Canadian Manufacturing

Ford partners with Alcoa to design next-generation aluminum alloy

New material to be 40 per cent more formable than current alloys



DEARBORN, Mich.—Ford Motor Company and Alcoa Inc. are joining forces to produce more formable and design-friendly aluminum alloys. The two company have entered into a joint development agreement to collaborate on automotive parts using Alcoa’s Micromill technology.

The aluminum producer and manufacturer’s new Micromill process, unveiled last year, is used to produce an aluminum alloy 40 per for formable than the aluminum commonly used in the automotive industry. Ford has announced it will incorporate the new material into multiple components of the 2016 F-150, making it the first automaker to use the alloy for commercial production.

‘‘Light-weighting enables us to design vehicles with great customer attributes – like the F-150, which can tow more, haul more, accelerate quicker and stop faster than the previous F-150, and is more fuel-efficient than ever,” Raj Nair, Ford group vice-president and CTO of Global Product Development, said. “This collaboration supports our continued drive for innovation, as we research automotive applications for even greater light-weighting.”

Ford said Micromill’s increased formability makes it easier to shape the aluminum into intricate forms, such as the inside panels of automobile doors and external fenders. The increased material strength also allows for the use of thinner aluminum sheet without compromising dent resistance.

“Alcoa’s breakthrough Micromill technology offers highly differentiated automotive material with strength, weight, formability and surface quality combinations previously impossible,” Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa chairman and CEO, said. “This high-tech aluminum will give Ford a true material edge enabling greater design flexibility and better vehicle performance – making the concept cars of tomorrow a reality.”

Alcoa’s Micromill is also the fastest, most productive aluminum casting and rolling system in the world, combining multiple technologies into a streamlined production system. While a traditional rolling mill takes about 20 days to turn molten metal into coil, Micromill does it in just 20 minutes.

Ford said the use of the material in its 2016 F-150, which begins production in the fourth quarter of 2015, will be the first of many projects using Micromill. The company plans to increase its use of the new alloy over several years on a range of vehicles and platforms, estimating it will use twice as much Micromill in 2017 as it will in 2016.

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