Shot Peening in the Automotive Industry

in Vol. 18 - March Issue - Year 2017
Industry 4.0, the future is here!

Mario Guagliano

I do not think it is an exaggeration saying that, if you read a daily paper or a magazine, the probability to read something about the so-called "Industry 4.0" (I4.0) is quite high!
To be honest, it is true that I4.0 is considered the fourth industrial revolution: this justifies the present relevance given by media to this new way to approach industrial production with a complete digital flow of information and data able to deeply change the management and the way industrial production is done.
This approach, according to what experts say, will bring forward the complete automation and interconnection of the industrial production with economic and social impacts that is not possible to fully foresee so far (some say that employment will strongly drop down; some others say that in the mid-term, employment will grow, even if different expertise and skills will be required). 
There are four pillars of I4.0. The first is based on the use of data, on the computational power, on the Internet of Things and cloud computing. The second is to create the right value to the data, toward their full utilization and full exploitation, aimed at learning and optimizing the production processes: that is the so-called machine learning, to improve production efficiency on the basis of the elaboration of the available (big) data.
The third pillar is the interaction of the people-machine and the possibility to improve work efficiency thanks to tools such as touch-interfaces or the ones that characterize increased reality, such as Google Glasses, for instance.
The fourth pillar (last but not least!) is the production itself and how we can pass from the digital data to the real production and manufacture of goods. This includes additive manufacturing, 3D printing, robotics, communications, machine-to-machine interactions, and new technologies that allow us to store and use energy in a more rational way.
The automotive industry is one of the most important sectors interested in this deep changing, by this new industrial revolution. The way a car is manufactured will strongly change in the next few years and will be based on the four pillars just introduced.
But, if we look at what has been done so far, we see that most of the attention has been paid to the first three pillars, while the final one, that is how to pass from digital data to the production of goods (let me say of springs, crankshaft, valves, …, in the case of cars) is not fully clear and completely exploited. 
There are still so many problems to be solved to implement Industry 4.0 and they are mainly related to the interface between the informatics infrastructure for storing and managing the data and the production systems, with the aim to optimize and exploit the information flow in real time.
And there are also many problems related to the use of the new production technologies. If you think of the Additive Manufacturing technologies, there is the need for post-production treatments and machining to satisfy the dimensions and the surface finishing requirements. Finally, there is also the need to achieve the desired mechanical strength, in most of the cases directly related to the surface condition.
In a framework like this, the next challenge of shot peening in the automotive industry will be the ability to integrate the treatment in the new production flow and the ability to exploit the information coming from the previous production steps to make the treatment as flexible as possible to fully exploit the result of the treatment.
No matter whether shot peening is performed in the company itself or if an external supplier does this, the future is here.

Shot Peening in the Automotive Industry
by Mario Guagliano
Contributing Editor MFN and
Associate Professor of Technical University of Milan
20156 Milan, Italy
E-mail: mario@mfn.li
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