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Trade Fair Aluminium Aluminium 2018 Presents Solutions for Lightweight Automotive Construction

Author / Editor: Mike Seidensticker / MA Alexander Stark

From October 9 to 11, the Aluminium trade fair in Düsseldorf will present new material and process developments in and with aluminum. At this juncture lightweight solutions play a major role.

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Process and material innovations are drivers for the development of efficient lightweight solutions and their implementation in series production.
Process and material innovations are drivers for the development of efficient lightweight solutions and their implementation in series production.
(Source: Pixabay / CC0 )

Low-weight vehicles score points in terms of CO2 reduction, driving dynamics and comfort. Aluminum, as one of the most important lightweight materials in the automotive sector, benefits from this. There is an increasing demand for new solutions and applications made of aluminum materials. This is also shown at the Aluminium trade fair from October 9 to 11 in Düsseldorf, organized by Reed.

Aluminum has transformed the automotive industry and will continue to do so in the future. It offers a better cost-benefit ratio than any of the substitute materials available. Further potential for the use of aluminum can be tapped by aluminum producers, processors and car manufacturers cooperating even more closely in the future. The figures reflect this trend quite impressively. The average aluminum content per car is rising steadily: 60 years ago, an average of 19 kg per vehicle was used; between 1990 and 2014, the content of aluminum per car almost tripled from 50 kg to 140 kg. By 2020, this volume will rise to 160 to 180 kg as small and medium-sized cars will follow the trend set by luxury cars with regard to the use of aluminum.

Process and Material Innovations are Drivers for Lightweight Construction Solutions

Intensified competition between materials has led to closer cooperation between car manufacturers and aluminum suppliers. By investing in application-oriented research and development, the aluminum industry has repeatedly improved the properties of its material, developed new products and optimized production processes. Process and material innovations are drivers for the development of efficient lightweight solutions and their implementation in series production, such as energy-saving components for chassis, engine and transmissions.

New Joining Techniques Boost the Use of Aluminum

The use of aluminum in automotive engineering is also being promoted by new joining technologies. For example, improved soldering processes have led to the fact that almost all heat exchangers for automotive air conditioning systems and radiators are already made of aluminum. Innovative welding processes and bonding technologies make it possible to build complex structures that offer not only technical but also economic advantages. The applications range up to complete axis structures.

From October 9 to 11, the Aluminium trade fair will be held in Düsseldorf.
From October 9 to 11, the Aluminium trade fair will be held in Düsseldorf.
(Source: Reed)

Aluminum Conquers New Fields of Application

Over the past few years, aluminum producers and processors have continuously developed new aluminum alloys (5xxx, 6xxx) with improved mechanical properties such as strength, formability and corrosion resistance, thus offering ever lighter components with thinner walls. The innovative aluminum materials have conquered new areas of application due to their good processability, high strength values and good weldability. However, the development of new roller surface geometries and lubricants to improve tribological properties is also moving full speed ahead.

In addition, developments in e-mobility are giving the material new impetus: the power electronics, e-motors and above all the battery and their housing, which protects it from external influences, create additional lightweight construction potential in vehicles. Due to different design requirements of electric vehicles, aluminum profiles are the only sensible option for many new products and applications, for example because of the possibility of functional integration or cooling. Light metal solutions will prevail in battery housings, structural parts and in the drive systems.

Car Manufacturers Define Requirements for Material Developments

The automotive industry is one of the biggest drivers behind material and process developments for aluminum. The decisive factor is less the end customer, but rather the overall social environment and regulatory framework conditions. Increasing urbanization, for example in Asia, is forcing car manufacturers to look for new concepts and the limits for the consumption values of each manufacturer's range of vehicles are doing the rest. The demand for innovative lightweight solutions in automotive construction will therefore continue to increase.

Due to the growing demand for "sharp-edged" designs of automotive exteriors, 6xxx materials with good formability properties are required. With regard to lightweight construction and the associated reduction in sheet thickness, the materials must offer high strength values. The requirements vary from manufacture to manufacturer. On the one hand, high strength and good crash performance, such as ductility are expected; then again only the highest stiffness levels can meet the rigidity requirements of the chassis. Depending on component use and expansion possibilities, good formability in terms of strength and geometries is expected in the various strength classes.

Aluminum Industry is Optimistic

Overall, the aluminum industry in the automotive sector is facing exponential growth. Demand and requirements for aluminum will continue to rise. Even if the material should lose parts in some areas of application, it will open up new areas of application in return. Growth will continue to outpace substitution.

In the future, aluminum sheets will replace other materials such as steel for the exterior and for hang-on parts. The OEMs have decided to continue using aluminum for bonnets, fenders and doors in the next generation of their vehicles. Aluminum casting also remains an important, dynamic growth market. The aluminum casters have excellent material know-how. Complex cast parts with high machining depth offer great potential. There are also promising possibilities for the use of aluminum solutions in crash-relevant areas of the chassis.

Automotive Construction in Focus

The future prospects of this material in automotive engineering are also the focus of this year's Aluminium — with many exhibitors as well as with supporting events such as the lecture forum and the guided tours of the trade fair.

This year's Aluminium Conference — organized by the German Association of the Aluminium Industry (GDA) — will also address the topic. Among other things, the focus is on aluminum solutions for sustainable transport concepts, alloys, cooperations between the aluminum and automotive industries, new developments in joining technologies and additive manufacturing.

This article was first published by MaschinenMarkt

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