Innovation Matched to Industry NeedsFri, 09/01/2017 - 15:07
The use of advanced materials in the automotive industry in the coming years will be oriented to weight reduction, by employing either light composite materials or metallic components fabricated by additive manufacturing technologies, says Luis Trápaga, Director General of CIATEQ.
“CIATEQ has a great interest in the development of lightweight metallic components by direct metal laser sintering (DMLS),” says Trápaga. The projects help in the design, fabrication and restoration of specific titanium and nickel-based components by DMLS. These materials are particularly interesting in the development of self-supported metallic cellular structures, which have potential in weight-saving applications for different industrial sectors, including shock-absorption components. In the field of thermal spraying, CIATEQ is working on the development of thermal and environmental barrier coatings that have direct application in power- generation systems, which “can also be considered for some specialized automotive applications,” says Trápaga.
Research and technological development activities are currently a priority in Mexico. As part of CENAPROT, the national laboratory of thermal spray technologies located in Queretaro, CIATEQ shares infrastructure and highly skilled personnel with CINVESTAV and CIDESI. “This consortium is quite interested in the development of projects focused on the overhaul of engine monoblocks and transmissions by employing state-of-the-art technologies such as cold spray and laser cladding,” says Trápaga.
Although the main focus of CENAPROT’s collaborations is the aerospace sector, Trápaga also sees an opportunity to target the automotive industry. “We are working on additive manufacturing and thermal spray projects with General Electric and the US Air Force,” he says. “However, the knowledge and experience gained in such endeavors can be applied either to the design and fabrication of high-value specific components or to the overhaul and repair of high yield parts.”
Beyond advanced material research, CIATEQ’s contribution to Industry 4.0 developments is also helping the Mexican industry advance toward technological integration and an energy-efficient future. According to Oscar Lambert, Vice President Mexico and Central America, Energy Business of Schneider Electric, only the combination of automation and energy efficiency practices will lead the industry to a green and cost-efficient future. “Communication between every piece of equipment and constant analytics are essential,” he says.
Trápaga says CIATEQ’s projects in advanced manufacturing operations have focused on three main goals. The first is the integration of cyber-physical systems that optimize production processes through cost reduction. The second is energy efficiency diagnoses in manufacturing processes through measurement and analysis of energy consumption, generating analytical data to identify potential savings. The last is research in internet technology for vehicle applications to innovate in logistics, mobility and environmental sustainability.
Since 2010, CIATEQ has invested MX$50 million (US$2.8 million) in the acquisition of state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment and about MX$3 million (US$169,000) in the construction of new research facilities. “All this investment is to keep research growing in Mexico but also to ensure a prosperous future for postgraduate students who want to incorporate the latest technology trends in the industry,” says Trápaga.
Trápaga adds that an important step in technology integration is to train the center’s technical staff, as well as graduate students and lecturers, so they can also help shape academic programs according to the industry’s real needs. “Our main mission is to train personnel from the industrial sector and the postgraduate courses we offer are regarded as the most important in Mexico,” he says. “We either meet with companies to know their current technical requirements or look for technology trends within a specific sector to adapt our academic offer. The most innovative topics that we have been working on recently include embedded intelligent systems, die manufacturing and development of specialized software.”