Driven by the need to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, as well as the other qualities of aluminum, demand for this metal and its alloys is constantly on the rise and European demand for Automotive Body Sheet alone is expected to reach 700,000 tons in 2020.
In addition to reducing weight aluminum provides greater energy absorption, safety, resistance to corrosion, increased strength, new design opportunities, reduction in tooling costs, and the potential for infinite recyclability A survey of North American automakers conducted by Ducker Worldwide found that American automakers plan to increase the amount of aluminum in their vehicles on average from 327 pounds in 2009 to 550 pounds by 2025. This will double aluminum’s share of vehicle curb weight from 8 to 16%. It is predicted that, by 2025, more than 75% of pickup trucks, and 20% of SUVs and large sedans produced in North America will be aluminum-bodied. Globally, the content of aluminum in vehicles is predicted to approach 35 billion pounds by 2025, making vehicles the most important global market for aluminum according to Ducker.
One of the companies working closely with OEMs and Tier 1 companies on the design and production of material and components is Constellium. According to the company aluminum has become a material of choice for the automotive industry due to both the savings in weight as well as the freedom it gives designers.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Dieter Höll, Director Sales and Marketing Automotive & Specialties, how Constellium is meeting the growing demand for aluminum in automotive body sheet.
Höll: We are thrilled to announce the capacity expansion of our plant in Neuf- Brisach, France, with the opening of a best-in-class automotive finishing line. A new continuous annealing and conversion line for automotive applications will add 100,000 tons automotive body sheet capacity to the plant, enabling Constellium to keep up with the market demand.
The investment in Neuf-Brisach comes hot on the heels of the launch of our new manufacturing plant with our joint venture partner UACJ Corporation in Bowling Green in the US. It shows our continued commitment to serving the needs of automakers with our advanced aluminum products and solutions.
AI: How does it fit into Constellium’s growth strategy?
Höll: The opening of the new line in Neuf-Brisach is a key milestone in the execution of Constellium’s global automotive growth strategy. Along with the automotive body sheet and extruded components development in the US and in China, it strengthens Constellium’s position as a global leader in aluminum solutions for automotive lightweighting programs and as a key partner for automakers. The first commercial coils have already been sold to an automotive customer. Many large OEMs have already qualified their products on the new line and the qualification process will be continued with all OEMs. The line will be running at full capacity by the end of 2018.
AI: What new technology is being employed?
Höll: The new finishing line in Neuf-Brisach totals 240 meters and offers high-speed thermal treatment, precise control of temperature, and highly efficient quenching processes, which further enhance the properties of Constellium’s aluminum products. These innovative technologies enable great flexibility on the processed alloys and their thicknesses, allowing Constellium to manufacture high-quality aluminum products for closure inners, outers and body-in-white. In addition, the top-notch technology takes into account the developments in sustainability of the last years, such as optimized energy consumption and oil recycling to achieve sustainability in production processes.
The Neuf-Brisach plant is an integrated aluminum rolling, finishing and recycling facility, which is strategically located in Europe. Founded in 1967, it is one of the largest and most experienced plants of Constellium. Here, the company designs and produces a wide portfolio of coil and sheet products for automotive OEMs as well as food and beverage can customers.
AI: Please tell us about your 3D module.
Höll: In September 2016 we unveiled a first-of-its-kind application for the automotive industry, which allows OEMs and businesses to browse through the wide array of Constellium aluminum product offerings available for the automotive sheet and extrusions market.
It is now easier for Constellium stakeholders to better understand, through vivid 3D visualizations, Constellium’s aluminum offerings to the automotive industry: car body closures, body-in-white, crash management systems, chassis and mechanical parts, decorative parts and equipment and heat exchangers. The 3D experience allows market experts to explore various aspects of a car and discover our vast product offerings for the automotive industry, including innovations and solutions.
AI: What can we expect from Constellium in the future?
Höll: Constellium strongly believes that aluminum will remain one of the core materials and will continue to substitute steel due to its unmatched balance between performance, lightness, and affordability. Thus, investing in aluminum is in fact an investment in the future.