Industry insiders understand that forged wheels deliver better performance parameters on the track and are significantly safer than cast wheels. Now consumers are beginning to understand that lighter, stronger, forged wheels can offer both a higher margin of safety as well as improved vehicle dynamics including acceleration times, braking distances and handling. Because forged wheels are much stronger than cast wheels, engineers can design them with thinner cross-sections, making them lighter in weight and better optimized for rotational mass and inertial moment considerations.
Magnesium.com President, Marks Lisnanskis agrees with this and intends to offer the consumer this higher level of performance and safety with wheels by Magnesium.com. “Wheel weight is vital to overall performance as it is a key component in “un-sprung” vehicle mass. By virtue of these lighter wheels, forged wheels are at least 20% lighter, sustaining equal loads with better characteristics, which is always easier on the car and its suspension. Lighter wheels also yield shorter breaking distance, which saves lives, provides shorter acceleration and reduces fuel consumption.” Mr. Lisnanskis added, “Consumers today are savvy, they understand the importance of wheel characteristics and the value magnesium wheels can add to a high-performance, luxury or sport vehicles.”
Mr. Lisnanskis is hoping to drive this theory home by establishing a partnership to produce and finish premium quality forged wheel blanks. “We are looking for a partner in the US with the capacity to finish our forged wheel blanks, i.e. machining and coating capabilities. We would consider co-investing and upgrading a current facility, if necessary,” said Mr. Lisnanskis.
Why not build a finishing line in Russia? Even with many newly modernized facilities in Russia, the company believes being closer to the customer is vital to business. Prospective customers, primarily automotive original equipment manufacturers, often require the comfort level of having their suppliers’ wheel production locally, even if the forging itself (blank, as it is called in the industry) arrives from Russia. “Russia has excellent manufacturing capabilities in place but there are some inherent challenges and risks.” Mr. Lisnanskis explained. “Our shareholders are still evaluating possibilities, which do include potential additional investment into our manufacturing base there.”
Forged aluminum and magnesium wheel manufacturing process is critical to wheel strength. They are produced by applying extremely high forces to base material in a contained die. The forged wheel blanks, or “pre-forms”, undergo very beneficial changes in metallurgical grain structure during this process. The more random grain structure found in standard cast wheels becomes a more highly organized and aligned grain structure when wheels are forged. More importantly, forged wheel metallurgical microstructure in both aluminum and magnesium can be further oriented in the forging process to provide the highest material strength exactly where wheels see the highest loading from road surface hazards or from lateral and other loading generated by the vehicles own inertia. Going one step further, today’s advanced computer aided modeling techniques allow the wheel manufacturer and the automaker to collaborate in optimizing a specific forged wheel geometry and design for the utmost strength and safety on the vehicle. “Our Russian forging facilities are top-notch. But, we are distant from the decision makers in the US, that can really push the market for magnesium wheels. A positive business climate is also important in expanding this industry,” said Mr. Lisnanskis.
A fellow shareholder, American, Maxim Dlugy, spent months in a Russian prison last year after being accused of a 'white-collar' crime he never committed and which, as the trial evidence showed, never actually occurred in the first place. This is simply because there is no practice of releasing a person on bail -- no matter how miniscule and far-fetched an 'accusation'. In another example, a renowned investment manager, Bill Browder, whom Mr. Lisnanskis knows personally, was denied an entry visa into the Russian Federation without any explanation. This situation was addressed at the recent G-8 summit held in St. Petersburg over the summer. Mr. Browder has raised from investors and invested almost a billion dollars into the Russian stock market.
“Russia is quite an attractive place to invest and has huge potential for downstream manufacturing – having the best raw materials base in the world along with some excellent technologies left from the Soviet era. It has come a long way as it continues on its way to the level of civilization common in the free world, but the legal system does need to be further improved. I suppose, we have to give more time for the reforms to take place, and hopefully, if President Putin stays on the right track -- foreign investment will come into sectors other than oil and gas. We are bound to see joint ventures formed in the automotive components and aviation sectors. For now, however, a number of our friends there continue to be interested in diversifying their investment assets out of the country,” says Mr. Dlugy
In addition to searching for a production and finishing partner, Magnesium.com is also looking for new and innovating wheel designs. Through its “Best New Wheel Design” competition, wheel designers have the opportunity to profile their vision through a state-of-the-art forging facility. Magnesium.com is negotiating with several large distributors to enter the US market after undergoing a certification process for several of its wheels in hopes that the many benefits in overall vehicle performance will make forged magnesium wheels one of the key milestones in upcoming production vehicle refinement, performance and safety improvement.
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