A novel forming solutions for ultra-high strength aluminium structures was presented at Euro Car Body 2022 in Bad Nauheim, Germany.
This HFQ (Hot Form Quench) technology was shown by Impression Technologies, an aluminium light-weighting specialist, and automotive supplier Fischer Group.
Since becoming ITL’s first global accredited HFQ (Hot Form Quench) partner in December 2020, Fischer has invested in a dedicated state-of-the-art high volume HFQ manufacturing line in Achern, Germany. From January 2022, the company has manufactured ten different complex geometry high strength aluminium HFQ pressings for a premium EV sedan and these were displayed to much interest from OEM delegates. Having successfully executed scale-up of its Achern facility, Fischer is now preparing for further expansion of capacity to meet growing demand in the EV sector.
HFQ-formed high strength aluminium structure using 100% recycled 6082 alloy
ITL, which has been developing and commercialising the core HFQ technology since 2012, showcased the world’s first example of an HFQ-formed high strength aluminium structure using 100 % recycled 6082 alloy. In addition, ITL presented an innovative single-piece battery enclosure lid made from high strength 6xxx alloy. As a relatively new innovation which could offer reduced weight, part-count and carbon intensity, HFQ captured the attention of a large number of engineers from established and emerging OEMs, with a focus on new electric vehicle and delivery van platforms.
The Fischer-ITL partnership offers a unique combination of unmatched aluminium hot forming (HFQ) know-how of ITL and world-class manufacturing engineering and production capabilities of the global Fischer Group.
18 different high strength aluminium supplier grades
ITL has now characterized 18 different high strength aluminium supplier grades (including 100 % recycled, F-temper, 2xxx, 6xxx and 7xxx series alloys) to a common standard for high fidelity simulation and hot forming using the HFQ process. Moreover, it has developed even more advanced generations of HFQ for very deep drawn structures such as door inners and battery enclosures. Fischer Group, having successfully completed the first phase of its HFQ manufacturing scale-up has identified a range of process opportunities to meet growing demand.
Both companies are now working on the next stage of their partnership to respond to the significant interest in HFQ Technology with a focus on three areas: widening the aluminium alloy and supplier choice to OEMs (including recycled grades), co-developing novel solutions for e-vehicle enclosures, and applying ITL’s new simulation and alloy behaviour know-how refine and optimize the HFQ process for future applications.
Jonathan Watkins, CEO of Impression Technologies, said of the relationship: “Impression Technologies and Fischer Group have been working closely since 2019 and are building up a range of applications using the HFQ technology, with a strong focus on advanced electric vehicle structures. It is a perfect combination of capabilities and cultures. Working together, we are attracting increasing interest from OEMs in Europe and North America.”
Hans Peter Fischer, managing director of Fischer Group, said about the strategic relationship, “I see significant potential for HFQ structures in the global automotive sector. The Fischer Group will continue to invest in its capabilities across several markets to match the interest we are seeing and work closely with ITL to take the HFQ technology to its full potential.”
The Hot Form Quench (HFQ) technology
The HFQ technology was developed out of research in the early 2000s in the University of Birmingham and Imperial College London. Commercialized by ITL, it is a new genre of fast forming for ultra-high strength aluminium sheet alloys.
The process is divided into three main process steps: solutionizing of the shaped aluminium sheet blank at approx. 450-550 °C, followed by rapid forming and simultaneous quenching of the component in the forming tool, followed by the artificial ageing to achieve the final mechanical properties, or as required to suit downstream joining and processing steps.
HFQ meets the demand for complex, highly integrated geometries with large drawing depths, and tight radii in a single forming operation. At the same time, the highest possible strengths are achieved: for alloys of the 6000 series, strengths of Rm > 390 MPa, and for 7000 alloys even Rm > 560 MPa are feasible.
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