2nd October 2013
Aluminum product manufacturer, Constellium, has announced that in collaboration with Brunel University and Jaguar Land Rover, it has successfully obtained £4.4M (Euro 5.1M, $7.1M) grant allocation from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the United Kingdom for the creation of a national scale-up facility for automotive light metals research.
Brunel University will supplement this grant with a further £2.5M (Euro 2.9M, $4M) for a dedicated building and support resource at their site in London.
The goal of the “Advanced Light Metals Processing Research Centre” will be to bridge the gap between fundamental research and industrial applications. Constellium will be co-director of the Centre and will therefore have full access for research and development projects.
The Centre aims to provide high-performance light alloys, resource-efficient casting technologies, extrusion processing technologies and component innovations to meet the mid- and long-term needs of the automotive industry. Of key strategic importance to Constellium will be a fully integrated DC casting and extrusion laboratory, which is planned to include a full-size 1600 ton extrusion press complete with support facilities and full automation. Constellium intends to use these facilities for three areas of research:
- Lightweight material design: the development of a range of AA6xxx alloys with properties that exceed the present industry benchmark in terms of strength, formability and corrosion resistance. We believe that the new alloys, together with advanced die design that reduce and optimize wall thickness and integrate extruded sections with cast and pressed sheet components, will provide design solutions that will increase weight saving and vehicle productivity.
- Sustainability/Recycling: to explore the increased use of process scrap and end-of-life scrap in alloy formation in order to minimize the use of primary metal, all without a significant degradation in properties.
- Joining, pre-treatment and vehicle integration: to optimize the functionality of extruded sections for vehicle integration, including in-line surface pre-treatment and in-line fabrication, cutting, punching and bending.
The facility is further expected to provide a doctoral and post-doctoral training center for Constellium’s new researchers in this core strategic market.
“We expect the market for extrusions in automotive structures, power train and chassis applications to grow rapidly over the next five years and this represents a major business opportunity for Constellium. We believe the new Centre will enable us to exploit this growth by mastering the cutting-edge of automotive light metals research. Furthermore, because we are part of the Centre consortium, new developments will generally be carried out in close association with our strategic customer and supplier base to support the continued growth and evolution of our business,” commented Paul Warton, President of Constellium’s Automotive Structures and Industry business unit.
Dr Roger Darlington, Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “Our work with the new Centre will give us a strategically significant opportunity to expand our capabilities across a number of different manufacturing disciplines, gaining both environmental and economic benefits through the development of new, highly efficient alloy processing and recycling techniques.
“Jaguar Land Rover is a leader in the application of lightweight premium vehicle architectures and the Centre’s research programme will help us define and produce the high performance lightweight structures of the future. We will also be exploring how advanced alloys can help produce lighter and more efficient powertrains and chassis components. To help secure success, our work with the Centre will include close collaboration with key partners in our supply chain.”
Work is expected to commence on the state-of-the-art research facility in August 2014 in an effort to launch the three research programs one year later in the third quarter of 2015. The Constellium technology team plans to provide ongoing support.