Robots in the spotlight
Nissan claims a technological breakthrough in the art of dual-sided, dieless forming
Nissan has developed a new way to use robots to make car parts out of sheet steel – a breakthrough that could make replacement parts for discontinued models more widely available for customers.
The automaker hopes to commercialise the proprietary system, known as dual-sided dieless forming. The technology involves two synchronised robots working from opposite sides of a steel sheet, using diamond-coated tools to gradually shape the steel.
Thanks to its flexible production, short lead times and minimal upfront costs, dieless forming could make it commercially viable to produce and sell a variety of replacement parts in small volumes for cars that Nissan no longer makes. This was previously not possible, due to high upfront costs and long lead times to develop and make dies for stamped parts.
Until now, dual-sided dieless forming has been considered too difficult to commercialise, due to the complexities of programming two robots to operate synchronously while ensuring consistent quality.
Existing techniques have primarily relied on single-sided forming, which limits the intricacy of shapes. However, by placing robots and tools on opposite sides of a steel sheet, Nissan has discovered that it is possible to create difficult, detailed forms.
The new technique was made possible through expertise at Nissan’s Production Engineering Research and Development Centre, along with advancements in materials technology by Nissan’s Research Division.
According to a company statement, it represents three major breakthroughs:
- The development of advanced programs capable of controlling both robots with a high degree of dimensional accuracy, enabling the formation of detailed convex and concave shapes;
- The application of a mirrored diamond coating on tools, reducing friction while eliminating the need for lubrication. This has numerous benefits, including consistency of surface quality and low-cost, environmentally friendly operation;
- The generation of optimised pathfinding logic for robots, drawing on the ample expertise and press-forming simulation techniques ordinarily used by Nissan’s production engineering teams. This has enabled Nissan to achieve high-quality results early in the development process.
The company plans to continue pursuing advancements in mass production while also dedicating research and development resources to honing its flexible low-volume production techniques.