Audi develops a new generation of tools

Toolmaking at Audi is racing into the future. Their tooling specialists have developed a new, highly efficient generation of tools that are up to 20% lighter and 10% more stable than the previous generation, an important milestone for the company. These innovations have been made possible through the use of lightweight and composite construction methods that are used in car body construction and and the tools are already being used in the press shop in Ingolstadt.

Conventional tools are made completely of cast iron and weigh up to 45 tons. Thanks to an ideal mix and distribution of the materials cast iron, aluminium and plastics these new tools are up to eight tons lighter than conventional tools. This composite construction concept is already a feature of Audi's lightweight construction in automobile engineering and follows the principle of the right material in the right place in the right quantity. Innovative manufacturing methods, such as metallic 3D printing, play an important role in the production process.

These new tools are significantly more stable despite their reduced weight and allow sheet metal to be processed faster and more precisely while being subjected to less wear and tear. Audi has achieved an energy saving of over 10% through the use of these new tools. "With this lightweight and composite construction, we are setting new standards at Audi Toolmaking," stated Michael Breme, Head of Toolmaking at Audi AG. "This enables us to produce even more flexible and more efficient tools with the highest quality and to further optimise our manufacturing processes."

As well as the materials used, the construction of the new generation of tools, which differs fundamentally from that of their predecessors, really makes a difference. In the press, a tool is subjected to forces f up to 2,500 tons. Constant repetition of forming or cutting operations increases the stress while individually adapted arched shapes in the basic structure give the new tools optimal stability and thus improves the transmission of forces. The basic structure of a conventional tool replies on cast-iron cross-ribbing whereby the design of the ribs is adapted to the sheet metal parts being produced.

With the new generation of tools, the forces that are to be absorbed by the structure of the forming press are optimally distributed ensuring good stiffness and saving up to 20% of the material. Some of the tools' shapes are derived from nature and resemble leaves or the bones of a human skeleton for example. Once again, innovating manufacturing processes play a decisive role in the manufacturing of such "bionic shapes".