Coventry manufacturer pioneers new super-strength lightweight alloy technology

One of the cast aluminium parts being developed by Sarginsons

A Coventry manufacturer is collaborating with a leading UK university to develop new lightweight castings technology.

The work being undertaken by Sarginsons Industries, together with Brunel University London will ensure that lightweight aluminium cars (such as those being built by Jaguar Land Rover) and trains no longer need to rely on heavy steel bumper beams and crash boxes for impact protection.

The Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST) is a global leader in metallurgical casting research.

It is working closely with foundry partner Sarginsons and others on the development of high-performance cast aluminium alloys as part of the Lightweight Energy Absorbing Aluminium Structures for Transport (LEAAST) project.

Two aluminium alloys have been developed within the project and have proven to be successful in industrial trials, with improved strength and ductility but at a much reduced weight when compared to traditional materials such as steel.

The three-year, £2.2m LEAAST project, which began in May 2015, is funded by Innovate UK, and involves 10 industrial partners and research institutions led by Jaguar Land Rover to develop future lightweight aluminium crash management systems for automotive and rail applications.

BCAST, as the only university-level research institution involved in the crash management aspect of the LEAAST project, is working on the development of high-performance wrought and cast aluminium alloys, the recycling of aluminium alloys using melt-conditioned direct chill casting, and the overcasting technology, in which metals with lower melting temperature are cast over higher-melting alloys to optimise weight and performance.

Sarginsons is working with BCAST to develop the high-ductility aluminium alloys using overcasting techniques to demonstrate the potential for both increased crash resistance and weight saving.

Anthony Evans, managing director at Sarginsons, said: “Lightweight crash management systems are of increasing importance for most forms of ground transport. While at present many automotive original equipment manufacturers have advanced aluminium automotive body designs, they still depend on steel for bumper beams.

“Delivering fully sustainable and high-ductility alloy is critical for providing the automotive industry with light weighting options to counter the higher-weight battery and hybrid vehicle base loads.

“The first scale-up trial has just been completed with the new casting alloy being tested in a 400 kg melt batch and controlled manufacturing conditions at Sarginsons, and the results are extremely positive. At least a 30% increase in yield strength has been achieved with the new alloy, while maintaining its high ductility.”