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Products and solutions, 2010-11-22, 03:56 PM

New generation of magnesium materials makes cars lighter: TU Freiberg and MgF put new magnesium hot rolling mill into operation

Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg (Freiberg University of Mining and Technology) and MgF Magnesium Flachprodukte GmbH (MgF) today inaugurated a new hot rolling mill for magnesium. Built with 7.5 million euros in funding from the state of Saxony, the mill will be operated by the university’s Institute of Metal Forming. It extends an innovative production line for magnesium flat products developed jointly by the university and MgF. MgF is a subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe AG, which is part of the ThyssenKrupp Group and one of Europe’s leading producers of carbon flat steel.

In his address at the inauguration ceremony, rector Prof. Dr. Bernd Meyer said: “Given the need for a sustainable resource strategy, the use of magnesium is very important. Magnesium is one of the earth’s most abundant elements, and its reserves are almost inexhaustible.” Dr. Ekkehard Schulz, Chairman of the Executive Board of ThyssenKrupp AG, highlighted the economic potential of the magnesium activities: “We have created a first-class technology base from which to achieve success on a market of the future. Efficient lightweighting solutions are playing an important role in more and more sectors of industry.”

Saxony’s finance minister, Prof. Georg Unland, underlined the state’s role in the automotive sector: “This is a further milestone which will strengthen the innovation and technology leadership of Saxony’s automotive and engineering industries. For vehicle manufacturers in particular, weight reduction is an increasingly important area of innovation. It will give further advantages to Saxony as an industrial location and secure and create jobs in the region. State funding for research and universities will continue to be aligned with industrial policy in the future and will focus on key growth technologies, including materials research. The state government’s draft two-year budget for 2011 and 2012 includes a total of 170 million euros for technology funding.”

Magnesium is the lightest structural metal. It weighs only around a quarter as much a steel and is 35 percent lighter than aluminum. Parts made from magnesium are particularly attractive for automotive OEMs as their lower weight allows reductions in vehicle CO2 emissions. In the past, however, the material has only been used in the form of castings, for example in the chassis or in transmission housings and engine blocks. For large body parts, where the light material could save a lot more weight, affordable magnesium sheets are required.

Magnesium research in Freiberg is headed by Professor Rudolf Kawalla, Director of the Institute of Metal Forming at TU Bergakademie: “The hot rolling mill is a major step forward in our research efforts to develop magnesium into a material for day-to-day use,” said Kawalla. Dr. Hans-Peter Vogt, Managing Director of Magnesium Flachprodukte GmbH, added: “Especially in the areas of lightweight construction and mobility, magnesium flat products can make substantial contributions in many applications.”

In addition to vehicle manufacture, magnesium sheet can also be used in engineering and other areas of industry where weight reduction is important. For ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe, the magnesium activities add to the range of intelligent lightweighting materials the company produces for areas such as the auto industry.

MgF and the Institute of Metal Forming at TU Bergakademie Freiberg jointly developed an innovative concept for the production of magnesium sheet using a casting-rolling line to manufacture flat strip directly from molten magnesium. With significantly lower costs for starting materials, reduced material and energy consumption and fewer production steps than the conventional route for flat magnesium, this is an extremely cost-efficient process.

Rector Meyer praised the intensive collaboration with ThyssenKrupp AG and its Freiberg-based subsidiary: “We have enjoyed a close partnership for many years, both in the area of magnesium research and beyond. The joint operation of a pilot line to produce magnesium sheet and strip is without doubt an outstanding success story,” he said.

The new rolling mill reduces the four to seven millimeter thick magnesium strip from the casting-rolling line to a thickness of just over one millimeter. This opens the way for the use of flat-rolled magnesium in automotive body parts, for example. The mill processes up to two metric tons of magnesium strip per hour at a rolling speed of more than 80 meters per minute. It was started up by Prof. Rudolf Kawalla and Dr. Hans-Peter Vogt.

The inauguration was part of a two-day symposium on the subject of lightweighting with magnesium at TU Bergakademie, organized by ThyssenKrupp and the university and attended by representatives from academia and industry. The partnership between the university and the materials and technology group dates back to 2001. Cooperation focuses on materials sciences/technology, mechanical engineering and industrial engineering.

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