Parts for suspension systems are among the automotive applications for aluminium. Today, many of these parts are kneaded into shape by means of forging in order to give them the required mechanical properties. Now, Norwegian materials technologists at SINTEF aim to meet these quality requirements via an alternative, energy-conserving manufacturing process that combines casting and forging.
SINTEF researchers said that their calculations show that this approach can save a good quarter of the energy used today; if successful, the method could also be used to produce other aluminium vehicle components.
The method is based on an idea from SINTEF Materials and Chemistry, and it is currently being tested out by SINTEF and the Norwegian companies Raufoss Technology and Farsund Aluminium Casting in a four-year collaborative project.
Casting enables the produce of pieces in complex geometrical shapes, while forging produces the deformations that many safety-critical vehicle components need if they are to possess the correct mechanical characteristics.
The project has now reached its half-way point. So far, the method has been tested on the laboratory scale. During the next two years, the partners will carry out industrial-scale tests. Scania AB in Sweden is also a member of the project as an end-user of forged components.
SINTEF’s industry partner Raufoss Technology operates three factories on three continents, all of which produce forged suspension components. Development manager Axel Kolsgaard of Raufoss Technology believes that the project has great potential, but emphasizes that it involves technological risks.
Traditional forging takes a lot of energy and work. If the project is successful, we can save a great deal of energy and labour costs. Moreover, the environment will win because energy consumption is reduced. If we can get this technology to work, we will also be able to produce parts with more complex shapes than we can today.—Axel Kolsgaard