Ford, Alcoa collaborate on more formable and design-friendly next-generation aluminum alloys; Micromill
Ford Motor Company and Alcoa Inc. are collaborating to produce next-generation automotive aluminum alloys that are more formable and design-friendly. Ford will use Alcoa’s Micromill material (earlier post) in multiple components on the 2016 F-150, becoming the first automaker to use the advanced automotive aluminum commercially. The companies entered into a joint development agreement to collaborate on next-generation aluminum alloys for automotive parts using Micromill technology.
The joint development agreement between Alcoa and Ford will further expand the existing suite of automotive alloys produced by Micromill technology for use on Ford vehicles.
Alcoa’s Micromill technology, announced in December 2014, produces an aluminum alloy that is 40% more formable than today’s automotive aluminum.
The increased formability of Micromill aluminum makes it easier to shape into intricate forms, such as the inside panels of automobile doors and external fenders. The increased material strength allows for the use of thinner aluminum sheet without compromising dent resistance.
Alcoa says that Micromill is the fastest, most productive aluminum casting and rolling system in the world, combining multiple technologies into a streamlined production system. A traditional rolling mill takes around 20 days to turn molten metal into coil; Micromill does it in just 20 minutes.
Ford will begin using Micromill material in 2016 F-150 production in the fourth quarter of 2015, and plans to increase its use over the next several years on a range of vehicle components and future platforms. It is projected Ford’s use of Micromill material on its vehicles will more than double from 2016 to 2017.
Target applications for the material include critical strength structural parts as well as exterior panels that must meet strict surface quality requirements.
Aluminum alloy produced using the Micromill process has already been validated by Ford engineers to ensure it meets the stringent requirements for producing high-quality parts, especially the kinds of complex structures that make up F-150.
The door inner is one of the most difficult parts in automotive stamping. The ability to produce an alloy using Alcoa’s Micromill technology to make that part is a real statement for how this process can benefit the automotive industry and Ford in particular.—,” said Peter Friedman, Ford global manager of structures and stamping, Research & Advanced Engineering