Forward roll

Photo | Ortic AB
Marginal Column

Above: The athletic arena in Budapest.

Photo | Ortic AB

Lars Ingvarsson holds his doctorate in engineering and is extraordinary professor at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. There, in 1978, his dissertation laid the foundation for his present activities.

In subsequent years he turned his attention to roll forming and in the 1980s wrote special software for that purpose. In 2000 he founded Ortic, where he is chief technical officer to this day.

Ortic is the only company in the world to use a 3-D principle in its roll former design. In this interview, company founder Lars Ingvarsson talks about Ortic’s development history and the partnership with Rexroth.


What is so special about your roll formers?

This type of machine has been around for quite a while. But for a long time no one knew what happened in the material itself, what might cause faults, and how to deal with them. My research on these questions went into the development of the Ortic software. As a result, we can calculate in advance the phenomena caused by internal stress and then make corrections in the process itself.

How does one actually become an expert for roll forming?

That started right after graduation. In 1978 I wrote my doctor’s dissertation, which focused on cold forming, at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. The question of what internal stresses appear in the material during the process fascinated me back then. This drew the attention of a Swedish steel corporation. I started there as a troubleshooter and developed the software that was later to form the basis for my own company.

When did three-dimensionality come into play?

That began with an inquiry from a German customer, asking whether it was also possible to use roll forming to produce tapered panels for buildings featuring exceptionally sophisticated architecture. To be honest, we had never before thought about this option. In 2001 we filed the patent application and just a year later the prototype was ready for operation, thanks in particular to the customer’s extraordinary courage. He didn’t want any big preliminary studies, but just to get going as quickly as possible. He has worked very successfully with the machine ever since. Architectural use is a special application for prestige buildings, however, since steel has simply become too expensive as a building material.

Are there other industries that can apply the technology?

The automotive industry in particular pricked up its ears. People there wanted to use the 3-D technology for parts made of high-strength steel. That is of great interest for long parts like bumpers. They are still being made on presses, at considerable cost. In principle, there’s nothing that would hinder a solution using 3-D roll formers. But the material still presents enormous challenges. In architecture, lighter materials such as aluminum tend to be used more frequently. We have to machine automotive sheet metal at thicknesses of up to 1.5 millimeters and strengths of 1,500 newtons per square millimeter. Given these new parameters, even advance calculations with the software alone would not have been enough or would have simply been too complex.

So how did you proceed?

The automobile industry needs a sound scientific foundation before it ventures into new processes. After all, we’re talking about mass-production parts here. And so, in cooperation with the University of Borlänge, we built a research machine we’ve been using for testing purposes for some years. The specific aim was to identify values for parameters like reproducibility and material tolerance.

What findings came out of that?

At first we worked with a solution that applied forces too great for high-strength steel – the brittle material cracked. In cooperation with Rexroth we switched to an electromechanical solution. It consists of a large number of servomotors we can control very precisely. In this way we achieve exact distribution of the forces. This meant a lot of detail work, especially with the controls. Rexroth offered a CNC solution that we successfully implemented together. Rexroth is now involved in many aspects of the project. Currently we are in the process of concluding the preliminary studies as we launch project planning.

What’s in the future for 3-D roll forming?

I assume that we will start large-scale production by the end of 2012. There is plenty of interest – someone just has to be bold enough to be the first. Aside from that, we are planning on developing a second application area: manufacturing poles for streetlights. In the ideal situation they are conical so they don’t buckle in heavy wind. There’s a lot of potential in 3-D technology. We’re anxious to see what other inquiries will turn up.