Engineering Materials

Alcoa's Micromill Process, Alloy Could Change Car Manufacturing

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William K.
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Re: Alcoa's mills
William K.   12/17/2014 1:08:50 PM
Until there is an aluminum that will stand up to the saturated salt brine that we have on the roads in this part of the country for four months out of the year it will never be a suitable material for any structural portion of an automobile.. Driving around Detroit is worse than driving in the ocean beach just offshore a bit, the salt concentration is much higher.

Aluminum is fine for race cars and those vehicles driven in states that never see snow, but around here it is bad news. I really hope that the new Ford pickup has solved that problem, but I don't bet on it. The next three years will be an interesting test.

Sam D
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Re: Alcoa's mills
Sam D   12/17/2014 9:47:56 AM
Your memory of the Alcoa plant is good, except it's actually in Newburgh IN.  Don't know if it's still true, but at one time Alcoa actually owned the coal mine that brought the coal to the power plant.  As you note, it was very much a closed loop system.  It had 100 acres under one roof.  Quite the operation.

This new technology is quite interesting.  Hard to know how much is real and how much is wish list at this point.  I don't understand the comment about it currently taking 20 days to go from molten aluminum to rolled sheet.  Back in the day, the actual processing time was less than one day.  There may have been other requirements for cooling or curing I was unaware of.

In any case, interesting stuff.

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Alcoa's mills
tomii   12/17/2014 9:26:39 AM
Before he died, mydad worked at the Alcoa plant in Henderson, IN. 


I had a chance, at one point, to take a tour of the mill.  Absolutely fascinating.  They had their own coal-fired power plant.  The facility was all electric, and excess power production was sold back to the grid.  All heating was performed with waste steam from the plant (or so I understand).

They did their best not to waste anything.  I recall also that their raw material was over 80% recycled material.

The whole process from offloading (from barges on the Ohio river), to smelting, to the hot mill, and then on to the cold mill was just incredible.  Especially seeing it in person.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: better material
Ann R. Thryft   12/16/2014 12:45:56 PM
Lou, there's certainly room for multiple materials in making cars, as well as planes and industrial machinery, and just about everything else. But so far, most of the improvements in metals technology have been incremental. The extent of the changes here surprised me--Alcoa must have been working on this for quite some time.

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better material
naperlou   12/16/2014 10:46:36 AM
Ann, this is a great innovation.  As I have stated elsewhere, I think steel and aluminum are better than composites and plastics in many uses becuase they are more easily recyclable into the same material than the others.  They also don't use fosil fuels in their composition. 

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