Edging and bending – and why aluminium is so great
In the previous article we were stamping and laser-cutting aluminium sheets (blanks). The parts now have to be shaped as required. So they are either bent or edged. And this applies to all the parts. There is virtually no part of an ALUCA vehicle racking system which we do not edge or bend. This is how a metal sheet is turned into a support frame section, a shelf base or a drawer, for example.
Modern machines are also used for edging and bending, with the Trumpf V50 and V130 taking care of the edging. Sheets measuring up to two metres in length are edged in the Amada HFEM2 5020, but we start up the HFEM2 5030 when they are three metres long. And when it is time to bend some panels, two machines from Bella Italia are called into play: the Salvagnini P2 and its big brother, the P4.
Often several shaped parts are combined to form a sub-assembly. A supporting frame is made of four components, for example. We also work to order at all stages of production, making parts on demand, so to speak.
Aluminium: the strong lightweight
We have been trusting solely in the natural assets of aluminium for 25 years, ever since the company was started up at the end of 1993. This is because aluminium has numerous advantages. It is the third most abundant metal on Earth, with an incredible eight per cent of the Earth’s crust consisting of aluminium. It is easy to work with, extremely wear-resistant, corrosion-resistant and virtually maintenance-free. At the same time, aluminium is much lighter than other metals. It is three times lighter than steel, for example.
So aluminium offers the perfect strength-to-weight ratio. The aluminium alloys which we use at ALUCA have the strength of construction steel and are twice as strong as fibre-reinforced plastic, four times stronger than thermoplastics and 10 times stronger than plywood. The low weight of aluminium is another advantage, allowing the load to be maximised and resulting in a healthy bottom line thanks to the time saved and, most importantly, the fuel economy.
A long life – even in tough conditions
Aluminium is also very hard-wearing. Shortly after production of the bare metal, a natural oxide film forms on the surface and this coating prevents corrosion. This makes aluminium a durable material – even in tough and wet conditions. And because the fitted aluminium parts absorb the typical twists and turns of the bodywork, there is no stress on the points of connection to the body. This is a key factor contributing to the length of the service life of ALUCA products, especially on bumpy construction sites or in rough terrain.
Finally, a word about the environment: it is of course true that aluminium production has an environmental impact but this can be kept to a minimum. Due to its longevity in comparison with other materials, aluminium is often one of the most viable alternatives when seen in the context of ecological considerations. What is more, aluminium is fully recyclable. With petroleum-based materials, by contrast, the options are limited to downcycling since it is only possible to make lower-grade products from the recovered raw material. Aluminium is therefore an environmentally-friendly material due to its long service life, 100% recyclability, and fuel economy.
The next part of our look behind the scenes at ALUCA will take us to the assembly section – and to a very special demonstration vehicle.