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Researchers Tackle Major Bottleneck in Auto Parts Production

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A four-month student internship has evolved into a four-year industry-university collaboration supported by Automotive Partnership Canada (APC) to help Canada's largest auto supplier produce better quality parts, and more of them per minute, all while reducing production costs.

Brampton-based Cosma International has already optimized many steps in hot stamping die quenching, a process in which steel sheets are heated and then simultaneously formed into shape and quenched, resulting in ultra-strong automotive parts. Uniform, controlled heating is essential to ensure the quality of the stamped parts.

As parts become increasingly complex, however, with different materials, coatings, thickness or structures, it becomes more difficult to heat each part uniformly. The current trial and error approach slows production, wastes materials and compromises the part's crash performance. Cosma is looking to experts at the University of Waterloo help improve their process.

"This project is developing a simplified computerized tool that we can use to plug in every blank (boron steel) thickness and length so we can model and predict for every part we manufacture, and ultimately produce parts with less material and in less time," says Dan Kennedy, General Manager at Promatek Research Centre, the R&D unit of Cosma.

"The technology will determine how much energy is used and how fast the process is," says lead researcher Dr. Kyle Daun, a radiation heat transfer expert at the University of Waterloo. "That's information that will help Cosma better predict how much a part is going to cost."

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