The 1st Automotive Weight Reduction Expo (held concurrently with EV JAPAN)

Report 1/An exhibition outline on aluminum, magnesium and other lightweight materials



 Automakers are vigorously striving to make automobiles lighter and more fuel efficient.

 The 1st Automotive Weight Reduction Expo held on January 19-21, 2011 (held concurrently with the 2nd EV & HEV Drive System Technology Expo) showcased a number of new engineering and other technologies that encourage the use of aluminum, magnesium and other lightweight materials, the use of plastics, especially foamed plastics, and the new processes and methods that allow weight reduction or the use of weight reducing materials.

 This report (Report 1) contains a summary of exhibits focusing on lightweight materials. Exhibits focusing on weight reducing technologies, including the use of plastics, will follow in Report 2.

Aluminum-based technologies

 Saitama Press Forging and Amiya exhibited parts made of aluminum and an EV concept body, respectively. Techno Associe exhibited an iron and aluminum alloy, ALFe.

 Morimura Bros. Inc., a sales agency of Alcoa, an American corporation, is a supplier of aluminum (as well as magnesium and titanium).

 Techno Associe and Corona Kogyo Yokohama Division introduced molding processes that bond aluminum and other metals and plastics without the intervention of adhesives (the process is dubbed "NMT" by Techno Associe and "Alplas" by Corona Kogyo).

Aluminum-made original EV concept body (1/2 size) by Amiya
Aluminum-made original EV concept body (1/2 size) by Amiya


ECU box prototyped by NMT, a new type welding of metals and plastics, exhibited by Techno Associe
ECU box prototyped by NMT, a new type welding of metals and plastics, exhibited by Techno Associe

Aluminum-based technologies

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
Press Forging
aluminum parts
 Saitama Press Forging, a precision aluminum hot forging manufacturer, exhibited aluminum-made suspensions (for Nissan GT-R, Toyota Lexus LFA/LS460), racing bicycle parts for Yamaha, and aviation parts.
Amiya Aluminum
compaction molding
 Amiya is proposing "the art of manufacturing by experts" using iron, aluminum, stainless steel and other materials for a broad range of applications, from test production to small-lot mass production. Amiya test-produced an aluminum-made EV using hammered metal technique that requires the highest skill, and exhibited its image and a 1/2 size concept body.
 Amiya makes prototypes of a broad range of aluminum-made automotive parts for automakers and also produces small to medium-lot parts for cars made by Nissan and Daihatsu.
Aluminum material  Morimura Bros. is a sales agency of Alcoa, a U.S. corporation, and supplies aluminum materials especially for aviation and space equipment.
 According to Morimura Bros., the company supplies aluminum materials to JATCO, NSK, Valeo, TRW, Tokyo Roki and other companies in automotive and other industries for use at their plants located in Japan.
 The company also had panels introducing two aluminum business partners in China, Guangdong Wencan Die Casting Co., Ltd. (Foshan, Guangdong) and Hong Bang (Nan Tong) Die Casting Co., Ltd. (Nang Tong, Jiangsu).
Iron and aluminum alloy, ALFe
"ALFe"  Techno Associe exhibited a new alloy dubbed "ALFe" containing iron and aluminum (7.5-8.5%). The company holds patents for bonding Fe and Al, that otherwise cannot be bonded easily, without the intervention of rare metals. The alloy is approximately 10% lighter than iron and is useful in forging, cold forging and press working. It has the same stiffness as iron, absorbs vibrations, withstands heat up to 900°C and resists oxidation in a sulfuric atmosphere. Because of those properties, ALFe is considered useful for making automotive parts subjected to exhaust gases.
New type welding of metals and plastics
(Nano Molding
 NMT (an acronym for Nano Molding Technology) is a new-type welding technology developed by Taiseiplas for bonding plastics to metals in molecular sizes. Used by Sony in its data projectors. Techno Associe plans to spread the technology to automotive and digital home appliances industries where weight reduction is a key requirement.
 T-processing (T stands for Taisei) on the metal surface creates tiny dents (20-50nm) in the entire area on which resin is injection molded. The resin rests tight in the crevice and hardens as wedges to produce a bonding effect (anchoring effect). The exhibitor at the show was demonstrating the bonding strength by hammering the adjoining sections that withstood the impact.
 The NMT is used in combination of T-processed metals (aluminum, magnesium, titanium, stainless steel, copper, iron) and thermoplastic resins (PPS=polyphenylene sulfide, PBT=polybutylene terephthalate, PA・PA66 (nylon) and PPA=polyphthalamide).
"ALPLAS"  Corona Kogyo Yokohama Division has invented an aluminum surface treatment method whereby aluminum and plastics are integrally molded to a high-bonding strength. The process contributes to weight reduction as it does not require glues, claws, screws or swaging tools. Co-exhibited by Itochu Plastics Inc.
 "ALPLAS" is a unique surface treatment process, developed by Corona Kogyo, that forms numerous pores approximately 40 to 100nm in size over the aluminum surface. When molten resins are injected, they bite into the pores and produce enough anchoring effect to bond aluminum and resins together.
Aluminum alloy screws
alloy screws
 Maruemu Works is a manufacturer of stainless steel screws, nuts, split pins, etc. With the conviction that aluminum structures are best when they are fastened together by aluminum alloy screws, the company combined its forging and heat treatment processes and developed aluminum alloy screws that are lightweight (one third the weight of iron), having strength and bearing force as high as iron and high thermal and electric conductivities as well.


Magnesium-based technologies

 Magnesium has a number of ideal physical properties such as being lightweight (with a specific gravity of 1.8 compared to the 2.7 of aluminum and 7.9 of iron), having high specific strength (strength-to-weight ratio), being easily workable, and having high vibrational absorption capacity. Magnesium is more easily recyclable, as is aluminum, than plastics. It was also known for less ideal properties such as relatively low resistance against heat or corrosion but a number of alloys have been developed that improve those properties. As a result, magnesium is being used more widely than before in Europe and the United States to make engine valve covers, reflector housings and other automotive parts. The raw magnesium is supplied by China in a near monopolistic manner.

 A number of magnesium-made products were exhibited at the Expo by NNH, Fujiseikou, and Sankiblast (their use by Japanese automakers is limited at the present).

 Morimura Bros. is the sole agency in Japan for Magontec, a German corporation, and Magnesium Elektron, a UK corporation. The company plans to expand sales of magnesium materials and of processed products mainly to the automotive industry. The two European companies exhibited their products being currently used by European automakers.

Magnesium-made airbag case housed in the steering wheel
Magnesium-made airbag case housed in the steering wheel
(exhibited by NNH, used in Honda and Nissan vehicles)


Magnesium-made steering member for Daimler's Smart fortwo
Magnesium-made steering member for Daimler's Smart fortwo
(The entire component is built inside the instrument panel and the projected portion
to the left supports the steering. Weighs 2.35kg. Exhibited by Fujiseikou.)


Magnesium-made motorcycle cover component (exhibited by Sankiblast)
Magnesium-made motorcycle cover component (exhibited by Sankiblast)


Magnesium-made valve cover, timing case and oil housing manufactured by Magontec for Porsche Panamera
Magnesium-made valve cover, timing chain case and oil housing manufactured
by Magontec for Porsche Panamera's V8 engine
(exhibited by Morimura Bros; the cylinder block and the cylinder head are made of aluminum)


Magontec's reflector housings for BMW 5 Series/7 Series and Mercedes-Benz SLK
Magontec's reflector housings for BMW 5 Series/7 Series and Mercedes-Benz SLK
(exhibited by Morimura Bros.)

Magnesium-based technologies

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
NNH, Eishin Magnesium alloys  NNH's business includes magnesium die-cast material development, die designing and fabrication, trial and mass casting etc. Magnesium has specific gravity only two-thirds that of aluminum and has a higher strength-to-weight ratio. Its relatively-low resistance against heat and corrosion formerly presented problems, but alloys that put an end to those problems have been developed and the use of magnesium is rapidly spreading to automobiles in Europe and the United States.
 With Japanese automakers, magnesium alloys were used in the airbag cases built into the steering system on Nissan and Honda vehicles. NNH is currently testing a door frame prototype.
 Eishin is a secondary processing manufacturer of aluminum and other casting materials. In 2000, the company began the magnesium die-casting business.
alloy products
 Fujiseikou is a magnesium alloy manufacturer (its products are sold by Fujisougyou). The company exhibited the steering member (manufactured by a Chinese business partner from Shanxi prov.) for Daimler's Smart.
 Fujiseikou's marketing company, Fujisougyou, has a liaison office in Shanxi province, China, and buys magnesium from leading suppliers in China. The company also buys raw material from POSCO, a Korean company. POSCO is building a refining plant in Kangwon-do, Korea, and has announced plans to start operation sometime in 2011. Fujisougyou anticipates that the market price will go down then.
Sankiblast Magnesium
die-cast products
 Sankiblast is a precision processing manufacturer of molded-magnesium products and has a plant in Shenzhen, China. The company exhibited steering wheel lock parts and motorcycle cover parts.
 The steering wheel lock parts are 90mm×70mm×80mm in size and weigh 186g (will weigh 277g if made of aluminum). The motorcycle cover parts are 370mm×170mm×50mm in size and weigh 660g.
Magnesium alloys
(by Magontec)
 As a sole agency of Magontec, a German company, Morimura Bros. provides magnesium materials mainly to the automotive industries in Japan with plans to start material processing and sales as well. Magontec operates a plant in Germany, and two in China.
 The company exhibited magnesium-made products made by Magontec and used by Daimler, BMW, Porsche etc.
 Magontec has also developed "HyMag 2" an alloy with high zinc content chosen for the ideal glittering effect on the surface. The alloy is used in levers and other eye-catching parts in vehicles. It provides an ideal substrate for plating and the company hopes it will replace conventional parts made of aluminum, zinc or plastics.
 Morimura Bros. is a sole agency of Magnesium Elektron, a UK-based manufacturer of special magnesium alloys, and has exclusive marketing rights in Japan.
 According to Magnesium Elektron, magnesium alloys are used by Daimler, BMW, Ford, VW and other European automakers in the form of transmission cases, instrument panels, engine valve covers etc. GM's full-sized vans, the Savana and the Express, each use 26kg of magnesium alloys.
Magnesium-related technologies
alloy screws
 With the conviction that magnesium structures are best when they are fastened together by magnesium alloy screws, the company has succeeded in continuous forging of screws made of magnesium alloy "AZ31" and started sales of the screws. As a token of further sophistication in its alloy screw processing technologies, the company has also succeeded in the trial production of "AZX912" screws deriving from the process for making "AZ31" but having higher physical strength and thermal resistance.
Kinomoto Magnesium alloy
welding wire
 Kinomoto has developed lightweight and fire-retardant magnesium alloy welding materials. They are available in two forms, wires and rods, and the wire type was seen at the show (magnesium alloy cut chips present a high risk of burning at high temperature when they are ignited).
 Magnesium wires are prone to oxidation but Kinomoto proved that they can withstand extended storage in atmosphere once they are given special surface treatment. The company plans to keep a close eye on the market trends and start mass production of the wires as needed (co-exhibited by Maruemu Works).


Titanium, silicon alloys, CFRP and other lightweight materials

 Morimura Bros. also introduced its business focusing on titanium known for light weight and thermal resistance (titanium is a kind of rare earth).

 Isman J exhibited silicon alloys known for light weight, as light as aluminum, and high wear resistance.

 Kodaka Seimitsu exhibited products that use carbon fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP). Use of CFRP in automotive industry is limited at the present to racing cars, Toyota Lexus LFA etc, but the company has an optimistic view that its use will increase to the car's body structure as well.

BMW's exhaust valve and other titanium alloy products by AKRAPOVIC
BMW's exhaust valve and other titanium alloy products by AKRAPOVIC
(its titanium recycling plant began operation in 2009)

Other lightweight materials

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
Titanium alloys  Titanium is known for light weight, durability and thermal resistance among others. Morimura Bros. supplies titanium materials in partnership with TIMET (Titanium Metals Corporation), a U.S. corporation, and VALTIMET, a French corporation.
 The company has also formed partnership with AKRAPOVIC, a Slovene corporation. AKRAPOVIC is a manufacturer of exhaust systems for four-wheeled vehicles and sports cars. The company began development of titanium alloys in 2000 and its products have been delivered to Porsche, BMW, VW, Daimler, Renault, etc. AKRAPOVIC opened a branch office in California, U.S., in 2010.
Isman J
Silicon alloys  Isman J has developed fine powders of silicon alloy, 500nm in size, mainly consisting of silicon and nitrogen that are synthesized by a controlled combustion synthesis process. The powders are mixed with water and the resulting compound is extrusion molded and sintered to make the final product. The sintered product has a number of ideal properties such as being as light and wear resistant as aluminum, being nonconductive and nonmagnetic, and eliminating the use of lubricants (seizure free) in the area subjected to rolling motion.
 The main raw materials are silica stone, abundant in deserts, and airborne nitrogen. The fine powders symbolize effective use of natural resources and the company plans to develop them as a multi-purpose industrial material that may replace iron.
 Isman J has agreed to develop and fabricate large-diameter (approximately 50mm) bearing balls for windmills in Denmark. The company also plans to develop new applications for auto industries. Sumikin Bussan has concluded an equity participation and sole sales agency agreement with Isman J.
CFRP  Kodaka Seimitsu exhibited a variety of products that included parts for robotics and endoscopes made with CFRP. CFRP is lightweight (1/2 the weight of aluminum, 1/5 of iron), has tensile strength 2.5 times that of high-tensile steel and 6 times that of extra-super duralumin.
 The company has supplied its CFRP products to be used with the vanes of the air pumps used in diesel engines on Mitsubishi Motors' Lancer for export. Use of CFRP in automotive industry is limited at the present to racing cars, Toyota Lexus LFA, etc, but the company plans to promote its use in brake booster vanes and the car's body structure as well. Ryoko Sangyou, Kodaka's sales agency, is a trading company that belongs to the Mitsubishi Materials group.


Weight reduction by new methods

 Fukai Mfg. exhibited honeycomb-embossed sheet metals having higher stiffness than the conventional counterparts.

 Yamashina exhibited self-tapping screws (thread forming fasteners) that maintain perfect shear resistant joints and contribute to downsizing and weight reduction, taking technologies from EJOT, a German company.

 Daido Kogyo introduced "Flowdrill system" manufactured by The Wagner Companies that forms threaded holes and bushings at the same time.

Honeycomb-embossed disc brake mud guards proposed by Fukai Mfg
Honeycomb-embossed disc brake mud guards proposed by Fukai Mfg.
(The steel-made part in upper right weighs 0.53kg/pc or 2.12kg/car,
the embossed steel part to the left weighs 1.56kg/car,
and the embossed aluminum part in the lower right weighs 0.72kg/car.)

Weight reduction by new methods

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
Fukai Mfg Honeycomb-
embossed structure
 Honeycomb-embossed structure, proposed by Fukai as a weight reducing method, features regular hexagons approximately 8mm on each side and 2mm in height. According to Fukai, the embossed regular hexagon structure (first ever in Japan) has a higher stiffness than the existing circular or corrugated embossed counterparts. (Note) Embossing is a manufacturing process in which letters or patterns are raised out of the surface of the sheet metal or paper.
 When aluminum sheet is used, its stiffness normally affects thickness by the cube (when the thickness decreases to 70%, stiffness decreases by 0.7×0.7×0.7 to 34%). With Fukai's embossed structure, a 30% thinner material maintains the stiffness of the original thickness resulting in 30% weight reduction.
 The embossed structure is used in the insulation sheet for a resin-made fuel tank on Suzuki's new Swift 4WD. Fukai is currently proposing the similar application of honeycomb-embossed structure to Subaru for the Subaru Legacy/Exiga (Fukai has been supplying the sheets for the existing models). The company is also proposing its use to make disc brake mud guards.
Yamashina Self-tapping screws  Yamashina is taking technologies from EJOT, the leading manufacturer of fasteners in Germany to make self-tapping screws (thread forming fasteners) for thermoplastic resins ("DELTA PT") and aluminum, magnesium and other light alloys ("ALtracs"). 'Self-tapping screw' is a generic term for screws that, when inserted in a slightly smaller pre-formed but unthreaded pilot hole, form a thread to a secure joint.
 The screws are highly resistant against vibrations and temperature changes and maintain the original joint over an extended period while contributing to downsizing and weight reduction of the final assembly. The extraordinary high jointing strength means the number of fasteners on a vehicle and, hence, the overall vehicle weight can be reduced drastically. The technology also contributes to cost saving as it does not require drilling, thread forming etc.
Daido Kogyo Flowdrill  Flowdrill is a system for forming a threaded hole using a tungsten carbide cutting tool. The tool temperature rises rapidly to 1200-1400 degrees Fahrenheit and the hole is formed, in a matter of seconds, along with a bushing using the displaced material. This eliminates the need for swaging tools or welding nuts.
 Flowdrill is usable with a wide variety of adaptive materials including mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, brass and special alloys. Daido Kogyo introduced the Flowdrill technology from The Wagner Companies.

<Automotive Industry Portal MarkLines>