A consortium of industry and academic partners have been granted £9.6m to develop complex, high-strength, lightweight aluminium car parts.
The RACEform (Rapid Aluminium Cost Effective Forming) project is led by Impression Technologies and backed by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC). Other partners include Brunel University’s Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST), Imperial College London, Gestamp Washington UK, and Innoval Technology. According to Dr Roger Darlington, BCAST’s director of technology, the grant will be used to scale up and validate Impression Technologies’ Hot Form Quench (HFQ) process for the high volume production of high strength aluminium sheet alloys.
“The HFQ process involves forming a heated aluminium sheet and then quenching it when it’s being pressed into the required shape,” he said. “Scaling up this technology for high volume implementation is very exciting.
“Among the many benefits of this technology, the door that it unlocks is the potential to form very complex pressed parts using high strength aluminium alloys that would otherwise be infeasible. The technology also brings benefits from the elimination of component spring back during stamping, and it opens new design opportunities for vehicle designers and architects, such as slimmer structural pillars.”
The technology has the potential to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption, and increase recycling in the automotive and metal forging industries. Recycled sources of sheet aluminium represent a 95 per cent CO2 saving over sheets from primary sources and the HFQ process offers a chance to unlock addition CO2 savings by recycling aluminium alloys from scrap sources such as End-of-Life Vehicles (ELVs).
“We are delighted that APC has chosen to back our HFQ Technology,” said Jonathan Watkins, Impression Technologies’ chief executive officer. “We look forward to working together with the consortium members in collaboration with our OEM and aluminium partners to further develop the HFQ Technology for mass production and to establish the technology as a global industry standard.”