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GF Casting Solutions
An EV battery housing developed by GF Casting Solutions in partnership with Renault.

Stepping Up to the e-Mobility Challenge

June 21, 2022
The automotive industry has already transformed itself – and now the task falls to its suppliers. One metalcasting business has outlined its approach.

The rise of e-mobility is changing the entire automotive industry, as OEMs convert their businesses to keep pace with emissions regulations and government and consumer demand for more efficient vehicles. This ongoing transformation is supported by automotive suppliers, too. By evolving and encouraging innovations in product and material development, and casting technology, foundries can provide automakers with the components for future vehicles. The Swiss foundry group GF Casting Solutions outlined its approach.

Innovation in e-mobility – Many electric vehicles are developed completely from scratch – which is an opportunity to break up old patterns. As structures and assemblies are rethought, metalcasters can support automotive manufacturers by innovating solutions to ongoing issues driven by alternative drives, connectivity, vehicle design, or sustainability.

One approach is to produce components for electrically powered vehicles using manufacturing technologies that have a minimal environmental impact. Ensuring short delivery paths, optimized supply chains, as well as environmentally friendly energy usage is crucial. Many are concentrating on optimized lightweight products manufactured high-pressure diecasting or additive manufacturing.

By being fully involved during conceptual and design stages of projects, GF is able to provide a range of innovative cast products customized to match each client’s individual needs.

Electric drive components –Lightweight designs achieved through simulations and according to bionic principles can deliver significant decreases in overall vehicle weight. Increased design flexibility allows more integrated functionalities in components. An example of lightweight design optimization are battery housings for hybrid-electric vehicles. The freedom of design provided by the casting process allows manufacturers to save material wherever possible, including integrating attachment points or cooling circuits into the design for series production – making it ready to install upon delivery.

GF Casting Solutions jointly developed a lightweight diecast battery housing for Renault’s two hybrid models,  made of an aluminum alloy, providing high functional integration as well as an integrated cooling circuit.

Currently, manufacturers and foundries are turning to aluminum solutions for battery housings and other electric drive components. Side crash requirements have resulted in the production of housings that are made of 6000 or 7000 wrought alloys in the form of aluminum extrusions. High-pressure diecasting (HPDC) is rarely used to manufacture 800-volt systems. Pure HPDC applications are more commonly found in 48-volt systems.

Improved diecasting technology – In addition to the enhanced components, GF has optimized processes such as its Artificial Intelligence (AI) project. AI helps GF to deliver premium quality and environmentally responsible products that facilitate customers’ transition to electric engines and e-mobility.

The GF Casting Solutions Research & Development team uses Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning cloud service to analyze data gathered during HPDC process, systematically evaluating production processes, locating potential optimization, and implement component and process optimization directly with the support of data models.

By studying the patterns found in complex casting processes with the latest automated machine learning technology, GF has enhanced its components while also reducing waste and energy consumption. This improves product quality, reduces time to market, and provides more transparency for the customer.

Lightweight structural components – By focusing on weight reduction, foundries can assist in increasing the energy economy of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Applying 100 kg of weight optimization to a BEV can lead to up to 4% savings in drive energy.

Typically, weight reduction is achieved by replacing traditional steel parts with components made from aluminum or magnesium. Consistently replacing components from steel to lightweight aluminum can deliver weight savings of up to 40%. Additionally, switching from aluminum to magnesium components can decrease weight by another 10 to 15%. Thus, moving from steel to magnesium can result in possible weight savings of up to 55%. An explicit lightweight index is only possible via a product development process that considers the individual technical requirements.

In some cases one-piece casting has cut production costs and resulted in stronger, more precisely engineered automotive frames. However, this process is still in its development stage and many technical challenges remain to be solved. In terms of sustainability one-piece casting has some significant drawbacks.

“Due to the great computing and software developments of the last years, the possibilities of simulation have grown and made it possible to analyze and shape a product more precisely and in more detail. Our holistic product and process development are ensured by our continuous CAE process chain from topology optimization, linear and nonlinear FEA, thermomechanical simulation, NVH, lifetime prediction, and casting simulation. GF Casting Solutions provides the ideal lightweight solution based on technical specifications and package requirements,” according to Frank Gensty, CTO at GF Casting Solutions.

GF technicians and research continue to focus on cutting-edge technologies and forward-looking R&D projects. Agility and dynamic full-service approach enable the company to provide clients with superior products customized to meet their exact requirements.

GF demonstrates its commitment to the future of metalcasting and mobility by constantly seeking out new opportunities. Currently, GF is partnered with a startup called Autobahn powered by Plug and Play, an exciting new venture that aims to connect new innovators with established industry leaders in the automotive sector.