Five press hardening lines for Fiat from AP&T
An increasing number of vehicle manufacturers are deciding to use press hardened parts in their cars as a means to reduce weight and improve safety. Fiat is one of them. The company installed its first press hardening line at its production facility in Cassino, Italy four years ago. Fiat currently has five press hardening lines – all of them from AP&T.
"This is one of the biggest deliveries we have ever made to a vehicle manufacturer. The experience we have accumulated over the years is extremely valuable for our continued efforts to develop press hardening technology," says Per Josefsson, who is the global sales and service manager at AP&T.
Parts for Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia
The factory in Cassino is one of Fiat's five Italian facilities with approximately 4,000 employees and production capacity of 1,400 cars per day. Amongst others, Fiat Bravo, Alfa Giulietta and Lancia Delta are produced here. Since the Cassino factory is the only Fiat facility that manufactures press hardened parts, it is also an important cog in the entire Group's industrial structure.
"We produce press hardened parts in Cassino not only for the car models that are produced here, but also for those that are manufactured at our other facilities in Italy," says Aldo Balsamo,who is the manager of the Cassino factory's press shop.
Production solutions from AP&T
The first order for a press hardening line from AP&T was signed in 2007 after Fiat compared a number of different suppliers to assess their ability to satisfy Fiat's high demands on reliability and cost, for example. The first line was deployed in 2009 in a 20,000 m² industrial building, which was specifically built for the purpose. Since then, AP&T has served as a responsible partner for an additional four installations, the most recent of which was deployed in 2012. The production solutions include presses, automation, furnaces, robots and tools. Service and maintenance are being handled by Sofir, AP&T’s Italian service partner.
15,000 parts a day
The equipment has a total production capacity of 15,000 parts a day, and is used, for example, to manufacture A-pillars, B-pillars and door and floor reinforcements. The share of press hardened parts in Fiat's, Alfa Romeo's and Lancia's different car models is between 10 and 15 percent of the body's weight (BIW), which is a high percentage compared to the industry average.
Environment and safety
The reasons underlying Fiat's investment in press hardening technology are the same ones that have captured the interest of the entire vehicle industry. The press hardened parts' combination of low weight and high strength enable lower vehicle weight – and thus lower fuel consumption and emissions – at the same time that the level of safety is maintained or improved. Press hardening also makes the material very dimensionally stable.
"For the car models that are manufactured in Cassino, we have managed to lower body weight by an impressive 22 percent by replacing cold formed parts with press hardened parts. And all of our car models that contain press hardened parts have five stars in Euro NCAP," says Aldo Balsamo.
Press hardening also makes it easier and less expensive to integrate materials with different properties, for example to reinforce some parts of the body. The Cassino factory will start manufacturing press hardened parts for two additional models at the end of 2013, and will probably add new ones in the future. The development of materials will determine whether the proportion of press hardened parts will increase further.
Fiat's experience of press hardening has thus far been predominantly positive. The produced parts live up to expectations and have a high level of quality and dimensional stability. Along the way, however, there have been some concerns with the furnaces' ceramic rollers, and the dust that forms during the process meant ventilation improvements had to be made.
"There are always new challenges when a new technology is introduced. On the whole, however, we are enthusiastic about the possibilities afforded by press hardening, and each experience helps us understand what can be improved. This is a journey that we – Fiat, AP&T and Sofir – have embarked upon together," says Aldo Balsamo.
"Allowing us to help create such an extensive production solution from the start together with one of Europe's largest car manufacturers is a vote of confidence. Cooperating with Fiat has been exceedingly rewarding, and both Fiat and AP&T have benefited," says Per Josefsson.
Fiat's production facility in Cassino
- Inaugurated in 1972.
- Total area of 2 million m².
- One of Fiat's five production facilities in Italy.
- Production capacity of 1,400 cars a day.
- Manufactures, amongst others, Fiat Bravo, Lancia Giulietta and Lancia Delta.