Cast semis account for about a quarter of the global consumption of aluminium products, while their key consumer is the transport industry, first of all, the automotive industry. The automotive industry consumes over 60% of the world's cast products. The further development of the cast products consumption in the world in the next ten years will be greatly facilitated by a fast growth in demand for electric vehicles.
This was said at the 2nd International Conference on Aluminium Casting, organised by the Aluminium Association with the support of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia and in partnership with UC RUSAL, FSUE NAMI, Non-Profit Partnership APRAL, Association of European Business and EXPOCENTRE.
The speakers of the two-day event included international and Russian experts in the field of aluminium processing, representatives of analytical agencies, heads of industrial and mechanical engineering production facilities, chief executive officers and chief technical officers of casting facilities, chief engineers and chief metallurgists, manufacturers and suppliers of equipment and tooling, specialists from Russian and foreign companies, as well as leading research centres from Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Czech Republic and India.
At the first strategic session of the conference, an overview of the global aluminium casting market was presented. As noted in the reports of UC RUSAL representatives Inga Simonenko and Snezhana Ravlyuk, the development of the electric transport segment not only contributes to higher aluminium consumption in general, but also significantly changes the ratio of various types of semis used, in particular, an increase in the share of primary casting and a reduction in secondary casting are expected.
The Russian market remains largely dependent on supplies of imported cast components and finished products. However, the localisation of production is accelerated by strengthening trade protectionism and the need to diversify the supply chain, according to an expert assessment. However, the development prospects of this segment are associated not only with further localisation, but also with the ability to develop production of electric vehicle components for export.
According to experts, the trend towards sustainable development and carbon neutrality goals among major manufacturers of structurally complex automotive components (OEMs) boost the development of new solutions, which will involve more scrap. Current technological limitations in scrap sorting, availability and involvement make low-carbon aluminium the best alternative for reducing the carbon footprint.
The tasks and challenges facing automakers were discussed by the participants of the round table 'Automotive Industry as a Development Factor for the Market of Cast Mechanical Engineering Components', which took place on the first day of the conference. The discussion was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia, Ernst & Young, KAMAZ and AVTOVAZ, the GAZ Group, SOLLERS automotive holding, NAMI and the Rostec corporation. The moderator of the session was Irina Kazovskaya, Co-Chair of the Aluminium Association.
At the round table, Russian manufacturers presented their developments in the field of electric transport and declared their competence and readiness to develop this area. To help the domestic automotive industry move in step with global trends, the automotive community and the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia, taking into account the implementation of the SPIK 1.0 and SPIK 2.0 programmes, should today assess the development prospects of electric transport and prepare in advance tools to develop production of electric vehicles themselves and components for them.
The topic of producing automotive components, as well as materials and technologies used for this, was also discussed at the following sessions of the conference. For example, a representative of the RosALit Casting Plant (SOLLERS automotive holding) spoke about the broad possibilities of aluminium casting: mould casting, low and high-pressure die casting methods. The expert noted that the unique technical base for Russia and professional experience in the automotive market allowed the company to successfully implement localisation and import substitution projects.
Ernst Zakirov shared the experience of PJSC KAMAZ in developing new AlSi7 alloys for cylinder head castings. He also spoke about transferring the production of fuel tanks from 08ps steel to AlMg3 aluminium. New strong aluminium alloys can completely replace the ferrous alloys traditionally used to produce such critical elements of a vehicle as the body, frame parts, chassis, running gear and engine units.
Matthias Varkentin, a representative of Ford Werke GmbH (Germany), devoted his speech to trends in using structural aluminium high-pressure casting for large-scale production in the automotive industry. In his speech, he talked about the introduction of new technologies: RheoCasting, GIGA-casting, as well as alloys that do not require heat treatment (nanoalloys).
High-strength cast aluminium alloys developed by UC RUSAL for application in the automotive industry were presented by Sergey Matveev, an expert of the Institute of Light Metals & Technologies (ILM&T). According to him, using the line of these materials makes it possible not only to reduce the weight of aluminium parts made of Al-Si alloys by changing the design, but also to replace the parts made of cast iron and steel. Aluminium parts have significantly better corrosion resistance compared to the cast iron and steel parts used in the automotive industry.
Moreover, replacing cast iron and steel parts with castings from high-strength aluminium alloys can reduce the production costs of finished products. The thing is, producing the same part requires twice less aluminium alloy in weight terms than cast iron or steel with significantly lower shop costs Therefore, applying high-strength aluminium alloys can cut production costs of automotive components, decrease the vehicle weight and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Ondrej Fazekaz from Vesuvius Moravia s.r.o. (the Czech Republic) reminded audiences that the process reproducibility is important for the automotive industry, and the required level of purity and hydrogen presence must be ensured for any melt. The problem can be solved by introducing degassing control systems, such as SMARTT, an interface to programme processing stages, which allows reading or measuring the starting conditions before degassing and choosing the most optimal parameters for various schemes. The mathematical models created by SMARTT are relevant, for example, for casting wheels, where even small changes in external conditions or melting temperature significantly influence the hydrogen content.
Lorenzo Stoppani, a representative of Foundry Ecocer, Italy, which produces materials for casting and die casting, highlighted the advantages of using fluxes to purify aluminium alloys. According to the expert, the flux is the first step in ensuring the melt purity by preventing excessive generation of oxides and removing non-metallic inclusions. The company has developed a series of highly efficient granular fluxes which guarantee accurate and consistent dosing with a more uniform and complete reaction.
Generally, the demand for cast parts is constantly growing in the automotive industry, according to the experts. New applications of alloys for the automotive industry are a challenge for the further development of casting production and the creation of new alloys. In addition to the functional properties and cost of these alloys, such aspects as recyclability and the carbon footprint are becoming increasingly important. It is also important that reducing vehicle weight saves fuel, and therefore reduces CO2 emissions. Since aluminium is one of the lightest materials that can be used in vehicle frames, the proportion of this metal in vehicles has been steadily increasing in recent decades.