Cutting steel with electromagnetic fields

Tom Marcinko @ 10-12-2009

plexiglassThe bodies of vehicles need to be strong, but manufacturers also need to cut holes in them, for cable routing.

Working together with a number of partners including Volkswagen, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU in Chemnitz have come up with another way to make holes in press-hardened steel bodywork. Dr. Verena Kräusel, head of department at the IWU, explains: “The new method is based on electromagnetic pulse technology (EMPT), which was previously used primarily to expand or neck aluminum tubes. We’ve modified it to cut even hard steels. Whereas a laser takes around 1.4 seconds to cut a hole, EMPT can do the job in approximately 200 milliseconds — our method is up to seven times faster.”

Another advantage is that it produces no burr, thus doing away with the need for a finishing process. Stamping presses become superfluous, and no costs arise from the need to replace worn-out parts.

I confess I didn’t know this was already being used to cut aluminum. It might be part of the workaday grind to some, but there’s something sf-nally satisfying about using electromagnetism to cut through metals.

[Image: Plexiglass zapped with electricity from Wikimedia Commons via Ethan Hein]