Tailor-welded blanks (TWBs) allow the combination of different steel grades, thicknesses, and even coating types into a single blank. This results in stamping a single component with the right material in the right place for on-vehicle requirements. This technology allows the consolidation of multiple stampings into a single component.

One example is the front door inner. A two-piece design will have an inner panel and a reinforcement in the hinge area. As shown in Figure 1, a TWB front door inner incorporates a thicker front section in the hinge area and a thinner rear section for the inner panel, providing on-vehicle mass savings. This eliminates the need for additional components, reducing the tooling investment in the program. This also simplifies the assembly process, eliminating the need to spot weld a reinforcement onto the panel.

 

Front Door Inner Design

 Figure 1 – Front Door Inner

 

Today, large opportunities exist to consolidate components in a BEV in the battery structure. Design strategies vary from different automakers, including how the enclosure is constructed or how the battery mounts into the vehicle. The battery tray can have over 100 stamped components, including sealing surfaces, structural members, and reinforcements (Munro Live – Munro and Associates, 2023)M-68. As an idea, a battery tray perimeter could be eight pieces, four lateral and longitudinal members, and four corners. The upper and lower covers are two additional stamped components, for a total of ten stampings that make up the sealing structure of the battery tray. On a large BEV truck, that results in over 17m of external sealing surfaces.

Part consolidation in the battery structure provides cost savings in material requirements and reduced investment in required tooling. Another benefit of assembly simplification is improved quality. Fewer components mean fewer sealing surfaces, resulting in less rework in the assembly process, where every battery tray is leak-tested.

The deep-drawn battery tub is a consolidated lower battery enclosure and perimeter. This can be seen in Figure 2; a three-piece welded blank incorporates a thicker and highly formable material at the ends and in the center section, either a martensitic steel for intrusion protection or a low-cost mild steel. This one-piece deep-drawn tub reduces the number of stampings and sealing surfaces, resulting in a more optimized and efficient design when considered against a multi-piece assembly. In the previous example of a BEV truck, the deep-drawn battery tub would reduce the external sealing surface distance by 40%. To validate this concept, component level simulations of crash, intrusion, and formability were conducted. As well as a physical prototype built that was used for leak and thermal testing (Yu, 2024)Y-14 with the outcomes proving the validity of this concept, as well as developing preliminary design guidelines. Additional work is underway to increase the depth of the draw while minimizing the draft angle on the tub stamping.

Deep Battery Tub

Figure 2 – Deep Battery Tub

 

In most BEVs today, the passenger compartment has a floor structure common in an ICE vehicle. However, the BEV also has a top cover on the battery assembly that, in most cases, is the same size as the passenger compartment floor. In execution of part consolidation, the body floor and battery top cover effectively seal the same opening and can be consolidated into one component. An example is shown below, where seat reinforcements found on the vehicle floor are integrated into the battery top cover, and the traditional floor of the vehicle is removed. Advanced high-strength steels are used in different grades and thicknesses. Figure 3 and Figure 4 show what the TWB battery top cover looks like on the assembly.

 

Battery Top Covers

Figure 3 + Figure 4 – TWB Battery Top Cover

 

Vehicle assembly can also be radically simplified as front seats are mounted on the battery before being installed in the vehicle as shown in Figure 5, the ergonomics of the assembly operation are improved by increased access inside the passenger compartment through the open floor.

 

Assembly Operation

Figure 5 – Ergonomics of the Assembly Operation

 

Cost mitigation is more important than ever before, with reductions in piece cost and investment and assembly costs being important. At the foundation BEVs currently have cost challenges in comparison to their ICE counterparts, however the optimization potential for the architecture remains high, specifically in part consolidation. Unique concepts such as the TWB deep-drawn battery tub and integrated floor/battery top cover are novel approaches to improve challenges faced with existing BEV designs. TWB applications throughout the body in white and closures remain relevant in BEVs, providing further part consolidation opportunities.

Isaac Johson, TWB Company

Thanks go to Isaac Luther for his contribution of this article to the AHSS Insights blog. Luther is a senior product engineer on the new product development team at TWB Company. TWB Company is the premier supplier of tailor-welded solutions in North America. In this role, Isaac is responsible for application development in vehicle body and frame applications and battery systems. Isaac has a Bachelor of Science in welding engineering from The Ohio State University.

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