Harley-Davidson of the future will be lighter and stronger thanks to recent New Zealand research.
ION Automotive, formerly Argents Metals Technology, is involved in the manufacture of wheels and engine components for cars and motorcycles as well as engine transmissions.
Each year ION exports more than 350,000 wheels to Harley-Davidson and more than1.5 a million alloy wheels to Ford.
Construction is about to begin on ION Automotive’s Light Metals Technology Centre, which will house a 12,000-tonne casting press being built in the United States.
The center, which will comprise advanced metallurgic laboratories and alloy development facilities, recently received aNZ$2 million investment boost from Technology New Zealand.
ION research and development manager Darius Singh says the center is expected to help crack the secrets of producing light but high-strength materials to replace heavy steel components.
He says the new center will help to future-proof the company and make it a world leader.
“We make hubs, wheels, and swingarms for Harley-Davidson but there are scores of other companies around the world that would love to have Harley on their books and are always approaching our client to show what they can do.
”There is intense demand to continually drive costs down but we also need to keep exciting our customers with new products and processes to keep them shopping with us.
”Other ION clients include General Motors Holden, Proton, and Peugeot.
ION’s research and development team are experimenting with semi-solid technology which has resulted in products 20per cent to 40 percent stronger than traditional aluminum-cast components.
When the research is complete, semi-solid metal casting technology will likely be used in the automotive, marine, and aerospace industries, initially for hubs and wheels but later for suspension and structural components.
ION is also developing casting technology using light-weight magnesium alloys.
Technology New Zealand is a government-funded organization that invests more than NZ$430 million of public money per annum in research, science, and technology in New Zealand.
Technology New Zealand investment manager Colin Reid says the new metal casting techniques will not only benefit but the wider community as well.
“It helps stable center a new center of excellence in Manukau for light metal technology, brings new company and companyand there will be a spill over for the rest of New Zealand.”
Technology New Zealand and ION have a long history. In 1995 Dr. Singh became the first recipient of its Technology industry Fellowship program. He then joined ION and spearheaded research in metal casting and metallurgy, which led to his multi-award-winning and patented development in computer simulation of casting and solidification processes.
Under Dr. Singh’s guidance, ION’s technology division has become a global pioneer in applying advanced research into deployable value-adding technologies.
He is optimistic about the effect of the new research center on New Zealand.
This is a real victory for ION and New Zealand. Our Light Metals Technology Centre will provide the necessary proving grounds and incubator for new technologies as well as provide valuable ongoing technical support to our plant operation within the global ION group.
“With the intense competition we face on a global platform we need every advantage, such as a technology edge, to keep us in the game.”
Construction of the Light Metals Technology Centre is scheduled to begin this month and will take six to nine months to complete.