Alcoa and Ford Partner to Develop More Formable and Design-Friendly Aluminum Alloys

Alcoa and Ford Motor Company have teamed up to develop advanced aluminum alloys for automotive parts. These next-generation aluminum alloys are design-friendly and can be formed easily.

Alcoa’s Micromill® material will be used by Ford for making numerous components on the 2016 F-150. This is the first time advanced automotive aluminum is being used commercially by an automobile manufacturer. This technology was unveiled by Alcoa in December 2014.

‘Light-weighting enables us to design vehicles with great customer attributes – like the F-150, which can tow more, haul more, accelerate quicker and stop faster than the previous F-150, and is more fuel-efficient than ever. This collaboration supports our continued drive for innovation, as we research automotive applications for even greater light-weighting.

Raj Nair, Ford group vice president and chief technical officer, Global Product Development

Aluminum alloys produced by the Micromill technology exhibit 40% more formability than the aluminum currently used in automotive aluminum.

Alcoa’s breakthrough Micromill technology offers highly differentiated automotive material with strength, weight, formability and surface quality combinations previously impossible. This high-tech aluminum will give Ford a true material edge enabling greater design flexibility and better vehicle performance – making the concept cars of tomorrow a reality.

Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa chairman and chief executive officer

The enhanced formability of aluminum makes it suitable for shaping complex forms, like the inner panels of the external fenders and doors. The Micromill aluminum material exhibits more strength, and therefore, thinner sheets can be used without any decrease in dent resistance.

The Micromill technology is regarded as the fastest and the most efficient system in the world for casting and rolling aluminum. This technology integrates many technologies into a single production system. Micromill completes the rolling of molten metal into a coil in just 20 minutes, whereas a conventional rolling mill would take roughly 20 days to complete the task.

Joint Development Agreement Covers Current and Future Alloys Produced by Micromill

Ford plans to start using Micromill material for 2016 F-150 components by the 4th quarter of 2015, and step up the usage in the following years for various vehicle components and other platforms. The usage of Micromill material in Ford manufactured vehicles is expected to double from 2016 to 2017.

The advanced alloys from Alcoa provide better strength and formability, thus facilitating design of vehicles consisting of intricate components. The high formability of the material allows parts comprising of multiple pieces to be produced as a single part, thereby, bringing down the assembling time and the complexity. These advanced alloys can be used in structural parts that require critical strength and panels on the exterior that need to adhere to stringent quality requirements.

Engineers from Ford have already validated the Micromill aluminum alloy in meeting the rigorous requirements for the manufacture of high-quality parts like those that make up the complex components in the F-150.

The door inner is one of the most difficult parts in automotive stamping. The ability to produce an alloy using Alcoa’s Micromill technology to make that part is a real statement for how this process can benefit the automotive industry and Ford in particular.

Peter Friedman, Ford global manager of structures and stamping, Research & Advanced Engineering

“This technology will help Ford to produce the type of vehicles our customers want,” added Friedman. “We believe the technology can be used to develop new alloys that will improve our ability to form complex parts, which will help in both design and efficiency.”

The collaboration between Ford and Alcoa will further extend the existing suite of Micromill manufactured automotive alloys used in Ford vehicles. New advanced alloys will provide more design options for lightweight components, and thus, promote vehicle performance. As a result, Ford can produce lightweight vehicles with the quality expected by customers.

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