US – The OEM had already selected Alcoa’s Micromill product for its aluminium-bodied 2016 F-150 pick-up truck, but the two companies have now also entered a joint development agreement to expand the range of next-generation aluminium alloys for automotive components.
Micromill was made public in December 2014 and is claimed to be “the fastest, most productive aluminium casting and rolling system in the world”, with the ability to reduce coil manufacture time from 20 days to 20 minutes, creating an alloy that is 40% more formable than standard in automotive applications. This characteristic facilitates the manufacture of parts with complex shapes, such as interior door panels and external fenders, while maintaining strength. Normally multi-piece components can instead be manufactured as one, simplifying production and reducing assembly time.
“The door inner is one of the most difficult parts in automotive stamping,” commented Peter Friedman, Ford global manager of structures and stamping, Research and Advanced Engineering. “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. He added: “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.”
Ford will introduce the material to 2016 F-150 production during the fourth quarter of 2015, becoming the first vehicle-maker to use it commercially, and plans to more than double its use from 2016 to 2017. Over the next few years, the material will be used for a range of vehicle parts and future platforms. Klaus Kleinfeld, chairman and CEO at Alcoa, says the high-tech aluminium “will give Ford a true material edge, enabling greater design flexibility and better vehicle performance”.