After initially struggling with figuring out how to bond aluminum and steel without encountering corrosion issues, Honda has announced that it will be incorporating aluminum into door panels in its models.
In an effort to lower the overall weight of its vehicles to increase fuel efficiency, Honda revealed that it is using a revolutionary new "3-D lock seam" weld that allows them to bond steel and aluminum in the door panels by folding the seam back over and hemming it twice. The automobile manufacturer has been making an effort to use aluminum, which is significantly lighter than steel, in as many instances as it can in new models. According to Honda, the inclusion of aluminum in the production of door panels will lower the weight of the component by 17 percent. The first car to feature this new element will be the North American version of the Acura RLX.
Honda's struggles with the process are no different from any manufacturer that attempts to incorporate methods for joining dissimilar metals into its production process, with common problems including corrosion and attempting to deal with how two different metals handle temperature changes. The latter issue is why thermal management technologies are so important in any production process, so as to deal with the different expansion and retraction rates in the metals, a process that can wreak havoc on any bonding method.
Companies such as S-Bond will be instrumental in the effort to incorporate lighter metals such as aluminum into vehicles without sacrificing the strength and stability that steel provides in a car's frame, but not just in doors. So while Honda appears to have succeeded in figuring out how to bond aluminum in this one particular instance, a bevy of challenges remain for companies attempting to find uses and methods of joining dissimilar metals.