Press builder Schuler AG is developing a new press to be used for research into new lightweight materials production technologies. The machine will be used by Germany’s Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL), which indicated it will begin operating the new machine later this year.
“Our collaboration in the field of lightweight production will help us enhance our press technology and production processes for modern lightweight materials,” explained Joachim Beyer, Schuler’s chief technology officer. “The tremendous expertise of AZL in production technology and materials science will take us a major step forward.”
AZL is an industrial research center for composite and multi‐material processing technologies. Its charter calls for it to develop processes for automated production of load‐ and cost‐optimized lightweight components, suitable for mass production and versatile process chains.
The upstroke press will deliver a force of 1,800 metric tons (17.7 MN) and will serve as a joint R&D platform for the large-scale testing of dies, product lines or components, or automation technologies.
With a bed size of 2,800 X 1,800 mm, the new press will allow AZL to research and develop manufacturing processes for actual parts in typical dimensions.
“For example, we can produce large car body panels fully automatically,” stated AZL’s CEO Dr. Michael Emonts. “Schuler’s composite press gives us the capability to link individual processes into complete process chains and then enhance the part systems correspondingly.”
Tests will be conducted under production conditions, to ensure that all systems are ready for start-up. According to Schuler, it has established a strategic alliance with AZL for this purpose.
“We are very much looking forward to a long-term cooperation with Schuler and are very grateful for their collaboration and support,” according to Emonts. “As a premium partner, Schuler will be able to use our holistic expertise and complete portfolio of services, as well as our international partner network which we are constantly expanding.”
In the course of advancing its press technology, Schuler indicated it is focusing in particular on high-speed RTM (Resin Transfer Molding), wet pressing, and thermoplastics processing.
In addition, the press builder explained that for mass production of lightweight components, as in automotive and aerospace manufacturing, the main focus is on increasing productivity: cycle times of two to three minutes for the RTM process, or even less than a minute for thermoplastic processing, help meet the requirements of OEMs – especially with regard to reducing CO2 emissions and improving their ecological footprint.
Schuler said academic and practical feedback from the AZL project would help it optimize its capabilities in the range of relevant technologies.
AZL offers a unique combination of machine tool construction, automation technology and composites technology within walking distance on a single campus. The Center gives its partners access to over 750 scientists and a full range of competencies along the entire value chain of lightweight production: from fiber, semi-finished and component production to machining, quality assurance and production planning.