Leading manufacturer of lightweight metals Alcoa has unveiled the Alcoa Micromill – the most advanced aluminium sheet on the market tipped to enable the next generation of automotive aluminium products.
The Alcoa-patented Micromill produces automotive alloy that is 40% more formable and 30% stronger than incumbent aluminium, while meeting stringent automotive surface quality requirements.
Moreover, automotive parts made with Alcoa Micromill® material will be twice as formable and 30% lighter than parts made from high strength steel.
“Alcoa Micromill represents a major breakthrough in aluminium materials,” said Alcoa Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Klaus Kleinfeld.
“This technology will unlock the next generation of automotive products with strength, formability and surface quality combinations never before possible. It will allow our customers to redefine the boundaries of vehicle design, supporting the creation of lighter, more fuel efficient, safer and more stylish vehicles for the future.”
Micromill’s flexibility and strength allow it to shape into intricate forms and improve dent resistance, enabling the production of an automotive sheet that is thinner and even lighter than previous generations. Automakers will also benefit from reduced system cost by streamlining the number of aluminium alloys used in their manufacturing process.
Another advantage the Micromill holds against the more traditional materials is the time it takes to turn molten metal into coil. A traditional rolling mill would perform the task for around 20 days, while Micromill would only need about 20 minutes, which makes it the fastest, most productive aluminium casting and rolling system in the world.
The Micromill also has a significantly smaller footprint than a traditional rolling mill, at just one quarter the size, and lowers energy use by 50%. The Alcoa Micromill technology and the differentiated metal it will produce are covered by more than 130 patents around the world.
Estimates show that North American aluminium automotive sheet content per vehicle will increase elevenfold in the next ten years, and the Micromill casting technology is designed to meet that growing demand for automotive sheet. The technology also has the flexibility to transition seamlessly between producing rolled products for automotive, industrial and packaging markets.
According to Alcoa’s press release, the company has secured a strategic development customer, and from its pilot Micromill facility in San Antonio, TX, has also conducted successful customer trials, further validating the Micromill material’s unique characteristics, surface quality for exterior panels and overall performance.