The aluminium opportunity

Mega trends, from lightweighting in automotive, the rise of e-mobility, and advances in 5G technology, to growing societal demands for improved recyclability and widespread rejection of plastics, have all set a global sustainability backdrop which has seen aluminium usage soar.

Sustainable advantage: recyclability and waste reduction

A fundamental reason for the growth in aluminium usage is its advantage over other materials in terms of recyclability and waste reduction.

Near net shape production requires less machining and wastes less material – the properties (including malleability) of aluminium are particularly suited to leveraging this benefit for improved raw material efficiency.

Die casting challenges: resource and energy intense

Aluminium die casting operations are highly resource and energy-intensive. Approximately 25% of the total cost of die cast parts are associated with energy consumption.

This is a sustainability (and economic) issue we have to address, with 24-hour furnace running costs a key factor. The high melting temperatures associated with metals like aluminium, say over zinc, also impact on production time and operational safety.

So how can aluminium foundries build on this potential material efficiency while minimising energy and resource usage, as well as implementing continuous improvement to guarantee optimum part quality in a competitive market? The answer to this difficult balancing act is: zero.

This doesn't mean do nothing. It means focussing on a zero waste (energy and resource), zero defect strategy. Because, thanks to evolving equipment capabilities and emerging digital solutions, the two can go hand in hand.

It's also a strategy which, if adopted, naturally addresses other key challenges in a rapidly evolving aluminium market:

1. Increased demand for large, complex structural aluminium parts

Complex structural parts must be ‘zero defect’ to meet higher mechanical performance requirements, combining great strength and rigidity with the lowest possible weight. But they also pose practical challenges. For example, having to manually cut pieces down to re-melt in order to fit in your furnace may waste time and human resource. Addressing this was one of the key drivers behind StrikoWestofen’s BigStruc– a melting furnace specifically for structural parts. 

2. Shorter development cycles and rapid technology shifts 

These two factors mean that new foundry lines often go from the drawing board to production much more quickly making any waste (inefficiency) a stumbling block. Meanwhile, anything that could cause delays in the supply chain, including quality issues detected too far down the line, has to be identified and addressed to maximise efficiency.  

3. Sustainable production

There’s more to sustainable production than slashing energy consumption and costs. Sustainable production also means eliminating factors which threaten long-term production – unplanned and unnecessary downtime falls into this category. Foundries need to focus on zero waste solutions that optimise uptime and get production right first time.


At Norican and across our five technology brands – DISA, ItalPresseGauss, SIMPSON, StrikoWestofen and Wheelabrator - we take a full-process view from melting to cleaning, to develop innovations and solutions that help customers achieve zero waste and zero defect ambitions and tackle these challenges.