Germany - Ford has integrated a automated hot-forming line at its Saarlouis plant, which is located two hours south west of Frankfurt, where it makes the Focus. The company says it is the first time this process has been automated.

It works by subjecting boron steel to temperatures of up to 930 degrees celsius before robots place it in a hydraulic press where it is shaped. It is then cooled in three seconds and cut by lasers.

"We are building on techniques used to strengthen steel for thousands of years, incorporating modern materials and automation to speed and refine the hot-forming process," commented Dale Wishnousky, vice president, manufacturing, Ford of Europe. "The resulting boron steel safety cell helps to make the all-new Focus one of our safest vehicles ever."

The line is part of a €600m (US$690m) investment in the plant announced back in March 2017. Ford also spent some of this sum enhancing logistical support for the facility and on eco-friendly energy supply projects, the latter of which resulted in a CO2 emissions reduction of 20% during electricity generation and heating.

A recent AMS opinion piece on Ford outlines the challenges that the company could face in the near future.