Manufacturing Breakthrough Yields Next-Generation Aluminum Sheet, Ideal for AutomotiveMarch 1, 2015
Alcoa has unveiled its patented Micromill process for production of aluminum sheet, a process said to create an alloy for automotive applications that has 40 percent greater formability and 30 percent greater strength than the incumbent aluminum used today while meeting stringent automotive surface quality requirements.
The process, which dramatically changes the microstructure of the metal, according to Alcoa officials, gives aluminum sheet formability characteristics comparable to mild steels.
“Alcoa Micromill represents a major breakthrough in aluminum materials,” says Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa chairman and chief executive officer. “This technology will unlock the next generation of automotive products with strength, formability and surface-quality combinations never before possible. It will allow our customers to redefine the boundaries of vehicle design, supporting the creation of lighter, more fuel efficient, safer and more stylish vehicles for the future.”
Micromill-produced aluminum sheet, with its ease of formability, can be shaped into intricate forms such as the inside panels of automobile doors and external fenders, which generally are made of steel, explain Alcoa officials. The 30 percent increase in material strength can improve dent resistance, enabling the production of automotive sheet that is thinner and even lighter than previous generations. Automakers also can benefit from reduced system cost by streamlining the number of aluminum alloys used in their manufacturing process.
The process also represents an immense improvement in material production, as a traditional rolling mill takes roughly 20 days to turn molten metal into coil, while Micromill reportedly accomplishes this task in only 20 minutes. The Micromill also has a significantly smaller footprint than a traditional rolling mill, at just one quarter the size, and lowers energy use by 50 percent, claim Alcoa officials.
Alcoa has secured a strategic development customer, and from its pilot Micromill facility in San Antonio, TX, has also conducted successful customer trials. Alcoa currently is qualifying the material for use in next-generation automotive platforms.Alcoa Inc.: www.alcoa.com
See also: Alcoa
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