The FormPlanet project, coordinated by the Eurecat technology centre (a member of Tecnio), will create an Open Innovation TestBed (OITB) in Europe for the purpose of increasing the productivity of metal forming industries by developing new experimental methodologies and modelling approaches for predicting and optimizing the performance of materials and parts and for reducing the marketing time of new developments in this area.

Sheet metal forming generated over 440 million euros in Europe in 2016, and it is one of the most important manufacturing processes for obtaining high-performance metal parts for industrial production sectors such as transport, machinery, household appliances, cosmetics, energy and chemical products, among others.

To have an impact on productivity, during the upcoming three years FormPlanet will develop new techniques for the characterization of materials and new modelling approaches to predict the formation of defects in an early stage of design and to predict the performance of parts. Moreover, non-destructive techniques will be developed to in-line assess part integrity in high quality products made with processing sensitive materials. Tests can be also used to control raw material properties, in-line or off-line, and adjust the process window to the actual sheet properties.

In addition to new services for the characterization of materials, the project will offer innovative cross-functional services related to compliance with regulations and standards, related to data access and traceability regarding materials and products and related to quality certification, with the objective of providing expert support for industries in the sector.

According to the Director of the Metallic and Ceramic Materials Unit of Eurecat, Daniel Casellas, FormPlanet’s objective is to “respond to the challenges faced by the industry for manufacturing high-performance metal parts using new high-strength materials for greater optimization of the development, design, production and performance of metal materials”.

Along this same line, the new methodologies “will allow increasing the use of high-strength sheet metals in the manufacturing of high added-value parts, reducing production costs by up to 20 percent and reducing the time it takes to introduce these products into the market by up to 25 percent”, adds the technical coordinator of the project and researcher of the Metal and Ceramic Materials Unit of Eurecat, Begoña Casas.

FormPlanet’s responses to the challenges of the sector “will also have a positive impact on local labour, whose technical capacities will expand; it will increase customer satisfaction as a result of benefiting from improved levels of quality; it will stimulate economic growth and innovation; and it will position the European Union as a manufacturing leader in the sheet metal forming industry”, assures the project’s coordinator, Eduard Piqueras.

New methodologies to increase productivity

The limitations of the processes currently used in metal forming cause productivity losses due to defects resulting from cracks, which cannot be predicted in the product design stage using traditional experimental or computational approaches.

The project will test the potential of new experimental methodologies and modelling approaches using several industrial case studies, which will demonstrate the solutions to existing problems in the entire value chain of the metal parts manufacturing industry and will reduce the cost and marketing time in the development of new materials and products.

The project is framed within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, and it is backed by a European consortium formed by three research centres (Eurecat, plus Fraunhofer IWU and COMTES FHT AS), two universities (Lulea Tekniska Universitet and Università di Pisa), three companies (LETOMEC, Granta DESIGN and APPLUS – LGAI Technological Center, SA), eight industrial enterprises (Centro Ricerche FIAT, ArcelorMittal, Arania, Estamp, Arcelik, ALUDIUM, AP&T and Lamera) and UNE as the standardization body.