Seeing the opportunities in automotive manufacturing challenges
Car manufacturing in the UK is at its highest level for ten years, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. There are similar levels of growth in the UK automotive parts sector, with the volume of parts sourced from suppliers in the UK increasing by 32 per cent between 2011 and 2015. Globally, we’re seeing car buying figures at their highest levels, with China leading the way in light vehicle sales. However, even with this success, automotive designers and manufacturers can’t afford to rest on their laurels.
This is because the expectations consumers have of their cars are changing rapidly. Many younger people now simply see them as a way to travel from A to B, rather than the status symbol they once were. At the same time, cars are becoming smarter, more connected and easier to use. People are also expecting them to be much more environmentally friendly. All of these factors are transforming consumers’ expectations of the cars they buy.
The challenge manufacturers and designers are facing at the moment is whether they have the expertise and tools in place to respond to these changes. However, as with any problem, this presents the automotive industry with substantial opportunities to take advantage of some of the latest trends.
Standing out from the crowd
The first area where there is a challenge facing the automotive sector is ensuring the vehicles they’re producing are able to stand out and provide unique appeal to their audience. Producing something distinctive is vital in a very competitive marketplace, especially with many models sharing common components and subsystems. This is where the physical aspect of the design process comes into its own, with the most successful design teams demonstrating how clay models are still important in understanding how a vehicle would look in the real world. However, the challenge is incorporating the physical clay models back into the digital design workflow once the designers have made tweaks to the model. 3D scanning tools can play a really important role here, by creating a truly joined up design process. However, the opportunity now exists for automotive manufacturers take this one step further and create a true feedback loop, so that multiple clay model iterations can be fed back into the design process to create a truly unique vehicle.
New types of car
While the majority of cars on our roads are fundamentally similar to those of fifty years ago, by the 2020s we may see a complete transformation in what we think of as a ‘car’. Google’s prototype driverless car is a long way from anything modern drivers are used to. There’s no steering wheel for a start, and no control pedals. While Google’s car is obviously radically different to what we know at the moment, even electric vehicles are transforming the fundamentals of what we expect. For example, true electric vehicles have no need for a traditional drive train, meaning no need for the transmission tunnel. This frees up a lot of space within the car. Equally, with the vehicle’s dashboard controls becoming increasingly driven by software, all you need is a single touch screen panel, rather than multiple buttons across the dashboard. For automobile manufacturers, this is an opportunity to think beyond the traditional layout. However, this can only be achieved with a design and manufacturing process that can simulate the combination of software and mechanical components cars will incorporate in the future.
One of the biggest trends vehicle manufacturers now need to consider is that of fuel efficiency and limiting the impact of automobiles on the environment. While fuel prices may be at the lowest they’ve been for a number of years, consumers still want to get the most out of their cars. A key part of this is making designs that are more efficient, using both lighter materials and more efficient designs. This is where the design and manufacturing processes have to work hand in hand. New cars have to be created with new materials in mind. Alongside this, the designs need to reflect the manufacturing tooling available. If you want to use aluminium, or lightweight composites in your new car, this must be reflected throughout the design and manufacturing workflow. There has to be real integration in the software behind the design and manufacturing workflow. Of course, when this is done effectively then manufacturers can benefit from faster time to market with vehicles that meet customers’ needs
The automotive industry is undergoing an exciting period of change. As with many other sectors, established ways of doing things are falling by the wayside, and vehicle manufacturing is no different. The automotive industry must understand these trends if they’re to respond to them and remain competitive. The only way to achieve this is by not blindly sticking with existing processes, workflows and technology. As the industry is being disrupted by new technology, automotive manufacturers need to embrace this disruption if they’re to continue to thrive.
Bart Simpson is the Business Development Lead at Delcam, part of Autodesk
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.