ARCHIVED - Semi-Solid Forming of Aluminium
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November 04, 2004— Ottawa, Ontario
NRC Annual Report 2003-2004
While Canada is a world leading producer and exporter of aluminium, it has not developed expertise as a manufacturer of value-added aluminium products. In 2001, NRC made a commitment to match its expertise in industrial materials with local manufacturing capacity in Quebec's Saguenay region to support the growth of a manufacturing cluster in aluminium parts. This commitment marked the beginning of the NRC Aluminium Technology Centre (NRC-ATC).
In the fall of 2003, the NRC-ATC facility reached completion, and equipment and personnel began moving in. However, even before the facility was finished, NRC was at work helping automate and industrialize a novel manufacturing process technology for production of high performance aluminium parts, patented by Alcan Ltd.
|Researchers with aluminium auto part at the NRC Aluminium Technology Centre|
The technology represents a significant new manufacturing process for possible use in the huge auto parts markets and points the way to a new industry for the region.
The new process, known as semi-solid forming, uses billets of aluminium produced locally. This raw material is heated until it reaches a consistency similar to paste, and is then dropped into a high-pressure injection system used to cast a part.
The process has a number of advantages over existing techniques. For example, the lower temperature needed to produce the paste ensures that the specific molecular properties of the alloy are not destroyed by high temperatures, something that happens with current liquid casting techniques. The process also results in a shorter manufacturing time. Alcan benefited from NRC's expertise in high-pressure molding and, with the resources available through the NRC-ATC, was able to successfully automate and demonstrate the new process in action. The project is now at the pre-commercialization stage.
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