Brussels, 23 Sep 2005
Increasingly, the automotive manufacturing industry asks its suppliers, often small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), to provide integrated modules instead of individual components. In addition, SMEs are faced with the need to reduce manufacturing costs and development time.
This situation inspired the EU-funded project, 'Integration of the security sub-modules elements in the automotive industry' (ISSEA) to propose ways to help SMEs adapt their technologies and enhance SME competitiveness in the sector. The project is developing a quicker, cheaper and better quality production process for vehicles' security sub-modules.
Selected for funding under Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) activities aimed at boosting SME cooperative research (CRAFT), the project aims to develop modifications to the current production process for vehicles' security sub-modules - comprising the suspension and steering modules.
Current production methods include many separate stages, under which the different elements undergo separate surface treatments (against corrosion for example) and after which the components are joined by low quality union methods (screws and adhesives, which tend to fracture and loosen under severe or repeated impacts). The many stages of the long production process also increase the generation of corrosion nucleuses, which naturally shorten the life span of the sub-modules.
The project thus plans, firstly, to use high-strength low-alloy steel (HSLA) as the raw material for the structural metallic part of the sub-modules. HSLA has higher safety performance and is lighter than traditional steel. It also shows good resistance to fatigue and is, therefore, a good candidate for durability sensitive components and security components.
Secondly, ISSEA proposes the integration of different elements of the sub-modules by means of laser welding technology. This technology can make joins at highly localised points and is suitable for joining components made of different materials such as plastics, rubber, etc. A completely integrated sub-module would also make the module more resistant and allow for a better surface coating since the coating can access all parts of the single module.
Finally, the project aims to develop an organic surface coating for the integrated sub-module. The coating will take account of the different natures of the sub-module's elements, since, for example steel, rubber and thermoplastics require different surface treatments against corrosion. The proposed surface treatment requires lower temperatures (maximum 100ºC) than the current coating methods and would avoid the problems associated with traditional methods, which use polluting elements such as nickel or chromium.
For further information, please consult the ISSEA project web site: