Servo steels the show

By Lynn Stanley

Above: The Fagor servo press runs coil-fed cold-rolled and hot-rolled high-strength low-alloy steels through progressive or transfer dies.

Automotive supplier processes high-strength steel at tighter tolerances

April 2019 - Automakers are leaning more and more on advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) structures to improve safety and performance. The trend piqued Gill Industries Querétaro’s interest in servo presses and prompted the Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturer to investigate the technology.

“Over the last five years, we’ve seen an uptick in the automotive industry’s demand for high-strength parts and assemblies,” says Vice President Juan Alcide. The Santa Rosa Jauregui, Querétaro, facility was opened in 2012 by Gill Industries, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The fabricator supplies automotive parts and assemblies, including seat structures, body-in-white structures, mechanisms, latches and hinged consoles as well as design, engineering and testing services from multiple U.S. facilities, Mexico and Ireland.

FFJ 0419 stamping image1

Gill Industries Querétaro is the only manufacturer in the Bajío region to have this combination of servo technology, bed size and tonnage.

Analyzing options

“Our customers were migrating from high-strength steel to ultra-high-strength steel (UHSS) components with tighter dimensional tolerances that could accommodate downstream processes like laser welding versus conventional welding,” he continues. “We were limited in what we could offer.”

When the company won new automotive program contracts that required a higher tonnage press, it saw an opportunity to expand its capabilities and supply more complex parts.

“We conducted a review of 20 different press manufacturers,” says Alcide. “Analysis helped us answer the question, Do we need a servo press or a mechanical press?” recalls Caleb Hollier, director of strategic initiatives for Gill Industries. “We chose servo. We wanted dimensional control, accuracy and flexibility. You can’t achieve the levels we were looking for with a traditional press. Investing the extra capital in servo technology made sense for our business case.”

FFJ 0419 stamping image2

Engineered to deliver 2,000 metric tons of stamping force, the servo press components required 13 tractor trailers to move from port to Gill Industries Querétaro.

Quality and cost tipped Gill Industries Querétaro’s decision in favor of Fagor Arrasate’s mechanical servo press.

The press builder marries commercially available hardware components with its proprietary software to optimize the servo control and tailor it to each customer’s needs. “The result is improved performance at an affordable cost,” says Fagor Business Development Manager Victor Esteban. “We develop our own software programing so we don’t have to rely on third parties for support. We also have a service plant located in Querétaro.”

Flexible forming

Fagor, a Spanish company that designs and manufactures a wide range of metalforming equipment, engineered Gill Industries Querétaro’s servo press to deliver 2,000 metric tons [2,200 U.S. tons] of stamping force. The servo press was built with a 275-in.-long, 90.5-in.-wide bolster plate.

To prepare for the press, Gill Industries Querétaro enlisted the help of Silvarq to designand build a pit, which required 1.8 million lbs. GILL2of concrete and nearly 94 tons of steel, enough material to “construct a 15-story building.” Transtell handled the logistics for transporting press components from port to Gill Industries Querétaro. The job called for loads to be divided among 13 tractor trailers. Two semitrucks were required to simultaneously push and pull the heaviest piece, which weighed 160 tons. Transtell also assembled the press on site. Installation was completed in July 2018.

The Fagor servo press runs coil-fed cold-rolled and hot-rolled high-strength low-alloy steels through progressive or transfer dies. The servo press and feedline can also run aluminum. Able to stamp, clinch, rivet, spot weld and perform heat staking, the Fagor servo press produces components for mechanisms and the primary structures of automobile seats. Part sizes range from 450 mm [18 in.] up to 1700 mm [67 in.] wide.

FFJ 0419 stamping image3

Slower tool speed reduces stress on the die and material.

“The servo press gives us greater accuracy; it’s quieter, and we have reduced our energy consumption,” says Querétaro Plant Manager Jesus Puente.

“Our servo press technology only consumes energy on the downstroke,” explains Esteban. “It’s engineered to replenish the power grid with energy or store it on the upstroke.”

Reducing stress

Gill Industries Querétaro is also tracking longer die life. The manufacturer previously considered two dies to produce 4 million strokes per year for one part. With the Fagor servo press, it found it could slow slide velocity during the forming cycle when the die makes contact with the material, then recoup speed on the back side of the stroke. Slower tool speed reduced stress on the die and material.

“We were able to eliminate one die, increase the life of the unique die and still achieve the number of strokes we needed to produce the part,” says Alcide.

FFJ 0419 stamping image4

Slide position, speed and stroke can be programmed so that different manufacturing processes can be performed in just one press. Position and slide velocity can also be controlled in real time for tasks such as trying out dies, cold forming and aluminum processing. A simplified transmission combined with an advanced CNC control and high-performance servomotors support these capabilities.

“The primary feature of our servo press is that we replaced the inertia flywheel, clutch and brake with direct coupling between the main drive motor of the press and the slide movement transmission,” says Esteban, “We wanted to improve the productivity and flexibility of mechanical presses without sacrificing part quality and die life. In addition to reduced maintenance, customers achieve greater uptime and are able to manage speed and position at all times.”

Like Fagor, Gill Industries Querétaro is committed to its customers. The manufacturer, situated in an industrial park called Parque Industrial Querétaro, has achieved a defect rate of less than 1 part per million for three years in a row. Puente notes that 30 percent of México’s automotive parts are produced in the Bajio region integrated by Querétaro, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí, Aguascalientes and Jalisco. “We are the only manufacturer in the Bajío region to have this combination of servo technology, bed size and tonnage,” he says. “That gives us a competitive advantage.” FFJ



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