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New Research Group Aims to Develop Aluminum Products for Ground Transportation

National Research Council of Canada
(Photo: National Research Council of Canada.)

The National Research Council of Canada has formed a new alliance called ALTec Industrial research R&D Group to consolidate research efforts in the Canadian aluminum sector for the development of innovative aluminum products for ground transportation vehicles. As a cost-effective and sustainable material, aluminum is increasingly being used to manufacture components for lightweight vehicles which reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and meet increasingly stringent fuel consumption requirements.

“By 2020, the world aluminum market in the transportation sector alone is forecasted to represent more than 65 billion US dollars,” says Michel Dumoulin, general manager of Automotive and Surface Transportation at the National Research Council of Canada. “Canadian businesses include aluminum in the design of their vehicles, but we saw a gap in knowledge transfer and this is where ALTec comes in.”

ALTec has already 23 members and partners, which will have access to state-of-the-art facilities and Canada’s most advanced expertise in aluminum forming, assembling, corrosion control, and performance validation. A major partner, the Ministère de l’Économie, de l’Innovation et des Exportations du Québec, has contributed $450,000 through the Advanced Materials Research and Innovation Hub known as PRIMA. Major partners also include Rio Tinto, Prima Québec, AluQuébec, the Aluminium Association of Canada, TRANS-AL Network, and the Aluminium Valley Society. Additional members include major OEMs in the transportation sector, such as Bombardier, Ford Motor Company, Tesla Motors, and Deere and Company, as well as various other industry members.

“This alliance helps strengthen collaborative innovation in the field of advanced materials to enrich Quebec’s research expertise and increase the competitiveness of companies,” said Benoit Balmana, general director of the Advanced Materials Research and Innovation Hub.

“Rio Tinto is proud to contribute $125,000 to this partnership. Our commitment to research and development for innovative applications in the automotive sector ensures that the low-carbon footprint aluminum produced in Canada continues to be the material of choice for world class automakers,” added Frédéric Laroche, director of the Arvida Research and Development Center at Rio Tinto Aluminium. “ALTec generates positive results and contributes to the economic development of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region.”

National Research Council of Canada
An engineer examines the results of an aluminum welding experiment. (Photo: National Research Council of Canada.)

ALTec has launched ten research and development projects so far, including:

  • Aluminum/steel friction stir welding (FSW) to develop strategies for reducing forces that will lead to the development of a robotic solution in order to improve the quality, production speed and environmental durability of Al/steel and Al/Al FSW joints.
  • Development of durable structural adhesive joints for minimally pretreated multi-material assemblies with stainless steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP)
  • Design and production of large hollow aluminum extrusions with thin walls
  • Mitigation of galvanic corrosion of aluminum in dissimilar material assemblies
  • Vacuum-assisted high pressure die casting of hollow aluminum structural nodes
  • Warm and hot forming of various aluminum sheet alloys at high production rates
  • Weldability assessment of Al alloy AA7075 and the esthetic optimization of lap joints
  • Evaluation of the in-service stress corrosion cracking (SCC) performance of high strength aluminum alloys
  • Heatable coatings for multifunctional intelligent molds
  • Tribological coatings for multifunctional intelligent molds

Through the ALTec research group common industry challenges can be transformed into tangible research and development projects that could lead to game-changing discoveries for targeted industries, such as parts manufacturers for light-duty vehicles (cars, vans and pickups), heavy duty vehicles (buses, truck, trailers and specialized vehicles), rail industry (passenger and freight), and recreational vehicles.

Editor’s Note: A feature article on ALTec will appear in the October 2016 issue of Light Metal Age.

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