Dr. Karin Exner-Wöhrer, CEO der Salzburger Aluminium Group (Copyright: SAG)
Last year brought an extremely positive result for the Salzburger Aluminium Group. Despite difficult conditions caused by the pandemic, supply chain problems, the semiconductor crisis and the resulting production stoppages at OEMs, a significant jump in turnover was achieved in 2021. Group sales rose by more than 35 percent to EUR 207 million, the EBIT margin to seven percent. This is because the demand for SAG fuel tanks for trucks is unbroken and more and more OEMs - especially in the field of e-mobility - are relying on customized aluminum castings made by SAG, which are manufactured in Lend using the perfected rheocasting process. There is also great market potential in SAG cryogenic tank technology. Behind this is the technically complex development of special storage solutions for liquid hydrogen, which will enter the prototype phase this year and will be offered as a series product from 2027. In addition, SAG is becoming increasingly involved in the area of green mobility: for example, lightweight components for cargo e-bikes are being developed and sold at SAG Netherlands and special Rheocastings axles for skateboards are being developed and sold in Sweden.
"One way to get through difficult times well is not to stand still, but to get creative and dare to try something new. That has always worked well for us. The entire SAG team excelled in this again in 2021," says CEO Karin Exner-Wöhrer, revealing a recipe for success that has already brought the Salzburger Aluminium Group well through several global economic crises.
"Thanks to high flexibility and strong innovative power of our entire team, we have used the last two years to develop new ideas. We have invested in digitalization and technical equipment at our sites. We have sharpened the focus on sustainable processes and products. And we entered the market with completely new product lines in the field of green mobility. We have pushed ahead with R&D projects. The truck market is still our main market and will remain so for still a long time - also thanks to the cryo tank systems for LNG and hydrogen that we are developping. But at the same time, we are seeing a rapid increase in demand for our customised lightweight components from many other industries, such as rail, aviation or telecoms. You could say that we are increasingly establishing ourselves as a solution provider for all industries where weight reduction is an important advantage in overall performance. So 2022 is also dedicated to further product development and diversification."
CO2 reduction through SAG rheocasting components
With rheocasting technology, SAG has created the possibility to mass-produce highly stressable and weldable aluminum parts "near net shape" (i.e. free of post-processing). The special casting process perfected by SAG gives the parts steel-like properties, but they weigh around 60 % less than steel solutions. This is an advantage that leads to a reduction in fuel consumption and an increase in the range of e-vehicles, for example, and is appreciated by more and more OEMs in vehicle construction.
Future is now: first cryo tank system for liquid hydrogen for trucks
The storage of hydrogen - especially in liquid form - poses a number of technical challenges. A particular one is the extremely low temperature of minus 250 degrees Celsius at which liquid hydrogen must be stored. This and also the requirements for the size and weight of the tank system require technical excellence on the part of the SAG engineers. After several test phases, the development of the SAG cryo-tank system has already reached the point where prototyping will start this year and test operations will then commence. Based on the results obtained, the LH2 cryo tank made by SAG will go into series production from 2027.
Green Mobility as a new business segment
New to SAG's product range are lightweight components for green mobility. For example, components for cargo e-bikes will be produced at the site in the Netherlands from mid-2021. At SAG in Sweden, special axles for skateboards made of rheocasting aluminium are developed and sold.
SAG: Global player with a local footprint in nine countries and at 12 locations
The Salzburger Aluminium Group is an Austrian family business with 1100 employees worldwide at 12 locations in Europe, Mexico, the USA and Canada. The headquarters of the company, which goes back to Salzburger Aluminium founded in 1898, is in Lend/Salzburg. Other SAG locations in Austria are Schwarzach/Pongau and Vienna. SAG has subsidiaries in Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, Mexico, the USA and Canada. As the market leader for aluminum tanks for trucks, SAG is a global supplier to all well-known OEMs. Other products include lightweight components, air reservoirs, compressed air tanks and special components for the commercial vehicle, railway and special vehicle industries. The company is the technology leader in the field of cryogenic tanks for LNG & LH2 (liquid natural gas & liquid hydrogen) and was the first company to bring rheocasting (special casting process for aluminum components) to series maturity. The export quota is over 90 percent. The company supplies major truck and car manufacturers as well as OEMs in the rail and special vehicles sectors. The turnover of the entire group of companies in 2020 was around 155 million euros.
As part of the GreenTech Awards 2020/21, SAG was awarded a special prize as "Leading Innovator". The reason for this is the company's numerous patents for innovations that make a significant contribution to climate protection.