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New Production Process Makes Vehicles Lighter and Stronger

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More stringent fuel economy and emissions standards are driving automotive suppliers to build parts that are thinner, lighter, stronger, and—if they want to stay competitive—at the lowest price possible. One automotive parts supplier, Dana Canada Corporation, is prepared to meet the challenge with a technology that transforms aluminum alloy sheet into complex-shaped parts that are otherwise too difficult and costly to manufacture using traditional stamping processes.

"Aluminum alloys are attractive engineering materials because of their light weight and corrosion resistance, but they do have limitations for producing thin-gauged complex shapes," says Dr. Sooky Winkler, Manager, Materials and Joining Technology at Dana Canada's Advanced Engineering and R&D Centre in Oakville.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has been supporting warm forming research between Dana and the University of Waterloo since 2007 to address this challenge. Now, Automotive Partnership Canada is contributing $1.9 million towards the $3.2 million project to help Dana and the University of Waterloo to move the process from the lab to the plant floor.

"At the end of three years we will have the computer modelling and process worked out to implement this technology in full production. I'm not aware of any university in North America doing such work at this scale," says Dr. Michael Worswick, the lead researcher on the project at the University of Waterloo.

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