Electro-mobility Demands Globalized Value Creation Chains

EMO Hannover 2013 showcases production concepts for an electro-mobile future.

“EMO goes mobile”—into an electric future: the EMO Hannover 2013 will be addressing the issue of altered production conditions entailed by the change-over to electro-mobility, with flexible concepts for responsively modified manufacturing structures. The focus here is on new value creation chains for the electric drive train.

The global unveiling of the first mass-production model of the BMW Group to be powered solely by electricity, staged simultaneously in New York, London, and Beijing, meets all the requirements for future production concepts. The innovation is also reflected in the global value creation chain: BMW’s plant in Dingolfing is making batteries, transmissions and aluminium structures for the drive module, while the facility in Landshut produces CFC components, cast parts and the cockpit, plus the electric motor developed in-house. New approaches, too, for manufacturing and machining the CFC passenger cell: the carbon-fibre plant at Moses Lake in Washington State operated together with the SGL Group has been fully integrated into the value creation chain. The fibre bundles produced there are processed at the Wackersdorf Innovation Park to create lightweight textile fabrics, which constitute the feedstock for manufacturing CFC components at the plants in Landshut and Leipzig.

Three years ago, Fraunhofer’s then President, Professor Hans-Jörg Bullinger, was already warning that the change-over to electro-mobility signifies a radical transformation for the production technology involved. In the automotive industry, for example, the entire value creation chain will alter. A statement that Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Busse, Executive Director of the Bremen-based Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM), can today “only re-affirm.” Nonetheless, developments along the time axis will “in fact be proceeding less swiftly than we believed only two or three years ago. There’s not going to be an abrupt paradigm shift; rather, the portfolio in the value creation chain will be continuously morphing.”

The IFAM Director does not believe that the machine tool industry will see an entire spectrum of applications disappear without replacement: “It’s simply that the quantities involved will change. Viewed over time, the number of classical components like cylinder heads and crankcases will decrease – the machining spectrum will merely refocus its emphasis.” Machine tools are also indispensable for producing electric motors and those components that are installed in the “electric drive train.” In addition, other technologies will likewise come into use, in process engineering for battery manufacture, for example.

Busse advises machine tool manufacturers “to address these issues very intensively right now.” Because, he adds, the major automakers have also long since begun to revamp their production lines for manufacturing electric motor components. Those who have committed themselves to developing these new components and the associated production technology from the very beginning “will also be those who afterwards are one step ahead – and right at the forefront of the component supplier chain.”

The “machine tool of tomorrow” will continue to exhibit the classical features, but with “increasing intelligence and flexibility”, i.e. with additional sensor capabilities and new technologies. The demand for components and functionally integrated parts that can x be manufactured only in generative or additive modes, for example, will continue to rise. New materials and material combinations have to be machined. So the machine tool industry has to prepare itself for this well in advance. Nonetheless, the conventional technologies, from foundry and metal-cutting to joining processes, “will remain indispensable in the future as well.”

At the EMO Hannover 2013, says IFAM Director Busse, “electro-mobility and value creation chains in the electric drive train will be issues of exceptional interest to experts.” The machine tool industry, he adds, will be well advised “to put in some foresightful strategic thinking now, and to identify and help to shape emergent trends.” And for this the EMO Hannover 2013 is precisely the right forum at precisely the right time.

The transformation in the automotive industry’s value creation chain mentioned by Hans-Jörg Bullinger, explains Private Lecturer Dr.-Ing. Welf-Guntram Drossel, Director of the Chemnitz-based Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology (IWU), “has in recent years not been manifested with the anticipated vehemence. Due to the obstacles existing in the field of energy storage technology, machine tool manufacturers still have time to prepare themselves for coping with the changes.”