ALFED Position Paper: The Vital Role of Aluminium During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The aluminium sector generates £10 billion annually for the UK economy and employs more than 20,000 people nationwide. It plays a vital role in the supply chains of markets essential to managing the COVID-19 crisis, including medical device manufacture, electricity transmission, building materials and packaging. As a result, it is a sector of national significance during this pandemic – and aluminium sector operations must therefore continue in a safe yet productive manner.

Read more: ALFED Position Paper: The Vital Role of Aluminium During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Read more: ALFED COVID-19 position paper cover letter


Dissimilar laser welding of aluminium and copper alloys

TWI worked for its members to solve the technical problems of joining aluminium to copper using laser welding technology. An increasing number of enquiries over the past two years from members asking for support in this area led to the successful development of a high-speed laser-technology-based solution.

An increase in manufacturing demand in the automotive industry, for example, for products with high capacity battery cells is leading to interest in the technical solutions. High capacity battery cells use aluminium and copper, as the anode and cathode terminals respectively, to improve electric current flow and boost a vehicle’s performance. Existing electrical connection joining technologies, such as ultrasonic welding and the use of direct conductive adhesives, are deemed too slow for the high demand in a manufacturing situation.

Laser welding is considered an attractive process to industry due to its high processing speed and highly repeatable, fully automated, process. However, laser welding of copper to aluminium presents several challenges. Because of the high surface reflectivity and thermal conductivity of copper, and the poor miscibility of aluminium and copper, keyhole instability and brittle intermetallic formation are common issues found when laser welding these metals. Read more: TWI.


ALFED UK/EU Trade Negotiations Position Paper

The aluminium sector generates £10 billion annually for the UK economy and employs more than 20,000 people nationwide. It plays a vital role in the supply chains of key high-value sectors – transport (aerospace, automotive and rail) and construction – as well as mass markets for packaging. It’s therefore a sector of profound national significance, in terms of exports and infrastructure.

As a lightweight and highly recyclable material, aluminium is a key contributor to the low-carbon economy. Its role will continue to expand, from replacing single-use plastics to supporting more sustainable transport. The aluminium industrial sector leads the circular economy, adding value to the up- and down-stream UK supply chain. The emphasis on reuse and recycling is key to HMG’s green growth strategy and carbon neutral vision.

The Aluminium Federation recognises the Government’s ambitions for trade deals with the EU, US and other countries. Here we summarise the priorities for the aluminium industry:

  • It’s essential that future trade agreements create an environment that fosters aluminium industry growth over the short, medium and long term. Anything else would be devastating to the many areas of UK manufacturing that rely on access to quality, price-competitive aluminium in their supply chain
  • We need a preferential trade agreement with the EU ensuring 0% tariffs – Europe is a high-value market for UK aluminium, one that cannot and should not be replaced
  • Rules of Origin must be framed to enable tariff-free access for aluminium products at all stages of manufacture. Negotiations should focus on the conversion process qualification rather than value content percentage, adding value to key sectors (auto, transport, aero, construction, recycling) and sustainability objectives
  • It’s critical that UK aluminium’s collaboration with European and international counterparts continue. There’s a long history of cooperation and knowledge sharing, which delivers wide economic benefits
  • Trade deals with other countries should ensure fair access for UK producers, and the UK should be prepared to use remedies and safeguards to ensure security of supply and protect against dumping
  • To be cost-competitive, UK producers need greater industrial investment to drive quality and productivity improvements – these gains are essential to Government ambitions for the low-carbon economy
  • We recommend amending UK versions of regulations such as IED and REACH to be less onerous. This will be vital in realising the Government’s ambitions for an all-electric economy. It will also help with planning and supporting the manufacturing sector where house building encroaches on existing production plants, perhaps through the introduction of industrial zones
  • We recommend provision for short-term movement of people without visas. We welcome HMG’s ongoing engagement with stakeholders on new immigration frameworks

Read more: ALFED UK/EU Trade Negoitations Position Paper – February 2020