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Press hardening:
Definition and application

Press hardening is a hot forming production process in which forming and heat treatment are carried out in one process step. In the automotive industry, press-hardened components are mainly used in the body shop of motor vehicles. They are characterized by high strength (= crash performance) and low weight. Steel grades with tensile strengths of 1500 Mpa and more are used for this. In the process itself, pre-cut sheet metal blanks are heated to over 900 °C, which changes the crystal lattice structure of the steels and enables them to be reshaped in the first place. This forming is then carried out in water-cooled, mostly hydraulic pressing tools. The rapid cooling, while the press is still closed, creates a high-strength martensitic material structure. This significantly increases the tensile strength of the steel components. Thus, the same or even higher strength values ​​are possible with less material input (weight). The components are then cut to size using laser machines.

A press hardening system consists of a feeder robot, a continuous furnace and a press. In the course of the conversion of the model range to e-vehicles, the proportion of lightweight components is steadily increasing. For the conversion, for example in the VW Group to the modular electric drive kit (MEB), an increase from 16 to 24 press-hardened components per vehicle is planned. The manufacturing costs of press hardened body parts are in the order of 10-15 EUR per component. Furthermore, many studies assume that the proportion of press hardened components in vehicles will continue to grow over the next years.