26th July 2017 by Richard Yen
With just a few days left before we officially unveil the winners for this year’s Altair Enlighten Award at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars on Monday, we’re going to be wrapping up our review of last year’s nominations. For today’s look back, I wanted to discuss Arconic’s entry (a company known as Alcoa when they entered the award last year), who were successful in taking home the runner up for the module category.
Arconic’s nomination concerned it’s Micromill aluminum production process which the company boasts is the fastest aluminum casting and rolling system worldwide, producing the most advanced aluminum sheet on the market. The key game changer in the process is the speed of production. Traditionally, aluminum would take as much as 20 days to turn molten metal to rolled coil. Arconic’s Micromill is able to perform this process in just 20 minutes!
In Arconic’s nomination, the company discussed how engineers and metallurgists had been trying for decades to speed up the process of creating aluminum sheet from molten metal but previous attempts, while successful from a production standpoint, were not commercially viable due to high costs.
Automotive parts made with Micromill® material are twice as formable and at least 30 percent lighter than parts made from high strength steel, and Micromill’s automotive sheet has 40 percent greater formability and 30 percent greater strength than the incumbent aluminum used in vehicles today, while meeting stringent automotive surface quality requirements. Furthermore, 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 percent.
The Micromill technology represents a huge step forward in making aluminum for high production vehicles a cost effective solution. While the Micromill did not take the top spot in the module category, the nomination did inspire us to add a third category to the 2017 Altair Enlighten Award that was specifically designed for companies like Arconic. The ‘enabling technology’ category gives materials, manufacturing and adhesives specialists the recognition they deserve for creating technologies that allow car makers and suppliers to remove weight. Without these companies and the innovation they provide to the market, we would not be able to produce the mixed material vehicles or highly optimized components that have won the Enlighten Awards in the past.
Judging by the nominations we’ve received this year for the new enabling technology category, I’d like to thank Arconic for giving us the inspiration to add the previously overlooked sector.