The cluster in East Tennessee entitled AMP!, has been hard at work connecting companies with resources made available through the AMJIAC funding. What is AMJIAC? The Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge. Ten public-private partnerships across America received funding in 2012 in order to help revitalize U.S. manufacturing around the country through the growth of clusters. One of the awardees was AMP! – The Advanced Manufacturing & Prototype Center of East Tennessee.
AMP! established an Advanced Manufacturing industry cluster in East Tennessee, creating a collaborative environment where manufacturers work together with economic development resources, workforce development organizations, and research institutions. The groups collaborate on advanced manufacturing technologies, and their implementation, to expand and grow manufacturing capabilities within the AMP! Region. The five organizations that comprise AMP! are Technology 2020, the TN MEP Center, Oak Ridge National Lab, Pellissippi State Community College and the University of TN.
Nanomechanics was the first AMP! company that utilized the AMJIAC program successfully and this second company, Eagle Bend Manufacturing, has done the same! Both are expanding and growing manufacturing capabilities within the AMP! region.
Let’s see what Eagle Bend Manufacturing did.
With the increasing need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of motor vehicles, the steel industry is seeking new products and processes that decrease the vehicle weight, while at the same time upholding performance and safety requirements.
Eagle Bend Manufacturing (EBM), a Tennessee hot stamp production facility, was seeking to reduce costs of laser cutting martensite material for one of their automotive OEMs, while meeting the dimensional and structural requirements required by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations.
Hot stamping of vehicle parts is a process that enables lighter weight, and yet strong materials, to be manufactured for automotive parts whereas cold stamping can only be used with heavier thick-gauge steel. In hot stamping, as opposed to cold stamping, forming and hardening are combined in a single operation. This relatively new process of hot stamping, in conjunction with laser cutting the martensite material, is what EBM needed to test and validate. According to an article written by Taylan Altan in the Stamping Journal of Spring 2006,
“Most North American and European car manufacturers now are specifying hot-stamped parts for their new vehicles to take advantage of the superior strength achieved by hot forming and quenching. Hot stamping has shown exceptional development and growth for several structural parts, including front and rear bumper beams, A-pillars, B-pillars, roof rails, side rail members, tunnels, and door beams.” 
And from an on-line article by Stefan Wischmann and Franz-Josef Lenzin the Industrial Laser Solutions for Manufacturing dated 1/27/2014,
“In the past decade, the hot stamping of auto body parts has evolved from a niche technology into one that is now indispensable for weight reduction with high-strength steel. This evolution has resulted in significant reductions in vehicle weight, made possible by the extremely high strengths of the steels used.” 
Eagle Bend’s new and innovative in-die Hot Stamp processing would lead to a more competitive cost benefit to the automotive customers but EBM needed it to be validated and the timing of an objective analysis was critical for their OEM customer. They engaged AMP! and the resources made available from its partners at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to complete testing and analysis. Testing that normally would take months to complete, was performed within weeks. ORNL analysis confirmed that the cost-saving hot stamping process improvement would meet structural requirements. ORNL supported EBM in presenting this information to customers, gaining customer confidence and commercial/technical approval, ensuring EBM’s multi-million dollar contract to produce parts would continue.
The decision to partner with AMP! and ORNL has expedited this process advantage to the marketplace and positions EBM’s plant in East Tennessee as a leader among its competitors worldwide. Through collaboration efforts like this, and EBM’s continuous aggressive pursuit of process innovations, the company is well positioned within the industry to capitalize on new opportunities well into the future.
EBM’s story highlights the value of the AMJIAC collaboration and is a testament to the power of AMJIAC; linking cluster resources to each other and enabling successful outcomes. Stay tuned for more blogs on AMJIAC’s successes!