Aluminum Surpasses Iron as Second Most Used Auto Material Worldwide
Novelis Chief Operating Officer Martha Brooks (left) and Alcoa President of Advanced Transportation Systems Misha Riveros-Jacobson address reporters’ questions at a press conference unveiling the results of the Ducker Worldwide report on aluminum use in automobiles.
Aluminum use in automotive applications has grown to the point where it has now surpassed iron as the second most used automotive material worldwide, according to a new report commissioned by the Aluminum Association. Highlights of the report were unveiled by executives from Alcoa and Novelis during a press conference March 7.
“Aluminum penetration in the auto industry continues to surpass competing materials as leading automakers recognize the metal’s value in boosting fuel economy, performance and safety, while reducing emissions,” said Misha Riveros-Jacobson, president of advanced transportation systems for Alcoa. “With today’s sky-high fuel prices, rising global warming concerns, and increasing safety demands, aluminum is a proven solution today, with even greater promise for tomorrow.”
Commissioned by the Auto & Light Truck Group (ALTG) of the Aluminum Association and conducted by Ducker Worldwide, the study found that passenger vehicles in North America now contain an average of 319 pounds of aluminum, representing a 16 percent increase from 2002 data, which now places aluminum second only to steel in automotive applications.
Other key findings from the study are that:
- 2006 aluminum content in North American, Japanese, and European cars will total nearly 12 billion pounds;
- The aluminum industry will ship at least 570 million pounds of sheet for auto body, instrument panel structures, and closure applications in 2006 as compared with 280 million pounds in 2002; and
- Nearly 50 vehicles and two million units of production in 2006 will be high aluminum content vehicles containing over 500 pounds of aluminum per vehicle.
The ALTG also released a related value study on aluminum’s costs and benefits. While the metal’s rising use confirms its cost-benefit advantages in many applications today, the study documents the additional value and cost savings aluminum could offer as more of the metal is used in the future.
The value study, conducted by IBIS Associates, reveals the potential for significant additional cost savings from secondary weight savings and associated cost reductions, which can significantly offset upfront material costs.
The Ford GT, Ferrari 599 GTB, and Jaguar XK are three of the most aluminum-intensive cars on the market. According to Ducker, over 50 current models contain over 500 pounds of aluminum.“Aluminum’s value is far reaching, since it can safely reduce weight, which means automakers can downsize components accordingly and recoup those secondary cost savings,” said Martha Brooks, chief operating officer for Novelis. “Consumers also can save money at the gas pump, as low-weight vehicles using aluminum require less fuel to get around.”
The release of these new studies is well timed, given that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will soon issue new fuel-economy standards for sport utility vehicles (SUVs), pickup trucks, and minivans for the model years 2008 through 2011.
NHTSA’s draft rule, released last year, proposed size-based standards—in part to encourage automakers to make even greater use of high-strength, low-weight materials such as aluminum. NHTSA’s effort is consistent with recent studies by the aluminum industry and others, which find that the size of a vehicle—not its weight—is a better determinant of a vehicle’s safety.
“As the auto industry continues to innovate to meet consumer and government demands the world over, whether it’s through hybrid engines, cleaner fuels, or simply making cars and trucks more fun to drive, aluminum will continue to help build better cars and trucks,” commented Aluminum Association President Steve Larkin. “Aluminum continues to provide solutions to the growing challenges of today and into the future.”
Benefits of Aluminum Usage in Machining Industry Source: www.aluminum.org/
Aluminum Casting, Machining and Production Is Relatively Cost Effective
A Truly Versatile Material
Aluminum is one of the most versatile metals used in the machining industry today. It offers a good balance between strength and durability while typically being available for a very reasonable price. Its strength, durability and ability to withstand high temperatures make it a key component in the fabrication industry.
Aluminum has become a popular material for use in such applications as:
- Cooking instruments such as pans, utensils, etc.
- Chairs and tables
- Motor parts
- Bicycle frames
- Softball bats
- Aluminum offers a rare combination of exceptional durability while also being very lightweight in comparison to other metals. This makes it a preferable substitute to other metals when trying to limit overall weight without compromising component strength.
The Process of Making Aluminum Usable
How does aluminum go from scraps to usable utensils and parts? Aluminum typically goes through a few different processes in order to get to the point where we commonly recognize it. Pieces of aluminum are usually melted down into a molten liquid and then formed into different shapes by a method called casting. Casting aluminum allows aluminum to be shaped into a more useful shape, where it is then usually refined further with machining processes.
There are different methods of casting aluminum, but the two most commonly used methods are:
Die Casting – molten aluminum is poured into a mold that is usually metal as well (commonly referred to as a “die”). It is then pressurized while it is allowed to dry in order to maintain specific density characteristics. The cast aluminum object is then removed from the mold and sent for further refinement or buffing.
This method is popular in factories where a large number of identical products are produced since the mold is reusable.
Sand Casting – clay or sand is moistened to form a molding container where molten aluminum is poured and allowed to dry. This method allows more custom casting designs to be used and the cast generally only lasts one application at a time. This method is economical since it requires minimal cost and materials since the sand can be reused.
Once the casting process is fully completed, these aluminum casts are then sent to be machined. The machining process allows these objects to go through the changes that are required in order to become the finished product. These changes generally include refinements like sanding, buffing, drilling holes, cutting, and other alterations. The machining process can prove difficult when regulations on casting density and hardness are not uniform.
The Perfect Material for Casting and Machining
Aluminum offers many benefits over other metals for metal casters, machine shops and other manufacturers that make it a perfect choice for many different applications. These benefits include:
- A low melting point meaning that less energy needs to be expended in order to melt it down
- A low level of resistance to machining processes make it one of the most easily manipulated metals
- The ability to cast it into virtually unlimited shapes
Exceptional durability and strength
These benefits help keep aluminum production costs very low and allow it to remain one of the most used metals in factories and other heavy fabrication systems.