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Suez Canal Blockage Highlights Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

Suez Canal Blockage Highlights Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

In the latest supply chain crisis, a 400-meter-long mega-container vessel has wedged itself diagonally across the banks of Suez Canal since Tuesday, 23 March and has caused a blockage along this narrow channel.

The Suez Canal is the fastest shipping route from Asia to Europe and about 13 percent of world trade passes through the canal, according to Allianz, an investment firm. More than 50 ships pass through the canal every day, carrying 1.2 billion tons of cargo, including goods from crude oil to cattle. Hundreds of vessels remain trapped in the canal and some have opted for an alternative, much longer route around the Cape of Good Hope—the southern tip of the African Continent.

The blockage is holding up an estimated $9.6 billion worth of cargo each day, according to Lloyd’s List and causing a strain on global supply chains. Singapore’s Transport Minister has commented that the blockage could temporarily disrupt supplies to the region and drawdown on existing inventories will be necessary. Europe’s manufacturing industry including the auto sector will be one of the hardest hits as they operate in “just-in-time” supply chains where components are sourced from Asia and not stockpiled.

The incident has also emphasised vulnerabilities of our supply chain and the need for visibility in the entire supply chain to ensure transparency and agility in the event of an unexpected disruption.

*Update: Efforts to dislodge the giant vessel and restore traffic were finally successful a week after the incident and a backlog of 422 ships have the be cleared.


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3D Printing Solutions For The Automotive Industry

3D Printing Solutions for the Automotive Industry

SLM Solutions looks back on years of experience in 3D printing solutions for the automotive industry. But what does it take to successfully print automotive parts? And what are the main use cases?

Metal additive manufacturing technology is accelerating industrial development in the automotive sector and offers numerous advantages. On the one hand, scalable on-demand local-for-local supply chains can get products to market faster and reduce costs. On the other hand, additive manufacturing can lead to improved performance and functionality of parts.

Selective laser melting (SLM) can be used primarily to bridge the gap between prototyping and series production. Pioneer and metal additive manufacturing partner SLM Solutions looks back on years of experience in 3D printing solutions for the automotive industry. But what does it take to successfully print automotive parts? And what are the main use cases?

Robust Machines and Material

To successfully print parts, robust and reliable machines are required. SLM Solutions’ SLM 500 offers excellent features for industrial series production in the automotive industry. As the first quad-laser system on the market, the machine is ideally suited for the rapid cost-effective production of large metal parts. The multi-laser overlap strategy with up to four 700 W lasers ensures maximum efficiency. The ability to change the build cylinder minimizes machine downtime, maximizes productivity and reduces cost per part. 

Equally important is the right choice of metal powder. SLM Solutions offers various alloys, for example, aluminium alloys, nickel alloys, and titanium alloys, that ideally fit to the requirements of the automotive industry. Furthermore, SLM Solutions develops new materials and parameters with customers. 

Another technology from SLM is the NXG XII 600. Equipped with 12 overlapping 1 kW lasers and a build envelope of 600x600x600 mm, the machine sets new milestones in terms of productivity, size, reliability and safety, and paves the way to the future of manufacturing. Productivity is further enhanced through variable beam spot, bi-directional recoating, laser balance and an optimized gas flow while a closed environment maximizes operator safety.

One company that has already tested the productivity of the NXG XII 600 is Porsche. The Porsche advanced powertrain engineering department also focuses on large powertrain applications, such as e-drive housings, cylinder blocks, and cylinder heads, to name a few, in additive manufacturing. In a proof of concept with the SLM  NXG XII 600, a complete e-drive housing with an innovative AM design was successfully printed. Porsche sets high quality demands on the part: A permanent magnet motor with 800 V operating voltage delivers up to 205 kW (280 hp). The downstream two-stage transmission is integrated in the same housing and drives the wheels with up to 2,100 N-m of torque. This highly integrated approach is designed for use on the front axle of a sports car.

All the advantages of additive manufacturing have been implemented in this housing, such as topology optimization with lattice structures to reduce the weight, functional integration of cooling channels, higher stiffness and reduced assembly time by the integration of parts as well as improvements in part quality.

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Global Automotive Bearing Market To Reach $48B By 2027

Global Automotive Bearing Market To Reach $48B by 2027

The global automotive bearings industry generated $31.60 billion in 2019, and is estimated to reach $48.41 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 6.8 percent from 2020 to 2027, according to a report by Allied Market Research.

A prime determinant of growth is the focus on overall weight reduction of vehicles and surge in production and sales of automobiles across the globe drive the global automotive bearings market. However, rise in vehicle electrification and variations in raw materials hinder the market growth. On the other hand, advent of sensor bearing units and development of additive manufacturing technologies and materials present new opportunities in the coming years.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, vehicle sales and demand for advanced technology-based bearings would boost post-lockdown, as daily operations in production plants and supply chain get on track.

Despite the supply chain disruption and shut down of operations amid COVID-19, research and development activities would gain traction as facilities begin to operate with full capacity. Furthermore, Vehicle sales and demand for advanced technology-based bearings would boost post-lockdown, as daily operations in production plants and supply chain get on track.

Asia-Pacific accounted for the highest market share with nearly two-fifths of the global automotive bearings market in 2019, and is projected to continue its leadership position in terms of revenue by 2027. Moreover, this region is expected to manifest the highest CAGR of 7.7 percent from 2020 to 2027. This is due to surge in adoption of fuel-efficient and eco-friendly vehicles, technological developments, and increase in demand for mild hybrid vehicles in the region.

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A Drill For All Materials

A Drill for All Materials

It’s said that life is a marathon, not a sprint. For automotive manufacturers, longer lasting tooling solutions are integral to more profitable production—but, often, manufacturers see little reason to change their existing tool set-up. In this article, James Thorpe, global product manager at Sandvik Coromant, explains why the benefits of longer-lasting tools shouldn’t be underestimated, particularly for reducing costs-per-part or increasing overall output.

A Drill for All Materials

Unpredictable tool life is one of the biggest threats in mass automotive production, particularly as its operations are so highly-automated and use some of the world’s most advanced robotics and automation systems. Downtime is time-consuming, disrupts production and is also expensive, so it goes without saying that tool failures should be avoided at all costs. 

In some instances, manufacturers set the tool change interval to less than the maximum tool life. This approach is normally preferred because material variations in automotive components are minimal. It follows that the tool changes should be predictable, and safer, than trying to extend the tool life to manufacture a few more components. 

Multi-material Drilling

For Sandvik Coromant’s specialists, the key to longer tool life is not limited to the amount of time a tool spends in use, but also the drill design itself. This approach led to the development of the CoroDrill 860 with enhanced -GM geometry, a new design solid carbide drill that’s optimized for a wide range of materials and applications, across all industry sectors. 

For the CoroDrill 860-GM, Sandvik Coromant applied its machine tooling and metal cutting expertise to develop a new grade, a unique fine-grained carbide substrate known as X1BM. The fine-grained carbide is imbued with increased hardness while maintaining toughness.

Furthermore, the drill is tip-coated with a multi-layer physical vapor deposition (PVD) thin film coating. This is key to improving the drill’s productivity and delivering a consistent tool life across a variety of materials. The result is a tool with excellent stability, machining security and improved tool life when machining cast iron, steel, stainless steel, hardened steels and non-ferrous metals.

Assessing Tool Life

A better way to assess tool life is by measuring the amount of material removed. To aid productivity, the CoroDrill 860-GM has an innovative, polished flute design that improves the evacuation of chips and yields greater hole quality. This also helps to reduce heat build-up in the tool, and further benefits are high core strength and reduced cutting forces while drilling.

The 860-GM forms part of Sandvik Coromant’s CoroDrill range of solid carbide drills. They are designed not only for optimized performance but also versatility, which means they can be deployed in a variety of applications and materials across multiple industries.

This includes use with the following material groups: ISO-P, the largest material group in metal cutting that ranges from unalloyed to high-alloyed material; ISO-M that includes difficult-to-cut stainless steels, austenitic steels and duplex steels; ISO-K grey, nodular and compacted graphite cast iron; ISO-H steels with a Rockwell hardness of between 45-65 HRc; and ISO-N for softer, non-ferrous materials such as aluminium, copper and brass. 

Advanced Geometry

As mentioned, the CoroDrill 860-GM has an enhanced design, but what exactly does this entail? Much of this relates to the design of the drill itself that includes an advanced optimized point and flute geometry, reinforced core and corner chamfers, edge preparation to remove cutting edge micro defects, and a double margin to enhance drilling stability. The drill’s point is also designed with refined clearance angles and improved surface quality. 

Overall, these design features stabilise the drill, reduce entry and exit burr and improve the hole tolerance, finish and straightness. The drill also gives stable wear progression and delivers excellent hole accuracy. 

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China’s Changzhou National Hi-Tech District Renews Partnership With ThyssenKrupp

China’s Changzhou National Hi-Tech District Renews Partnership With ThyssenKrupp

German multinational conglomerate ThyssenKrupp recently renewed its partnership with Changzhou National Hi-Tech District (CND), in Changzhou, representing its fifth investment in the Chinese city in five years.

ThyssenKrupp decided to move forward with an additional investment of US$200 million to build a global automotive electronic power steering (EPS) system facility in the district. As one of the world’s top 500 firms, ThyssenKrupp is the result of the merger of Thyssen and Krupp and has established its leadership in the steel refining sector, as well as the automotive parts and elevator manufacturing sectors.

With a focus on the high-tech manufacturing of automotive parts, the German conglomerate invested 25 million euros five years ago to set up ThyssenKrupp Steering System (Changzhou) Co., Ltd.

The conglomerate’s fifth investment in Changzhou will focus on the R&D and production of the world’s most advanced automotive EPS systems, which will vastly reduce the energy consumption of electric vehicles, giving drivers and passengers a better experience, while empowering unmanned driving technologies. Despite the negative effect that the current international economic situation and the COVID-19 pandemic are having on international economic cooperation, ThyssenKrupp remains upbeat about the prospects in China.

ThyssenKrupp’s manufacturing facilities in Changzhou have delivered increasingly exciting results, evidenced by sales from the Changzhou facilities growing 48.9 percent year on year in 2017, followed by a growth rate that advanced 85.9 percent in 2018 and 36 percent in 2019. ThyssenKrupp Presta Steering Asia Pacific Chief Operating Officer Chen Min commented after the signing ceremony that thanks to CND’s favorable business environment and the five investments in Changzhou over a five-year period, China promises a brighter future for the company.

The registered capital of ThyssenKrupp’s manufacturing facilities in Changzhou has reached approximately 900 million yuan. Chen Min said: “Looking forward, Changzhou’s facilities will become our largest steering system manufacturing base around the world and their combined annual sales are expected to double to some 5 billion yuan in three to five years.”

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FTI Spurs Thai Automotive Market With Proposed Measures

FTI Spurs Thai Automotive Market With Proposed Measures

According to the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) automotive club, Thailand’s automotive production is likely to plunge 37 percent to 1.33 million units this year and could drop even further to 50 percent (to one million units) if the pandemic lasts till June.

FTI has proposed measures to boost domestic car demand, including a car trade-in scheme, 50 percent excise tax reduction until the end of the year and a delay in enforcement of Euro 5 emission standards.

Under the car trade-in scheme, the government encourages motorist to purchase new, eco-friendly vehicles and turn in cars over 20 years old. An estimate of two million cars would qualify for the scheme, according to a spokeman for FTI, in an interview with Bangkok Post. Although the government may not be able to fund the scheme entirely, subsidies will be provided for auto companies. This is a bid to boost volume for automakers and prevent job layoffs.

Furthermore, FTI is looking into alternative measures to help auto parts manufacturers tide through the pandemic. The group is studying the possibility of repurposing and shifting domestic auto parts manufacturing plants to produce medical devices or aviation parts which are in greater demand following the pandemic instead.

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