Boosting Magnesium Forging

Nov. 12, 2007
The MagForge Project, with generous sponsorship by the European Commission, aims to develop procedures for forging magnesium automotive parts, competitively.

MagForge has passed its one-year anniversary in a three-year schedule to develop competitive procedures for producing magnesium components for automotive applications.

To date, the project has concentrated on identifying the proper magnesium alloys for its goals; improving the forging process, in terms of predictability, productivity, and quality; and benchmarking magnesium forged parts against the same designs in aluminum, at lower weights and comparable functional performance.

MagForge is being conducted within the Sixth Framework Programme of the European Commission as a collective research project by a consortium of 23 participants from 12 European countries. Funding totals more than $4.1 million, from the EC and other sources. The project is scheduled to be completed by June 2009.

The European forging industry consists mostly of smalland medium-sized enterprises, about 75% of which have fewer than 200 employees. Among these companies, a main market is the automotive industry, which is driven by its need to reduce vehicle weights continuously, to comply with commitments and legislation on fuel economy and emission reduction.

At the same time, these forgers face cost-price competition in the global market. For forging companies to succeed, they must develop specialties, such as forging magnesium.

The project’s current focus is using magnesium to reduce the weight of automotive structural components; magnesium is 75% lighter than steel and 35% lighter than aluminum. The project’s overall goal is to provide tailored and cost-effective technologies for manufacturing magnesium forged components, in the expectation that this will give European forgers the ability to innovate and enhance their capabilities for producing lightweight components in high-volume applications.

Most of the components targeted for study are applicaitons for chassis and vehicle interiors, though the project recognizes potential in other industrial segments, including machinery, sports and leisure, electronics, and medical applications.

Research and development is being conducted in three areas to form a technological basis for designing and manufacturing magnesium forged components. They are:

Materials — Magnesium alloys and feedstock with better forge-ability and as-forged properties are to be developed.

Processes — The project aims to develop forging and finishing (particularly machining) operations with enhanced predictability, productivity and quality.

Components — Benchmark parts for typical applications are to be produced, with considerably lower weight than current (aluminum) versions and proper functional performance.

Another objective of the project is to disseminate information and provide training. This is being done by exchanging information, stimulating market awareness, and anchoring acquired knowledge and skills. As an example of disseminating knowledge about machining of magnesium, one project participant, Ideko, presented a seminar on “Safe Working and Handling of Magnesium” at its operation in Elgoibar, Spain.

Three types of participants are supporting MagForge:

  • Small- and medium-sized enterprises, mainly forging companies, including Duroc Tooling i Robertsfors AB, Sweden; Forgialluminio 3 s.r.l., Italy; Kovinar d.o.o., Slovenia; Leiber Poland SP. z.o.o., Poland; MAT PlasMATec GmbH, Germany; Non Ferro Metaalnijverheid NV, Belgium; Pressmetall AB, Sweden; SC Bimetal SA, Romania; and Soraluce Sociedad Cooperativa, Spain.
  • Industrial associations and groups representing the forging, tooling, and automotive supplier industries. These are Assn. Franaise de FORGE, France; Conf. of British Metalforming, U.K.; Deutsche Gesellschaft fr Materialkunde, Germany; Gospodarsko Interesno Zdruzenje ACS and Slovenski Avtomobilski Grozd ACS, Slovenia; Razvojni center orodjarstva Slovenije, Slovenia; Assn. Espanola de fabricantes de equipos y components para automocion, Spain; Soc. de Forja din Romania, Romania; and Svaz Kovaren Ceske Republiky, Czech Republic.
  • R&D centers, including universities. These are: GKSSForschungszentrum Geesthacht GmbH, Germany; Ideko Sociedad Cooperativa, Spain; Svensk Verktygsteknik AB, Sweden; TNO Science and Industry, The Netherlands; Univerza v Ljubljani (Fakulteta za strojnistvo), Slovenia; and University Politechnica of Bucharest, Romania.

The MagForge Project coordinator is Dr W.H. Sillekens, of The Netherlands’ TNO Science and Industry; contact him at [email protected]