An injection of nearly $2 million in federal funds will aid University of Windsor researchers like Daniel Green, who is helping automakers incorporate lightweight sheet materials into their vehicles.
The automotive sector is turning to lightweight materials as an alternative to steel to improve fuel efficiency. However, lower-density metals tend to have limited formability, says Dr. Green, an associate professor who specializes in materials engineering.
“Innovative forming processes need to be developed and optimized for the production of automotive parts,” he said. “With high-speed forming, we can get 100 per cent more formability than we can with conventional stamping.”
Green is one of 14 UWindsor engineering professors awarded funding through the 2017 Discovery Grants Program — an annual competition run by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to advance research in Canadian universities.
Over the next five years, NSERC will provide $1.97 million in support of UWindsor projects led by engineering faculty, including studies on climate change impacts on water resources; energy storage; intelligent manufacturing systems; and optimizing production in advanced manufacturing and healthcare sectors. The engineering faculty nearly tripled its NSERC funding over last year. University-wide, 31 researchers were awarded $4.2 million.
Green, who recently completed a 10-year term as Canada Research Chair in the Development and Optimization of Metal Forming Processes, will receive $305,000 towards modelling the deformation and failure of sheet metal in high-strain rate forming.
He was one of 125 researchers across the country to receive a $120,000 Discovery Accelerator Supplement, which provides additional resources to accelerate progress and maximize the impact of “superior research programs.” Bill Altenhof, a UWindsor mechanical and materials engineering professor, received the supplement in 2015 for his research on improving vehicle crashworthiness.
Green said the funds will support his students and help purchase new equipment for his lab. His research team will use experimental results from a five-year, high-speed forming project he worked on with Ford Research & Advanced Engineering in Dearborn, Michigan. Green used an experimental facility owned by Ford to form sheet metal by discharging a high-voltage current between two electrodes submerged in a water chamber.
“The discharge creates a kind of explosion and the shock waves in the water form the sheet metal into a die within 300 microseconds,” Green said. “The benefits of this process are that it’s very fast and the sheet metal can stretch to levels far beyond what can be achieved with conventional stamping.”
Green’s team will use the results of the experiments to model high-speed forming behaviour and fracture of the sheet metal in order to predict when failures would occur. The predictive models will help companies like Ford conduct virtual simulations — rather than costly and time-consuming experimental work — when designing parts.
Discovery Grants are awarded annually to individual researchers, typically over a five-year period.