At the renowned tool and mold maker KRÄMER + GREBE GmbH & Co.KG from Biedenkopf-Wallau, more and more die casting molds for lightweight construction and drive components for electric vehicles are being delivered to customers in the foundries. Using the example of a recently delivered tool, we asked the experts at K + G, Fabian Schuetz (Sales) and Roberto Di Giulio (Head of Technical Sales) about the current situation, the tool, and the future of suppliers in the foundry industry:
How noticeable is the transformation process in the automotive industry for K + G and what significance and further challenges do you see for tool and mold making in the future?
All major OEMs and foundries are trying to take a pioneering role in electrification in order to create a greener future. We at KRÄMER + GREBE have been part of this transformation process from the start, and support our customers in it. In this way, we have been able to gain important experience in recent years, which makes us the ideal contact person. This process cannot be stopped in the future and there are a multitude of challenges that apply in particular to toolmaking. Far fewer components are required in the powertrain for electrically powered vehicles than with conventional combustion engines. In addition, new manufacturing options such as 3D printing plays a major role. In the future, toolmaking will have to orient itself even closer to the customer in order to be able to generate opportunities from these challenges.
What special requirements do you see yourself confronted with for orders for e-mobility, and how do you prepare for the rapidly increasing digitization in all process areas?
The development in recent years clearly shows that light metal cast components in the area of the chassis play an important role in the transformation process to e-mobility, for example in order to increase the range. It is important to meet various and competing challenges with sufficient know-how, from thin-walled casting to functional integration to the technical and mechanical properties of the components. At KRÄMER + GREBE, we therefore try to support our customers directly with the casting planning in order to get the most out of the component and we have a focus on the TCO of the foundry right from the start.
The topic of digitization is also playing an increasingly important role. We have been in coordination with a large OEM here for a long time to develop a solution for intelligent tools. This solution is to monitor the tools during the casting process and collect data in real time. By evaluating this data using an algorithm and AI, optimizations for the casting processes and also for the tool can be derived.
Can you briefly describe the current tool to us and what the particular challenges were during development and design through to manufacture. (Weight, number of shots, casting cell, etc.)
The new molding tool shown in the picture is for a structural component in e-mobility. The finished form weighs around 60 tons and is one of the larger tools that we build at Krämer + Grebe. This mold is designed for a casting cell with a clamping force of over 4000t. We are currently in the middle of manufacturing a die-casting mold for a battery housing, which is used in a system with a clamping force of 5600t. Building lightweight cast components for e-mobility means, above all, being at the forefront of the development process. The structural component is, for example, for a new player in the field of e-mobility. We support the developers with simultaneous engineering in the early phase and design final adjustments to the component from the perspective of casting technology feasibility and economic implementation. Among other things, necessary geometry adjustments were worked out together with the foundry, OEM and KRÄMER + GREBE in order to be able to design the tool.
The tool itself was simply designed on a 2 plate system in order to achieve a good seal. In addition, the introduction of sliders on the contour was avoided. In contrast, elaborate heating-cooling systems and a squeezer system have been introduced for a good casting result.
It's an exciting and motivating process. As a team, we are proud of our performance. From development to final assembly, everyone at KRÄMER + GREBE did a great job.
The transformation of the automotive industry is manifold among all manufacturers, but particularly significant with Tesla. The American manufacturer, who is currently pushing ahead with the construction of its production facility near Berlin, intends to revolutionize die casting in vehicle construction by casting many parts in a single casting on so-called Giant die casting cells. What does this mean for the associated tools and how do the experts at K + G assess this development in the future?
Tesla, or more precisely Elon Musk, certainly did not make this decision by chance to build a completely new plant for electric vehicles including its own light metal die foundry on the greenfield in Germany, of all places. In addition to the generally important location factors, the outstanding German engineering know-how in automotive engineering and foundry technology was certainly also decisive for the decision. When implementing his visionary approach of questioning everything that exists and creating new production and component solutions, etc. a. To strive for functional integration with high cost-saving potential requires outstanding innovation and lightweight construction potential. We are pleased that he relies on "casting". Lightweight vehicle concepts that integrate up to 70 parts to be joined in a single casting require the know-how of experienced and passionate mold and tool makers. The experts at KRÄMER + GREBE can support these challenging concepts from the idea through to series production, even for large casting cells.
Thank you for the friendly welcome and the interesting conversation!