Components used in the automotive industry should be as light as possible while maintaining a high functional quality in order to reduce vehicle weight and thus energy consumption. Not only engine components play a role here, but also components for the interior and exterior designs of the vehicles. At this point, thin glass offers advantageous properties for the construction of future automobiles: it is lightweight, scratch-resistant, durable, easy to clean, and ideally suited for functional surfaces with optical advances. For this reason, thin glass promises high potential for autonomous, connected, and lightweight vehicles of the future. The aim of the "Glass4AutoFuture" project is to develop a non-isothermal glass molding technology suitable for the mass production of thin glass components for automotive industry.
The particular challenge in the non-isothermal molding of thin glass is the high susceptibility to defects such as fracture or high distortion of the molded glass components, typically caused by temperature gradients and residual stresses. Our solution relies on the use of numerical simulations to optimize the molding process. In this way, molding errors can be completely avoided. In the development of the numerical simulation tool, Fraunhofer IPT is working with two research institute partners on modeling the heat transfer and material behaviors during the hot forming of glass. In addition, the project consortium aims to develop various molding concepts for the production of thin glass components for promising applications. Finally, our project partner Hauser Optik GmbH is responsible for demonstrating and evaluating the project results in a production environment.
Non-isothermal processes are particularly well suited to the fabrication of thin glass components with complex geometries at high production volumes. By applying various hot forming concepts, such as vacuum-assisted molding, press bending or deep drawing, high volumes of functionalized components can be produced in a comparatively short time. The result of the project ends up with a holistic non-isothermal molding process. Fraunhofer IPT is responsible for process development. This innovative technology aims to meet the current and future requirements of the automotive industry by providing complex geometries with high dimensional accuracy for this purpose and adding special functions by means of precision microstructures in a novel manufacturing process suitable for series production. The simulation tool will be used by industrial end-users in the early phase of process development to accelerate the production ramp-up, by which the molding errors can be predicted at an early stage. Time-consuming and costly experiments based on the trial-and-error principle are thus eliminated. The benefits of the newly developed technology are not limited to the production of glass components for the automotive industry, as the process can also be transferred to many other application fields, for example lighting or consumer electronics.