Recognition for aluminium

Materials World magazine
,
31 Oct 2008

High performance car manufacturer Lotus Cars, UK, claims that ‘the vital accessory for the modern woman is the new, seductive sportscar’. With an Aluminium Award under its belt the Evora has already impressed on a technical level. Katherine Williams finds out more about the car and other aluminium prizewinners

The European Aluminium Awards 2008 were given out during the Aluminium 2008 conference, at Messe Essen in Germany on 23 September. Lotus Engineering UK took the overall Jury Prize for the Evora aluminium sports car chassis. The jury felt the design was innovative and versatile, and that the company took quite a risk building it.

Emissions for the new sportscar are on target to beat the 225g of carbon dioxide per kilometre threshold, above which UK road tax rapidly increases. The cabin is trimmed with leather and features contemporary brushed aluminium surfaces.

Evolution

The Evora’s chassis is an evolution of the 2006 Aluminium Award winning Versatile Vehicle Architecture (VVA) from the Lotus APX concept vehicle (see Materials World, Nov 2006, p24), which enables vehicles up to a gross weight of 1,900kg. It progresses the Lotus ‘bonded and riveted’ technology used in the Elise family of vehicles with unique extrusions and folded panels.

The low volume VVA architecture can be extended in width, length and height. The strength and stiffness of the low volume VVA chassis can be modified, cost effectively, by varying the wall thickness of the extrusions without altering exterior dimensions. This increases the number of vehicles that can be developed from the architecture. Front and mid engine installations have been considered, as well as hybrid and electric vehicle applications.

Bonded and riveted high grade aluminium extrusions, and simple and elegant folded sheet elements, are used in the lower structure, and the Evora employs a composite roof. The chassis provides inherent strength, particularly in regard to side impacts, and features a tubular steel seatbelt anchorage frame that also acts as a rollover structure. For Evora, Lotus modified Toyota’s 3.5-litre V6 engine, with dual VVT-i (‘intelligent’ variable valve timing).

Beneath the skin, the entire front-end structure is an aluminium sacrificial modular unit, attached to the main extruded aluminium tub. It is designed to deform for safety, and reduce repair costs following a crash.

While full performance figures for the new Lotus have not yet been compiled on a production specification car, early indications suggest a maximum speed of 160mph and a 0-60 time estimated at under five seconds. The vehicle will not go on sale until spring 2009, and with each of the 2,000 cars produced to be hand built in Norfolk, UK, there may be a wait before you can test drive one.

Other entries in the awards included a foot rest for rowers, a modular shelving system, a surface treatment technique for anodised aluminium and an induction heater. Winners are presented below.

Consumer Products – Design

Vasco of Dilsen, Belgium, won this category for the Bryce radiator composed of vertical aluminium profiles. It is named after Bryce Canyon in the USA, a region well known for its geological rock formations, and the inspiration for the design.

Aluminium allows efficient heat radiation, while the design reflects light striking the surface to be reflected in multiple colours, depending on the angle. The Bryce is a fully closed radiator with connection points hidden from the eye.

Consumer Products – Innovation

The Alurunner Sled from Alurunner GmbH, Germany, was praised for its frame shape and ‘elegant’ design. The Alurunner is the world’s first sled with an adjustable shock absorber system. It combines athletic handling and comfort. The makers say it is possible to make jumps with the product.

An aluminium claw, which is mounted and centred under the seat, ensures effective and safe braking. By pulling the wide easy-grip handle, the claw grabs into the ground under the centre of gravity, without influencing the direction of travel. The brake can be operated with one hand and the collapsible aluminium frame allows easy storage.


Industrial Products – Automotive and Transport

Resqtec Zumro, Holland, won this category for its aircraft recovery system. The use of forged aluminium parts gives it a combination of light weight and strength. The jury reports, ‘The parts are nice to touch, and have a smooth surface’. Because the lifting system works hydraulically, there is no requirement for electrical contacts in the vicinity of the aircraft in line with necessary safety regulations.

Industrial Products – Building and Construction

The Paliriccione stairway from Bayards in Milan, Italy, demands stairs with different dimensions and tread heights, making production and logistics complex. This aluminium stairway enhances the Parliccione building and is in harmony with the glass façade.

Industrial Products – Mechanical Engineering and Electronics

German company Alimex’s ACP5080 MF solar panel has a highly reflective aluminium surface generated by machining. The product makes use of a special milling technique, which results in a mirror surface finish without further hand polishing. This results in significantly reduced costs, and the company says it guarantees a consistent surface quality with a surface roughness of Ra <0.1µm.

Production Techniques – Mechanical Engineering and Electronics

A special award was given to Balco of Punalur, India for the Aluminium Fuse. This allows individual smelting pots to be turned on and off at 320kA without reducing the power. This makes a huge difference in operational efficiency.

Further information: Aluminium Awards 2008