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Metal Casting Technologies : September 2008
BRIEFINGS Abbott, Assoc. Prof. Chris Davies, Dr Jian- Feng Nie and Dr Suming Zhu have been part of a CAST team that has devoted the last eight years to developing new magnesium alloys for a range of applications. The alloys developed have been notable for their lightness and superior performance, making them suitable for demanding applications such as automotive engines, crash structures, mobile phone casings, even toilet brushes! The new magnesium alloys, commercially branded AM-SC1, AM-HP2plus, AM-lite and AM-EX1, are licensed to Advanced Magnesium Technologies, and represent four of the company’s flagship technologies. Magnesium is the lightest of all commonly-used structural metals, with a density of 1.74 g/cm3 at 20°C, approximately 2/3 that of aluminium and 1/4 that of steels. While magnesium makes a great substitute for heavier materials, it is only adopted by manufacturers where there are clear benefits in performance and/or cost. These new alloys meet these tough criteria. www.cast.org.au Hydrogen powered cars by 2020 Hydrogen-powered cars will not be commercially available on a large scale before 2020, according to a senior official from Japanese auto maker Mazda. However, infrastructure making it possible for drivers of hydrogen-powered cars to refuel must be put in place before the vehicles are widely used. And also a way to mass produce the cars at an affordable price must also be found before they take off as an alternative to traditional petrol powered vehicles. Mazda is one of several auto makers working on the development of hydrogen-powered cars amid growing concerns over soaring oil prices and pollution. Electric-powered vehicles are also in the works. 8 www.metals.rala.com.au Japanese manufacturer Honda has started the first commercial production of a hydrogen-powered car, a medium- sized four seater called the FCX Clarity which has a top speed of 160 kilometres (100 miles) an hour. Honda will start leasing the cars, which run on an electric motor powered by hydrogen fuel cells and only emit water vapour as waste, to residents of southern California by the end of August. The International Energy Agency has said that hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells could play a key role in weaning energy users away from oil, gas and coal which have been blamed for climate change. Lower fuel use light car technology With oil prices at an historic high and global concern about vehicle emissions, consumer demand - and the focus in car manufacturing - is shifting to lightweight, low-fuel consumption cars. CSIRO’s Light Metals Flagship recently showcased technologies which offer high-performance, light-weight car components at three US automotive industry conferences. The technologies use magnesium and aluminium alloys to create strong, lightweight car parts which are cost- competitive with structural components made of steel, and perform equally well Lighter cars use less fuel because they need less energy to start and stop than heavier cars. Sam Tartaglia from CSIRO’s Light Metals Flagship says we can save on fuel costs, simply by driving lighter, safer vehicles. The use of light metals can take 100 kilograms off the weight of cars and save 53 cents a litre every 100 kilometres Internationally, the automotive industry sees use of light metals and light alloys for car and truck components as a key means of creating more fuel- efficient cars, through specific initiatives including the US FreedomCAR project An alloy wheel produced using the T-Mag die casting technology, one of the CSIRO technologies for producing light-weight car parts and the NADIA European project. In Australia, the home base for CSIRO, the automotive sector is the largest manufacturing export earner, accounting for higher export earnings than traditional products including wine, wheat and wool. Close to 70,000 people work in the sector, many of them for smaller companies producing components. Evaluation of the technologies by major manufacturers is also critical to their uptake. Both CSIRO’s heat treatment and ATM technologies have been evaluated or trialled by major car component manufacturers, with positive results. And both technologies enable production of high pressure die cast (HPDC) aluminium alloy parts which have increased strength, using reduced amounts of material. HPDC is an established technology already used in manufacturing vehicle components, so improvements are relatively easy for manufacturers to implement. Further information: www.csiro.au