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Case Study

Ford F-150

Situation

Over the past decade, increasing carbon emission standards have driven automakers to seek alternative material solutions to reach dramatically higher fuel efficiency without compromising the level of performance and safety consumers expect from their vehicles.

To meet these standards, Ford introduced a radical redesign of its best-selling Ford F-150 pickup truck, replacing its steel body panels with lightweight aluminum. However, to make this redesign a possibility, Ford required a partner that had extensive experience in aluminum innovation and deep expertise in high-volume production.

Building on its extensive technical capabilities developed through a 20-year partnership with Jaguar Land Rover, Novelis was selected as a key supplier for the new aluminum-intensive Ford F-150.

Challenge

To outperform the existing steel body style, Ford needed a supplier who could produce a high strength alloy tough enough to enable a new joining technology using self-piercing rivets, in combination with high-strength alloys that would be a first of its kind in automotive applications.

Ford’s new specifications required that Novelis improve its R/T bending requirement by 33 percent from the industry standard of 0.6 to a never before achieved standard of 0.4.

Process

Over the course of six months, a team of Novelis researchers, metallurgists, engineers and technologists balanced strength and ductility by adjusting the ratio of silicon, copper and magnesium to develop a brand-new aluminum alloy, Novelis Advanz™ 6HS-s615. This innovative alloy was bendable enough for high-volume part stamping and assembly, yet strong enough to meet rigorous durability and safety requirements.

To create Novelis Advanz™ 6HS-s615, Novelis improved its R/T bending requirement by 33 percent from the industry standard of 0.6 to a new industry benchmark of 0.3. Not only did Novelis invent an alloy that met existing industry standards, but it also doubled its toughness criteria. Today, Novelis Advanz™ 6HS-s615 sets the standard for vehicle strength in the automotive industry.

Results

To ensure an efficient time-to-market, Novelis moved quickly, from problem identification, to alloy development, to production testing, to commercial implementation in just under five months.

Today, the aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 remains the best-selling truck in America. Thanks to its aluminum frame, the Ford-F150 is more than 700 pounds lighter than previous models and achieved the truck’s first-ever 5-star safety rating from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Based on the overwhelming success of the Ford F-150, Ford has also chosen to partner with Novelis for its aluminum-intensive Super Duty series.

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