Daimler is investing in equipment for the future with two highly flexible blanking lines from Schuler Inc. (Canton, MI). The premium car manufacturer is substituting laser beams for heavy dies with the laser blanking equipment. Daimler has commissioned two laser blanking lines at its Kuppenheim, Germany, plant for the serial production of compact vehicles.
Normally blanks are stamped by using blanking dies that weigh upwards of 25 tons. These dies cost up to 200,000 Euros each, and this doesn’t even include storage, repair, and maintenance. If there is a new model in the market, the form changes and refit or new installation of the dies lasting a few months is costly, required, and inevitable. In contrast, the laser blanking lines from Schuler don’t employ dies. Rather, Schuler’s laser equipment uses three fiber lasers to cut blanks simultaneously on the running material line.
In addition, space requirements in the earlier coil manufacturing hall of the plant were not suitable for conventional blanking lines. The decision to go for this new technology, Schuler’s Dynamic Flow Technology (DFT), was heavily influenced by the fact that the laser systems don’t need expensive foundations or a basement.
The versatility of the lasers is that they can changed instantly to another cutting style and automotive model requirement at the touch of a button. The programming of the contours is done offline and can be simulated for production optimization. By dispensing with the dependence of heavy dies, the pressing plant is optimally prepared for different types of upcoming car models in the next years.
The Schuler system features three laser heads, working in tandem and cutting contours in the system at a speed of more than 100 m/min from a continuously fed directly from steel or aluminum coils to produce blanks from the sheet. The blanks will be transformed into surface-sensitive pre-cut parts for mudguard, side parts, roofs, or engine hoods. The conveyor moves through the system at a speed of up to 60 m/min. The cut blanks are separated from scrap and stacked continuously. In addition, two modern Schuler press lines in the hall form these pre-cut blanks into chassis parts, which then are assembled in adjacent Mercedes-Benz Rastatt plant.
This high degree of flexibility of cut programming offers various options with regard to geometry. The premium OEM has already started to exploit the potential of savings materials, as well as optimizing the forming process. The goal is to achieve production efficiency employing the laser-optimized blanks, and to develop the best possible contours.
Cost efficiency is always a major factor for an investment by an OEM. An investment must provide a positive benefit for a vehicle compared with alternatives. The prospects for laser lines are very positive, not just due to easier assembly and freedom from heavy dies, but also due to the high degree of system availability. Options to save material and to reduce coil differences are anticipated to lead to lower production cost using Schuler Dynamic Flow Technology rather than with conventional blanking systems.
Schuler supplies presses, automation solutions, dies, process know-how, and services for the entire metalworking industry and especially for lightweight automotive design. Customers include automobile manufacturers and suppliers as well as companies from the forging, household appliances, packaging, energy, and electronics industries.
For more information from Schuler Inc., go to www.schulergroup.com, or phone 734-207-7200.