From the first steps taken toward mass production in the automotive industry, the vehicle manufacturing process has been inevitably tied into the evolution of the machine tool sector. More specifically, it has long been closely connected with the introduction of presses in automotive component factories.
The reason for this takes us to the first stage in production, the beginning of the automotive value chain. The metal parts used in car manufacture largely come from metal sheets which then have to be shaped. How is flat metal shaped? The answer is with large presses that form the body parts, capable of transforming with just a few heavy blows a part such as, for example, a B pillar, a key component which saves countless lives in road traffic accidents.
Loire Gestamp: hydraulic presses for the whole world
In 2011, Gestamp bought Loire Safe with a view to expanding its hydraulic press business, the area in which it specialises, both at the Group’s production plants and at those of other clients around the world.
Situated in Hernani, Gipuzkoa since 1962, today Loire Gestamp is one of Europe’s largest producers of hydraulic presses, capable of manufacturing the most demanding and detailed stamped pieces from sheet metal.
Hydraulic or mechanical press?
The evolution of presses, not only in the automotive sector, has seen many different types of such machines capable of various applications, each more accurate than its predecessor. Traditionally, there are two main types of presses – hydraulic and mechanical.
The basic difference is the type of drive: hydraulic presses use hydraulic cylinders that raise and lower a plate that holds the die that stamps out the piece, while mechanical presses are motor-driven that might use crankarms or piston rods.
Another difference between the two is that while hydraulic presses exert maximum pressure on the metal sheet throughout the pressing process with flexible programming, allowing them to produce complex pieces, mechanical presses exert maximum pressure at the end of the pressing which generally allows a higher press rate.
Servo-mechanical presses – a step forward in the stamping process
As is always the case, evolution leads to hybrids and subtypes. A good example of this is the servo-mechanical press, which allows greater programming flexibility and a very high press rate.
Loire Gestamp installed its first fully monitored servo-mechanical line at Gestamp Navarra plant in 2020, based on the company’s latest technical developments to ensure greater production and flexibility with lower energy consumption.
These monitored presses are just an example of the ever-greater importance in the immediate future that digitalisation will have on the world of stamping presses.