The “13th Five-Year Plan” period is a critical period for my country’s non-ferrous metal industry to transform and upgrade, improve quality and efficiency, and enter the ranks of the world’s non-ferrous metal industry powers. With the development of strategic emerging industries such as lightweight transportation, new energy vehicles, high-end equipment manufacturing, energy conservation and environmental protection, the demand for heat treatment-enhanced high-end aluminum alloy plates and strips continues to grow. However, my country’s independent supply capacity is seriously insufficient. At present, it is urgent to crack.
“Although my country is the world’s number one producer and consumer of aluminum processed materials, it has always been at the middle and low end of the aluminum industry chain, with high-precision products represented by aluminum alloy automobile outer panels and aviation aluminum alloy pre-stretched wing panels. The fundamental reason for relying heavily on imports is that the production equipment and processes of high-performance aluminum alloys have not kept up.” said Professor Wang Zhaodong, director of the State Key Laboratory of Rolling Technology and Continuous Rolling Automation.
In Wang Zhaodong’s view, to strengthen China’s aluminum processing industry, it is necessary to “consolidate the foundation”, start with the “hematopoiesis” ability, and speed up the high-end aluminum materials represented by the “air-cushion heat treatment furnace” and “high-precision roller hearth furnace”. The pace of production line construction and upgrading.
Aiming at national needs and benchmarking against world-class standards, Professor Wang Zhaodong’s team focused on breakthroughs in products such as new high-strength and high-toughness aluminum alloy plates, third-generation aluminum-lithium alloy plates, and high-corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy plates and profiles for water and land transportation. Based on its own strength, it is committed to It will fundamentally realize a stable supply of high-performance aluminum alloys for aviation, passenger cars and freight trains, and take a solid step towards breaking the dependence of high-end aluminum materials on foreign advanced equipment, technology and products.
High-end aluminum: the “blue ocean” of applied materials in the transportation field
Aluminum is one of the most commonly used light metals and one of the most widely distributed and stored elements in the earth’s crust. Aluminum and aluminum alloy materials have a series of excellent characteristics, such as small specific gravity, high specific strength, good formability, mechanical properties, physical properties and process performance. At the same time, they also have the environmentally friendly characteristics of easy recycling and renewable.
In the global metal industry, the application of aluminum ranks second, second only to steel, and is widely used in various sectors of industrial production. High-performance aluminum alloy sheets, medium-thick plates, and profiles are key basic materials in the fields of national economic development and national defense construction such as transportation, aerospace, marine ships, etc. They also have a wide range of applications in the fields of consumer electronics, new energy, and smart equipment.
Ultra-light new energy vehicles, domestically produced large airplanes, and high-speed train plates, strips and profiles are high-end products among aluminum alloy materials. In recent years, with the rapid growth of the automobile industry, aviation industry, high-speed rail and other transportation industries, the demand for “noble” aluminum alloy plate and strip profiles has also become stronger.
With the gradual increase in the requirements for saving fuel consumption and reducing displacement, lightweight vehicles have become the current hot spot for high-end aluminum applications. According to Wang Zhaodong, high-end cars such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW have begun to use high-performance aluminum alloy car plates in large quantities. Chinese aluminum companies have also made great efforts in the field of automotive applications, but there are still certain bottlenecks. The main reason is that the quantitative application of aluminum materials requires a process, such as aluminum alloy professional stamping equipment issues, heat treatment equipment issues, technical standards issues, etc.; at the same time, the application cost of automotive aluminum materials also needs to be optimized through quantitative applications and other measures.
According to the China Nonferrous Metals News, it is estimated that the large-scale application of aluminum on the body, safety system and other components will take 2-3 years. It is expected that by 2020, the large-scale use of aluminum for automobile lightweight will be realized.
“Aerospace is an important field of high-end aluminum applications, but domestic aluminum has not yet been applied on a large scale in this field. The problem is that domestic aluminum needs to be improved in terms of performance stability and consistency.” Rolling technology and continuous Li Yong introduced the State Key Laboratory of Rolling Automation.
With the rapid development of China’s large aircraft manufacturing, domestic aluminum has a huge application space in this field. However, because carbon fiber composite materials are particularly favored, aluminum companies focus on the development of new aerospace aluminum materials such as a new generation of aluminum-lithium alloys and aluminum-based composite materials to expand development space, occupy the market, and improve their competitiveness.
“The strong demand for high-end aluminum in the transportation sector is the best time to strengthen China’s aluminum processing industry.” Professor Wang Zhaodong believes that demand is the biggest driving force for innovation, and it is also the “useful place for the team to write the paper on the production line in the motherland.” “.
Restricted by others: equipment and technology are monopolized by foreign countries, expensive, long lead time
Air cushion furnace technology is the core technology of high-end aluminum production and processing heat treatment. At present, air-cushion furnaces are mainly supplied by a few large foreign companies such as EBNER and Junker, but they are expensive. Each air-cushion furnace production line needs about 300 million yuan; the supply cycle is long, and the construction period of each equipment is about 3 In 2016, strict technical blockade was implemented on the core control process. The production cost of the enterprise was too high, and the maintenance and upgrade cost was higher.
“The domestic traditional aluminum alloy medium and thick plates and profile solid solution treatment equipment are mostly vertical quenching furnaces or salt bath furnaces. The heating accuracy is poor, the cooling of the quenched plate cannot be controlled freely, the structure and performance are unstable, the plate shape is poor, and the residual stress is large. It is not possible to produce high-performance aluminum alloy medium and heavy plates and profiles for aviation, automotive and other purposes.” Han Yi, the State Key Laboratory of Rolling Technology and Continuous Rolling Automation, pointed out the dilemma and blockages of the enterprise.
For a long time, high-performance aluminum alloy automotive plates, medium and heavy plates, and profiles have always been weak areas of my country’s aluminum processing industry. An important reason is the research on key equipment of aluminum alloy plate and strip air cushion furnace, medium and heavy plate and profile roller hearth furnace production lines The foundation is weak, and the heat treatment of high-performance aluminum alloy plate profiles involves many process parameters, complex procedures, and difficult development. The relevant core equipment has long been constrained by others, and key technologies have not yet been independently controlled.
Teacher Li Jiadong from the State Key Laboratory of Rolling Technology and Continuous Rolling Automation told reporters that in accordance with the trend of aluminum alloys in the international automotive industry, in the domestic market, aluminum alloy plates and strips can be used for passenger cars with a price of more than 100,000 yuan. For automobile covering parts, the amount of bicycle will be 20-30kg. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers predicts that in 2020, my country’s automobile production will reach more than 30 million. It is conservatively estimated that 15 million vehicles will use aluminum alloy plates and strips, and the automotive industry will use more than 300,000-450,000 tons of plates and strips.
In the aviation field, only a certain type of domestic military aircraft requires more than 3,000 high-end aluminum alloy plates, strips and profile parts, and the number of aluminum alloy plates, strips and profile parts required for new large transport aircraft and large passenger aircraft exceeds 10,000.
However, by the end of 2017, my country’s imported production equipment is far from being able to meet the demand for aluminum alloy strips and profiles in high-end manufacturing fields such as automobiles and aerospace, nor can it achieve the technical improvements required for the research and development of my country’s aluminum alloy varieties. Taking Guangxi Nannan Aluminum Company as an example, the actual production capacity of the air cushion production line is 40,000 tons, and the current demand capacity is 90,000 tons; the actual production capacity of the plate roller hearth furnace is 50,000 tons, and the current demand capacity is 100,000 tons.
“The development of air-cushion furnace equipment, medium and heavy plate and profile roller hearth furnace technology with my country’s independent intellectual property rights meets the strong needs of my country’s automobile, aviation, high-speed rail and other industrial structure adjustments and product upgrades, and is in line with the country’s energy-saving and emission-reduction situation. It has important economic and strategic significance.” said Wang Guodong, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and professor of Northeastern University.
The key trick: independent research and development of high-end aluminum alloy production heat treatment equipment and processes
“The localization of air-cushion heat treatment furnace, medium and heavy plate and profile roller hearth furnace equipment can provide the necessary equipment and production technology for the development and stable production of high-performance aluminum plate, strip and profile.” Wang Zhaodong believes that the key to solving the problem We must start from the “root” of independent research and development of production equipment. According to Wang Zhaodong’s estimation, after using domestically-made equipment for independent production, the current price of high-end aluminum materials at 40,000 yuan/ton can be reduced to about 20,000-30,000 yuan/ton.
The advanced rolling technology and heat treatment innovation team of Northeastern University, led by industry experts such as Professor Wang Guodong, Professor Wang Zhaodong, and young and middle-aged scientific and technological innovation backbones as the main body, use innovation to write green, use hard work to solve problems, and improve the “hematopoietic” ability in aluminum production The key link in the production of heat treatment equipment and research and development of new technology is precise and powerful, laying the groundwork for the production of high-end aluminum.
In 2018, the team began theoretical research on the key heat treatment equipment for high-end aluminum materials-air cushion furnace and roller hearth furnace, and focused on breaking through the key equipment technology and supporting treatment of air cushion furnace, roller hearth furnace heating and quenching for large aluminum alloy plates, strips and profiles. The equipment integration technology and the whole line process automatic control platform technology have made breakthrough progress at present:
——Find out the dynamic stable floating and rapid and uniform heat transfer mechanism of air cushion heat treatment, optimize the key structure of the core components of the air cushion furnace, and establish the air cushion control model. On this basis, the pilot equipment of the large air cushion furnace has been independently developed. Realize the non-contact, high precision, high uniformity and efficient heat treatment of aluminum strip.
——An experimental platform for advanced heat treatment and surface treatment of aluminum alloys was built. Using this platform, the team developed high-efficiency solution, quenching, pre-aging and surface treatment processes for high-grade aluminum alloys suitable for actual air cushion furnace production lines.
——Independently developed a multi-level, fully automatic process control system for aluminum alloy air-cushion continuous heat treatment and surface treatment.
Currently, the team is cooperating with Guangxi Nannan Aluminum Processing Company to build air-cushioned heat treatment demonstration lines for high-end aluminum alloys used in transportation such as automobiles and aviation, medium and heavy plate roller hearth furnace heat treatment demonstration lines, and profile roller hearth furnace heat treatment demonstration lines. String. In 2019, the team can complete the design, manufacturing and commissioning of the demonstration line to break foreign monopolies and achieve breakthroughs in domestic equipment, processes and production technologies for high-end aluminum alloy automotive plates and aviation plates. The key heat treatment equipment and processes for aluminum alloy high-end materials The technology is autonomous and controllable.
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