Thanks to a novel laser-cutting facility at the site in Dormagen, Germany, the aluminium company Hydro can now offer its automotive customers body sheet of unmatched precision, taking yet another step forward in the growing market for automotive light-weighting with aluminium.
The new facility was inaugurated by Hydro together with the local operator, Alu-Laser-Service (ALS), and its supplier Schuler. Adding a capacity of up to 20,000 metric tons per year, the new facility boosts the Hydro site at Dormagen into a most modern cut-to-size center for automotive strip and sheet applications, in particular for body in white parts.
“In a continuous process, our aluminium sheets are being shaped directly from the coil by solid state lasers that cut practically burr-free. Thereby we make manufacturing cleaner and reduce process scrap,” says Pascal Wagner, head of Hydro's Lithography, Automotive & Heat Exchanger business unit.
“Furthermore, this highly automatized laser-cutting facility delivers high-precision car sheet both for large and for small volume series. Thus we are able to efficiently service a growing variety of model series and accommodate the platform strategy of leading carmakers.”
On the new line, laser beams cut aluminium strip of gauges between 0.7 and 3 mm into sheets from 200 x 200 mm up to 2,000 x 4,000 mm. This enables the customer to form elements from small parts to fortify the body over one-piece bonnets onto complete side panels for premium automobiles.
The stock comes from Hydro's rolling mill in nearby Grevenbroich, where capacity of the annealing line in the center for automotive strip is being almost doubled, up to 50,000 metric tons per year – based on a European market for aluminium car body that is expected to grow by 15 to 20 percent each year between 2011 and 2018.
In Dormagen, the engineering company Schuler has installed the very first type of its newly developed Dynamic Flow laser-cutting technology. On Hydro's Dormagen site, the new facility is operated by the Alu-Laser-Service (ALS) company. “We thereby continue a partnership with ALS managing director Heinz-Walter Schewe that has proven successful already for many years with the slitting facility next door,” says Franz Steimmel, head of the Automotive & Heat Exchanger product group in Hydro.
Recently, Hydro also established a partnership with the Kobe Steel group from Japan: Through exchange of technology, both parties strengthen each other as suppliers of premium rolled aluminium products for an increasingly global sourcing and manufacturing in the automotive industry. Hydro primarily supplies to the leading premium carmakers in Europe.
“All these decisions follow our strategy in the Rolled Products business to keep our leading edge by offering innovative solutions and advanced products – while helping namely the automotive industry to boost the making of light-weight cars and thereby reduce automotive CO2 emissions,” says Hydro executive vice president Oliver Bell, who leads Rolled Products.
Aluminium, this strong, light metal, can be infinitely recycled at no loss of quality, thus contributing to the creation of a sustainable loop to use and re-use materials. It exponentiates the savings potential by using aluminium for mobility at reduced energy consumption and less emissions. The annual amount of rolled aluminium strip and sheet that Hydro supplies into the automotive and transport sector, when compared to the use of traditional materials, saves as many CO2 emissions as caused by 1.9 million passenger cars.