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New Alcoa aluminum sheet process

Discussion in 'News' started by santana338, Dec 17, 2014.

  1. santana338

    santana338 Member

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    I saw this in Design News. This new process is targeted at automotive body and structural components. If Tesla is a customer it looks like this could bring down the price of the Model X and the Model E.

    "Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum, instead of competing materials."


    Design News - Engineering Materials - Alcoa's Micromill Process, Alloy Could Change Car Manufacturing
     
  2. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Active Member

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    I think the author's stretching. The release doesn't say anything about relative costs.

    Still, gotta love materials science.
     
  3. techmaven

    techmaven Active Member

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    Half the energy input is huge! Hopefully this is a big win for Tesla with both a stronger metal and a cheaper one.
     
  4. santana338

    santana338 Member

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    You are right. The author doesn't mention costs, but along with half the energy usage there is this:

    "In any case, the real eye-opener is the process' speed. Alcoa says the Micromill continuous casting process cuts the time it usually takes to turn molten metal into aluminum coil from 20 days for conventional rolling mill to 20 minutes, which will make a huge difference."

    And this:

    "The Micromill takes up one-quarter of the space required by a typical rolling mill, and uses half the energy. It also has fewer steps. In this video discussing the new process and material, Joe Butler, Alcoa Micromill plant manager, San Antonio Works, says an aluminum flowpath "is usually contained within a quarter to a half mile, and we're doing it in about 150 ft."

    So while not explicitly stated, along with better performing materials, the cost should be much lower if it can be produced faster, in less space, and with less energy. In fact, the caption on the photo of the mills says just that:

    "an overview of the Micromill process, which turns molten metal into aluminum coil from 20 days for conventional rolling mill to 20 minutes. It takes up one-quarter of the space required by a typical rolling mill, and uses half the energy. "
     
  5. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    This quote is also important:
    Tesla bought really expensive presses to handle the aluminum (okay, they paid next to nothing for the equipment, but new, they would be pricey). The new-process aluminum is as formable as mild steel, which is pretty amazing.

    The 30% stronger means that Tesla can use thinner sheets while keeping the same strength. Thinner sheets = cheaper.

    I wouldn't count on the per-pound cost of aluminum to drop, though; there's no reason for Alcoa to discount a superior product. They've got patents protecting the process, so it'll be Alcoa shareholders who reap the bulk of the profits. But Tesla will benefit, too, by using less aluminum per car, using more aluminum where steel is now used, and lower capex on production equipment.
     
  6. Vger

    Vger Active Member

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    Very interesting.

    Elon loves vertical integration. I wonder if it would make sense to have a micro-mill onsite in Fremont?
     
  7. Jaff

    Jaff Active Member

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    Oh great!...now I won't be happy if my P85D is not built using this new stronger alloy... I might just cancel my order... :wink:


     
  8. Doug_G

    Doug_G Lead Moderator

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    So half the energy, a small percentage of the physical size, and 20 minutes versus 20 days to produce materials? It doesn't matter how much the machine costs, that's a license to print money. They can produce product to demand rather than stockpiling large quantities - that's a huge savings right there.
     
  9. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Active Member

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    Yes, it should be, but if Alcoa has a patented process in which a machine will generate $100M of value during its lifetime, the question is how much of those savings will be added to the price of Alcoa's machine? Or maybe a per sheet royalty fee a-la Roche?

    I can see that they will want to grow their automotive market, so they wouldn't price too high, but like cars, they're not real without a real price tag or specifications.
     
  10. jerry33

    jerry33 S85 - VIN:P05130 - 3/2/13

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    But does it have the same stiffness? Strength and stiffness aren't the same (I know you know this). Stiffness, or lack thereof, is why there are frunk dents.

    Totally agree that the price per pound is unlikely to drop.
     
  11. Chickenlittle

    Chickenlittle Active Member

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    I swore I would not post about alcoa again but they also license their tech (yes I am daring to call it tech again) to other aluminum companies to collect royalties and to assure the car companies that they will have more than one source. This is a great company led by a fantastic ceo.
     
  12. rtz

    rtz Member

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    #12 rtz, Dec 17, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2014
    What if Tesla had one of these Micro Mills on site in the factory? Or started taking direct delivery of the new aluminum by rail? They are going to have to do something with their existing rail line when the Gigafactory gets online.
     
  13. Doug_G

    Doug_G Lead Moderator

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    You never know, this could possibly be Tesla...
     
  14. wiztecy

    wiztecy Active Member

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    #14 wiztecy, Dec 17, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2014
  15. ekhozindar

    ekhozindar Member

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    I would disagree and here's why. They've stated that they would like to be a player in the automotive industry. For them to be competitive with steel, they will need to lower costs. If this allows them to enter an entirely new industry, they would be stupid not to.
     
  16. LMB

    LMB Member

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    About the price: I seem to recall that a large part of the price of aluminum is the energy input, and that the industry tries to make more aluminum when energy is cheap and less when expensive. Seems like energy is getting cheaper currently (oil at $55/BB) so maybe al aluminum gets cheaper. Although... There were several articles a few months ago about aluminum warehousing operations driving up costs by requiring unreasonable delays before fulfilling orders to access the stuff.
     
  17. Soflason

    Soflason Member

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    #17 Soflason, Dec 18, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 13, 2016
    Alcoa released this video to showcase the process.

     
  18. RiverBrick

    RiverBrick Active Member

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    In Quebec, Alcoa has three plants and pays $0.033/kWh. At the current exchange rates, that's less than three US cents per kWh. Most large factories pay about 33% more, but Alcoa managed to negotiate a better rate by threatening to move. According to the Aluminum giant, they were offered rates about $0.025/kWh by some US States and Middle Eastern Countries that obtain electricity from natural gas.

    Over 99% of Alcoa's electricity in Quebec is supplied by hydro or wind.
     
  19. santana338

    santana338 Member

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    So even with only 1/2 the electricity of a normal mill needed, I would guess the micromill still needs a lot of supply. Based on Alcoa's environmental record (I browsed through the links above and was surprised) it might be better for Tesla to buy a mill and produce their own material in the long term. The question would be where to put it. I don't think putting this in Fremont would make sense. I would think you would want to locate the mill where you can find cheap hydro power. So the Pac NW or Quebec?
     
  20. Chickenlittle

    Chickenlittle Active Member

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    I believe it would be easier for alcoa to cut out tesla and make their own cars. Just as feasible as your idea
     

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