Automotive metal stampers' subtle shift from mechanical to hydraulic to servo press may be largely imperceptible, but it is there.
The global servo press market, valued at about $596 million, is expected to grow to more than $710 million by 2026, according to 360 Market Updates.
Stampers are attracted to the servo press's speed and versatility. They boast full working energy at any speed while managing difficult manufacturing processes and various materials. Servo press technology allows for varied speed during the stroke, providing better part ejection, material feed and tool close capabilities than either a traditional or hydraulic press.
But the hydraulic press isn’t going anywhere. In fact, the hydraulic press market is expected to grow by $1.89 billion by 2024, according to Global Hydraulic Press Machine Market 2020-2024. They remain a budget-conscious stamper’s top pick, and possibly the only solution for jobs that require high force demand early in the stroke.
So how real is the stamping shift? And which technology is best suited for metal forming in the automotive industry?
Automotive metal stamping today
Automotive metal stamping is a $40 billion industry today, employing more than 115,000 metal stampers at more than 700 metal stamping companies and automotive stamping plants in the United States. Sheet metal sub-assemblies have become a critical peripheral of the automotive industry, stamping parts and sheet metal components for multiple plants and varied products.
Within a typical plant, stamping presses are turning out several automotive components daily, from body panels and chassis to brake and lighting parts. Those presses likely include both hydraulic and servo presses, depending on the requirements of the job.
And because of the range of metal that can be successfully formed by traditional stamping presses, allowing manufacturers to create high-quality metal parts at affordable prices, those machines will likely live on the plant floor for a long time to come.
The ability to successfully press different alloys, from stainless steel to aluminum, is vital for auto manufacturers. Consumers are demanding fuel-efficient vehicles that look like gas-guzzling muscle machines and sleek, fuel-burning sports cars. Other drivers want electric vehicles that can move like traditional cars and trucks. Those demands require manufacturers to find solutions that:
- Scale down overall vehicle weight.
- Go over and above expected safety standards.
- Reduce the vehicle’s price point.
To meet those demands, and give customers the experience they want, auto manufacturing companies are turning to new technology to make it happen.
Servo press versus hydraulic press: Benefits to consider
Most stampers will tell you choosing between a servo press and a hydraulic press isn’t a matter of knowing which is the better machine. It’s the ability to select the right tool for the job.
Servo presses tend to produce greater cycle speeds than their hydraulic cousins, often reaching speeds typically reserved for the traditional mechanical press. But in some stampers’ viewpoint, the hydraulic press’s ability to provide full tonnage and energy through the stroke gives them advantage.
Choosing the right press really comes down to what you’re asking the press to do. To make the right decision, consider these attributes:
- Process control – How important is it that you know everything that’s happening with the machine during operation? Are you working with new material and need to better understand how it’s reacting to the machine? Servo motors provide a wealth of information about the process, which can help quality control.
- Flexibility – If you want to improve production rates and reduce overall manufacturing costs, you’ll want a press that can match tonnage requirements. This is typically found with a mechanical press.
- Speed – When speed is a top concern, many stampers will turn to the servo press. Though servo press slide motions are below 0.5 m/s, but within a stroke, servo motors can achieve high acceleration and restrike within a tenth of a second. Hydraulic presses require idle time each cycle. Still, speed may be less of a concern when it comes to maintaining machine longevity. Both systems can adjust speed during the stroke, prolonging die life.
- Cost – The price to purchase a servo mechanical press is well known. They’re expensive. Despite the higher price point, servo presses often win the cost-effectiveness battle by generating lower operating costs.
- Longevity – Hydraulic presses tend to live longer but have more points of failure to contend with. Servo presses are less expensive on maintenance, though they require specialized and expensive components.
The bottom line? Both servo presses and hydraulic presses balance each other – and the needs of the automotive stamping plant – when employed for the right job.
Parker solutions for automotive stamping
Whether they are traditional, hydraulic or servo, keeping presses up and running will always prove a challenge for stampers. To help ensure the longevity of each machine, Parker provides solutions, assistance, and a wide array of components for all press motion and control needs used in the metal stamping portion of the automotive industry.
This article was contributed by Joe Chopek, director - global business development,
In-Plant Automotive, Parker Hannifin.