The United States Automotive Materials Partnership (USAMP-AMD), as part of the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR), recently began a new Structural Cast Magnesium Development (SCMD) project that will focus on resolving critical issues that limit the large-scale application of structural cast magnesium castings in automotive components.

Project chairman Richard Osborne, of General Motors, said that the five-year $US10 million project activities "will focus on developing the technology necessary to cast and implement a front cast magnesium structural cradle."

The choice of a chassis component provides many challenges for the project team to overcome.

Key manufacturing issues include the production of high integrity castings (high-pressure die, semisolid, low pressure, squeeze, etc.) and appropriate joining methods.

Harsh service environments create significant material challenges including erosion/corrosion issues and stress-relaxation concerns.

The objectives of the SCMD project are:

  • Improve understanding of cast magnesium alloys
  • Develop a cost model that compares cast magnesium chassis component cost to alternative materials and processing techniques
  • Provide comprehensive database and design guidelines
  • Improve cast component integrity
  • Identify and/or develop methods to improve corrosion resistance
  • Develop accurate Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) for design and manufacturing of chassis-type components
  • Improve dissimilar material joining technologies
  • Transfer knowledge and lessons learned to industry

This project, sponsored cooperatively through USAMP-AMD and the Department of Energy through a Cooperative Research And Development Agreement (CRADA), involves a number of research entities including the Lawrence Livermore, Oak Ridge and Sandia national laboratories, General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler, 35 light metal suppliers, the University of Windsor, Georgia Institute of Technology and Alfred University.

Osborne said that there is a multitude of benefits to be gained from this research.

For instance, vehicle mass savings for ground and air transportation leading to a reduction in fuel consumption and emissions, increased recyclability, and less dependence on foreign oil.

Car makers in the United States are under increasing pressure to reduce CO2 emissions and increase federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

The ability to significantly increase magnesium usage could help the car industry meet future CAFE targets and reduce noncompliance penalties.

The North American vehicle industry currently uses approximately 70,000 tonnes of magnesium a year, about 3.5 kilograms per vehicle.

Cast magnesium structures have the potential to reduce 100 kilograms of vehicle mass, which could reduce emissions by 5 percent and increase fuel economy by about 1.0 mpg.

This magnesium project comes on the heels of a successful, five-year, $US 10million cast light metal programme that focused primarily on cast aluminium research and was recently completed by the same team.

USAMP functions under the umbrella of USCAR - a cooperative of DaimlerChrysler, Ford and GM established in 1992.

The purpose of USCAR is to assist the domestic vehicle industry with pre-competitive research.

To view related research reports, please follow the links below:-

Aluminium and Magnesium in European Light Vehicles

PriceWaterhouseCoopers Global Supplier Report