Dec. 10, 2014
Alcoa Intros New Technology to Produce Auto Aluminum Sheet
Lightweight metals company Alcoa, New York, has unveiled a new manufacturing technology, the Alcoa Micromill, to manufacture aluminum sheet for the automotive market. The patented Micromill process changes the microstructure of the metal, allowing production of an aluminum alloy with 40 percent greater formability and 30 percent greater strength than conventional aluminum, while meeting stringent automotive surface quality requirements, the company claims.
Additionally, Alcoa claims, auto parts made with Micromill material are twice as formable and at least 30 percent lighter than parts made from high-strength steel. The Micromill alloy has formability characteristics comparable to mild steels.
'Alcoa Micromill represents a major breakthrough in aluminum materials," says Alcoa Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld. "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."
The 30 percent increase in material strength will improve dent resistance, enabling the production of automotive sheet that is thinner and even lighter than previous generations, the company claims. Automakers will also benefit from reduced system cost by streamlining the number of aluminum alloys used in their manufacturing process.
The Micromill is faster and has a significantly smaller footprint than a traditional rolling mill, at just one quarter the size, and lowers energy use by 50 percent. Alcoa Micromill technology and the differentiated metal it produces are covered by more than 130 patents around the world.
Alcoa has conducted successful customer trials from its pilot Micromill facility in San Antonio, Texas, and is currently qualifying the material for use in next-generation automotive platforms.