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Toyota, UBC to refine wheel casting process

Published by Steve Coleman on August 30, 2011

Toyota and the University of British Columbia plan to retool the way the carmaker rolls out its aluminum wheels.

The Japanese automaker plans to spend $1.7 million refining the process behind water-cooled die casting, a step up from current air-cooled technology.

"This isn't about re-inventing the wheel, it's about re-inventing the process to make the wheel to drive down manufacturing costs," says Steve Cockcroft, a professor of materials engineering.

The $727,000 contribution from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), combined with another $1 million from Toyota will help establish the technology the company plans to use at its Canadian Autoparts Toyota Inc. (CAPTIN) plant in Delta, B.C. The manufacturing site currently employs 250 people and is capable of turning out 1.7 million wheels annually.

Besides finding a way to use less aluminum to make every wheel, the process should make the final product stronger, Toyota says. One of the goals is to find a way to eliminate the air bubbles and other imperfections that are often part of the casting process.

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