SHAPE MEMORY ALLOYS The potential is almost as huge as the cost to capture it

Nov 01, 2007 | 10:48 AM |

With shape memory alloys (SMAs) being a relatively new field, few people can talk about their practical significance in the automotive sector, although some consultants have heard about them, including Erich Merkle, vice president of forecasting at automotive consultancy IRN Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich.

"The real benefit is weight savings, and anything that saves weight is important because fuel efficiency is becoming such a big issue and often times suppliers will say 'I can save weight here, but at what cost?' So if you can actually reduce cost and actually save weight, it shouldn't be a really tough sell to automakers if, in fact, that is true," Merkle said. "But it's still down the road. I don't know of it being in use anywhere. But if you can make a good value proposition in terms of weight savings and cost savings, it would make very good economic sense, especially if you can replace motors with this type of product."

There is always intense competition between materials, and manufacturers of the different materials have the ability to respond to market forces, Dennis DesRosiers, founder and president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc., Richmond Hill, Ontario, said. "Obviously, the growth of plastics has led to a significant response on a wide variety of fronts from metals. If you go back two decades, people were talking about the end of steel in vehicles as we knew them at the time, but steel content has continued to grow or at least hold its share. This (SMAs) is just another competitive response to a very competitive marketplace. Whether it works or doesn't work, I don't know, but nobody disappears."....

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