Steering columns made of laser welded sheet metal assemblies
Today, automotive suppliers use techniques like forming and joining sheet metal components to produce steering columns. In comparison to using cast components long installed in steering columns, combining both processes offers clear advantages in terms of quality, safety and weight. Joining via laser welding, for instance, provides three to five times higher output, as well as less warping due to lower heat input.
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To understand the advantages of formed and joined sheet metal components in producing steering columns, it is useful to compare them to cast parts:
The steering column components should deform upon impact to absorb energy. Sheet metal assemblies manufactured by forming and joining have this capability, while cast parts do not.
In comparison to cast parts, steering columns constructed of sheet metal assemblies save weight. This material substitution complies with the automotive industry's greater goal of reducing overall vehicle weight. This contrasts with heavier cast parts.
Processing and complexity
Cast metal is time-intensive, and typically requires mechanical processing (such as milling fits, removing burrs, etc.). In addition, the manufacturing process is complex and uncomfortable for employees. Our modular solutions for producing steering columns reduce the amount of required work. The need to manufacture complex cast forms is eliminated.
Purchasing and logistics
China is the primary supplier of cast metal. The material must make a long, expensive journey before processing, which is associated with a higher risk of complications. This poses particular danger to the fragile equilibrium of the supply chain.
Forming processes allow for efficient use of resources and inexpensive sequencing. Steel or stainless steel sheets are punched in a (semi-)automated process and combined to create laser welded sheet metal assemblies. The entire supply chain, from sheet metal to finished steering column, remains within the company.
Welding – in particular laser welding –is a much cleaner joining process than casting parts. The higher precision offered by the process ensures better quality steering column components, and lower heat input results in less warpage.
Production managers are choosing laser welding systems more and more frequently as a joining process. In comparison to MIG and MAG welding, laser welding has the following advantages for the steering column:
- High-quality, butt welded seams
- Three to five times higher production speeds
- Good processing capabilities and accessibility
- Material and cost savings
- Less or no weld spatter
- More freedom in product design
- More compact, lightweight assemblies
Joining processes such as bonding and soldering are not good alternatives for steering columns, since they may fail at high temperatures – causing connections to come loose.
Whether standard modules or custom-tailored solutions – our engineers are always looking for the solution that best matches your company and your requirements.
Based on a complete analysis in our TechCenter, we can prepare a concept for producing individual or multiple steering column components. Machines and equipment in the following categories are relevant for such production: