The Auto Aluminum Alliance has introduced a process that makes recycling aluminum from vehicles easier and more cost-effective.
The alliance, a partnership between USCAR and the Aluminum Association Inc., is working with metal processor Huron Valley Steel Corp. of Belleville, Mich., to test the new process in a one-year pilot program that runs to August 2001.
'Each year automakers are using greater amounts of aluminum to help boost fuel economy and performance while maintaining safety,' said Richard Klimisch, vice president of the Aluminum Association. 'This advanced scrap sorting process will help ensure that automakers have a more affordable supply of recycled aluminum for the future.'
The process separates cast aluminum from wrought aluminum using color, then uses computer software and lasers to separate the alloys in the wrought aluminum as it moves down a conveyor belt. Cast aluminum is a lower grade aluminum used for applications such as engines and transmissions. Wrought aluminum is a higher-grade aluminum that can be used for structural and surface parts, including fenders, hoods and liftgates.
Since there has been no cost-effective way to separate the two types of aluminum or to separate the wrought alloys until now, cast and wrought aluminum have been combined. The combination creates an aluminum that can only be used in lower-grade applications.
The alliance hopes the automated separation process will make it possible for automakers and suppliers to use the recycled wrought aluminum for its original higher-grade applications.
Producing recycled aluminum also uses 95 percent less energy than creating new aluminum from ore, Klimisch said. The alliance expects the new process will reduce aluminum recycling costs and increase the aluminum content in vehicles.
'We're trying to increase the affordability of the vehicles that use the new lighter weight materials,' said Jim Quinn, a General Motors engineer and chairman of the automotive metals division of U.S. Automotive Materials Partnership, which is part of USCAR. 'We hope this will be a tool that will help us do that.'
Next year the alliance will evaluate the pilot program and determine the feasibility of taking the process to a broader scale.