MATEC Web of Conferences 21, 11001 (2015)
Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2015
Optimisation of component performance via structuring
Verena Psyk1,a , Petr Kurka1, Simon Kimme1, Markus Werner1, Dirk Landgrebe1, Andreas Ebert2,
and Mathias Schwarzendahl2
1Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology, Reichenhainer Strasse 88,
09126 Chemnitz, Germany
2Westfalia Presstechnik GmbH & Co. KG, Gewerbering 26, 08451 Crimmitschau, Germany
Abstract. Ecological and economic reasons are forcing industry to improve efﬁciency
and to save energy and resources by reducing product weight. In current product designs
often insufﬁcient geometric stiffness of the part prohibits exploiting the full potential
of weight reduction offered by modern materials. Ideally adapting the geometry to the
load proﬁle by implementing appropriate structures often allows a wall thickness and
weight reduction and improves the acoustic properties. To enable a target-oriented design,
structures manufactured by working media and working energy based forming technologies
1. Introduction and motivation
Due to climate change and global warming, industry is being forced to take ecological aspects into
consideration when developing new products. Over the last 20 years, Europe’s transport sector has been
responsible for approximately 30% of Europe’s energy consumption making it a key player in climate
and resource aspects . Decreasing the weight of a standard passenger car by about 100 kg can result in
fuel savings of about 300 to 800 litres over the vehicle’s lifetime and to a reduction of the CO2emission
by 9 grams per kilometre . Therefore, especially for the automotive and transport industry – but also
for other industrial branches – lightweight design is a key issue for improving efﬁciency and accordingly
saving energy and resources. Developments as e.g. the multi-material concept implemented in the
Audi A3  already succeeded in reducing vehicle weight, so that since 2000, a trend of decreasing
greenhouse gas emissions can be observed in Europe (compared to 1990) . Nevertheless, according
to  almost all car manufacturers will miss the European carbon emission reduction targets for 2020,
so that further cutting of vehicle weight is indispensable.
In addition to the substitution of conventional materials by typical lightweight ones such as
aluminium and magnesium alloys, high-strength steels, and plastics, also the component design offers
enormous weight saving potential. When dimensioning a component, the material strength is a relevant
aspect, but often insufﬁcient geometric stiffness of the part prohibits exploiting the full potential of wall
aCorresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits
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Figure 1. Analysis and application oriented design of the structuring process.
thickness reduction offered by modern high-strength materials. If the component geometry is optimally
adapted to the load proﬁle by implementing appropriate structures, a reduction in wall thickness is
possible. At the same time the acoustic properties can frequently be improved.
The optimum exploitation of these effects requires a sophisticated choice and design of the
structuring process. To enable an efﬁcient and requirement dependant product and production planning,
the inﬂuence of different process parameters on the resulting properties of regular hexagonal comb
structures with different comb sizes and on the related part performance was systematically analysed
(compare Fig. 1). Working media and working energy based processes were applied for structuring a
square area of 220 ×220 mm.
The techniques regarded in the study feature technological and economic advantages compared to
conventional sheet metal forming processes (e.g. deep drawing). One of the most important technical
beneﬁts is the improved formability of many materials due to the process speciﬁc load cases and
tribological systems. Signiﬁcant cost savings are possible, because in the regarded processes only one
tool needs to be adapted to the speciﬁc structure, while the second active part of a conventional set of
tools is replaced by the working medium and in case of the working energy based electromagnetic
forming (EMF) by the tool coil, which can be ﬂexibly applied for forming different structures.
Additionally, both technologies can be integrated into a conventional sheet metal forming process and
used for local structuring of deep drawn parts.
2. Working media based structuring
In working media based forming (also called hydroforming) a pressurised ﬂuid, a viscous medium, or
an elastomer forms tubular  or sheet metal  workpieces against a solid tool. With regard to the
planned integration of the structuring process into a conventional sheet forming technology, the most
promising process variants are forming with an elastomer tool and hydro-mechanical deep drawing
with a membrane. One of the most important advantages is that compared to active hydroforming the
complexity of the equipment is relatively low. In forming with an elastomer, the punch consists of an
elastomer block enclosed by a steel frame to avoid undesired bulging. In hydro-mechanical deep drawing
the ﬂuid basin is integrated in the forming press. In both cases the pressure is generated directly in the
tool due to the punch movement and the sheet workpiece is formed without necessitating an external
pressurisation unit. Moreover, these processes prevent direct contact of workpiece and ﬂuid, so that
sealing effort is reduced and additional cleaning and drying is avoided . In the study, structuring with
an elastomer tool was chosen for investigation and comparison to parts structured by EMF.
Figure 2. a) Setup of structuring with an elastomer tool; b) Example of a structured part; c) Full shape forming die;
d) Forming die designed as partial structure.
2.1 Structuring with an elastomer tool
Structuring with an elastomer tool is a forming technology using an elastomer insert in the punch, which
shapes the sheet metal workpiece (see Fig. 2). The lower die is usually designed as a conventional steel
tool. The form deﬁning surface can be realised either as a full shape solution as shown in Fig. 2c or as a
partial structure as shown Fig. 2d. In the ﬁrst case the complete geometry of the structure including the
structure depth is deﬁned by the die. In the second case, the die consists of 5 mm thick vertical division
walls between the individual combs allowing free forming of the comb domes according to the chosen
process parameters. This means especially that the structuring depth can by varied e.g. via the punch
stroke during forming with elastomer tools. The edges of the division walls were rounded with a radius
of 2.5 mm to avoid shearing of the workpiece, here.
In both cases the elastomer applies a pressure to the workpiece during closing of the tools which
causes the sheet to align to the lower die according to the structuring geometry. In doing so, ﬂat as well
as slightly curved workpices and workpiece sections can be structured. Thereby, the application of an
elastomer punch offers several advantages compared to conventional deep drawing with a set of classical
full steel tools. The most important ones are that the elastomer insert applies the forming forces very
uniformly, thus decreasing the stress gradient in the workpiece and consequently reducing local sheet
thinning. The resulting strain distribution is more uniform compared to conventional deep drawing
and the maximum strain values are lower. Consequently, the forming area features more remaining
formability, which is related to higher energy absorption potential. This is of interest especially for
crash relevant components from the automotive and transport industry.
Compared to the ﬂat initial material, the stiffening structures in the formed sheet shift the originally
low natural acoustic frequencies to higher values if the part is stimulated. As a result of this, the awkward
low frequency noise, which is typical for thin-walled parts, such as e.g. seat components or panels, is
signiﬁcantly reduced. At the same time the structured material features damping properties so that less
structure-borne noise is emitted.
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Figure 3. a) Tool coil for structuring by EMF; b) Position of turns and according magnetic pressure distribution
during forming sequences 1 and 2; c) Structured part after forming sequences 1 and 2.
The implementation of structures is not limited to regular geometries, but it is also possible to apply
arbitrary designs including bionic ones that are inspired e.g. by cobwebs or the wings of a dragonﬂy.
Depending on the structuring depth, especially the buckling strength can be signiﬁcantly increased
compared to ﬂat sheets and component sections. Based on the material choice, the sheet thickness,
and the geometry and size of the structuring elements, the bending stiffness can reach three-times the
value of a ﬂat sheet. This innovative forming technology using an elastomer punch offers numerous
improvements considering the part properties, on the one hand, and can easily be implemented in
classical forming tools, on the other hand.
3. Structuring by electromagnetic forming
3.1 Principle and setup of structuring by EMF
EMF is a high-speed forming process using the energy density of pulsed magnetic ﬁelds to apply
Lorenz forces to workpieces made of electrically highly conductive materials as e.g. EN AW-5754,
which is regarded in these investigations. The physically correct volume forces can be mathematically
transferred to a so-called magnetic pressure, which is often more convenient for comparing the acting
loads in different processes. Depending on the geometry and the arrangement of tool coil and workpiece,
tubular parts can be compressed or expanded and forming of ﬂat or preformed sheet metal components
is possible. A comprehensive review of the technology is presented in .
For the investigation of structuring by EMF, a tool coil with rectangular winding geometry was
designed, realised, and tested with partial structuring dies as exemplarily shown in Fig. 2d. The geometry
of the coil winding is shown in Fig. 3a. In principle, the pressure distribution applied for structuring
should be uniform, but in EMF only the areas of the workpiece close to the coil winding are pressurised,
so that the coil considered here features an unpressurised area in the centre as it is known from spirally
wound tool coils (see e.g. ). To overcome this deﬁcit, the structuring was performed in two forming
sequences. After the ﬁrst sequence, the workpiece was moved relative to the coil, so that the zone
initially positioned in the non-pressurised centre area of the coil was shifted to the pressurised area in the
second forming sequence (see Fig. 3b). As shown in Fig. 3c the workpiece features undeformed regions
after the ﬁrst forming sequence, which are structured during the forming sequence 2. This sequential
forming approach can be used for stepwisely structuring even large ﬂat sheets or ﬂat sections of hollow
bodies (if accessible for the coil) with various shapes of the structuring elements using one and the same
Figure 4. Inﬂuences on the structuring depth.
3.2 Properties of structures formed by EMF
To characterise the resulting structures, the structuring depth d– i.e. the depth of the comb domes (see
Fig. 4) – and the wall thickness distribution was measured. In Fig. 4 the structuring depth is correlated
to the maximum acting magnetic pressure, the initial sheet thickness, and the comb size.
As expected, for one and the same sheet thickness a higher pressure leads to deeper structures. The
comparison of different thicknesses shows that in case of low pressure (6.3 MPA) higher depths are
achieved for thinner sheets, while this trend is not so clear for higher pressures. This might be explained
as follows: At the beginning, the deformation is driven by the magnetic pressure and consequently,
thinner sheets are deformed more easily due to their lower inertia. After the ﬁrst acceleration of the
sheet, the magnetic pressure collapses quickly and the deformation is continued due to inertia effects,
(see also ). During this process phase, the higher inertia of thicker sheets has more potential to proceed
the deformation. The total structuring depth is a result of both, the pressure driven and the inertia driven
deformation. Therefore, there is a pressure dependant sheet thickness leading to maximum deformation
(i.e. optimum efﬁciency of the energy transfer). A variation of the comb size shows that larger combs
feature lower resistance against forming (i.e. lower stiffness), so that deeper structures are achieved for
one and the same pressure.
Compared to the parts structured with an elastomer tool, specimens structured by EMF feature
a relatively high spreading of the individual comb depths even within one and the same part. This
is probably owed to the speciﬁc pressure distribution and to the sequential forming approach. The
qualitative wall-thickness distribution of parts structured by EMF and such structured with an elastomer
punch is similar, but in case of EMF localised thinning and cracking occurs at signiﬁcantly higher
depths. Thus, EMF allows deeper structures compared to forming with elastomer tools, indicating an
extended material formability for this high velocity forming process, an effect that is well known from
previous publications as e.g. .
3.3 Performance of parts structured by EMF
To investigate the performance of the structured sheets, bending tests and measurements of the acoustic
frequency response were carried out. As a reference, also unstructured sheets (i.e. structuring depth
d=0 mm) were included in the measurement. The setup of the bending tests is shown in Fig. 5. The
force was applied in the centre cross section of the part at those positions where the bending punch
contacts a comb edge. Force-displacement-curves were recorded during bending. These curves initially
rise linearly, indicating an elastic deformation of the sheet before a further non-linear rise indicates
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Figure 5. Geometric stiffness of specimens structured by EMF.
Figure 6. Acoustic properties of specimens structured by EMF.
plastic deformation. The slope of the linear section was chosen to describe the workpiece stiffness. As
shown in Fig. 5, this stiffness value is higher in case of higher sheet thicknesses and rises with increasing
structure depth. The inﬂuence of the comb size seems to be secondary compared to the structure depth.
The comparison shows that for the regarded specimens, the wall thickness can be reduced from 1.2mm
to 0.8 mm without losing stiffness if a structure of at least 6 mm depth is achieved. This leads to weight
savings of more than 30%.
For the measurement of the acoustic part properties, the structure was excited by noise coupled in
by a electro dynamic shaker. The frequency response function from exciting force to sound pressure
was measured in a deﬁned distance from the structure. Special attention was paid to the inﬂuence of
the structuring on the ﬁrst natural frequency (fn,1), the according frequency response H(fn,1 ), and the
frequency response at an exemplarily chosen frequency of 172 Hz H(f172). This frequency was selected
since it is the lowest ﬁrst natural frequency of the regarded structured parts. The measurement results
clearly show that in general the structuring leads to a shifting of fn,1 to higher values, thus reducing
awkward, low frequency noise in practise (see Fig. 6). Higher structure depth leads to higher fn,1 but at
the same time H(fn,1) increases, too. With increasing comb size deeper structures are needed to achieve
the same level of fn,1, but this does not mean that higher pressure is required during EMF (compare
Fig. 4). Assuming the same structure geometry, thicker sheets cause higher values of fn,1. The values of
H(fn,1) are relatively similar for all regarded structures, whereas H(f172) shows clear dependencies. It
drops severely with increasing structure depth so that signiﬁcant noise reduction in low frequency range
can be expected if conventional components are replaced by structured ones. Higher comb sizes again
necessitate deeper structures (but not necessarily higher pressures during EMF) to achieve a similar level
of H(f172). Higher sheet thickness also tends to result in lower H(f172).
4. Summary and outlook
To provide fundamental knowledge for a target oriented design of structures, the inﬂuences of different
parameters on the resulting structure properties and the according part performance was investigated for
structuring using an elastomer punch and by EMF, respectively. The high weight saving potential (here
more than 30%) was exemplarily proved.
Future work will focus on developing a methodology using numerical simulation technologies,
which allows an efﬁcient design of local structures and the according structuring process including
the selection of the most suitable forming technology, appropriate process parameters, and eligible
tool properties. It will enable dimensioning application and load oriented local structures in sheet
metal components leading to weight reduction and improved acoustic performance of the product.
Additionally, the integration of the structuring into a conventional forming operation will be regarded.
The published research results were partly achieved within the project “Lokal versteifte Leichtbaukomponenten”
(locally reinforced lightweight components), funded by the Sächsische Aufbaubank SAB with ﬁnancial means of
the Europäischer Fonds für Regionale Entwicklung EFRE.
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