Once it was a technique that helped protect knights in armour from the crashing blows of their rivals, but now Ford is applying an automated version of hot forming to help make its cars safer than ever.
Using Boron-steel within the car’s safety cell it helps the designers to create a survival space for occupants in the event of an accident, achieving a 40 per cent improvement on the car’s capability to withstand head‑on crashes.
Ford’s specially built hot-forming line is fully integrated within the company’s Saarlouis Vehicle Assembly Plant in Germany, built as part of a recent €600 million investment.
Hot-formed steel pieces are subjected to temperatures of up to 930°C; unloaded by robots into a hydraulic press with a closing force of up to 1,150 tonnes; and then shaped and cooled in just three seconds, before a laser beam precision-cuts each piece into its final shape.
“We are building on techniques used to strengthen steel for thousands of years, incorporating modern materials and automation to speed and refine the hot-forming process,” said Dale Wishnousky, manufacturing VP at Ford of Europe. “The resulting boron steel safety cell helps to make the all-new Focus one of our safest vehicles ever.”