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Aleris to invest $350M to upgrade Kentucky aluminum rolling mill for anticipated growth in automotive demand

Aleris will invest $350 million to upgrade capabilities at its aluminum rolling mill in Lewisport, Kentucky. The investment positions Aleris to meet anticipated significant growth in North American automotive demand as the industry pursues broader aluminum use for the production of lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Aleris is currently a leading supplier to the European premium auto industry, which has led the transition to aluminum driven by tighter emissions standards.

The company expects to begin construction on the project this fall, with a goal of shipping automotive body sheet material to customers by early 2017. When fully operational, the new facility will allow for the production of 480 million pounds of aluminum auto body sheet annually.

The company’s investment will include the addition of heat treatment and finishing capabilities, including a new wide cold mill, two continuous annealing lines and an automotive innovation center.

We have partnered with customers in the premium automotive segment from our Duffel, Belgium facility for years to develop and produce some of the most technically advanced lightweight aluminum solutions available today. We are excited to bring these capabilities to our Lewisport, Kentucky facility to serve automotive customers in North America as they shift toward significantly greater aluminum use.

—Steve Demetriou, Aleris Chairman and CEO

Globally, Aleris produces a range of aluminum products for the automotive industry, including outer and inner body panels; structural parts; extrusions / profiles; and finished mechanical parts.

Aleris pursues a uni-alloy concept based on the alloy family EN6016 (AlMgSi-type alloy), taking into account significant benefits in terms of cost and environmental sustainability. Using the same alloy for various applications facilitates recycling in a manufacturing environment and increases the value of the scrap with respect to process and end-of life, from which, without further segregation, new aluminum sheets can be casted and rolled. Only some primary aluminum is required to tune the final chemical composition.

For outer panels, Aleris developed different Superlite grades with features such as good formability and excellent surface quality as well as high yield strength levels after paint baking.

For inner panels and structural parts, Aleris developed different Ecolite grades with different strength levels. This inner material grade was also developed inside the EN 6016 alloy composition. Great formability is coupled with cost efficient processing.

Standard surface finish of Body in White material is EDT (Electro Discharge Texture). On request, the surface can be treated with TiZr passivation layers which improves overall adhesive bonding performance. To optimise friction behavior in the press-shop, different types of pre-lubes (oils and hot-melts) are available upon request. The material can be supplied in coil, sheet or shaped blanks (such as trapezoidal and radials).

A recent study of North American light vehicle aluminum content released by Ducker Worldwide states that the use of aluminum sheet for vehicle bodies is expected to increase to 4 billion pounds by 2025, from 200 million pounds in 2012. The properties of aluminum, which include its formability, recyclability, and high strength-to-weight ratio, make it an attractive solution for automotive manufacturers as they work to produce lighter vehicles that will meet more stringent fuel emissions in the United States.

Aleris has served the automotive industry from its facility in Duffel for many years. Including Lewisport, the company has 11 rolled aluminum products facilities in North America, the majority of which serve building & construction, truck-trailer, and metal distribution customers. Upon completion of the facility’s upgrade, Lewisport will be the company’s first site in North America that is equipped with aluminum auto body sheet finishing capabilities.

Aleris is a privately held, global leader in aluminum rolled products and extrusions, aluminum recycling and specification alloy production. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Aleris operates more than 40 production facilities in North America, Europe and Asia.

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