Standard: AA AIV


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Aluminum is one of the most versatile and essential materials for our dynamic global economy. Its strength, conductivity, recyclability, and light weight make it ideally suited to the needs of a highly mobile and technologically sophisticated world. Above all, aluminum has emerged as the most environmentally sustainable material available to our increasingly resource-conscious planet. It offers customers a clear advantage through its ability to be repeatedly recycled without loss of quality and with only five percent of the original process energy use and emissions. On a life-cycle basis, aluminum exceeds the energy and environmental performance of competing materials in virtually all applications - and will totally offset the environmental footprint of its original manufacture.

As we begin the 21st century, the aluminum industry seeks to expand applications by focusing on complete material and engineering solutions that meet specific user needs. By emphasizing the functionality of products and their applications, manufacturers will capitalize on aluminum's unique attributes, using it by itself or in combination with other materials to create superior products. In the process, aluminum companies and their customers will dramatically change how their products are designed and used.

This document presents the first update to the aluminum industry vision, Partnerships for the Future, published in 1996. The original vision set the framework for the industry's first technology roadmap and for the past five years has been instrumental in advancing aluminum research and development (R&D). The roadmap, which outlines a comprehensive aluminum R&D agenda, was translated into several languages, reinvigorated interest in aluminum technology development worldwide, and led to the development of four more focused roadmaps. These landmark documents have helped to focus public and private R&D resources on industry-defined priorities and have permanently altered the industry and its approach to R&D.

In the mid-1990s, the industry acknowledged that it needed to improve its fundamental processes to compete successfully in global markets. While the necessary improvements would benefit the industry, many would also help achieve national goals for energy and the environment. Traditional technology development processes, including R&D planning and portfolio management, began evolving to increase the economic efficiency of technology development and speed the path to commercialization. The vision and roadmaps catalyzed the industry's efforts and helped attract a wide range of resources from the federal government, national laboratories, universities, suppliers, customers, and others. This pooling of technical and financial resources by diverse stakeholders has markedly increased the quality, efficiency, and pace of aluminum technology development. Federal support, particularly from the U.S. Department of Energy's Industries of the Future program, has helped to accelerate the development and deployment of aluminum technologies critical to public and strategic national interests.

Five years later, a substantial portion of aluminum R&D involves some form of collaboration. Such partnerships today are tackling ambitious projects in advanced cell design, intelligent sensor and control systems, secondary melting, forming and casting, advanced recycling, reuse of wastes, and other areas of broad benefit to the aluminum industry and the world. Since 1996, the roadmaps have directly stimulated well over $100 million worth of cost-shared R&D projects with over 75 different companies, universities, national laboratories, suppliers, and other partners.

The aluminum industry today is similar in many ways to the industry that existed in 1996, but it is also profoundly different. Enhancements and recent technology advances in production, processing, fabrication, and recycling have increased the industry's energy efficiency, reduced waste and emissions, and improved productivity. On the emissions front, new technologies and processes have helped the industry cut its perfluorocarbon (PFC) emissions by more than half since 1990. Technology advances are also enabling aluminum to flourish in many application areas, displacing traditional materials in many sectors. The U.S. auto industry, for example, uses over 50 percent more aluminum today than it did in 1995. Aluminum is expected to surpass plastic in the upcoming model year to become the third-most-used material in light vehicles.

At the beginning of this new century, the aluminum industry faces unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Our affluent, diverse, and mobile society demands safe, durable, environmentally responsible, and highly sophisticated products. Tremendous technological advances in processing have increased expectations of better products and services at lower prices and have generated a need for new engineering and scientific expertise in the industry. The industry's traditional supply chain is realigning itself to focus on material transformation issues upstream and on functionality downstream. The industry will need to work with customers who are less interested in purchasing materials and more interested in solving product design problems. Sophisticated aluminum processing technologies will require a highly trained and educated work force. Safe and efficient transportation and infrastructure networks need expansion or rebuilding around the globe, and other lightweight materials are challenging aluminum in some of its traditional applications. Overall, it is a time of great economic, political, and strategic uncertainty.

The North American aluminum industry has a clear vision to effectively address the challenges and opportunities of the coming decades. By 2020, the aluminum industry will be universally recognized as a world leader in providing innovative, material-based solutions that are environmentally sustainable and deliver superior value to users. The industry's highly trained work force will use aluminum's light weight, strength, recyclability, and conductivity to provide engineered solutions for a global society that values energy efficiency and sustainability. The industry will build on its already impressive credentials by maintaining the highest recycling rate of all materials, providing a net energy benefit to aluminum use over its entire life cycle, and producing zero net emissions on the same life-cycle basis.

To accomplish its vision, the industry will achieve specific goals in six areas, as described in the box at right. Toward this end, the industry has set forth a six-point implementation plan:

• Use roadmaps to identify specific needs and attract resources.

• Leverage resources among all stakeholders through broad R&D partnerships.

• Recognize the continuing importance of ail forms of R&D efforts conducted by aluminum companies either individually or with partners.

• Aggressively promote communications and outreach to highlight aluminum's sustainability and life-cycle benefits.

• Promote rapid deployment of efficient technologies.

• Strengthen the industry's education and work force by launching major educational initiatives to prepare and attract top students and to reach out to an increasingly diverse work force.

The purpose of this document is not to predict the future, but to look ahead and better understand the forces likely to affect the aluminum industry and its customers in the decades to come. In planning for the future, the industry increases its ability to respond successfully to emerging challenges and capitalize on new opportunities. By all indications, the aluminum industry is ideally situated to provide the material solutions that the world will need in the 21st century. This document provides the framework for future growth and encourages a variety of R&D approaches for ensuring a healthy and sustainable North American aluminum industry.

Organization: The Aluminum Association Inc.
Document Number: aa aiv
Publish Date: 2001-11-01
Page Count: 42
Available Languages: EN
DOD Adopted: NO
ANSI Approved: NO
Most Recent Revision: YES
Current Version: YES
Status: Active