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Digital Ecosystems

Ford automates steel hot forming

The automotive manufacturer has introduced a new method of hot forming at its Saarlouis works. A combination of conventional processes and innovative technology allows for automated processes and a higher production quality.

04 Jan. 2019
Ford automates steel hot forming (Photo: The Ford Motor Company)

Ford is using automated hot forming in a new hall at its Saarland plant, where the Focus is built. The manufacturer is combining conventional ovens with digital technology in the form of heat-resistant robots and laser systems. The system is used to produce weight-optimized body components from particularly hard boron-steel plates. On a 40 meter-long oven line, the steel is heated to temperatures of up to 930 degrees Celsius using gas and magnetic induction. After further processing in a 1,250 tonne press, lasers are used to cut the water-cooled plates into their final shape. With robots responsible for all material handling throughout the production process, Ford has achieved full automation. The technology was introduced as part of a modernization campaign totaling 600 million euros.

Entire areas of production in the automotive industry are increasingly benefiting from digitization. For example, BMW is using robots for fully automated quality control in its paintshop; it reports that this results in a more reliable assessment than that provided by human employees.