04 June, 2013 | Automotive EngineerShare
June 4, 2013
The need for lightweight body structures to help meet fuel economy and emissions targets is increasing demand for aluminium worldwide.
Supplier Novelis is investing in extra capacity in Europe, North America and China to meet this need and plans to boost production by 400,000 tonnes globally. Premium OEMs such as Audi, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover and Daimler are all increasing their consumption of lightweight alloys, producing all aluminium intensive and all-aluminium models.
Novelis'' senior vice president, Erwin Mayr, said: “As the world''s largest producer of aluminium sheet for the automotive industry, we''re adding capacity worldwide to meet the rapidly growing demand for rolled aluminium used in the design of a new generation of lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles.”
The firm already has two sheet plants in Europe and has added a third, in Gottingen, Germany. It will turn out 20,000 tonnes a year from the outset but this is expected to double. The Gottingen plant has also specialised in surface treatment, producing grades for particularly demanding applications.
The Oswego plant in New York is increasing output by 240,000 tonnes – given the boom in SUV and pick-up segments, manufacturers in the US need to make these vehicles much lighter, especially if they want to keep using body-on-frame construction. A plant being built in Changzhou in China will have a capacity of 120,000 tonnes.
Novelis is also applying technology first used in the steel industry to make aluminium more cost-effective. It has formed a partnership with ThyssenKrupp to develop tailored blanks. Combining different materials of different thicknesses, strengths and surface coatings in the blank eliminates joints – saving weight – and reduces waste, saving cost.
ThyssenKrupp Tailored Blanks chief executive, Rudolf Helldobler, said: “The product range of tailored aluminium blanks connects for the first time the extensive potential for lightweight of aluminium with the engineering service of tailoring the body and chassis design on a mass scale.” Target applications include closures such as doors and hoods, and structural elements such as cross members and longitudinal members.