LASER WELDING PUTS AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY “ON A DIET”
Weight-reduction efforts are exemplified in passenger car transmissions to require optimized designs that provide an economic advantage to the manufacturer. With an already great design, is it possible to make them even lighter?
For every 100 kg (220.5 lb) deducted in vehicle weight, fuel consumption is reduced by up to 0.3 liters per 100 km (62 miles), which is why the automotive industry examines each part to determine whether it can be made lighter.
The level of innovation behind weight-reduction efforts is exemplified in passenger car transmissions, whose gear wheels and related components are manufactured by the millions in volume and, as such, require optimized designs that provide an economic advantage to the manufacturer.
The differential transmission is a key component in vehicles and is manufactured in large quantities. With an already great design, is it possible to make it even lighter? Engineers believe so and have created a simple, yet highly effective weld joint that is used by German auto makers to replace the previous threaded connection between differential components.
This joint reduces the amount of material required and lowers the unit price, especially with such a high-volume assembly. The weight of the differential housing is also reduced by approximately 1.2 km (2.6 lb). “This reduction is nothing short of impressive in the automotive world,” explains Dr. Andreas Mootz, the managing director of EMAG Automation GmbH (Heubach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany).
Process integration ensures efficient production, but how is this welding work carried out with such enormous production quantities being involved? To ensure that these manufacturing processes run smoothly and efficiently, engineering specialists at EMAG LLC (Farmington Hills, MI) utilize high-tech solutions, such as laser welding, to realize spectacular results.
Automated ELC equipment is used to manufacture the transmissions. The machine starts by loading components, then presses them together and welds the gap. Additional processes may also be carried out depending on the component handled. Each gear wheel is finished in just twelve seconds, and all differential components are fully welded in less than 40 seconds. “Laser welding is the key here and integrates technology that controls the laser beam with precision,” notes Mootz.
Today, all renowned auto makers use laser welding in their manufacturing processes. This recent market trend has resulted in an increased demand for gear wheels, thanks in part to the dual-clutch transmission. This trend extends to traditional manual gearboxes as well, many of which integrate more gear ratios than before to further lower fuel consumption. www.emag.com