Additive Manufacturing (AM) has been associated with the future of manufacturing since its inception. While it does hold several advantages in complex geometries and low-volume production, modern AM systems have yet to make significant in-roads with direct-print parts in industries like automotive manufacturing which are characterized by large volumes of relatively large metal parts. With typical volumes of 1,000+ vehicles per line per day, the required throughput of automotive factory lines outstrips what is available in current AM systems. Further, the large volume of parts allows for rapid amortization of capital equipment such as tools, dies, and stamping presses, circumventing one of the primary advantages of AM: reduced per-piece cost. However, if the focus is shifted from direct-print parts to manufacturing the supporting infrastructure, tools and dies, the economic benefits are regained. Using AM to manufacture forming tools for Advanced High-Strength Steels (AHSS) and Press Hardened Steels (PHS) brings the opportunity for reduced tooling lead-time, reduced tooling cost, and optimization of the tools for weight, strength, and thermal management.
Metal AM: Application in Traditional Forming
While AM enables the flexible production of tools with lead-time reduction and minimal economic impactsG-35, W-29, the production cost for the metal AM tools is significantly higher compared to polymer AM tools and, in some cases, metal tools manufactured by conventional methods. However, cost of the AM tools can be mitigated through topology optimization.A-61 With topology optimization, parts with freeform geometry can be designed that are optimized against a specific objective, for example weight, strength, or stiffness. By reducing overall tool material while maintaining strength, build time on the AM system can be reduced, thereby lowering tool cost.
Potential applications of metal AM forming tools are in prototype construction or small series production, e.g. holders, flanges or medium-size adapters and reinforcing plates.S-74 AM methods have also been utilized for insertion of beads or other geometries for reinforcing/increasing the stiffness of tools.L-36 Cost typically prevents metal AM tools from being used in low-volume cold forming applications where the main tool body is printed, however, high wear components and insert applications have demonstrated significant lead-time savings over traditional manufacturing methods.L-36 Metal AM may be considered in cold forming applications where lead-time is at a premium and cost concerns are secondary.
However, in instances where complex internal structures are required, the increased cost of metal AM is outstripped by the benefits it can provide over conventionally manufactured tools. One such example is a metal AM tool for white goods that utilizes high performance stainless steel for the forming surface and less expensive mild steel for the underlying structure. The resulting die, Figure 6, was constructed from less material, reducing overall machining time required to create the finish die surface.P-25
Metal AM: Application in Hot Stamping
An important advantage of hot forming is that it requires low-forming loads and enables forming parts with high strength and minimal springback. However, the high temperatures required to form the material and the precise cooling required to ensure desirable component properties necessitate advanced tooling designs.
Bulk materials used for fabricating hot stamping dies require special properties. The tool material must exhibit high tensile strength, hardness, good corrosion resistance, a low thermal expansion coefficient, and high thermal conductivity.N-19 Traditionally, casting and machining are used to manufacture hot stamping tools, however, in recent years AM has gained significant traction due to the design freedom that it offers, especially when it comes to fabricating tools with conformal cooling channels. Reducing porosity is one of the primary remaining challenges to maximizing mechanical properties and achieving good build quality in AM components. Conventionally manufactured hot tool steels demonstrate properties of at least 1300 MPa tensile strength, 50 HRC hardness, 18 J of impact toughness and 22 W/mK of thermal conductivity. Selected AM materials should demonstrate at least these properties in order to be considered a reliable alternative.
Hot stamp tooling with conformal cooling channels has been demonstrated with both Directed Energy Deposition (DED) and and Powder-Bed Fusion (PBF) AM processes. With DED processes, it is possible to attain minimum channel diameters as low as 3 mm and a minimum wall thicknesses of 2 mm. Unlike drilling straight holes, as done with traditional tool manufacturing, it is possible to design and fabricate complex cooling channels inside the die that results in homogeneous temperature distribution within the tool and the stamped parts. The improved temperature distribution leads to lower cycle times in hot stamping and subsequent improvement in process efficiency, reducing overall production costs. DED also has been combined with subtractive processes to create a hybrid manufacturing process.C-21 One example includes hot stamping dies manufactured by machining and additively building inserts with conformal cooling ducts.M-35 As a result, the additively manufactured channels cooled six times faster than the conventional drilled channels. In another example, manufactured injection molds with conformal cooling ducts by combining direct metal rapid tooling and machining.A-62
PBF processes are also used to integrate conformal cooling channels into forging dies and hot stamping tools. Regardless of the AM method, development of the internal network channels can be aided by topology optimization, a tool that offers great flexibility in designing non-intuitive, novel, and complex parts with high performance at reduced material cost.G-36 In addition to optimizing for mechanical objectives, topology optimization can also be defined such that it designs products considering performance criteria across multiple domains such as thermal and mechanical. Such multi-objective topology optimization is a powerful tool in designing metal AM tooling that takes advantage of the optimized thermal and mechanical performance made possible through AM processes.
This is an excerpt of a full Guidelines article entitled, “Additive Manufacturing for Sheet Metal Forming Tools,” which is based on a project conducted in partnership between Honda Development & Manufacturing of America, LLC and The Ohio State University. This excerpt focuses on metal AM in traditional forming and hot stamping, while the full article surveys the use of polymer and metal AM for forming tools and discuss the benefits and challenges with respect to their use in manufacturing AHSS and PHS sheet metal components. Be sure to read the full article for the much more detail.
Many thanks are given the team who contributed the Additive Manufacturing article, from which this blog was excerpted.
|Ryan Hahnlen, Honda Development & Manufacturing of America, LLC, Raymond, OH|
|Ben Hoffman, Honda Development & Manufacturing of America, LLC, Raymond, OH|
|Madhura Athale, Integrated Systems Engineering Department at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH|
|Taejoon Park, Integrated Systems Engineering Department at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH|
|Farhang Pourboghrat, Integrated Systems Engineering Department at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH|