Aluminium sector confident of lightweight metal’s future potential

The long-term success of aluminium depends on new solutions and products. Innovation is the key factor for future success and guarantees the future viability and competitiveness of the aluminium industry.

Taking stock of EAC 2015

Aluminium will make the future ‘lighter’

In the four sessions of EAC 2015, experts from industry and research provided information on alloy developments, recycling und resource efficiency, markets of the future and process technologies.

“The trend to lightweight construction will continue,” said Dr Heinz-Jürgen Büchner, Managing Director Industrials, Automotive & Services at IKB Deutsche Industriebank. The big loser in the transformation that is occurring in the use of materials would be conventional steel; by contrast, light metals would gain in importance. In his presentation on global economic trends and their effect on the aluminium industry, Dr Büchner said demand from mechanical engineering and the building and construction industry should also increase.

Roland Hartmann, Director Sales & Marketing Automotive at Novelis Europe, presented a strategic outlook on the use of aluminium in the car industry. He is expecting 25 per cent annual growth for aluminium in automotive body building through to the end of this decade. He said this trend would lead to increasingly more stringent demands being made on increasingly higher grade aluminium sheet solutions for vehicle structures, body parts and lids and doors.

Domik Reker of SMS group GmbH in Düsseldorf presented new developments for improving the resource and energy efficiency of process technologies, with an investigation into the potential energy savings for production lines used to extrude aluminium. He said one way of achieving this target was a more efficient design of production processes and plants; another way was to reduce the use of material in the production lines or the end product.

“EAC 2015 has shown impressively how aluminium will make our future ‘lighter’,” said Christian Wellner summing up the event. “The aluminium industry is very innovative. Together with our customers we have achieved a high level of technical expertise and the resources for further growth are already in place.”

he long-term success of aluminium depends on new solutions and products. Innovation is the key factor for future success and guarantees the future viability and competitiveness of the aluminium industry. The participants at the European Aluminium Congress 2015 (EAC 2015) were in agreement about this. The congress, which was held at the end of November 2015, was the meeting point of the year for experts from the international aluminium industry. EAC 2015 was organised by Gesamtverband der Aluminiumindustrie e.V. (GDA), Düsseldorf, under the ‘D-A-CH, Allianz für Aluminium’ umbrella in co-operation with the with the Swiss aluminium association and the non-ferrous metals trade association of the Austrian Economic Chambers (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, Fachverband NE-Metallindustrie). The three countries are by far the largest European economic area with a common language.

The ‘Aluminium – Building the Future’ congress discussed the key factors for the future success of the whole aluminium value-creation chain and demonstrated aluminium’s future potential in the widest possible range of user markets. Over 200 experts from the sector, user industries, science and politics discussed the opportunities and challenges aluminium faces from the megatrends mobility, conservation of resources and Industry 4.0.

“Aluminium has outstanding opportunities in the most varied sectors and fields of application in the future as well,” was how GDA Executive Director, Christian Wellner, summarised the contributions and discussions at EAC 2015. It is not only in carmaking that the metal has developed into an innovative material for the future: the demand for aluminium will also increase in other mobility-related applications such as aircraft construction, shipbuilding or railed vehicles. “Moreover, aluminium is also continually demonstrating its growth potential in other important user markets like building and construction, mechanical engineering or packaging,” Christian Wellner added.

It had already become clear what demands the sector and the metal would have to satisfy in the future after the EAC 2015 keynote speeches had been given by Gwenole Cozigou from the European Commission and Dr Hubertus Lohner from Airbus Operations in Bremen. According to Gwenole Cozigou, in times of dwindling reserves of resources and when energy becoming scarcer, and above all expensive, the importance of recycling resources and materials is forever increasing. He spoke about the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials.

Dr Hubertus Lohner demonstrated aluminium’s excellent growth potential with regards the lightweight construction megatrend in extremely different mobility applications. The strategy of manufacturers in the aerospace and automobile industries, namely to use the right material in the right place, is accelerating the intelligent, flexible use of extremely different materials with the aim of using the material that is optimally suited. Here, the material properties of aluminium mean it has excellent opportunities for use and growth.