Alcoa & Transportation
Designing Sustainable Products and Solutions
The global markets in which we compete are increasingly driven by significant challenges, including urbanization, climate change, and resource scarcity. Our inherently sustainable products are making significant contributions to the world by addressing those challenges.
Lightweight, strong, durable, and recyclable, our products save energy and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They allow engines to run faster and hotter. They enable smart buildings, sustainable food and beverage packaging, high-performance defense vehicles, deeper oil and gas drilling, and more efficient power generation.
We manufacture a wide variety of aluminum and multi-material products. These include ingot, billet, slab, rod, sheet, plate, foil, extrusions, forgings, fasteners, rings, building systems, pipe, wheels, castings, and more.
We serve eight markets—aerospace, automotive, commercial transportation, building and construction, packaging, consumer electronics, oil and gas, and defense.
Design thinking at the front end is one way we ensure sustainability is incorporated into product innovation.
Our goal is to design sustainable products that use energy and natural resources more efficiently and improve environmental impact. In doing so, we increase not only our own sustainability but that of our customers.
Life cycle assessment, which analyzes a product’s environmental impact from cradle to cradle, is the best way to measure the sustainability of our products. We conduct these assessments with other organizations and our customers to provide a holistic view of the impacts and benefits in each product phase—extraction and processing of raw materials through manufacturing, distribution, use, and recycling.
We were the first aluminum company to receive Cradle to Cradle Certification, which is a multi-attribute eco-label that assesses a product’s safety to humans and potential impact on the natural environment. We currently hold Silver certification for our primary aluminum and other aluminum products—forged truck wheels, lithographic sheet, can sheet, bottle stock, and four product lines from our Kawneer architectural systems business.
Our high-performance aluminum, titanium, and nickel-based alloy products can be found from nose to tail on today’s commercial aircraft. These products produce lighter, more fuel-efficient planes with highly efficient engines and smaller carbon footprints—all without compromising safety, performance, and durability.
We have developed new aluminum alloys and third-generation aluminum-lithium alloys that are up to 7% less dense than the current generation. We also developed the forging for the world’s first hybrid-metallic fan blade, which has a 15% stronger microstructure than previous forgings.
For the next generation of short-range aircraft, our new alloys and technologies can:
- Lower the weight of certain aircraft applications by up to 10% versus composite structures;
- Improve corrosion, fatigue, and damage tolerance properties; and
- Deliver passenger comfort features equivalent to composite-intensive planes.
To meet growing demand, we have continued to expand our aluminum-lithium capacity and capabilities at multiple locations around the world. We also acquired Firth Rixson, a leader in aerospace jet engine components, and TITAL, a leader in titanium and aluminum structural castings for aircraft engines and airframes, in 2014 and early 2015, respectively. In March 2015, we announced an agreement to acquire RTI International Metals, a global supplier of titanium and specialty metal products and services for the commercial aerospace, defense, energy and medical device markets.
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Reducing weight is a key enabler for automakers to manufacture cars and light trucks that are more fuel-efficient and emit less carbon dioxide (CO2) in order to meet consumer demands and tightening emissions regulations.
Our lightweight solutions for the automotive market include body sheet, brazing sheet, wheels, extrusions, and automotive fasteners. Compared to steel, these products can provide up to a 50% weight reduction. The aluminum-intensive 2015 Ford F-150 truck, for example, weighs 700 pounds less than its predecessor. Our Alcoa 951 bonding technology, which enables the mass production of aluminum-intensive vehicles like the F-150 truck, received the prestigious R&D 100 Award in 2014.
Automotive emission reductions related to improved fuel efficiency can be significant:
- A 10% reduction in an automobile’s weight can result in up to a 7% reduction in the vehicle’s GHG emissions. (Source: Aluminum Association)
- For every 1.0 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of aluminum used to replace higher density steel or iron components in a vehicle, there is the potential to save 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of CO2 emissions. (Source: International Aluminium Association)
- A life cycle assessment of an aluminum-intensive vehicle indicated a 20% reduction in primary energy consumption and a 17% decline in CO2 emissions over the vehicle’s life cycle compared to a baseline steel Toyota Venza. (Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
In 2014, we unveiled the Alcoa MicromillTM technology, which will manufacture the most advanced aluminum sheet on the market. Automotive parts made with Alcoa Micromill material will be twice as formable and 30% lighter than parts made from high-strength steel.
We also introduced four specialty foundry alloys during 2014 that enable lightweighting and boost performance. On average, the four alloys will deliver a 20% reduction in weight compared to today’s foundry alloys. If replacing cast iron, the weight savings could reach an average of 50%.
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Our portfolio of aluminum sheet, extrusions, wheels, and fastening systems can be used to replace heavier metals for many commercial truck components with significant weight savings, resulting in increased fuel economy and reduced emissions.
For every 10% of weight reduction in a Class 8 truck, for example, up to a 5.5% improvement in fuel economy can be gained (Source: Aluminum Association). An International Aluminium Institute’s life cycle assessment shows the potential to save 28 kilograms (62 pounds) of CO2 emissions in articulated trucks and 45 kilograms (99 pounds) in city buses for every 1.0 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of aluminum used to replace higher density steel or iron components.
In general, one metric ton of weight reduction equals a savings of up to 12,870 liters (3,400 gallons) of diesel fuel over a truck’s life. In addition, 18 metric tons of CO2 emissions are saved for every one metric ton of aluminum added to a trucking fleet.
In 2014, we introduced the Ultra ONE™ heavy-duty truck wheel, which will help trucks shed weight for increased payload and fuel efficiency. The new 18-kilogram (40-pound) wheel is 47% lighter than a steel wheel of the same size. We also rolled out the Dura-Bright® EVO wheel, which is 10 times more resistant to corrosion than its predecessor, in Europe during 2014 and North America in early 2015.
To help customers understand the benefits of aluminum over a product’s entire life cycle, we developed an online tool called CalcuLighter™ that determines the return on investment when comparing wheel options.
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Building and Construction
Because buildings are major consumers of energy and emitters of GHGs, the industry is increasing transparency into the environmental and human-health impacts of building and construction products across the entire life cycle. The definition of sustainable building products is also expanding to include occupant comfort and security.
When used in buildings, aluminum systems can improve energy efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions, and help achieve green building standards. According to the International Aluminium Institute, building facades incorporating aluminum systems can decrease energy consumption by up to 50%. Other sustainable properties include:
- Recyclability: About 95% of aluminum in buildings is recycled today.
- Reflective surface: Aluminum’s highly reflective surface allows for efficient light management and lower energy consumption, keeping buildings cool in hot climates.
- Light weight: Light yet strong, aluminum reduces transportation costs, vehicle fuel consumption, and related CO2 emissions when being delivered to the construction site.
- Thermal efficiency: Architectural aluminum systems that use advanced thermal technologies can provide superior thermal performance without compromising on structural performance.
We manufacture a wide array of aluminum doors, framing systems, curtain walls, and windows that help make buildings greener. To accommodate the broader definition of sustainability, our recent innovations include Reynobond® aluminum composite material panels with EcoCleanTM coating, RT 72 HI+ windows and doors, GLASSventTM UT Windows, OptiQ™ Ultra Thermal Windows, 1630 SS IR Curtain Wall, and the AA®720 FR and AA®100/110 FR Fire Resistant platforms. We also have developed state-of-the-art framing and wall systems that are hurricane- and blast-resistant.
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Aluminum is one of the most sustainable solutions for food and beverage packaging.
With a 71% global recycling rate, the aluminum can is the most recycled beverage container in the world. According to the Aluminum Association, cans are recycled and back on the store shelf in only 60 days. Recycling these cans uses 8% of the energy required to make new aluminum ingot and creates 92% less GHG emissions.
In 2014, environmental research firm PE International updated a U.S. and Canada life cycle assessment on the aluminum can that originally was released in 2010. Compared to the earlier study’s results, today’s aluminum cans:
- Have a 20% smaller carbon footprint;
- Contain an average of 70% recycled content compared to 23% for glass and 3% for plastic/PET bottles;
- Require 14% less energy to make; and
- Use 2% less metal (13.34 grams to 13.04 grams).
We produce aluminum rigid container sheet for the packaging products market. Our customers use our sheet to manufacture the bodies, ends, and tabs of beverage and food cans for the beer, soft drink, juice, isotonic beverage, energy drink, packaged water, food, and pet food industries. We are also a recognized innovation leader, creating new packaging solutions that include the aluminum bottle, shaped packages, and aluminum closures.
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Manufacturers of laptops, tablets, smartphones, televisions, and other consumer electronics are turning to aluminum to meet their sustainability, design, and performance goals.
Our solutions, which involve complex, high-strength extruded and sheet products for structural components, deliver these advantages:
- Durability: Lasts longer without breaking, cracking, or deteriorating.
- Heat conduction: Conducts heat more effectively than competing materials, reducing power usage.
- Light weight: Enables thinner and lighter devices, reducing transportation emissions.
- Efficiency: Reduces part count and shortens assembly time, resulting in lower production costs.
- Aesthetics: Produces consumer-valued premium surfaces that are available in a wide range of finishes.
- Recyclability: Offers infinite recyclability.
In 2014, we established the Consumer Electronics Market Development team to drive further adoption of innovative lightweight solutions in consumer electronic devices and to explore opportunities in emerging segments. We continue to strengthen our relationships with major device manufacturers and marketers around the world.
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Oil & Gas
Our advanced materials technology enables customized, high-performance solutions to many of the oil and gas industry’s most difficult challenges. We produce proprietary, lightweight, high-strength alloy drill pipe and subsea riser systems, engineered forgings and extrusions, and fabricated products for onshore and offshore applications.
Compared to steel, Alcoa FarReach™ alloy drill pipe offers the following advantages:
- 50% reduction of drill string wet weight;
- Lower weight, which enables better rig capacity;
- 20% to 30% less torque and drag;
- 20% to 30% less string stretch;
- Superior horizontal drilling capabilities;
- Optimized hydraulic design; and
- Improved ergonomics and operating safety.
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We develop affordable defense solutions for land, sea, and air that are lighter, faster, and stronger. In addition to high performance, these solutions deliver sustainability through less fuel consumption, lower emissions, and reduced costs.
Examples of our multi-material defense solutions include the following:
- By replacing hundreds of individual metal parts with our high-strength, lightweight titanium castings, the M777 howitzer is tougher and half the weight of conventional howitzers.
- On a vessel where speed is essential and every pound matters, 474 of our innovative mission bay tie downs reduce the ship’s weight by eight metric tons.
- Our monolithic bulkhead solution for the Joint Strike Fighter saves weight, reduces total material volume, and simplifies assembly—netting up to a 20% cost savings over a built-up structure.
- In 2014, we produced the world’s largest single-piece forged aluminum hull for combat vehicles to increase strength, allowing for better vehicle and troop protection. (See press release.)
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In all of our markets, we are an innovation leader. From products that advance industries to processes that change the manufacturing landscape, we are dedicated to discovering and developing the next game-changing breakthrough.
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