Ecological and Economic Feasibility of Inductive Heating for Sustainable Press Hardening Processes
Press hardening is an established process for the production of high-strength lightweight structural automotive parts, like the B-pillar. While lightweight design is an important aspect of emission reduction during the use phase, emissions arising in other phases of the automotive lifecycle also need to be considered. Roller-hearth-furnaces, as used during the press hardening process, present a non-negligible source of greenhouse gas emissions in part production processes. Alternative heating methods, such as inductive heating, may pose a possibility to reduce emissions during the manufacturing process, while also offering additional advantages in high process flexibility, high energy efficiency and low space requirements. However, there are multiple challenges when it comes to inductive heating of sheet metal for industrial processes, such as homogeneity of heating and resulting material properties. Therefore, various investigation on the usability of inductive heating for press hardening process have been conducted. Recently, an inductive heating process utilizing a longitudinal field inductor for industrial press hardening has been developed, showing good results in regard to process homogeneity, heating times and material properties. This process is used as a baseline for an ecological and economical assessment of inductive heating for industrial press hardening processes in comparison to traditional gas-fired furnaces. The reference values for a comparison on cost and emission are based on a gas-fired conveyor furnace with constant speed used for the heating of sheet metal for press hardening. The share of furnace operation modes, like standby and production with varying good-mass flows, as well as resulting natural gas demands are provided. From this data, specific energy requirements of heated sheet metal can be derived for various material mass flows and utilization scenarios, which serve as a baseline for the cost and emission comparison.
The objective of this study is to determine the emissions and costs for inductive heating compared to conventional gas-fired roller-hearth furnaces for different parameter-set of boundary conditions like product mass flow, energy prices, emission factors depending on energy transition scenarios. Based on this evaluation matrix, break-even conditions favoring inductive heating can be identified.