A metals industry group is exploring lightweight ferrous products as an alternative to more expensive materials in the quest for cutting weight from trucks and other transport vehicles, says Grede Holdings, an iron castings supplier that’s involved in the project.

Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, or LIFT, is focused on thin wall ferrous castings and how to manufacture them, said Jay Solomond, vice president, engineering and technology, at Grede. He will head the LIFT project for the next two years.

“In certain cases, alternate materials have been used to lightweight but they are more expensive and may not perform as well as ductile iron castings," he said. “In reality, though, thin wall ductile iron components and high strength iron chemistries are a better solution for customers while maintaining the higher performance of ductile iron and improving cost."

LIFT is a federal government consortium of businesses and universities, in this case including experts from other leading companies, organizations and universities. Included are Eaton, Comau, the American Foundry Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Michigan Technological University.

They will collaborate to identify manufacturing barriers and the solutions necessary to achieve volume production thin wall castings. They also will produce samples of lightweight alternatives to prove feasibility. 

LIFT addresses the requirements of the U.S. government’s Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation (LM3I) project, bringing together a 60-member group that pairs leading aluminum, titanium, iron and high-strength steel manufacturers with universities and laboratories pioneering new technology development and research.

The long-term goal of the LM3I Institute is to expand the market for and create new consumers of products and systems that use new, lightweight, high-performing metals and alloys by removing technological barriers and bring these solutions to the marketplace.