Nissan Motor Corporation 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 Japanese car maker hopes to commercialise the proprietary technique, known as dual-sided dieless forming. The technique involves two synchronised robots working from opposite sides of a steel sheet, using diamond-coated tools to gradually shape the steel.
The new technique was made possible through the production engineering expertise at Nissan’s Production Engineering Research and Development Center, along with advancements in materials technology by Nissan’s Research Division.
With the its flexible production, short lead times and minimal upfront costs, the new technique could make it commercially viable for Nissan to produce and sell a wide variety of after-service and replacement parts in small volumes for cars that are no longer in production. This was previously not possible due to the high upfront costs and long lead times to develop and make dies for stamped parts.
Robots make a difference
Until now, dual-sided dieless forming had been considered too difficult to commercialise. This was due to the complexity of programming two robots to operate synchronously while ensuring consistent quality. Existing techniques have primarily relied on single-sided forming, which limits the complexity of shapes that can be created. By placing robots and tools on opposite sides of a steel sheet, they can create more difficult and detailed shapes.
Nissan’s new manufacturing technique 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 to 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 optimized pathfinding logic for robots, drawing on the ample expertise and press-forming simulation techniques ordinarily used by Nissan’s production engineering teams. This enabled Nissan to achieve high quality results early in the development process.
Nissan plans to continue pursuing advancements in mass production while also dedicating R&D resources to honing its flexible low-volume production techniques.