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Lightweight aluminum alloys take to the road.

The November 2008 release of the new BMW 7 Series marked a significant change in automotive manufacturing. The vehicle's launch was a major event for both the auto-maker and aluminum manufacturer, Novelis who's lightweight, aluminum alloy, NovelisFusion, was used for the BMW's door inners.


Novelis was the main supplier of aluminum sheet for the vehicle which also uses conventional aluminum sheet in a number of other components including the roof, door outers, bonnet, side panels and some structural reinforcements.

BMW was the first automotive manufacturer to use NovelisFusion but, according to Novelis, there are several other automotive manufacturers testing the new aluminum. "NovelisFusion literally opens the door to new applications for aluminum and we are delighted that BMW has included it as part of the overall package of innovative class-leading technologies that set new benchmarks in this class. We have worked with BMW from a very early stage in this project, which will be a trend-setter for future models," said Roland Harings, vice president, global NovelisFusion.

Apart from being the exclusive aluminum sheet supplier, Novelis also supplied BMW with its patented Anticorodal 170PX which is used on the door outers and the roof. Novelis says that its Anticorodal 170PX offers excellent hemming characteristics and very good dent resistance.

"With NovelisFusion, Anticorodal and other specialist automotive sheeting we are able to supply the full range of sheet solutions. This includes the solutions BMW used to realize its ambitious lightweight engineering targets for improved engine performance, combined with lower fuel consumption and emissions," says Robert Georg, automotive sales and marketing director for Novelis.

The US$11-billion Novelis is the world leader in aluminum rolled products and aluminum can recycling. Novelis has a presence in 11 countries and employs nearly 13,000 people across the globe.

Automotive Industries spoke to Robert Georg, Automotive Sales and Marketing Director at Novelis.

AI: What prompted BMW to choose Novelis as the major aluminium sheet supplier for the 7 Series luxury sedan?

Georg: For years both companies have worked together very successfully to design and develop intelligent lightweight Aluminium solutions and processes. We want to improve the performance of the car by increased usage of Aluminium with every model change. The technical potential of our material, the excellent quality and delivery performance of our production lines, a competitive commercial situation as well as the NovelisFusion made us a key partner for BMW on this programme.

AI: What was included in the overall package sourced from Novelis?

Georg: Both the Novelis and BMW development teams were involved in the process from a very early stage. We assisted them with our technical experience and helped to define solutions for the requirements and technical challenges which the new model faced. The information flow between both teams was excellent and a key part of the success. Also, in the hardware phase, our specialists worked closely with the engineers of BMW to optimise the processes to guarantee the required quality goals. The excellent teamwork saw the implementation of groundbreaking one-piece aluminium door "inners" created using NovelisFusion. This is a new technology which creates real value for BMW by offering the advantages of a one-piece design for the manufacturing and assembly with an excellent material performance.



Ah What is the difference in core properties and surface characteristics of the aluminium sheet for one-piece door inners?

Georg: Thechosen NovelisFusion package combines the previously non-compatible characteristics of high elongation and high corrosion resistance within one multi-material sheet. The outer alloy guarantees the excellent corrosion resistance at the place where the corrosion threat is highest, at the surface. The inner alloy, with superior elongation behaviour, fulfils the deep drawing requirements of the part geometry and adds the necessary part stiffness and strength. The one-piece door is very light and requires simpler manufacturing than a multi-piece solution. The combination of both alloys with NovelisFusion is the ideal solution for the demanding challenge of this application.

AI: Where do you see the biggest value for BMW and its customers using NovelisFusion technology?

Georg: The one-piece design for the 7 Series doors was not achievable with conventional Aluminium solutions. NovelisFusion allows for the usage of Aluminium doors with lightweight benefits including reduced mass for fuel efficiency and increased driving performance of the car. This would not be possible with a more cost intensive multi-piece design.

AI: BMW is the first automotive company to go into full production using NovelisFusion. What is the potential of this technology for other automotive manufacturers?

Georg: We are working with key OEMs on utilising the potential of NoveiisFusion. Engineers are very excited about the possibility of reducing technical compromises by combining the best properties of different alloys in one optimum multi-layer material. We cannot name them at this stage, but NovelisFusion will be on the road in other cars shortly. NovelisFusion gives our customers solutions to future challenges which the Automotive industry will face.

AI: In which other components of the new 7 Series is conventional aluminium sheet used?

Georg: The 7 Series also uses conventional mono-alloy Aluminium for the hood, the side panels, and the door outers. BMW also decided to make the roof out of Aluminium which lowers the mass point of the car and has a positive impact on the driving dynamic performance which all customers will recognize.

AI: Are there any other car manufacturers planning to use your full range of sheet solutions and in what way?

Georg: Novelis is working very closely with all carmakers in Europe. Light-weight will be one key solution for the future car models. Novelis have had a dedicated development team focussed on the Automotive market for more than 30 years, which has helped it become the European market leader for Aluminium BIW sheets.

Innovation and new technologies are a must to for the future sustainability of the Automotive Industry. The Automotive Innovation Centre of Novelis based in Sierre, Switzerland, is working very closely with our customers on the continuous improvement of existing solutions and on innovative development ideas for the future.
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Comment:Lightweight aluminum alloys take to the road.
Author:Palmen, Nick
Publication:Automotive Industries
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2009
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