A European consortium, coordinated by Eurecat technology centre, has started to deliver new innovative services to SMEs and large companies in the sheet metal forming industry under an open call by the European FormPlanet project. The aim is to enhance characterisation of sheet metal properties, estimate the final properties of manufactured parts and anticipate the formation of defects at an early design stage, thus preventing production losses and making quality inspection easier.

FormPlanet aims at “addressing the new challenges facing the European sheet metal forming manufacturing industry in which it is essential to have detailed, fast and accurate knowledge of mechanical properties and formability”, says Daniel Casellas, Eurecat’s Scientific Director. “This makes it possible to introduce new high-performance materials such as advanced high-strength steels and aluminium alloys” in industries using or manufacturing sheet metal parts, including transport (lightweighting), household appliances, machinery, packaging and construction.

The project seeks to “provide companies with access to new technologies by delivering services which support all the steps in innovative part and product development in the sheet metal industry”, notes Montse Vilaseca, director of Eurecat’s Metal and Ceramic Materials Unit.

“Companies applying will be able to draw on new characterisation techniques for advanced high-performance metals”, adds FormPlanet technical coordinator Begoña Casas, a researcher in Eurecat’s Metal and Ceramic Materials Unit. “This will limit productivity losses due to forming cracks and inaccurate quality assessment”.

Forming problems in high-strength materials “cannot be predicted during the product design stage by conventional experimental or computational techniques”, points out Casas. “Thus, the application of new methods will bring about increased use of high-strength sheet materials for high value-added products in a number of applications”.

FormPlanet’s services include novel and differential metal characterisation methods, non-destructive in-process measurements and new numerical simulation approaches. They are accompanied by information about advanced material properties and other additional services such as consultancy and on-demand training.

The call for applications is now open and will run until 31 March 2021 with up to €140,000 in total funding for SMEs and large companies. Applicants can submit a problem to be addressed with FormPlanet’s solutions and will get technical services, advice and visibility through the project’s channels.

Following the evaluation of the proposals in April 2021, services for the selected companies will be rolled out from May onwards and up until November. The businesses will validate the effectiveness of FormPlanet’s modelling and characterisation solutions.

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, coordinator of the project, 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.