“New Titanium-Making Process Could Result in Lighter Aircraft” – MIT Technology Review, 26 February 2015

The aerospace industry has begun to employ more titanium in the production of aircraft parts, including engine components and fan blades. The lighter metal is invulnerable to corrosion, permits less fuel usage, and is adaptable to carbon composite materials, which can be found in many new aircrafts. Aluminum has typically been used in aircraft manufacturing, however the material conflicts with carbon composites.

Now, New Jersey-based SRI International has developed a new process for manufacturing titanium that is far less costly and uses far less energy than typical means. In addition to the aerospace industry, this new method could also be used for automobile parts, which can also better fuel economies.

SRI International’s technique generates a powder form of titanium, rather than bars. The powder can then be shaped into the form of the products or parts needed, which also means less equipment is required.

SRI has produced a small amount of the titanium using its technique. The company is presently working toward honing its method so that the cost is more economical and more titanium can be made. Like most new metal extraction processes, this development is still far away from commercialization.

(From MIT Technology Review)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 26, 2015

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“Alcoa, Novelis face new competition as aluminum gains in auto segment” – Automotive News, 19 June 2014

While it seems that Alcoa and Novelis have become the two major players in the automotive industry’s steel overhaul, other aluminum companies—Constellium NV, Aleris Corp., and Wise Metals Group—are also surfacing to become a part of the car industry’s shift to aluminum. Dutch-based aluminum manufacturer Constellium is breaking ground on a body sheet plant in the US, and Aleris and Wise Metals are thinking of doing the same. Constellium currently supplies to Volkswagen, while Aleris works with Audi and Mercedes.

Though there certainly will be competition among the aluminum companies, there seems to be more than enough work to go around. Fabricating aluminum car parts will likely grow into a $10 billion industry in the next ten years, with demand likely to grow 40 percent in that same time frame. While Novelis and Alcoa have already begun on production with US car companies, it will be a few years before competing aluminum companies begin production.

via Wall Street Journal

via Wall Street Journal

Car manufacturers have finally realized the benefits of all-aluminum bodied cars. Though an expensive investment, the lighter metal improves fuel efficiency, allows for cars to stop and start faster, and allows trucks to carry heavier objects. The major push came from Obama, when he mandated that new cars must double their fuel economies by 2025.

Alcoa has been ahead of the game for awhile. Fifteen years ago, the company invented A951, an invisible coating that creates stronger and sturdier bonds between aluminum parts. Alcoa patented the product, but was then asked by Ford to share the licensing with other aluminum companies. Car companies are working with different aluminum companies to supply parts, so as not to create a monopoly supplier. Alcoa gladly complied.

Related:
Aluminum Cars Take Heat from ArcelorMittal’s CEO
GM Secures Aluminum for Trucks
Will All-Aluminum Cars Drive Metals Industry?

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

July 2, 2014

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“Will All-Aluminum Cars Drive Metals Industry?” – Wall Street Journal, 13 January 2014

Obama’s 2010 mandate that obligates car manufacturers to double new-car average fuel economy by 2025 has pushed the car industry to produce more fuel efficient cars at a faster rate. Ford’s next F-150 — the US’s largest selling vehicle — is currently being redesigned and rebuilt with an all-aluminum body, a huge helping hand to both Obama’s fuel efficiency mandate and the aluminum industry.

Two big players in the Ford’s aluminum round-up are Alcoa and Novelis, the nation’s top aluminum sheet producers. In 2013, both companies spent $1 billion in opening new aluminum sheet factories, tailored to the auto industry. Raw aluminum prices have dropped by more than a third since 2011 — Alcoa and Novelis are hoping their new investments increase their profit margins.

The aluminum industry is making a huge bet. While aluminum is lighter, and better for fuel efficiency and the economy, it might not be better for pocketbooks — aluminum costs almost three times more than steel, the traditional metal used to manufacture cars. Moreover, using aluminum to produce vehicles requires new machinery; machinery used to manufacture cars from steel isn’t compatible with aluminum.

Only Audi and Jaguar — cars that a majority of the public can’t afford — have created all-aluminum vehicles. Ford’s new endeavor will likely trim 700 pounds from the currently-5,000-pound truck; this reduction will allow for a 7% growth in the truck’s fuel economy.

The aluminum market is now only valued at almost $300 per year. If more car companies choose to manufacture all-aluminum cars, then the market can skyrocket to $7.5 billion by 2025, a huge blessing for the aluminum industry, which is undergoing oversupply and low raw aluminum price issues.

The car industry is urging every aluminum company to invest, asking different manufacturers to produce different parts so there isn’t one that could dominate pricing. There is more than enough business for everyone: one contract for a mass-produced part can be valued at more than $50 million.

The question is, will there be enough raw aluminum materials and fabrication capacities to successfully undertake this venture, even though time has come to further enhance recycling and production of recycle-friendly automotive aluminum alloys in commerce? See a publication on this subject by Dr. Das – “The Development of Recycle-Friendly Automotive Aluminum Alloys“.

See also:
A Clean Car Boom
GM Planning Strict Diet for New Pickup Trucks

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 13, 2014

Phinix LLC

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