Aluminium can help car makers hit sustainability targets

Posted on 23 Apr 2018 by Jonny Williamson

New materials have always disrupted and created new manufacturing sectors. Barnaby Struthers, sales manager for UK Automotive Applications at Norsk Hydro, explains why the car industries urge material manufacturers stay innovative.

Car industries urge aluminium manufacturers stay innovative - image courtesy of Norsk Hydro.
Car industries urge aluminium manufacturers stay innovative – image courtesy of Norsk Hydro.

Now, especially across the automotive industries, it has become ever more obvious that advances in material performance are presenting tremendous opportunities to those involved in vehicle engineering.

Barnaby Struthers, sales manager for Norsk Hydro in Wales, said it isn’t clear any more across the car industries, which material could be used for which design challenge.

Body structures in passenger vehicles, Struthers said, which were traditional made of steel are being replaced with different designs using high-strength steels, aluminium, magnesium and fibre-reinforced polymers.

And, the different properties of aluminium are striking, meaning, aluminium components can be cast, extruded, forged or in roll form, depending on the part design.

Norsk Hydro, the world’s largest aluminium group, makes use of the advantages of processing aluminium components for the automotive industries around the globe.

Clearly, one major benefit is that aluminium is to shed weight, and thereby boosts fuel economy and reduces carbon emissions.

Norsk Hydro’s components and systems include among others roof rails, seat tracks and seating components, fuel systems and engine products, and already when the industry began replacing steel and copper with aluminium, and company helped pioneer the substitution trend.

Especially for a metal component manufacturer, supplying one of the fastest moving industry industries, innovation and new ways of thinking and making things.

Innovation is one of the company’s key tenets

Barnaby Struthers explained that the company’s business model has always relied on three centre pillars which underpin the company’s concept of innovation when it comes to the extrusion solutions processes.

Firstly, he said, innovation begins with a clear understanding of the primary aluminium production process itself and a firm grasp of how to produce the material less energy-intensive.

Norsk Hydro is continuously working to further develop pot lines to improve: Energy efficiency, economic performance, environmental effect, working environment. The company is in the forefront among aluminium producers in developing and implementing energy-efficient cells with low emissions, Struthers said.

Secondly, innovation must be in the aluminium extrusion process which shapes the material by heating and forcing it with a hydraulic ram through a shaped opening in a die.

“This includes the actual extrusion temperatures, pressures, quenching and so on. To then yield shapes, tolerances and mechanical performance from our material.

“And thirdly, the innovation in our applications where we are trying to work with our potential customers to ensure that they can put aluminium extrusions in their developments.

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