Detroit-based LIFT, Michigan Tech Partner to Test Iron Melting Technology

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Detroit-based Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) has partnered with Grede Holdings LLC and Michigan Technological University, among others, to test the process of melting iron in an effort to reduce the amount of metal used in making an automotive transmission differential case.

“People don’t often think of iron alloys as lightweight, so this first project shows how we are really changing the thinking about manufacturing in America,” says Larry Brown, executive director of LIFT in Corktown. “We expect that by working together through LIFT, the collaborators from industry and academia will be able to accelerate the speed of turning their research and development into a production line process.”

Brown says that by improving manufacturing methods with different alloys, there’s the potential to decrease the wall thickness of ductile cast-iron parts by up to 50 percent. He says that, in turn, could add up to 30 to 50 percent weight savings.

“We will optimize composition and cooling rate utilizing Grede’s new high-precision molding machines to create thin-wall ductile iron components while maintaining desired microstructures and performance,” says Paul Sanders, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Michigan Technological University in Houghton.

Sanders says a significant amount of work on the project will be done at Grede’s foundry in St. Cloud, Minn.

“We expect to be seeing results from this first project in about a year,” Brown says. “And with nearly 90 industry and academic partners in our consortium, we expect to be announcing more technology projects on a regular schedule…”

He says about 44 percent of the estimated $1.3 million costs for the melt processing technology acceleration project will be paid for by the federal government, and the other 56 percent will be shared by industry and research partners.

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