In the Austempering business we are constantly amazed how limited the engineering community’s general knowledge of material/process selection really is. Often, engineers make material selection based on the incumbent products or the guy with the most voluminous editorial or advertising material. Or they can be pushed to lower density materials believing what they've heard, that low density = lightweight = green. Ladies and gentlemen, The Stuff Matters. I can’t blame the engineers. Everybody’s being asked to do more with less and every engineer is expected to know everything about everything and they just can’t.
So we found it mildly amusing when Ford announced a few months back (Automotive News August 2012) that they intend to reduce the mass of the US’ #1 selling vehicle, the Ford F-150, by 750 lb. (340kg). The mass reduction will be accomplished by converting steel and iron components to aluminum in:
-The cargo box
The mass reduction is expected to 1) increase the fuel efficiency of the vehicle by 8% and, 2) increase the cost of the vehicle by $3,000. Hmmmm. If one drives their F-150 10,000 miles (16,130 km) per year and gasoline sells for $3.50/gallon, this modification will pay for itself in 10 years. In other words, it will be like buying $3,000 worth of gasoline IN ADVANCE. (That energy is embodied in the aluminum that is substituted for ferrous alloys that require much less energy to extract from the earth). It sounds green……a lighter vehicle, 8% better “fuel efficiency”…..but is it, really? You decide.
To help engineers and buyers make better material/process decisions, Applied Process Inc. recently held its inaugural “AP University” in Livonia and Ann Arbor, Michigan. 31 attendees representing 16 companies participated in a 3-day seminar focusing on engineering conversions. They learned how to design a casting, the metallurgy of ductile iron and Austempered Ductile Iron (ADI), solidification and 3-D modeling, machining and all aspects of converting steel and aluminum castings, forgings and weldments to ductile iron and ADI castings. For the capstone events the attendees toured Applied Process’ Livonia facility and participated in mold making and a ductile iron pour at Joyworks Studio in Ann Arbor…..each taking home a rather snazzy looking Hostile Duck Iron, wall-mount bottle opener.
The AP University attendees asked great questions and learned much. One attendee, an engineer with a purchasing function, working for a Tier One supplier summed it up the best: “There were things that I did not think would be (candidates) for the Austempering process…..so I would not have considered it before. Moving forward, I can apply this knowledge to more new applications”. THAT is the point of AP University. Oh, by the way, one of the AP University attendees was a Ford engineer. We hope he’s working on the F-150.
AP University could not have happened without the hard work of Vasko Popovski, Kathy Hayrynen, Justin Lefevre, Henry Frear, Chad Kelsey, Ryan Breneman, Cindy Duman and the teams at Applied Process, AP Tech, Magmasoft and Communica. Thanks to the lot of ya. We're growin' the pie here at Applied Process.