The following is an excerpt.
Significant industrial trends can pave the way for closer collaboration between SFI CASA and the world’s largest producer of aluminium profiles.
Executive Vice President of Hydro Extruded Solutions Egil Hogna recently paid a visit to SFI CASA. Discussions revealed that significant industrial trends can pave the way for closer collaboration.First, the demand for sustainability is increasing and requires new solutions and more recycling and re-use of materials. Second, customers tend to make stronger claims to qualities like security and protection. Egil Hogna uses the demand for new and safer cars as proof of the customers rising willingness to pay for such qualities.
Third, the company he is leading is moving along the value chain towards the end user. According to Hogna this means changing from being just a supplier of standard aluminium profiles to delivering solutions and complete modules.
Hydro Extruded Solutions´ annual sales are NOK 63 billion. The company has 23 000 employees in 40 countries. They have been a close supporter of SIMLab ever since the research group was established more than 25 years ago. SIMLab is a host to SFI CASA, where Hydro Extruded Solutions is one of the 14 industrial partners.
Sustainability claims for recycling
As a manufacturer of aluminium, Hydro likes to present the material as a genuine powerbank. This means that it can be recycled almost endlessly. Re-cycling aluminium uses only 5 per cent of the energy that is used to make primary aluminium. And it does not lose any of its original qualities in the process. Due to its relatively young age as an industry, just over 100 years, there has not been much used material available for re-cycling.
Until now. But now things are happening.
The times when scrapped aluminium was shipped to China or buried in landfills are over. The material is to be used and re-used. Manufacturers like Hydro are pledged to take care of it themselves and make it a part of the circular economy.
«We have to develop more scrap-based alloys. Which means that when we start producing the materials we also have to think about design for disassembly», Egil Hogna states.
Simulations for dismantling
He thinks the recycling trend is very important for CASA`s simulation models of multi-material connections in cars or other structures. Because one day we have to consider how they have to be dismantled. Different materials must be separated before they are returned to re-cycling.
That means, new methods for joints have to be developed.
«I see possibilities for using SFI CASA´s simulation models for dismantling. If you can simulate assembly, it should be possible also to simulate dismantling», the Executive Vice President of Extruded Solutions states.
Safety costs and willingness to pay
A substantial part of CASA´s research is focusing on crashes and collisions, and the excellent energy absorption ability of aluminium.
The weight of this material is one third of the weight of steel, but it absorbs twice as much energy per unit of weight.
«This makes a car with a lot of aluminium, lighter, safer and more environmentally friendly. Safety and protection are qualities that are becoming more and more valued. There is increasing willingness to pay for these qualities», Egil Hogna says.
There is an ongoing battle between steel and aluminium in cars, and it is getting tougher day by day. New lightweight steel components are on their way. Ole Daaland, Vice President of Innovation & Technology in Extruded Solutions notes the growing interest in producing different combinations of steel, aluminium and other materials.
That means there is a need for more knowledge about how to join the different materials and also how they will behave together under strain.
Egil Hogna thinks that CASA´s strengths lie in the fact that the researchers work at the interface between material science and design engineering.
CASA models for development work
So, what part of CASA´s research does he find most interesting – on behalf of Hydro Extruded Solutions? The answer is the simulation models. Simply because they can both simplify and speed up the company´s development work.
«This is especially if you use the models in reverse. By that I mean that we can use them as a starting point for our design processes. Thus, we can begin by asking what kind of special qualities our customers need for a certain product. I envisage that we can use it to re-calculate the alloys in the material, then go further to joint methods, form, design, thickness, number of holes in the profiles and so on».
«In addition, the virtual models can make physical tests rare. But for us I think the tools will be most useful in our development work».
Approaching the customer´s domain
And now, this development work moves further along the value chain of the company. According to Hogna that could mean that they will sell finished bumpers instead of profiles to the manufacturers.
He assures: «This means that we are approaching the business areas of our customers. But we will only enter areas where we have the expertise to do so, where we can contribute to the best and most cost-effective value chain for our end-customers».
Wish for more exchange
The vice president thinks Extruded Solutions and CASA is a good match –in many ways. CASA´s main areas are physical security, oil and gas industry and transportation.
«These are all areas were aluminium is important. It is interesting to learn how close you collaborate with our customers. It makes me believe that we will maintain our excellent collaboration in the future as well».
If he should have brought a wish-list for his recent visit in Trondheim, on what the partnership with CASA should bring, he would have written exchange of people at the top of it. He thinks both parties would benefit from it, and that it can be done in several ways.
«For instance, PhD candidates could come to work with us at an early stage, before they choose the exact topic for their thesis. Thus, they gain insight in our industry, and the needs that we have. I imagine that the candidates can alternate between CASA and Hydro Extruded Solutions during their studies».
Experts without borders
This looks like the Industrial PhD Scheme, but Hogna says different models are possible.
«Also, permanent employees could come to work with us for periods. This is both manageable and fully possible. All over the world».
He tells that they have very good results from an approach called «Experts Unite». Specialists with different skills, from different business areas come together to discuss special issues or develop new solutions.
«To start with, you have no idea about what will happen or where this is going. But the fact is, we often experience that creativity flourishes during these events. People discuss, share practices and come up with new ideas for new solutions. Thereafter they return to their units, continue their work and develop the ideas further».
Egil Hogna thinks that this way to work also can function in collaboration with CASA. «We work this way with our customers as well. Both transboundary and across business areas. This is the way we create innovation. And it works».