The next wave in manufacturing...solid state cold welding.
Automotive Industries spoke to Rani Plaut, CEO of Pulsar.
Israeli Pulsar Ltd, offers manufacturing solutions that use magnetic pulse technology. The technology is based on a high energy current that is discharged through a coil surrounding a work piece which creates a fierce magnetic field, harnessed to manipulate metal. This powers the manufacturing process such as welding, forming and perforation. Pulsar says that companies using this technology can cut the manufacturing process by as much as fifty per cent on top of benefiting from a completely "Green" process.
The company says that is USP is its solid state cold welding. “The technology is well known and established and was not invented by Pulsar. Remember fuel injection was a thing of Formula 1 cars and how nowadays you cannot find a car without it? Well, at very much the same level, Pulsar has perfected the process of solid state cold welding to a level such that it can be done with an affordable, small footprint machine, operated by every floor shop worker and serviced by the plant’s maintenance guy. The principle of solid state cold welding is based on the fact that the internal structure of metals is such that enables joining at the atomic level when certain process parameters are achieved,” says Rani Plaut, CEO of Pulsar.
Plaut says that most traditional welding techniques simply apply a lot of energy to two pieces of metal placed side by side, causing them to melt. The melted portions of the two pieces get mixed and cooled together - creating, in fact, one piece. “There is only one small problem - heat distorts metal, so the welded area is dramatically weaker, corrosion sensitive and deformed. Not only that but you also end up inducing a lot of the energy and products of the process into the environment - heat, radiation, smoke, gas and sparks. Many of the more advanced techniques are trying to minimize these effects, usually by making the heat source more focused, as in laser, but minimizing just leaves you with a lesser effect - you do not eliminate the problem,” says Plaut.
Instead, solid state cold welding can weld dissimilar metals since it is a cold process. So aluminum can be welded to stainless steel, copper to aluminum, and many other combinations. “This capability opens new horizons for engineers - imagine a driveshaft made of an aluminum tube, welded to steel yokes - the welding process is fast as lightning, the end product is 2Kg lighter, perfectly balanced and does not require any cleaning, straightening or dynamic balancing. This technology has successfully replaced traditional welding in many products worldwide and serves as a technological enabler for new products such as the new generation of air conditioning systems in automotive,” says Plaut.
Pulsar has over 20 US patents issued and pending. The company’s biggest customers are from the automotive sector – nearly 80 per cent of its revenues come from this industry. Driven by stiff competition, increasing pressure to reduce costs, and environmental regulations, automotive manufacturers are seeking new design concepts and manufacturing methods. Weight reduction, quality improvements to avoid rework and warranty costs, and design simplification to reduce manufacturing costs, are becoming major challenges to car makers and their suppliers. Pulsar helps manufacturers address these challenges.
Automotive Industries spoke to Rani Plaut, CEO of Pulsar.
AI: Please give us some examples of how your magnetic pulse solutions have helped automotive manufacturers.
MPW technology adds value in 3 dimensions: improved quality, reduced costs and by enabling mechanical designs and material combinations that are not possible with conventional welding methods.
We have seen various examples where by implementing magnetic pulse welding, scrap and rework rates has been reduced dramatically – in some cases from 20% to very close to zero. We have also seen examples where customers, by altering part design were able to reduce massive quantities of raw material. The modification to the part design were achieved since magnetic pulse welding changed the rules of the game and reduced some constraints imposed by traditional welding methods. Traditional welding methods usually create a HAZ (heat affected zone) that changes material properties. Since magnetic pulse welding is a cold process, there is no HAZ. By using magnetic pulse welding, parts can be thinner and have the same mechanical strength as a thicker part that have been welded with traditional methods.
AI: You have said earlier that a mid sized car costs about $3000 to produce with a total production time of 24 hours in Asia – by how much can your technology cut this cost and time?
There are certain inherent properties of magnetic pulse welding that enable cycle time reduction and cost savings. Traditional welding processes are measured by weld length per minute while MPW is under 0.1 sec regardless of size – this shortens a 15 sec' welding to almost nothing where the bottle neck is suddenly the feeding and no the welding on top of the fact that this is a cold weld process and so cooling times of the parts are eliminated. In addition certain upstream and downstream processes such as degreasing are not needed in magnetic pulse welding and so cycle time is reduced. Magnetic pulse welding significantly reduces costs by eliminating the need of consumables such as shielding gasses and electrodes used in conventional welding methods. Another important aspect of magnetic pulse welding is the fact that this is a very clean and environmental process. Since gasses are not used in the process, the need to costly ventilation systems is reduced and so large costs savings are achieved.
AI: How popular is solid state cold welding in the automotive industry? Have most companies opted for it or is it still in a nascent stage?
Magnetic pulse welding is currently making inroads to the center stage of the automotive industry and this process is catalyzed by various market trends like light weighting. One example that we see is the need to replace steel with aluminum in order to reduce weight. This will call for new joining methods of steel to aluminum that will certainly create a need for our tools.
AI: What are the kind of automotive products that benefit from cold welding and why?
One of the drivers to adopt magnetic pulse welding is the move to R744 coolant in mobile air conditioning systems. This puts new requirements on the air conditioning system parts such as the ability to work in increased working pressures. This is combined with the need to reduce part weight to lower costs. Magnetic pulse welding is positioned to answer both of these needs. There are certain parts in the A/C system such as accumulators and receiver dryers that are very suitable to magnetic pulse welding. We see a lot of interests from various customers to transfer magnetic pulse welding into production for producing these parts.
Another example is the new regulatory requirements put on airbag canisters to withstand fire. This calls for new joining methods and again, magnetic pulse welding is uniquely positioned to answer these needs.
There is also a trend to reduce electrical cable weight in cars by replacing Copper cables with Aluminum. The cable lug which is used to connect the cable remains to be made from Copper and connecting this lug to the Aluminum cable is a big challenge. Magnetic pulse welding can very elegantly meet this challenge.
AI: What are Pulsar’s future plans – what kind of new manufacturing technologies is the company developing?
We are constantly working to expand the application range where magnetic pulse welding can be used. This is done in 3 dimensions: Geometry, Size and Materials. In the geometry front we currently focus on tubes but we are working to expand the offering to other geometries. We are constantly enabling the use of magnetic pulse welding on larger parts in order to answer more of our customer needs. Another exciting application that we see is the use of magnetic pulse crimping to replace traditional joining methods such as riveting and stud welding. In many applications our crimping method is unique and advantageous since it offers an innovative joining method of metal to practically any material.
Pulsar also has a very active initiative called PREP (Pulsar Research & Educational Program - information can be found on our website) - creating a community of opinion leaders and academic institutes. The program is offering specially priced systems, training and technical support to promote the usage and understanding of the technology.
PREP has over 50 active members and have proved to not only to help spread the technology in institutes but also to generate usage in industries such as pharmaceutical, construction, white goods and more.