Losing weight saves energy - Liteks gasoline engine pistons and KS HUAYU aluminum structural parts enhance efficiency

In recent years, enhanced comfort and safety features have increased average vehicle weight, as have hybrid drives and the heavy batteries needed for electric cars. Concurrently, KS Kolbenschmidt has repeatedly refined its Liteks design for ultra-light yet durable pistons. Compared to the previous generation of pistons, the latest design is about 10 percent lighter. In addition, its German affiliate KS HUAYU AluTech GmbH is producing aluminum structural parts for very lightweight vehicle components.

The latest piston design not only contributes to lighter vehicles, friction also is minimized resulting in lower fuel consumption and emissions. There also is a high-performance variant of the newly designed pistons that comes complete with a piston ring carrier and coolant passage intended for high-power charged gasoline engines. Within the development work, the pistons themselves owe their weight reduction to the use of alloy KS 309 and the design engineers' consistent exploitation of the material's advantages. Thus, the thickness of the piston crown was reduced by up to 30 percent. The increased size of the ring zone undercuts is made possible by an optimized casting tool design.

Past years have seen the successful development of the fundamental design of the Liteks pistons and, as a result of the newly configured skirt support, it now is possible to achieve a more homogeneous stress distribution in the piston itself, as well as further enlarged ring zone undercuts. The fourth-generation pistons show a marked reduction in weight (minus 10 percent) while being able to cope with the very high thermal and mechanical loads imposed by today's power units. The new design especially caters to modern direct-injection and multi-turbo engine technologies. The convex hub, in conjunction with the newly configured connection to the piston skirt, provides for well-balanced piston crown support that better distributes stress concentration over the entire combustion surface of the piston.

Strong piston ring partnership

Japan's Riken Corporation, with whom KS Kolbenschmidt signed a joint venture agreement in September 2015 for the joint production of piston rings in the Chinese province of Hubei, is a leader in piston ring technology. Under this agreement, KS Kolbenschmidt will take over 30 percent of the shares in Riken Automobile Parts (Wuhan) Co. Ltd. The two market leaders in piston and piston ring technology will further consolidate their worldwide alliance. The two parties had already signed an agreement in April 2015 for the joint development and marketing of piston assemblies for light and heavy-duty engines in automotive and industrial applications.

Lighter structures, lighter vehicles

KS HUAYU AluTech GmbH a German-based joint venture between major Chinese automotive supplier HASCO and KSPG Group repeatedly has expanded its broad product portfolio of aluminum engine blocks and cylinder heads over the past several years by producing aluminum castings for vehicle chassis and body parts.

Three series-production contracts already have been won for aluminum die castings to be manufactured at plants in Germany and China. In China, a component is being built for three models of a German OEM and the part also went into production in mid-2015 for a range of vehicles built in Germany. A manufacturer in the U.S. has commissioned two aluminum die-cast components, and further contracts have been awarded in Germany for a rear axle sub frame to be produced as a low-pressure casting.

Structural and chassis components in aluminum deliver not only weight-saving benefits, but also advantages in the manufacturing process itself. Another benefit is their integration capability. A suspension strut tower as an aluminum die casting can be produced in a single step. The steel version, in comparison, comprises up to 30 individual parts to be welded together.

KS HUAYU AluTech has vast expertise in aluminum engine blocks, and this expertise is important in the complex casting processes used in the production of structural and chassis castings. This expertise is being applied in current projects in the form of die casting and low-pressure sand casting. These projects reflect the entire development process behind structural and chassis parts cast in aluminum. The stages embrace the development of the alloys, heat treatment, and product development via simulation (die filling, solidification, internal stress, deformation and microstructure prediction) right up to the development of the tooling and production processes. The remaining links in the development chain are machining, materials characterization, and the testing and qualification of the parts and components.

About KSPG

KSPG AG is the parent company of the Automotive sector of Germany's Rheinmetall Group. Sales in 2014 added up to approximately $2.7 billion (€2.5 billion) of which NAFTA accounted for $380 million (€345 million) (approximately 14 percent). This first-tier auto-component supplier has been operating on the international automotive markets for over a century and employs a worldwide workforce of around 11,000. Its US and Mexican operations have a workforce of over 1,900. Other locations are in Europe, Brazil, Japan, India, and China.

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