiffening structures, the designers transferred principles observed in the nature, such as the internal structure of bones, to the pressing tools – albeit in unseen dimensions: The tools apply extreme forces of up to 2500 tons to the workpiece. The individually adapted arch forms in the basic structure add maximum stability and therefore enable better transmission of the forces applied. In contrast, conventional pressing tools achieve their stability through cross ribbings of cast iron.

 

The new tools, though featuring the same strength as the former one, allows materials saving of some 20 percent. In addition, the production processes consume significantly less energy, the company says.