Engineers at Ford have come up with a modern twist on a technique used by medieval blacksmiths to help protect knights in armour from the crashing blows of their opponents.
Using giant furnaces, robots and 3,000 Degrees C lasers, the first fully automated ‘hot-forming’ process is shaping and cutting parts of the car which are integral to protecting drivers and passengers.
The process helps to ensure that Ford’s all-new Focus earned a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating.
“We are building on techniques used to strengthen steel for thousands of years, incorporating modern materials and automation to speed and refine the hot-forming process,” said Dale Wishnousky, vice president, Manufacturing, Ford of Europe.
“The resulting boron steel safety cell helps to make the all-new Focus one of our safest vehicles ever.”
The hot-forming line at Ford’s Saarlouis Vehicle Assembly Plant in Germany was built as part of a recent €600 million investment.
The new Focus features extensive use of boron steel – the strongest steel used in the automotive industry – within the car’s safety cell. This helps to create a survival space in the event of an accident. In addition, the use of boron, also found in skyscrapers, helps the new model to achieve a 40% improvement in the car’s capability to withstand head‑on crashes.
Hot-formed steel pieces are subjected to temperatures of up to 930 Degrees C, unloaded by robots into a hydraulic press that has a closing force up to 1,150 tonnes, and and then shaped and cooled in just three seconds. The boron steel is so strong by this point that a laser beam hotter than lava is used to precision-cut each piece into its final shape.