High Strength Aluminum & AHSS

As our team began our research to deliver this blog post to you, we kept coming across the most engaging content from the same author as we researched “aluminum extrusions,” “high strength aluminum,” and other metallurgical-related topics. We pride ourselves at being great copywriters, but I found myself getting sucked in to articles like “Sheet Aluminum Alloys for Cans and Cars,” and “Achieving Successful Stamping of AHSS” pulling me in with descriptive content, humor, excellent infographics, and most importantly: highly technical concepts and information that was easy to comprehend. Let’s face it: Aluminum, steel, metallurgy, etc. aren’t the most seductive subjects to write about. Because of this, we decided to see if we couldn’t set up a call with this elusive material science whiz, and what do you know? He accepted our call.

Danny Schaeffler, Ph.D. is currently Founder and President of Engineering Quality Solutions, Inc., and Chief Content Officer at 4M Partners LLC. His resume and experience effortlessly exceed the character counts for each field in his LinkedIn profile. And the best part for us; Schaeffler is an independent third party, so he could discuss anything we asked without either party having concern over commercial or competitive aspects.

The discussion began, not speaking of aluminum extrusions and aluminum casting, but of sheet aluminum in respect to automotive applications. Most of us are aware of the evolving use of Advanced High-Strength Steels due to the new advancements of high-strength steel grades enabling the auto industry to keep costs down while still meeting requirements – especially when it comes to fuel efficiency and crash performance.

So, how do high strength aluminum alloys measure up against AHSS in automotive application?

Advanced aluminum alloys are the fastest growing material (second only to steel) in the design of new vehicles going to market. Drivealuminum.org puts it like this: “Low weight, crash absorbent, durable, corrosion resistant, easily formable and infinitely recyclable, aluminum helps save consumers money at the gas pump while delivering cars and trucks that are safer, greener and better performing. Cars and trucks down-weighted with advanced aluminum alloys are more fuel efficient with fewer life cycle carbon emissions as compared to heavier steel vehicles. Aluminum also is a proven force multiplier for powertrain, vehicle battery, aerodynamic and rolling resistance advances. Aluminum simply builds a better vehicle.”

How about a look at the very different approaches that GM and Ford used in regards to light-weighting vehicles through the use of high strength aluminum alloys over the past decade?

The aluminum truck: The Ford F150 cost approximately two billion dollars to create. Ford gutted their Dearborn and Kansas City plants to build new facilities from the ground up, and filled them with tooling, lasers, and robots designed to work with aluminum rather than steel. By doing this, Ford was able to make an extremely high quality body structure, and shed approximately 700 lbs. per vehicle, according to Ford officials. A very bold move which paid off.

GM, just as committed to reducing the weight of their vehicles, decided to go another route. Without scrapping plants and building new facilities from scratch, GM came up with a patented welding approach to allow for greater use of aluminum and steel on the same vehicle. In summary, they’ve married steel and aluminum through spot welding, reducing the need for rivets, and saving roughly several hundred pounds per vehicle.

The GM approach of being able to spot weld a higher melting point material to a lower melting point material allowed them (more or less) use their existing plants and equipment with a fraction of the capital expense of what Ford had to go through. Aluminum costs more, but you’ll use less of it. Advanced High Strength Steel costs more than high strength steel. But the price premium for AHSS is substantially less than the premium for aluminum. 2 very different approaches. Both effective.

It’s fascinating to keep in mind that most of the sheet aluminum and steel alloys used on today’s vehicles were not even manufactured 20 years ago. They weren’t even a glimmer in Mommy Car & Daddy truck’s headlights. Today we are talking about technologies that didn’t even exist until recently.

Final analysis? The automotive industry is one of the biggest drivers for optimized material selection. The need for globally available parts, and sheer volume and complexity of the automotive assembly process is an ideal litmus test. Lives and livelihoods depend on it. Welcome to the roads, high strength aluminum alloys, your steel counterparts invite you into the mix.

Schaeffler sums it up, “Automotive designers and engineers need to understand the characteristics of today’s materials in order to optimize the balance of cost, manufacturing and safety all while creating a car people want to buy.” Which hits the nail on the head of this riveting discussion!

For more of our super interesting blogs about the aluminum market, aluminum extrusions, and other industry-related topics, visit www.taberextrusions.com or get in touch by e-mailing us at info@taberextrusions.com

February 24th, 2017|

Taber Extrusions is the Smart Choice in Today’s Aluminum Market

Though the aluminum market is still facing issues abroad from a decade of surplus due to high Chinese production, domestic aluminum extrusion is still a strong choice for your needs.

“Chinese aluminum exports have actually fallen this year. The country’s aluminum exports have fallen 4% year-over-year in the first eight months of 2016. However, Chinese aluminum exports have risen on a month-over-month basis for two consecutive months. There are concerns that some of the idled capacity in China is coming back online…

Meanwhile, the Fed’s decision to hold the benchmark rates steady was received well by markets. Most metals, including aluminum, reacted positively to the Fed’s announcement. We saw a sharp rally in aluminum prices.” (source)

Taber Extrusions is committed to building long lasting business relationships with our customers, and delivering high quality aluminum extrusion for each and every one of their projects. Our expertise, which is rooted in over 40 years of experience in the industry, along with our wide manufacturing capabilities and our commitment to collaboration and innovation make us not only the strong choice for your needs, but the smart one too.

October 19th, 2016|

The Next Best Thing To Aluminum 3D Printing

We recently showed you how aluminum-based 3D printing is bringing customized objects to space. For those of us that can’t afford a 3D printer but enjoy a bit of DIY craftsmanship, here’s the next best thing. The self-proclaimed King Of Random recently put together a how-to video offering a technique that involves styrofoam, aluminum cans, and sand. The result is something pretty close to a 3D printed object, though the process is a little more dangerous than uploading to a 3D printer. From Gizmodo:

If you’re looking for a fun, high-risk weekend project, look no further: Grant Thompson, the self-styled “King of Random”, has decided to shared his method for transforming styrofoam into metal. (Spoiler: don’t try this one around your kids.)

To start, you’ll need to cut a model of your soon-t0-be metal creation out of foam. Thompson suggests using foam board from the dollar store, but foam housing insulation or craft blocks will work just as well. Once assembled, attach a thick foam riser to the top of your model, and bury it in a 5-gallon bucket filled with sand.

Next you’ll have to fire up your homemade metal foundry (if you’ve never made one before, Thompson’s got you covered). Now melt down some aluminum cans and pour the molten metal over your buried foam cast, taking care not to splash anything on yourself. The foam, Thompson explains, will vaporize instantly as liquid aluminum rushes in to take its place. Within a few minutes, your sculpture should be cool enough to remove. Do so carefully, using pliers. You can then polish up your new creation and place it prominently on display.

Click here to go to the full article, including a complete video demonstration by the King of Random. Just remember to use gloves and pliers when you try this yourself.

March 31st, 2015|

3D Printed Aluminum Makes It Into Space

3D printing is one of the most exciting advances in technology over the past few years. For life in space, 3D printers simply receive designs and print out necessary tools to help astronauts perform quick fixes. Until now, 3D printing in space has always used composite material. However, a UK company has announced the first space-qualified 3D printing material using aluminum. From 3DPrint.com:

Now Airbus Defence and Space in the UK says they’re producing their first space-qualified 3D printed components from aluminum. The parts are the result of a two-year-long research and development program undertaken by the UK National Space Technology Programme via Innovate UK and the UK Space Agency.

The UK team say these new 3D printed components cannot be manufactured using conventional manufacturing methods, and they include a structural bracket built using aerospace-grade aluminum alloy. The Airbus Group has started using ALM (additive layering manufacturing) for tooling and prototyping parts for test flights and for parts that will fly on commercial aircraft. The company says components produced with ALM are beginning to appear on the A350 XWB the jetliners in the A300 and A310 line.

Eurostar E3000 Copyright Airbus Defence and Space Ltd 2015 renderingThe first flight-qualified ALM part — a titanium alloy bracket from Airbus Defence and Space — is already flying aboard the Atlantic Bird 7 telecom satellite, and the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle “Atlante” features a 3D printed air intake.

The space-qualified part in question, made as a single piece via laser melting, weighs 35% less than the previous bracket. The part it replaces was made up of four separate pieces and included 44 rivets. In comparison, the additively-manufactured piece which replaces it is now 40% stiffer and no waste results from the process as would be were it created by conventional machining.

3D printing with aluminum opens the door to many manufacturing possibilities, from aerospace and beyond. 3D printing can also go to DIY makers too, and aluminum also creates many opportunities for start-ups, garage engineers, and artists for structurally sound items. If it works in space, it can certainly work on the ground!

March 22nd, 2015|

Secrets Of Designing Aluminum Cans

The aluminum can — it’s a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives. It holds everything from beer to soda to energy drinks. It’s sold in vending machines, at grocery stores, at food trucks, and even your local big box store. For many people, collecting them is a nice piece of extra change by turning them in at recycling centers.

And yet, how many of us actually stop to think about the engineering and manufacturing of such a vital cog in today’s society? Probably not much. However, writer Jonathan Waldman decided to take a closer look at the life of an aluminum can — and the results may surprise you. From his book Rusted: The Longest War via Wired.com:

When was the last time you paused between sips of your favorite soda and wondered about that can in your hand? If you’re like most people, the answer is likely never. But that seemingly unremarkable object is actually a marvel of modern manufacturing. It is, in fact, a glorious thing.

A few years ago, I finagled my way into Can School, a small industry-only event hosted annually by the Ball Corporation, the world’s largest canmaker. There, in a conference room just north of Denver, engineers chatted about “improved pour rates” and “recloseability” and the “opening performance” of cans. One guy handed me a business card that said “Can Whisperer.” Another wore a shirt that said “Can Solo.” It was a scene of intense devotion, and as such, it was only fitting that the first thing I learned there was that manufacturing aluminum cans is so challenging, and requires such a vast amount of study, design, and precise machining, that many consider cans the most engineered products in the world.

If you drink beer, or soda, or juice, or sports drinks, or if you have ever preserved fruits or vegetables in glass jars, the name Ball probably sounds familiar. The people of the world go through 180 billion aluminum beverage cans a year; enough to build dozens of towers to the moon. Ball makes about a quarter of them. Yet even with that much practice, making perfect 12-ounce cans remains a battle. Throughout the process, the aluminum behaves begrudgingly. It tries to jam the machines. Once filled, it wants to interact with the product inside and change its taste. But mostly, cans yearn to corrode (thereby leaking onto other cans, and causing more corrosion). Rust, it turns out, is a can’s number one enemy—and a can’s only defense is an invisible epoxy shield, just microns thick. (Without that shield, a can of Coke would corrode in three days.) At Can School, I got a hint of what goes into that coating.

Click on through to Wired to learn more about aluminum cans. And if you want to learn even more, Rust: The Longest War by Jonathan Waldman was just released on March 10.

 

March 12th, 2015|

The Not-So-Safe Aluminum Treatment For iPhones

Aluminum has been part of smartphone chassis design for some time now. However, there’s another form of aluminum that has recently been tested for smartphones. This form, though, isn’t necessarily about protection or weight or anything beneficial like that. No, this involved simple wanton destruction for curiosity’s sake: pouring molten aluminum on an iPhone 6. From Tech Times:

The aluminum glows orange in the mini kiln as TechRax demonstrates that the iPhone he will be using for the video is indeed an authentic, in perfectly good working condition, iPhone 6.

He lays the iPhone 6 down on a table and handles the melted aluminum carefully with a pair of tongs as he shakes it a bit to pour some of the hot metal onto the face of the phone.

A few blobs of aluminum fall onto the front of the smartphone and set a flame immediately. The iPhone 6 screen still displays the icons, however, even as feathery veins start to extend from the aluminum blobs and out.

At some point the screen even switches to World Clock settings and, although obviously dimmer and vertical lines beginning to appear, the iPhone is still working.

Click through to the original post to see the full destructive video. And remember, if you’ve got a stockpile of aluminum cans, DON’T melt them down to pour on your expensive gadgets; just bring them to your local recycling center for a few extra dollars.

February 12th, 2015|

Are Aluminum-Air Batteries The Next Big Thing In Power?

Tesla pushed the use of aluminum in cars forward with its groundbreaking (and award-winning) Model-S. However, it still used traditional lithium-ion technology to power its batteries. Aluminum may pave the way for a new advancement in electric car technology, but this time it’s in the area of power, not structure. Can a mix of aluminum and water become the battery of the near-future? From Extreme Tech:

On the one hand, breakthroughs in Li-ion designs and construction are responsible for the Tesla Model S, new installations, green energy research, and the modern smartphone. On the other hand, lithium-ion limitations are the reason why most EVs have a range of 40-60 miles, the Model S costs upwards of $80,000, and why your smartphone can’t last all day on a single charge. For all its promise and capability, lithium-ion has limited long-term utility — which is why a new announcement from Fuji Pigment is so interesting. The company is claiming that its new aluminum-air batteries can run for up to two weeks and be refilled with normal water.

That said, there are question, too. The hydrated aluminum oxide solution produced during the battery’s normal operation would need to be recycled in some fashion, it’s not clear that fresh water is as effective an aqueous solution as saltwater (meaning there might be specific need for one particular kind of solution). The final price is also unknown, though previous estimations had put the cost of an Al-air system at roughly $1.1 per kg of aluminum anode. This was not given in precise terms relative to the cost of gasoline (and the weight of the aluminum anode in these batteries is unknown), but the team that performed that analysis noted that proper recycling would put Al-air in the same cost range as conventional internal combustion engines.

Fuji Pigment has stated that it intends to commercialize this technology as early as this year, which means we could see test demonstrations and proof of concepts by 2016. Whether auto manufacturers will jump for the technology remains to be seen — car companies tend to be conservative and Tesla has already thrown its weight behind the further use of lithium-ion technology.

For a deeper look at just how this battery works on a technical level, head over to Extreme Tech and read the full article.

January 29th, 2015|

(Really Expensive) Aluminum Case Protects iPhone 6

You’ve bought a shiny new iPhone 6 but with horror stories of bent phones, you’re afraid to put it in your pocket. Never fear; for $2,000, Gresso has an aluminum case that’s built to withstand the rigors of life in a back pocket. From GSM Arena:

Bendgate is the latest

[something]gate to plague the iPhone and Gresso has a case to cure that problem. The case is for the iPhone 6 rather than the 6 Plus, which is actually the one with bending issues.

Still, Gresso is known for its luxury phones and a lot of machining went into the making of the Gresso Aluminum Bumper for the iPhone 6.

It was machined out of aircraft-grade anodized aluminum and features a patented hinge mechanism to clasp both the front and back of the device.

The case increases the force needed to bend the iPhone 6 from 70lbs to 300lbs.

The most important part of the article? “The bumpers are available in grade 5 titanium and 18K yellow or white gold. Prices start from a wallet-clenching $2,000.” Better start saving those pennies. Of course, by the time you can afford a $2,000 case, the iPhone 7 might be out!

Click on through to the original post for a video of this test in action.

October 16th, 2014|

The Great Aluminum Undertaking Begins

With the public on-sale date fast approaching for the F-150,Ford has begun overhauling its manufacturing plants to prepare for the rapid ramp-up for large-scale production of the aluminum-based vehicle. The last of the previous year’s models are finished, and beginning earlier this week, the focus switched to implementing and integrating new equipment to oversee the aluminum manufacturing process. From Bloomberg:

Ford Motor Co. (F), the second-largest U.S. automaker, has begun an eight-week closure of its Dearborn, Michigan, F-150 pickup plant to overhaul it for a new, aluminum-bodied version of the top-selling vehicle line in the U.S.

“This is historic for the industry, not just for Ford,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, told reporters today at the company’s product development center in Dearborn. “To take the No. 1 selling vehicle for 32 years — it will be 33 soon — and convert it like this, at this volume, to aluminum, is historic and unprecedented.”

Michigan workers assembled their last 2014 F-150 early on Aug. 22 and crews began tearing up the plant to make way for the new equipment necessary to manufacture parts out of aluminum, Hinrichs said. The conversion began one day ahead of schedule, he said, and this weekend, 1,100 trucks will stream into the plant to deliver the new tools. By mid-October, the factory will be building the “production version” of the 2015 model, he said.

“This is a massive undertaking, one of the bigger logistical challenges we’ve ever seen,” Hinrichs said. “It’s been orchestrated literally by the minute, by the truckload.”

This is just the first step for Ford as the company re-evaluates its North American manufacturing plan. For more details, read the entire Bloomberg article.

August 25th, 2014|

Steel vs. Aluminum: A History Lesson

Steel may have been the flag-bearer for years and years, but then along came aluminum. And with much resistance, the industry reluctantly gave aluminum a try. Soon, the transition was tangible and the result was a manufacturing revolution.

Sound familiar? Given all the hype and news about the Ford F-150, you’d probably think that we were discussing the auto industry. However, the Motley Fool gives us a history lesson on how this happened before:

The year was 1934. After lots of coaxing, the American Can Co. finally persuaded Krueger Brewing to try selling its beer in steel cans. It worked, and by the end of 1935 23 different brewers were selling their beer in steel cans, which were easier to sell because they were lighter and more compact than bottles and quicker to fill.

Steel, however, was pushed out of the market in the 1970s after Coors (NYSE: TAP  ) developed the first aluminum beer can. These were cheaper to produce, even lighter in weight, and took less time to chill. The nationwide switch to aluminum cans created a major structural demand shift for the aluminum industry.

That same structural shift is about to happen again. This time, the Ford (NYSE: F  )  F-150 is replacing 1,500 pounds of steel with 900 pounds of aluminum in the all-new 2015 model. With this shift, aluminum appears poised to slowly take over the auto industry, much like it took over the beer can industry a few decades ago.

Aluminum has slowly been pushing steel out of cars for decades. In 1975 less than 100 pounds of aluminum could be found in the average car. Today that number has risen to 343 pounds of aluminum.

The rest of the article focuses on the differences in material properties between steel and aluminum. Together, it makes a valid argument as to why manufacturers are starting to see aluminum as the smart choice.

August 18th, 2014|