Ultra Large Castings to Produce Low Cost Aluminum Vehicle Structures 1999-01-2252
Through a cooperative effort with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Heavy Vehicle Technologies (OHVT), Alcoa is developing a casting process to produce ultra large thin wall components. The casting process is a low pressure, metal mold, multiport injection vertical casting process. The specific system for demonstration of the process is located at Alcoa's Technology Center and will be capable of producing parts extending 3 M long, 1.7 M wide and 0.4 M high. For example, single castings of car floor pan frames or side wall aperture structures are candidates for this installation. This shall provide a major opportunity to reduce the cost of lightweight transportation vehicle structures by (a) reducing the components or part count and (b) reducing the cost of assembly. To develop and demonstrate the process, an inner panel of the Chrysler minivan liftgate will be first produced on this system. Through computer analyses, the cast inner panel design was developed to satisfy both structural performance and casting process requirements. Currently, this is an 11 part assembly of steel components. At the time of this abstract, the numerous system components are in various phases of fabrication and site preparation is fully underway, with system shakedown beginning in the second quarter of 1999. Successful demonstration of caster system operation is anticipated to occur during the third quarter and production of a high quality product during the fourth quarter.
Although the process is targeted toward reducing the cost of lightweight trucks, buses and autos, consideration is being given to application in the aircraft industry.