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Lighter cars, efficient production: INEGI and the automotive sector prepare the future

27 June 2023
The challenge came from the automotive sector: leveraging technology to meet new mobility trends and position the portuguese automotive cluster in the global value chains of the vehicle of the future. INEGI's answer didn't take long, and is now paving the way for a new generation of structural components for lighter and more resistant cars, and for an increase in production productivity thanks to digitalization.

INEGI's team is working on the creation of aluminum alloys and metal matrix composites, which are a key step towards producing lightweight, highly resistant structural components. It thus becomes possible to reduce the weight of the components – thanks to the substitution of steel for aluminum – and obtain excellent mechanical properties.

Rui Madureira, responsible for the project at INEGI, explains that the team opted for two approaches. "First, we locally reinforced the component, through an insert printed in steel, and at the same time reduced the mass of the component, replacing the steel with an aluminum alloy. The second development in this area involved the incorporation of alumina particles in the aluminum bath, which will allow obtaining alloys with exponential properties that do not require heat treatments, thus reducing production time and respective costs”.

Monitoring and connectivity technologies make production more flexible and digital

At the same time, the team developed solutions for digitizing and monitoring the production process of stamping automotive components, which helps reduce machine downtime, reduce sheet metal and oil waste, and facilitate the identification and prediction of failures.

"A system was developed to acquire and process analogue and digital data from the stamping press, as well as solutions for detecting anomalies, namely in the advance of the plate and the amount of oil deposited on the plate are in compliance", he says. "The acquisition of this data in real-time also allowed the creation of a dashboard that represents the machine, facilitating the identification of problems".

Rui Madureira points out that "the introduction of devices connected to the internet of things (IoT) allows machines to be monitored remotely, enabling the early detection of failures and triggering alerts. In this way, combining the retrofitting technique with the use of algorithms based on artificial intelligence, we pave the way for significant benefits for businesses.”

The PAC - Portugal AutoCluster for the Future project is co-financed by the European Union through the Lisbon 2020 European Regional Development Fund, as part of COMPETE 2020 (Operational Program for Competitiveness and Internationalization).

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