Audi’s Intelligent Aluminum Forming
The hood of the Audi TT is made of aluminum. If you talk to some people (people who have a certain bias for things of a ferrous nature), you’ll hear about the difficultly of being able to achieve sharp edge and tight radii when forming aluminum.
But one glance at the sharp contours on the hood of the TT (they call them “swoosh lines” back in Ingolstadt) seems to indicate that you can do some rather impressive forming in aluminum.
Well, that is if you have the right equipment to get the job done.
The equipment in question here was developed by Audi Toolmaking.
They’re using four lasers in the forming tool to make certain that the flanges are right. Measurements from the lasers are sent to a computer. Should it be determined that there’s something off, that there’s a deviation, then the forces of the four drawing aids that clamp the sheet metal in the flange area are adjusted via electric actuators (each with some 30 metric tons of force) as required.
Audi presently has 12 of these so-called “intelligent tools” distributed in four of its plants (Ingolstadt, Neckarsulm, Bratislava, and Györ, with the last-named being where the TT is built).
Audi claims that the TT’s aluminum body features “the tightest radii in the world.”
Importantly, the intelligent tools cut way down on the number of panels that are rejected because of things like tears and splits, so they’re getting those radii in an effective manner.
While Ford has reset the stakes in the light-duty pickup market with the aluminum-intensive F-150, that’s not the whole story of what they’ve done to this new generation of America’s best-selling vehicle.
For the high-performance Corvette Z06 GM defied tradition and switched from a steel to an aluminum frame.
If aluminum-intensive cars are ever to become more than an occasional curiosity, automakers may have to give up their weld shops.