Magazine article USA TODAY

Shaping Aluminum Auto Parts with Electricity

Magazine article USA TODAY

Shaping Aluminum Auto Parts with Electricity

Article excerpt

Automakers may shape aluminum parts more easily in the future with a technique developed at Ohio State University, Columbus, which uses electromagnetic pulses for the task. Manufacturers have known for years that they could make cars that would be lighter and more fuel-efficient by incorporating aluminum parts, but the metal often tore when they tried to stamp it into shape. "Manufacturers could take about half the weight out of an auto body if they could translate a steel design into aluminum," explains Glenn S. Daehn, professor of materials science and engineering. "But until now, aluminum has been hard to form."

To address the problem, Daehn and his colleagues developed a process that combines traditional metal stamping with electromagnetic forming. In the hybrid technique, a tool stamps out the general shape of a part, and electromagnetic pulses help form fine details.

The researchers used the hybrid process to form an automobile door inner panel, that of General Motors' Chevy Cavalier. An aluminum panel would be impossible to make the same way steel panels are made--with a single stamp of a tool and die--because they are full of sharp corners and pockets. …

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