BMW produces lighter, stronger parts
In all, the premium automaker plans to invest several hundred million euros in the plant in 2009 and 2010.
"Anyone who saves money in the wrong area in tough times is putting his competitiveness at risk over the long-term," said Frank-Peter Arndt, BMW's production chief. "And I doubt that you can survive that way in the long run."
During "cutthroat competition," innovative technologies are more important than ever, he said.
BMW will make high strength body parts such as chassis beams and side skirts with the new press hardening process.
It will be the first use of press hardening technology in the auto industry anywhere in the world, BMW said. It makes it possible to construct high-strength components at lower weights.
The new process cuts vehicle weight by almost 51 pounds. This in turn shrinks fuel consumption by up to 0.1 liter per 100 kilometers driven, or just under half a cup of gasoline for every 62 miles.
The new facility thus contributes to BMW's "efficient dynamics" program, an effort to improve vehicle performance along a range of fronts.
The 5 Series Gran Turismo will be the first model using these components. Over the next three years, eight more new BMW models will incorporate components from the facility.
The Dingolfing press facility will supply BMW's factory network worldwide.
Hot to cold
In the new press process, galvanized sheet steel is pressed cold before being heated to 1,670 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, still glowing red, it is placed in the new press equipment, which cools it down to 158 degrees Fahrenheit, hardening it in the process.
Despite lower weight, its strength is three to four times as great as untreated sheet steel.
The use of galvanized sheet steel also guarantees a high level of rust protection.
The process was developed with the steel technology company Voestalpine Polynorm.
BMW is putting a second press hardening facility into operation in late 2009.
At that point, up to 100 workers will work at both facilities in a three-shift operation.
You can reach Gerhard Mauerer at firstname.lastname@example.org.