SDE targets new lightweight opportunities

A UK manufacturer of pressings and assemblies has signalled its intentions to be a world leader in lightweight components by investing in a new process.

SDE Technology, which prior to a recent rebrand was known as Salop Design and Engineering, is the first company in Europe to hold a production licence for Hot Form Quench (HFQ), a hot-forming process that produces high-strength aluminium parts for use in the automotive, aerospace and renewable energy sectors.
This new technology gives designers the freedom to create parts that offer significant weight savings, yet still deliver higher structural strength, with improved formability in 6000 and 7000 series alloys, which cannot be formed cold. In some instances, the process can also reduce multiple part counts to just one.
The initial investment of £1m in 2019 enables the laser profiling of HFQ blanks, with a multi-million pound investment scheduled to be in place at the company’s Shrewsbury facility over the next 18 months.
“This is a real game changer for our business and industry as a whole,” says Richard Homden, CEO of SDE Technology. “Thanks to HFQ we can now offer new and existing customers a lightweight solution for
making complex parts in one pressing, reducing weight, time to manufacture and cost in the process.
“HFQ was developed by Impression Technologies (ITL), who industrialised research by Birmingham University and Imperial College London,” he adds. “You simply cannot form this high-strength aluminium in any other way, unless you use a super plastic forming [SPF] process. Even then, SPF makes one part every
15 to 20 minutes, whereas the cycle time for our technology is one part every 15 to 20 seconds. That is a design and manufacturing dream.”
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AP&T delivers press hardening lines

Earlier this year, the Japan-headquartered Unipres group, which supplies many of the world’s major automotive manufacturers with pressed car body parts, took delivery of two complete press hardening lines from AP&T. The first of the two lines began operations at Unipres’s UK manufacturing centre in Sunderland at the beginning of 2020, while the second line was delivered to the group’s French plant in Biache Saint Vaast in March.

“AP&T’s reliable technology, extensive experience of press hardening and ability to provide quick service are some of the most important reasons underlying our decision to collaborate with them,” says senior vice president of the Unipres Advanced Engineering Development Centre, Ryoji Maeda.
AP&T technical sales manager Peter Robisch adds: “We were naturally delighted to be entrusted with producing complete solutions that meet Unipres’s high demands for short cycle times and extensive automation. Both of the lines have advanced technology. For example, all of the tooling and gripper changes are fully automated. The lines are also equipped with sophisticated press monitoring, which ensures a consistently high level of quality for the manufactured parts.”
AP&T’s business model – ‘One Responsible Partner’ – which entails the company taking full responsibility for all of the production equipment and having all of the required expertise in-house, also played an important role in the procurement. A further vital aspect was AP&T’s global operations, which allow the company to offer service and spare parts supply wherever customers operate.
To date, AP&T has delivered and installed over 120 press hardening lines all over the world.
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10-year present for Worcester

Black Country based Worcester Presses is celebrating 10 years of supplying hydraulic presses in the UK by hitting a major sales milestone. Worcester Presses, which employs 14 people at its works in Dudley, has recently installed its 50th hydraulic press into PAB (Coventry) to help cope with an increase in orders from the automotive and aerospace sectors.

A Yeh Chiun 300 tonne H-frame hydraulic press has arrived at PAB (Coventry) that is capable of delivering the accuracy crucial in producing pressings and metal grills for supercars and a host of Aston Martin models. Praised for its flexibility and power, the machine’s relatively small footprint is a major benefit, while the latest control software means programs can be stored and recalled quickly.
“The YCT-300 Worcester hydraulic press is a great addition to our capability and is directly involved in the added-value work we complete for a number of car manufacturers and some sub-frame components for aerospace,” says Mark Brazier, CEO of PAB (Coventry).
The installation marks Worcester Presses’ best-ever year of hydraulic press sales, with this type of machine now accounting for 20% of the firm’s £2.2m turnover.
Brazier adds: “We’ve been very impressed with the machine’s versatility and the fact we can quickly set it up to take on new and diverse jobs. Tool life is also very good. We’ve been working with Worcester Presses since an engineering show five years ago and have always received great support, from understanding our desired application and then matching it to the right machine. The service and maintenance packages are also first class.”
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Coil line upgrade project completed

A specialist in hot and cold-forming equipment, Rhodes Interform and its sister company Atkin Automation, recently won a contract to supply and install a new coil-processing line for a major northeast heat-shield manufacturer. The machine is used to produce blanked parts from single-pitch tools, or formed parts from progressive tooling in the automotive industry.

Following technical meetings between the client and Rhodes Interform engineers, a solution was proposed and accepted which involved the supply of a unit from sister company Atkin Automation’s Taiwanese partner Shung-Dar. The unit selected was a space-saving three-in-one NC servo-feeder, straightener, decoiler and coil cart with a capacity of 3000 kg by 800 mm. The unit is rated at 1.5 mm at full width, and comes with a Siemens PLC. Notably, a novel pilot release feature ensures optimum press performance by relieving built-up stress and binding of the strip through the feed caused by misalignment or camber, as well as alleviating ‘walking’ problems.
“This project was a great example of two business divisions working to generate an effective solution for the customer,” says Geoff Barker, sales manager for Atkin Automation. “We have extensive experience in providing products and services to heat-shield manufacturers and the coil-processing industry in general, and the success of the project is testament to the skills of our technical team.”
Features of the unit include: hydraulic coil cart, hydraulic mandrel expansion, threading supports, motorised feed height adjustment, programmable feed lengths with memory storage, and pilot release. To ensure operator safety and conformity to CE standards, Rhodes Interform installed the unit with fully interlocked perimeter fencing.
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Nissan stamping line unveiled

In early March Nissan unveiled a £52m extra-large press line at its UK manufacturing plant in Sunderland as preparations begin for the next-generation Qashqai.

Nissan Sunderland Plant 06/03/2020
COO Ashwani Gupta unveils XL Press #2

The Komatsu press, which weighs more than 2000 tonnes and has taken 18 months to install, is part of a £400m total investment by Nissan in readiness for the new Qashqai, which will be the third-generation of the crossover.
Nissan’s investment in the new press includes a recycling system to segregate and process scrap, along with upgrades to the existing blanking line, which will supply flat blanks to the machine. The press is capable of stamping more than 6.1 million vehicle panels a year, with a maximum combined force of 5400 tonnes. At the opening ceremony, the whole team behind the press project signed the first panel
– a fender for the new Juke.
March 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of the first Juke to roll off the line in Sunderland. The all-new version has been made exclusively in Sunderland since October last year.
Steve Marsh, vice president – manufacturing at Nissan Sunderland, says: “Watching the first perfect panels coming off the press was a proud moment, and is a reflection of the tremendous skills we have here on Wearside.”
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