The world’s largest producer of magnesium components has signed an exclusive partnership with a major university that the participants hope
will “enhance lightweight technologies around the world, ensuring that low-volume manufacturers in the automobile and aerospace industries have access to cost-effective and sustainable magnesium components.”
The strategic alliance between Meridian Lightweight Technologies United Kingdom (MLTUK; Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire UK) and Birmingham City University (Birmingham, United Kingdom) will see the two organizations work jointly in the education, research and development of magnesium use, an effort that will put weight savings and consequent fuel efficiency at its core.
Academic representatives (from the university’s Faculty of Computing, Engineering and The Built Environment) and Meridian teams will work within the newly established Magnesium Innovation Group to investigate new ways to offer more sustainable goods for low-volume manufacturers, at the same time making production financially viable for Meridian and its clients.
Randy Chalmers, Meridian’s Plant Manager, said, “The (partnership) is very much a first for us, but is one which we hope will pave the way for future expansion and sustenance with the institution as we seek to work together on our shared strengths in fuel efficiency and sustainability.” ”As being one of the world’s leading suppliers of innovative, lightweight cast metal solutions for the transportation industry, it is imperative that we remain at the forefront of the machining and casting capabilities of magnesium,” he added. Mr. Chalmers says the partnership will allow Meridian to benefit from the university’s “leading edge research” and ensure that the “next generation of engineers continue to experiment with new ways in which to utilize” magnesium.
Current magnesium manufacturing processes create the same volume of waste as desired product, and the Magnesium Innovation Group will investigate ways to create value from excess material. Other research ideas the group may pursue include reacting magnesium with oxygen and water to create hydrogen--potentially to be used in fuel cells, to power automobiles and smartphones.
Magnesium is 100% recyclable but there are currently no plants in the UK that can process the metal.
Birmingham City U’s Professor Hanifa Shah, Associate Dean (Research and Enterprise), said, “As well as benefiting (Meridian) we hope that our findings can enhance lightweight technologies around the world, ensuring that low-volume manufacturers in the automobile and aerospace industries have access to cost-effective and sustainable magnesium components.”
Two psychologists from the university’s Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences have also been appointed to the Innovation Group. They will work with UK engineers toward an understanding of designing products with magnesium, versus less sustainable, heavier metals.
Meridian originated in Canada and established its facility in the UK in 2003. Its plant there produces around 5,000 net metric tons of die cast products annually, serving clients including Jaguar, Land Rover, BMW, Ford, Honda and Volvo.
But producing components in low numbers for automakers like Aston Martin, Bentley and Rolls-Royce can be costly using current manufacturing methods, because of more significant tooling and set up budgets.
Meridian and the university will be actively cooperating during the first half of this year. Research findings will be published prior to a major international magnesium conference at the university in July 2017.
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