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Pittsburgh - Alcoa's latest tech further pushes aluminum into autos

Ahead of its first-quarter earnings release Monday, Alcoa unveiled its latest innovation in its bid to push aluminum across more of a vehicle's structure.

Vehicles have long been the domain of steel, and that industry continues to create its own lighter-weight material for auto manufacturers wanting to take more and more weight out of a vehicle. However, aluminum’s share of vehicle construction is growing and Alcoa (NYSE: AA) hopes to see this latest product help that.

Called Alcoa 951, it’s a pre-treatment bonding technology that is applied to the metal and allows for better bonding when the structure of the vehicle is put together. On Friday, Alcoa announced it inked an exclusive global licensing agreement with Chemetall to supply the treatment to the global automotive industry.

The technology behind the product was developed at Alcoa’s Technology Center in New Kensington, said spokesman Kevin Lowery.

“We’ve been working on it for a couple years. We wanted to get it commercialized before we talked more broadly about it,” he said.

Alcoa 951 is a patented, non-chrome approach that helps with bond durability and can be used on high-volume, aluminum-intensive vehicles. The company noted that in customer trials Alcoa 951 was nine times more durable than the titanium zirconium applications used in the past.

This technology is being incorporated into Alcoa’s $300 million expansion project that is underway at its Davenport, Iowa, facility. That plant expansion is aimed at automotive applications.

“We look forward to partnering with Chemetall to provide Alcoa 951 to help enable commercialization of adhesive bonding of aluminum structures in high-volume automotive applications. This, in turn, will drive lighter vehicle weights and enable the integration of sheet, extrusions, and castings to ultimately improve fuel efficiency,” said Raymond Kilmer, executive vice president and chief technology officer, in a written statement. “The process was developed as a result of collaboration between the Alcoa Technical Center and our automotive business.”

Alcoa 951 is an organic, environmentally friendly system, the company said. It is designed for the aluminum substrate and the structural adhesives that are used to join vehicles, the company said in a written statement.

Unlike other coatings that are already available Alcoa 951 doesn’t have heavy metals and is lower profile so it doesn’t interfere with the manufacturing process.

Source: Opens external link in new windowbizjournals.com

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