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Alcoa says it is reinventing the wheel ... again

Merrick Murphy, vice president and general manager, Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products, said Alcoa has been responsible for over 85 percent of the commercial aluminum alloys in use today.

By CLIFF ABBOTT
The Trucker Staff

10/20/2013

ORLANDO, Fla. — It can be difficult to generate excitement about a product as mundane as a wheel rim, but Alcoa Wheels did just that at the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Fla. The company introduced its new aluminum alloy, MagnaForce™, with the byline: “the commercial vehicle wheel reinvented – again.” The new alloy is a material Alcoa claims is 16.5 percent stronger than the current industry standard, also made by Alcoa, with no loss in durability.

The current standard is, not coincidentally, also an Alcoa product. Currently, most forged aluminum wheels are manufactured using Alcoa’s 6061 alloy composition, which the company introduced in 1968.

The 6061 alloy wasn’t the first aluminum rim innovation from Alcoa. The company introduced the first forged aluminum wheels in 1948, followed by one-piece rims for tubeless tires in 1957. Alcoa’s Dura-Bright® corrosion resistance product followed in 2001 with the addition of “XBR™” technology. In 2009, the company introduced the LvL ONE wheel, touting its 45 lb. weight.

In fact, according to Merrick Murphy, vice president and general manager, Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products, Alcoa has been responsible for over 85 percent of the commercial aluminum alloys in use today.

The 6061 alloy dominated the forged aluminum wheel industry for 45 years, but the new MagnaForce product may well become the new standard.

Murphy stated the MagnaForce alloy will be used to manufacture wheels that are lighter and stronger than the 6061 alloy currently in use.

In a press release issued at the presentation, Tim Myers, president, Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products, said: “No manufacturer has produced a wheel with an alloy superior to Alcoa’s 6061 material. Our MagnaForce alloy today opens the door to production of the strongest, lightest wheels to increase fleet payload, improve fuel efficiency and enhance sustainability.”

The four-digit, 6061 designator is assigned by the Aluminum Association®, a trade organization that registers and publishes specifications describing the composition, mechanical properties and nomenclature of aluminum alloys in the United States. The MagnaForce product will eventually receive its own numeric designator.

The new material opens the door for lighter weight wheels at increased strength with the same corrosion-resistant characteristics as rims manufactured with the 6061 alloy. The company plans to introduce a new, state of the art line of wheels in early 2014.