The Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST), based at Brunel University London, is part of a consortium that has secured £9.6m funding for the RACEForm project, which includes a £4.8 million grant through Advanced Propulsion Centre UK (APC).
The world-class consortium working on the 30-month project is led by Impression Technologies, and co-funded by APC.
The grant will be used to scale up and validate Impression Technologies’ Hot Form Quench (The HFQ®) process for the high volume production of High Strength Aluminium sheet alloys.
Dr Roger Darlington, BCAST’s Director of Technology, said: “The HFQ® process involves forming a heated aluminium sheet and then quenching it when it’s being pressed into the required shape. Scaling up this technology for high volume implementation is very exciting.
“Among the many benefits of this technology, the door that it unlocks is the potential to form very complex pressed parts using High Strength Aluminium alloys that would otherwise be infeasible. The technology also brings benefits from the elimination of component spring back during stamping, and it opens new design opportunities for vehicle designers and architects, such as slimmer structural pillars.”
BCAST’s principal role within the project will be the exploration of sheet manufacture from recycled sources, which presents an opportunity to reduce whole vehicle lifecycle emissions. Recycled sources of sheet aluminium represent a 95% CO2 emissions saving over sheets from primary aluminium sources and the HFQ® process presents a major enabler to further unlock potential CO2 savings derived from recycling aluminium alloys from scrap sources such as End-of-Life Vehicles (ELVs).
The technology has the potential to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption, and increase recycling in the automotive and aluminium industries. The RACEForm project – which stands for ‘rapid aluminium cost-effective forming’ – will help to establish the technology as a global standard for aluminium light-weighting worldwide.
The project consortium comprises of Gestamp Washington UK Limited (a wholly owned subsidiary of Gestamp Automoción,) Innoval Technology Limited, Brunel University London and Imperial College London, and will work in partnership with a major UK-based passenger car OEM and a sheet aluminium producer.
The RACEForm project will help position the UK as a leader in aluminium light-weighting and establish a strong UK supply chain capability for the development of low-cost, mass-production, low-emission vehicles.
Jonathan Watkins, Impression Technologies’ Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are delighted that APC has chosen to back our HFQ Technology. We look forward to working together with the consortium members in collaboration with our OEM and aluminium partners to further develop the HFQ Technology for mass production and to establish the technology as a global industry standard.”
Tom Larsen, Gestamp’s R&D Advanced Technology & Application Manager, said: “Gestamp is continuously innovating in product and process and material developments and sees HFQ as an important milestone in developing advanced technological parts for application on future OEM platforms.”
Minister for Climate Change and Industry, Claire Perry, said: “Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are improving our supply chains to make it easier for them to work with big business. Alongside this, our recently published Clean Growth Strategy underlines our support for the low carbon sector and the 430,000 people working in the industry across the UK.”
Impression Technologies is backed by specialist investor Mercia Technologies.