2nd June 2017 by Richard Yen
Ford won the full vehicle category for the Altair Enlighten Award back in 2015 thanks to its aluminum bodied F-150. The vehicle represented a brave move for Ford, taking such a high profile and high volume vehicle and committing to aluminum over more traditional steels. The weight savings were impressive though, shaving up to 700lbs off previous models. Of course, to achieve this feat, Ford needed the help of its supplier based and that’s where today’s look back at the 2016 Enlighten Award entries will focus.
Aluminum supplier Novelis entered last year’s award with the application of its materials on the Ford F-Series Super Duty truck. The vehicle ultilized the company’s Advanz s615 alloy throughout the bed and body panels of the truck, areas traditionally made from steel.
As well as being light, the Advanz s615 alloy is very “recycle friendly,” accepting a high level of recycled post-manufacturing scrap content which aligned well with the shared goal of Novelis and Ford to reduce the carbon footprint of their products, something which Ford has made headline for in recent months. As a result, Novelis developed a closed-loop recycling program to maximize efficiency and reduce cost. Here’s how it works:
When a vehicle body panel is stamped, about 40% of the metal winds up as scrap. Novelis works with a logistics provider to ship the scrap back to Novelis’ Oswego plant for reprocessing. Loose, shredded scrap is received in bulk and dried to remove any moisture or oil. The pieces are then melted in a 2,000-degree furnace, with extra ingredients added to rebalance the specialized alloys. Once the molten metal is ready, remaining impurities are removed and it is cast into 30,000-pound ingots for subsequent processing. Then the aluminum ingots are rolled into sheets about one-sixteenth of an inch thick and shipped in giant coils back to Ford’s stamping plants, where the process begins anew.
This process is being used for both the new Super Duty and the F-series trucks already in production.
Overall, the Super Duty is 350 pounds lighter than previous version of the vehicle, which primarily used steel for these components. As well as the weight savings achieved in this program, it was the commitment to recycling that impressed our judges with this entry, demonstrating that the higher cost of aluminum compared to steel can be offset with intelligent and efficient processes.