Interview: Alcoa, Now Arconic, Give a Rundown of its Revolutionary Micromill Technology

10th November 2016

Having just announced the launch of the 2017 Altair Enlighten Award, we wanted to take a quick look at the 2016 winners and runners up in a short series of interviews. First up is Alcoa, which is now Arconic,  who took the runner up prize in the module category.

Filmed during the CAR Management Briefing Seminars earlier this year, John Thomas, Global Marketing Manager of Automotive at what is now Arconic Rolled Products Group, gave us his reaction to taking the prize and reveals some of the details of the Micromill technology. Here’s the interview:

 

For those that prefer to read rather than watch, here’s a full transcript of the interview.


 

“The fact that I’m here and able to accept the award on behalf of Alcoa [now Arconic], I’m very proud, very, very happy and privileged to have been chosen for the Altair award.

Our entry was the Alcoa [now Arconic] Micromill technology, which is a revolutionary aluminum manufacturing technology.

It’s really a disrupter in the industry. And what it allows us to do, it allows us to make aluminum product that is two times as formable as high-strength steel and 30% lighter than high-strength steel.

And actually even compared to standard aluminum, it’s 40% more formable and 30% stronger.

It can be made very, very quickly, 20 minutes versus 20 days.

The footprint of the equipment is actually a third of the scale of a normal rolling mill. And energy usage is dramatically decreased as well.

What the Alcoa [now Arconic] Micromill technology and aluminium in general, what it allows our customers to do is to design products, because of the attributes of the material, with formability and strength that they could never do before.

So when they design a concept vehicle that has radical geometry, obviously they need a material that’s going to allow them to get as close to the designer’s idea of what the concept vehicle can be.

A lot of the times, you had to sacrifice that in previous generations because of the material you were using. With Micromill technology, because of its formability and strength, there really are no limitations.

We are allowing our customers to use this material to design products that they couldn’t do any of the high-strength steel or standard aluminum.

Any time you’re in a position where you’re on the cutting edge of technology, there are going to be detractors. Quite frankly, we heard it from the industry, and we heard it sometimes from our customers. However, the key point is that when our customers stood at our San Antonio facility where the Micromill is based, and they saw that material go from molten metal into a coil of aluminium in a space of just turning your head– they didn’t have to walk an entire line they were blown away from the people in the business end of things and the people in the engineering and design end of things.

The technology when you see it yourself, it sells itself. So a lot of detractors, a lot of people saying it can’t be done or it couldn’t be done. And then we have people walking out of the facility shaking their heads and just saying, wow.

So we’re really happy to be a part of the F-150. Obviously, it’s a watershed moment for Ford and really, the aluminum industry. We’re really proud that the technology for Micromill has really spoken for itself.

Because Ford just doesn’t put materials willy nilly on their bread and butter vehicle, specifically after they’ve just made a game-changing technology breakthrough with going with all-aluminum structures.

So the fact that the Micromill products are already currently on the F-150 is really phenomenal.

And like I said, I really think it speaks for itself with regard to Ford’s confidence not only in Alcoa [now Arconic], but in our technology as well.”

 

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