The natural power of water can transform materials. This is a fact. The flow of a river or the waves of the sea have impact on rocks, cliffs and therefore the environment changes inevitably. However, have you ever thought of water as a manufacturer power? Most likely, if you are not an automotive supplier specialist, you had never imagined that water can form key structures for vehicles. Tubular skeleton’s parts that help your car to be safer and lighter, therefore cleaner for the environment.
Tube hydroforming (THF) is a cold forming process to form a hollow part with different cross sections along its length by applying an internal hydraulic pressure and forcing the tubular blank to conform to the shape of a given die cavity. That’s to say, it is a specialized type of cold forming technique that uses a high pressure hydraulic fluid to press tubes into a die at room temperature.
But, the main advantage of Hydroforming is that it allows complex shapes with concavities to be formed, which would be difficult or impossible with standard stamping.
“Tube hydroforming technology is vital for some key parts of chassis and body in white, even more now with so many EV projects entering the market”, explained Idoya Pascual, Forming Technologies Special Processes Manager, who added: “This technology allows us to manufacture lighter parts which have better performance and stiffness, because its application transforms different sections along the length of the tube.”
Gestamp, world hydroforming leader
Gestamp has a wide experience on Hydroforming technology as the multinational has developed these lines across different countries as Spain, United Kingdom, China and Mexico. Due to this extensive industrial experience with this technology, Gestamp has been able to extend the skills about this technology across the world.
A clear example of Gestamp’s training and innovation capacities all around the world in Hydroforming is San Luis Potosí’s experience. When this plant opened in 2019, for the implementation of this new technology in Mexico, Gestamp opted for the in-house training of the workers who would be responsible for starting the first hydroforming line in Mexico. To do so, a team composed by nine Gestamp San Luis Potosí workers travelled to the plant that is a worldwide leader in this technology, Gestamp Navarra in Spain, currently operating six hydroforming lines. This was an example of good exchange of knowledge and cooperation within the production plants of the Group: a diverse team composed by engineers, toolmakers, maintenance managers and operators which worked hand by hand with the belief that hydroforming is one of the forming technologies of the present and the future of the automotive sector.
Hydroforming capacities for EV: Chassis and BiW products
Gestamp is a proven strategic partner for vehicle manufacturers in this technology for combustion vehicles. Taking into account such an experience and knowledge on hydroforming and with the challenging context on electrification, Gestamp becomes a reliable partner to outsource a technology that can be key for the future of EV, as it helps to protect the battery pack and take weight off chassis parts.
Therefore, for example, hydroforming is used by Gestamp to develop robust products like the hydro-formed rear subframe, which is fundamental to delivering lightweight solutions. Taking into consideration the extra battery weight increasing the total weight of the vehicle, every gram saved in chassis or BIW is twice as important as before!
Apart from lighweigthing, hydroforming also plays a key role from the safety point of view. Nowadays in the electrical vehicles, the battery protection takes the most important role in safety, specially at side crashes. In order to avoid any electrolyte leakage out of the battery box or fire after the crash, it is strongly recommended not having any deformation in the battery. In order to fulfill these challenges, Gestamp has developed and patented a hydroforming rocker reinforcement, with a specific combination of material grade and shape. An innovative solution with a high energy absorption level that simultaneously helps protect the occupants from a high deceleration. An innovative solution made with hydroforming technology.