1 03, 2021

Taber: Microextrusions For Defense and Aerospace

2021-03-01T20:55:09+00:00March 1st, 2021|

Two images side-by-side, on left: long-range radar antenna used to track space objects and ballistic missiles. On right: A military radar antenna which rotates steadily, used for aircraft detection.

Like conventional aluminum extrusions, microextrusions are pushed through a die. Unlike conventional extrusions, the entire extrusion process is performed at a submillimeter level. In other words, the resulting product’s cross section can fit through a 1-millimeter square. Since microforming was first explored in 1990, several microextrusion processes have been developed and found to be especially valuable in the defense and aerospace industries.

“Taber was originally recognized for our large shapes and now we are establishing ourselves as microextruders. Since we’ve added microextrusions, friction stir welding, and billet casting, we’re pretty much spanning the gamut of aluminum extrusion competence,” says Jason Weber, VP of Sales and Marketing at Taber Extrusions. “We were already well-versed within the defense and aerospace markets but adding miniature aluminum extrusions to our capabilities has allowed us to become a one-stop shop for our customers in those industries. Our diversification has opened the door wide for our customers.”

Three side-by-side images illustrating how strikingly small microextrusions are. Various aluminum profiles are lined up creatively next to measuring rulers.

Taber Extrusions has experienced many evolutions since its founding in the early 1970s. Established in Russellville, AR, Taber pioneered a process for extruding rectangular billet, able to extrude solid profiles up to 31 inches wide or hollows up to 29 inches. Since then, the Gulfport, MS facility was added, which increased Taber’s billet capacity, alloy range, and ability to reuse materials. Within the last decade, fabrication capabilities were upgraded, friction stir welding was added, and of course, microextrusions became an offering.

MICROEXTRUSIONS FOR DEFENSE AND AEROSPACE

For which type of end-use applications are Taber’s microextrusions being utilized?

 

Defense

 

Precision is a must for military, defense, and firearms manufacturing – requiring strength, complexity, and tight tolerances. Aluminum’s high strength-to-weight ratio makes it the ideal material for many defense product applications such as:

 

  • Communications systems
  • Electronics thermal management/enclosures
  • Guidance systems
  • Radar systems
  • Weapons systems
  • Firearms components and accessories
A U.S. Air Force T-38 Talon, British Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon, French Air Force Dessault Rafale, and U.S. Air Force F-22 fly in formation above the clouds on a sunny day.

Aerospace

 

From the Wright brothers to NASA, aluminum has helped make it possible for humans to fly above the Earth onward to explore other galaxies. Aluminum’s minimal maintenance, lightweight with high strength, flexibility at low temperatures, and ability to engineer a wide range of functionality into components, makes it an obvious choice for solutions in aircraft and aerospace.  For the most part, microextrusions function out of site and you’ll never know they are all around you. However, they serve a crucial role in aerospace:

 

  • Interior aircraft systems
  • Supplemental oxygen systems
  • Electrical/Communication Systems
  • Passenger Comfort Systems
  • Coolant radiators
  • Oil coolers
  • Transmission coolers
  • Intercoolers
  • AC condensers
  • Passenger service systems
  • Other fluid/gas systems

As aluminum has played an important role in the defense and aerospace applications for many years, a new generation of aluminum-lithium alloys are offering aircraft manufacturers even more savings when it comes to weight and fuel. Beyond aluminum’s high strength-to-weight ratio and excellent formability, its anticorrosive properties make it a top choice. When aluminum is exposed to air, it forms a hard microscopic oxide coating, sealing it from the environment. This tight oxide bond is a compound not found in nature, but an aluminum alloy created to provide a long-lasting protective solution. These unique properties allow microextrusion manufacturers like Taber Extrusions to furnish extremely strong, precise, and long-lasting miniature extrusions to end users in a wide range of markets.

Taber’s Miniature Extrusion Capabilities

  • Up to 0.8 In2 cross sectional area
  • Special cases down to 0.075 In2
  • Profile circle size up to 3″
  • Minimum wall thickness possible to 0.010” (select cases)
  • Key characteristic tolerances possible ±0.001” (select cases)
: The word “microextrusions” reflects on a metal ruler up to the 4-inch mark, with 3 sizes of square hollow-shaped miniature extrusions lined up against the 1-2-inch marks.

More About Taber Extrusions: 

Founded in 1973, Taber Extrusions originally pioneered a process for extruding rectangular billet which enables the company to extrude solid profiles up to 31 inches wide or hollows up to 29 inches. Taber expanded with the purchase of an extrusion facility in Gulfport, MS, in 1995 which houses a new state-of-the-art cast house and two additional presses, microextrusion capabilities, and the fabrication area has been expanded multiple times.

Taber continues to extrude billet in a wide range of alloys and sizes and has diversified its markets beyond military since its inception to include aerospace, automotive, marine, infrastructure, and sporting goods, among many others. For these markets, the company supplies cast and extruded products in a variety of soft and hard alloys.

Today, Taber Extrusions has completed the addition of in-house friction stir welding capabilities, and carries on their offering of extruded aluminum components, value-added machining services, and raw material supply to the North American market – making them a vertically integrated supplier of FSW panels and assemblies never before seen in North America.

Follow Taber Extrusions

LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/company/8843183/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/taberextrusions/

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/taberextrusions

Interested in becoming a part of the Taber Team?  Submit your resume to careers@taberextrusions.com.

Become a customer today! Visit us or request a quote: https://taberextrusions.com or call us at (888) 985-5319.

11 01, 2021

Industries That Use Friction Stir Welding

2021-02-11T20:06:29+00:00January 11th, 2021|

Amid the screech of saws cutting through metal, the beeping of forklifts, and the clank of metal components, workers in modern shipyards are producing some of the largest vessels in the world. A similar cacophony of sounds as those heard in a shipyard can be heard around the country in automotive, construction, aerospace, and transportation factories.

Yet, one traditional sound associated with industrial manufacturing may soon go silent: the loud cracking, buzzing, electric sound associated with MIG welding. Sometimes likened to the sound bacon makes while frying, the sounds of MIG welding may eventually come to be completely replaced by the low buzzing of the spinning rotating tool used in Friction Stir Welding (FSW).

As FSW becomes faster and more versatile, more industries than ever are moving toward this type of welding.

The Benefits:

FSW shows its high cast as a modern-form joining operation.

Unlike other forms of welding, FSW can be automated which increases precision and reduces manufacturing times. Manufacturing time is further decreased because FSW only takes one pass to weld metals and because there is no filler material nor melting, eliminating the need for post weld work, such as splatter cleaning.

FSW is also hyper-modern by being more environmentally friendly and less wasteful (it does not have consumable parts) and not producing nauseous gases during the process.

Other benefits of Friction Stir Welding include:

  • Increased strength (High tensile, fatigue & bend properties) ​
  • Improved sealing, completely void-free leak proof joints​
  • Reduced thermal distortion and shrinkage​
  • Improved repeatability​
  • The ability to join two different alloys​
  • Good for welding metals such as aluminum alloys that can be hard to weld
  • Cost effectivity

The top users: Marine and Transportation

Both of these gigantic industries – marine and transportation – incorporate FSW into their manufacturing operations. Public transportation alone has a market size of 75.6 billion dollars[i], and for shipbuilding, without considering the other sectors of the naval industry, the market size is 29 billion.

Other key sectors are also keen on taking advantage of FSW. Below we highlight just one benefit FSW gives each of the following sectors:

Air Transport:

The Benefit: Weight Reduction

The long underbelly of an airplane, which has two undulations for engines, and the landing gear down against a completely white backdrop giving the image a classic black & white feel.

One of the simplest ways to increase efficiency in transport vehicles is by reducing weight. Marine, air, and land transport vehicles are foregoing rivets, clinch nuts, or traditional MIG or TIG welding in their manufacturing processes in favor of FSW which doesn’t add any weight to the structure.

“Weight is one of the biggest challenges to aircraft manufacturers. Using FSW to join aluminum alloy stringers to skins for aircraft wings and fuselage structures will reduce weight by the removal of thousands of rivets, and any overlapping aluminum material. A leading aircraft manufacturer estimated that potential weight savings of approximately 2.2 lbs. per meter of FSW could be made.[i]

Aerospace:

The benefit: Easy welding of hard-to-weld alloys.

Space X’s Falcon 9 Flight 17's first stage attempting a controlled landing on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) against an early evening sky as the fiery hot gasses are expelled toward the landing pad, creating a misty exhaust.

Some types of difficult-to-weld aluminums can frustrate traditional welding attempts. In addition, joining dissimilar aluminum alloys has always been a challenge due to the different chemical and physical properties of the metal.

Recently, aerospace companies have begun using FSW, a solid-state welding technique, to surpass these limitations. Today, some fuel tanks for spacecraft – made out of hard to weld aluminum alloys – are premanufactured using FSW[i].

Marine Ships:

The benefit: Better production habits, taking advantage of prefabrication, modular building, and assembly lines.

A scene with a backdrop of green hills covered with small shrubs and trees. On a waterway, a large white cruise ship with one smoke stack creates white foam as its hull breaks through the water.

As if a precursor of things to come, the first commercial use of FSW was on ships, specifically on hollow panels used for freezing fish on fishing boats.

Today, many ships use friction stir welded floors, decks, and bulkheads. By using FSW, shipyards reduce the amount of work needed to be done, shifting the work to assembly-line factories[i]. Many parts can be manufactured in production lines improving safety, accuracy, and efficiency. Not only that, the industry can take advantage of the best pre-fab and modular practices that will further decrease production times.

Today’s cruise ships are light weight structures which allow shipbuilders to build taller ships while keeping the center of gravity lower. Designed with all the heavy machinery at the bottom and lightweight aluminum materials at the top makes them inherently stable even as ship designs are getting taller and taller, demonstrating how sufficient safety can be achieved.

Ultimately this translates to one thing: bigger ships mean MORE FUN!

Whether it’s the freighters that carry the goods from our globalized economy, the military vessels that keep our oceans safe, or the cruise-lines that give families unforgettable vacations, all these sectors are seeing cost and efficiency saving with FSW.

Trains:

The benefit: Safety

a long, white high speed train with orange trim at the bottom. The train disappears into the distance as it rests at an empty platform with tile floors and a metal roof with a long row of lights and a skylight running down the middle on the roof.

This industry in particular has honed in on the advantages FSW offers in crash safety. FSW is the best welding process for creating safe designs:

“Modern passenger rail cars are increasingly produced from longitudinal aluminium extrusions with integrated stiffeners.

This design approach can enhance the crashworthiness of vehicles […] Large aluminum extrusions with complicated shapes are [being used].[i]

Freight Trailers:

The benefit: Stability

Anyone traveling behind an 18-wheeler on highways knows just how the wind and road shakes the trailers. By using FSW on the floorboard of their trailers, some freight companies argue that their trailers have become more stable than ever. “The aluminum extrusions become one at the molecular level, making the floor a single-piece of rigid aluminum.[i]” The end result? Less wear on the tires and better fuel mileage.

Other industries:

Other industries taking advantage of friction stir welding include the automotive, construction, and defense industries, among others. It has even been incorporated to make stronger snowmobiles and lighter coolant systems.

The strong, lightweight welds that can be used on hard-to-weld alloys have every industry that uses aluminum and aluminum extrusions looking to gain a competitive advantage.

Companies that have specialized in aluminum and aluminum extrusions are the front line for delivering FSW benefits to customers. For more information, please visit Taber Extrusions. With a long tradition of proving aluminum and aluminum extrusion solutions, Taber Extrusions provides companies all the advantages of FSW in one location.

Industries Served by Taber Extrusions:

 

  • Distributors
  • Government | Military Contracts | Department of Defense
  • Aircraft | Aerospace
  • Marine | Shipbuilding
  • Infrastructure | Platforms | Decking
  • Electrical | Power Transmission | Electronics
  • Transportation
  • Sporting Goods
  • Industrial, Agricultural, and Mining Equipment
  • Structural Components
  • Specialty Architectural

About Taber Extrusions: 

Founded in 1973, Taber Extrusions originally pioneered a process for extruding rectangular billet which enables the company to extrude solid profiles up to 31 inches wide or hollows up to 29 inches. Taber expanded with the purchase of an extrusion facility in Gulfport, MS., in 1995 which houses a new state of the art cast house and two additional presses, micro-extrusion capabilities, and the fabrication area has been expanded multiple times.

Taber continues to extrude billet in a wide range of alloys and sizes, and has diversified its markets beyond military since its inception to include aerospace, automotive, marine, infrastructure, and sporting goods, among many others. For these markets, the company supplies cast and extruded products in a variety of soft and hard alloys.

Today, Taber Extrusions has completed the addition of in-house Friction Stir Welding capabilities, and carries on their offering of extruded aluminum components, value-added machining services and raw material supply to the North American market – making them a vertically integrated supplier of FSW panels and assemblies never before seen in North America.

Follow Taber Extrusions

LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/company/8843183/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/taberextrusions/

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/taberextrusions

Interested in becoming a part of the Taber Team?  Submit your resume to careers@taberextrusions.com.

Become a customer today! Visit us or request a quote: https://taberextrusions.com or call us at (888) 985-5319.

 

______

 

i https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/market-size/public-transportation-united-states

ii https://www.twi-global.com/who-we-are/who-we-work-with/industry-sectors/aerospace/joining-of-airframe-structures/friction-stir-welding-of-airframe-structures

iii https://www.twi-global.com/technical-knowledge/published-papers/industrialisation-of-friction-stir-welding-for-aerospace-structures-december-2001

iv https://www.twi-global.com/who-we-are/who-we-work-with/industry-sectors/aerospace/joining-of-airframe-structures/friction-stir-welding-of-airframe-structures

v https://www.twi-global.com/technical-knowledge/published-papers/creating-a-stir-in-the-rail-industry-november-2001

vi https://www.ttnews.com/articles/fontaine-brings-friction-stir-welding-revolution-trailer

 

###

17 02, 2020

Taber: Advanced Friction Stir Welding Capabilities

2020-02-17T19:42:22+00:00February 17th, 2020|

Something big is happening at Taber: Friction Stir Welding has been added to their already extensive portfolio of capabilities. #TheShapeOfEndlessPossibilitiies #Taber #Aluminum Extrusions #FSW

10 09, 2019

Taber Presents Friction Stir Welding Capabilities at Aluminum USA 2019

2019-09-12T18:34:22+00:00September 10th, 2019|

Stunning evening view of the Nashville city skyline along the water featuring a colorful reflection of the bright downtown lights reflecting off the water giving the entire scene a magical glow.

Aluminum industry professionals are gearing up for The Aluminum USA Tradeshow on September 12th-13th in Nashville, Tennessee, where Taber Extrusions will be showcasing their in-house friction stir welding capabilities creating a vertically integrated supplier of FSW panels and assemblies never before seen in North America.

Aluminum USA is hosted biannually as a “weeklong leading industry event covering the entire value chain from upstream (mining, smelting) via midstream (casting, rolling, extrusions) to downstream (finishing, fabrication). ALUMINUM USA is the ideal event for end-users from application industries such as automotive, aerospace, construction, packaging and electrical & electronics”. Special events surrounding the tradeshow kick off with Nissan tours on Wednesday, September 11th, and continue with an array of face-to-face opportunities including technology-based networking events and an industry meet & greet. This year’s tradeshow is bigger and better than ever, featuring an expanded show-floor.

Jason Weber who currently serves as Taber Extrusion’s VP of Marketing and Sales, will be hosting a presentation at EDU ’19, which is part of the broader Aluminum USA tradeshow on September 12th and 13th  that “gives a forum to leading suppliers and industry professionals to come together for face-to-face meetings, exhibition, cutting-edge conference, and educational programming.” Aluminum USA EDU ’19  features educational presentations covering aluminum extrusion design, applications, and technology. In addition to speaking at the EDU ’19 forum, guests are welcome to visit Jason Weber and other Taber Extrusions team members at Booth #546 during the tradeshow.

A headshot of an attractive smiling Caucasian man with slightly silvering hair, wearing an ocean blue polo shirt and a white, zip-up sweater.

Jason Weber’s presentation titled, “Joining Aluminum Extrusions through Friction Stir Welding” will present industry experts and end-users with information on Friction Stir Welding (FSW). The presentation will cover the “basics of what FSW is, current products that are Friction Stir Welded, general design practices for extrusions incorporating FSW features, and typical performance of FSW joints versus other joining technologies”.

Sometimes described as more of a forging process than actual welding – Friction Stir Welding is a solid- state joining technique used to join metals not easily fused with traditional welding. Ideal for metals such as aluminum, copper, and other metal alloys, FSW is commonly used in the aerospace, rail, automotive, shipbuilding, transportation, and marine industries. Friction Stir Welding makes possible very high-quality welds with minimal distortion. It is also a process that can be easily automated, making it an ideal solution for industrial use.

The EDU ’19 forum gives a chance for Weber to share inside knowledge of the process which the company now offers in its extensive menu of services. “As a leader in the Aluminum Industry, Taber works with clients in military, government, aircraft and aerospace, shipbuilding, infrastructure – and so much more. The aluminum extrusion shapes they are creating for these clients are absolutely ideal for Friction Stir Welding technology,” said Dave Hofferbert, President of Bond Technologies, Inc.

A close-up of a futuristic looking, metal spinning tool inserted between the metal ends of two large cylindrical spaceship parts.

Jason Weber, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Taber Extrusions, has 20+ years of global manufacturing experience helping innovate product and service offerings. Jason is an active member of the Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC) and is the leader of the Council’s Marketing/Industry Promotion Team.

About Taber: 

Founded in 1973, Taber has become a leading supplier of high quality aluminum extrusions. By ensuring that every process and procedure, from billet procurement and final shipment, fulfills all ISO9001 and AS9100 standards, Taber maintains preferred supplier ratings. In 2018, Taber added ultra-precision extrusions to their capabilities allowing them to further serve customers in electronics, computer, and medical industries. In 2019, Taber announced their launch into Friction Stir Welding.

29 06, 2015

Aluminum-Based Prints Offer New Form Of Wall Decor

2017-01-26T23:37:28+00:00June 29th, 2015|

Aluminum is used for many things: manufacturing, packaging, even preserving foods in the form of aluminum foil. And while it’s been used as an art medium in a number of ways — including 3D printing — printing images on aluminum is a relatively recent development. A company called Aluminyze has sought to make this more commercially accessible, and the results are impressive. From GeekDad:

When Aluminyze offered to send some samples of their aluminum prints, I was a bit skeptical. Too many times, print samples are too small to get a feel for the quality, and only use heavy HDR or over-contrast to blast the senses and cover up any deficiencies in the process or materials. It was refreshing, then, when they told me to pick two sample photos myself and they’d send me both large and small prints of them.

For both prints, hanging was a breeze with the attached float mount that brings the print away from the wall. Aluminyze infuses the photo into the aluminum and then applies a UV resistant coating, providing a waterproof, fade and scratch resistant piece of art that, unlike paper that can get damp, wrinkle, tear, and fade, can be cleaned with regular glass cleaner and safely hung in direct sunlight. At $35 for an 8″x10″, on up to over $600 for a gigantic 40″x60″, aluminum prints are comparable to both framed prints and gallery wrap canvas, yet last longer. Aluminyze also offers a variety of sizes, shapes, and mounts for your photos on their website.

Click on through to see detailed reviews of Aluminyze’s qualities. But the short answer is that the company is delivering high-quality prints on a unique surface that’s protected from the usual wear and tear you’ll see with paper.

31 03, 2015

The Next Best Thing To Aluminum 3D Printing

2015-06-18T15:33:03+00:00March 31st, 2015|

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.

24 03, 2015

Aluminum F-150 Maintains Insurance Rates From Previous Year

2017-01-26T23:37:28+00:00March 24th, 2015|

With any major change in a car’s design, one often overlooked aspect is the vehicle’s insurance costs. Design changes come with inherent risks simply because they’re new and have limited real world feedback, so it’s not unusual for new-model cars with significant hardware changes to have higher insurance costs.

However, data has shown that insurance rates for the aluminum-based Ford F-150 have NOT increased compared to the previous year. From Automotive News:

For now, motorists’ yearly insurance premiums for the 2015 aluminum-bodied F-150 are about the same as for the 2014 steel model — good news for Ford.

But premiums could change once insurance companies study accident repair data for the redesigned pickup.

To set rates for 2015 models, insurance companies use the latest data they have — from 2014 model claims. It could take about a year or more to get repair and other data useful to set rates for the 2015 model, insurers say.

“The cost to insure the F-150 may go up, or it may go down,” said Progressive Corp. spokesman Jeff Sibel. “We won’t have

[enough] data until we have claims experiences.”

Insurance premiums won’t make or break sales of Ford’s highly profitable full-size pickup. They are about 10 percent of an owner’s operating costs in the first five years of ownership, Consumer Reports says. Ford is confident that insurance premiums for the new pickup will be similar to those for the steel model, even though some parts costs are higher, aluminum repair techs require special training and special repair equipment is needed.

This is all subject to change over time as repair data comes in. However, it’s always better to have a good start, and it’s a testament to the integrity of the F-150’s design and manufacturing teams that the insurance companies haven’t raised rates yet.

22 03, 2015

3D Printed Aluminum Makes It Into Space

2015-06-18T15:33:03+00:00March 22nd, 2015|

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!

12 03, 2015

Secrets Of Designing Aluminum Cans

2017-01-26T23:37:28+00:00March 12th, 2015|

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.

 

6 03, 2015

Ford’s F-150 Winning Over Public Opinion

2015-06-18T15:33:03+00:00March 6th, 2015|

The aluminum-based F-150 landed to strong reviews from the automotive press, but what really matters is how the public receives it. What’s the opinion so far? Based on both sales data and anecdotal vendor evidence, people are quite pleased with what aluminum can do. From Louisville Business First:

The company said retail sales of its F-Series pickup trucks were up 7 percent. It said the F-150, which features a standard new aluminum body this model year, was the fastest-turning vehicle on dealer lots.

To get some perspective on this, I had a conversation with Greg Howell, sales consultant at Carriage Ford in Clarksville. He said customers he’s spoke to about the aluminum truck are both knowledgeable and excited about them.

Many Carriage customers have owned Fords previously and are familiar with the changes to the body. He said if they do have questions, it’s usually about body work — as some are wondering whether getting an aluminum body will increase the cost of repairs. Ford has done a pretty good job with explaining to customers that the aluminum is more dent resistant, he said. He also said repairs do not cost more because Ford has sent plenty of military grade aluminum to dealerships and provided training on working with it.

Of course, sales data really only matters over the long haul but you’d definitely rather start strong to build buzz and word of mouth. It looks like the F-150 is doing its part there, and we’ll know more in a few months when Ford evaluates the first half of the fiscal year.

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