Torque News Honored as Media Partner to Major Materials Conference
Torque News has received an honor that few other automotive websites have received this year. TN has been named a Media Partner at this year’s Joining, Forming, Manufacturing Technologies Conference (JFMTC) in Birmingham, U.K. Part of the GALM Series of Lightweight Manufacturing Summits, attendees will receive insights into lightweighting and downsizing vehicles, and other essential aspects of automotive manufacturing today.
Conference comes at a critical time
JFMTC 2017 comes at a critical time in the auto industry. The auto industry and other manufacturers, in general, are facing a quandary today. Miniaturization – the famed shrinking car (or refrigerator in other places) – can only be pushed so far before it turns from an asset to an impediment. For example, you cannot do the same things with a small pickup that you can with either a full- or mid-sized truck. Small trucks cannot plow snow efficiently; their frames are easily twisted or bent by roadway bumps and dips, even using the most advanced snowplow technology. Larger pickups, on the other hand, can be beefed up using a mix of materials so that their frames will withstand the stresses of job sites, plowing, or different work environments.
Given the need for physically large vehicles, the auto industry is facing its puzzle. How do you keep a vehicle’s size and hefty feel as you are seeking to lightweight trucks? It is a must. JFMTC, a two-day series of panels and information sessions, is exploring these issues. Conference to discuss many key materials issues.
Among other things, the lightweighting conference will discuss the need for materials substitution and use. Let’s use Ford as an example. Before 2016, Ford F-150s used conventional high-strength steel body panels and frames not only to keep the frame rigid but also ensure the integrity of the body as a whole. In 2016, Ford made a significant change. The automaker introduced a redesigned F-150 that used lightweight, high-strength aluminum panels in its major body panels. Ford achieved significant body weight savings. While the frame remained as is, the body panels accounted for a substantial change in weight.
At first, there was lots of skepticism; buyers held back before jumping back into F-150s. For a time, Chevy’s Silverado line and GMC pickups benefitted. Ford fell out of first place in sales for a bit. That situation reversed within six months as Ford buyers realized not only the corrosion benefits of aluminum, but they also found that aluminum panels could stand up.
Interestingly, Chevy used the aluminum panel issue to tout what it supposed was an advantage in a series of video challenges to Ford. If you looked at the videos quickly, it would have appeared that there was a real problem with Ford's aluminum use. For example, Ford used an aluminum as the floor of the F-150's pickup bed. And, in its video, Chevy bounced a considerable load of quarry stone off the Ford bed in a simulated loading test. The results, as you might expect, looked bad for the F-150. The bed was ripped up by the jagged edges and corners. In the same test, whose results were shown, Chevy’s bed, though it seemed like five miles of bad road, was okay, while Ford's bed was beaten and holed in places. The test video was to show the strength of steel versus aluminum panel. Here’s the point, though.
On checking with Ford, it turns out that somewhere between 70 and 100 percent of the pickups sold, leave dealerships with bedliners. And, a Ford spokesman told TN, many of the owners who don’t buy the factory bedliners, often use sprayed on Rhino material or other aftermarket bedliners. With a bedliner, Ford’s beds fare as well or better than Chevy’s.
Panels address issues facing industries
JFMTC, whose keynote panel is in a little more than 24 hours, addresses many of the forces driving the auto and other industries to lightweight their products. For example, for vehicles, there’s the need to improve and keep on improving mileage. That’s what the CAFÉ rules envision. It also makes sense for vehicle owners (fleets, truckers, and others) to obtain vehicles that maximize economy. JFMTC panels will explore topics that touch heavily on materials substitution; better materials technology; using plastics and composites and more. Other discussions will explore third generation steels; improved aluminum, and the all-important joining technology (welding the new steels; better aluminum welding and more).
One issue that the conference will explore in depth is dissimilar metals issues. If you are familiar with conventional wall thermostats – no matter how high-tech the front end, the back end is dull – you probably know that the manufacturer welds two pieces of metal together, each with known heating and cooling properties. When you turn up the temperature, the hot side of the pair bends until it hits the temperature chosen and it makes contact with an on-off switch. As the temperature cools, the other side of the metal strip takes over and pushes the strip back the other way, so the heat comes back on. In the world of dissimilar metals, this type of action goes on regularly. It is action like this that weakens welds and joins. There's another critical dissimilar metal problem that also has to be overcome, galvanic reactions (electrical). Because of the diode action of the dissimilar metals, small currents are generated that can weaken welds and other joints. To further, lightweight vehicles, manufacturers will have to eliminate these and other issues so they can take advantage of these materials in vehicles.
Finally, the conference will have extensive discussions of joining technology. It will look at proper welding techniques for third generation steels and aluminum panels. And, it will address plastics and composites, looking carefully at joining strategies for those materials.
Torque News received its honor recently as a Media Partner for the conference on the strength of its broad coverage of autos and the auto industry. The TN staff has years of collective experience covering cars and the auto industry. The reporting team working for TN provides full coverage of all aspects of the auto business including the race toward vehicle autonomy (a significant issue covered by the conference) and more. TorqueNews lauded as conference media partner.