GKN Driveline Bruneck AG is modernizing its hardening shop with two low pressure carburizing plants by ALD Vacuum Technologies GmbH, thus gearing up for the future as a key location for the development and production of E-powertrains in the GKN group.
For the last three years, the GKN group has been concentrating the development and European production of E-powertrains at the Bruneck site in South Tyrol, Italy. Through an extensive investment program, the site was equipped with the most modern production technology, placing it at the core of GKN’s E-mobility strategy. Dating back to the 1960’s, the hardening shop consists of several conventional pusher furnace systems and will now be modernized with ALD vacuum furnaces.
“This state-of-the-art heat treatment technology puts GKN in a position to meet the unique challenges of E-powertrain production” states Matthias John, Sales Engineer at ALD.
In comparison with conventional combustion engine transmissions, the transmissions installed in modern electric cars are exposed to significantly higher speeds and torques. Therefore, the mechanical and metallurgical properties, as well as the dimensional accuracy of the highly stressed parts have to meet particularly high requirements. In the future, GKN intends to meet this challenge with a multi-chamber plant-type ModulTherm, and for special applications, a SyncroTherm plant. Both plants were started up in the second half of 2020.
“ALD convinced us with both, the very good results regarding metallurgical properties and low distortion of the parts. Their excellent and competent consulting reinforced us in our decision in favor of the state-of-the-art technology” explains Gianni Del Favero, Value Stream Manager Machining and Heat Treatment at GKN. “The process combination of low-pressure carburizing (LPC) and subsequent high-pressure gas quenching (HPGQ) allows GKN to optimally adjust the parts’ properties – flexibly and component-specifically.” adds John.
During the first expansion phase, in addition to the ModulTherm plant consisting of a mobile quenching module and five treatment chambers, ALD delivered fully integrated peripheral tempering and preheating furnaces, a cleaning plant, a batch buffer, and an external charge transport system.
The plant can be expanded up to 10 treatment chambers, depending on demand over the following years. Consequently, GKN will be able to gradually replace the aging protective gas furnaces.
The SnycroTherm plant will mainly be used for parts which are especially susceptible to distortion. The small batch size allows for a more targeted and finely tuned quench, resulting in very little change in dimensions on the parts.
Additionally, heat treatment of small batches enables a more flexible and faster throughput of smaller load sizes throughout the overall production