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AlMn1Mg1 for beverage cans

Article · January 2006


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Juergen R. Hirsch
Hydro Aluminium


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“Virtual Fabrication of Aluminium Products" Wiley-VCH 2006 (ISBN: 3-527-31363-X)
chapter I-4

AlMn1Mg1 for Beverage Cans


Jürgen Hirsch, Hydro Aluminium Deutschland GmbH - R&D, D53014 Bonn, Germany

4.1 Product description

The production of the main body of the 2-piece beer & beverage cans from Aluminium sheet
is carried out in a sequence of drawing and ironing operations (as illustrated in fig. 1). In a
press operation, 12 to 14 circular blanks are stamped out in parallel from 0.25-0.30 mm thick
highly strain hardened, i.e. cold rolled sheet, followed by deep drawing into a cup. In a second
operation (the bodymaker), cup walls are further ironed down to appr. 0.1 mm thickness with
parallel forming of the can's base. Top trimming the can to length is then followed by
chemical washing. The can body is given its final design by a sequence of internal and
external coating plus printing, to be finalized by a necking and flanging operation.

The can end (lid) is produced separately in a sequency of high-speed stamping and forming
operations, from circular blanks of cold rolled and coil-coated sheet. Up to 28 blanks are
stamped out in parallel from up to 1,800 mm wide coils.

Fig. 1: Drawn and wall ironed “DWI” cans

4.2 Material requirements :

The material must provide an optimum combination of strength and sufficient forming
properties. For Aluminium strength is achieved by the combination of appropriate alloy
addition for best solid solution hardening (e.g. by Mg and Mn) and pre-deformation (i.e.
highly rolled sheet). Furthermore strength must remain suficiently high also after the
subsequent paint baking cycles.
Good formability is achieved by an optimum combination of alloy additions for good work
hardening (Mg) with some particle strengthening effects (Mn). The latter also maintains
homogeneous deformation and even provides a cleaning effect of the dies, preventing harmful
oxid build up and galling. Both parts are laqured, can body after the forming operation in the
customars facilities, while the can lid material is coated already in the sheet production route
immediately after cold rolling.

While the body can also be produced from (tin plated) steel sheet, the lid Aluminium alloy
cannot be replaced due to the corrosion requirements. Aluminum sheet provides this property
after cutting in the easy-open lines for the tear-off lid part by the stamping/cuting tools.

4.3 Aluminium Alloys used and chemical compositions

The common aluminium alloys used for the production of can bodies are AlMg1Mn1 = EN-
AW 3004 and AlMg1Mn1(Cu) = EN-AW 3104, which meet best the requirements for can
strength and formability. Continuous efforts to increase strength for further materials savings
by downgauging lead to the additions of small amounts of Cu (up to appr. 0.2 %). Typical
alloy compositions for can body stock are listed in table 1.

Table 1 Chemical compositions of AlMg1Mn1 alloys for canbody production (wt. % )

Alloy NR. Si Fe Cu Mn Mg Cr Zn Ti
EN-AW 3004 0.30 0.70 0.25 1.0 – 1.5 0.8-1.3 - 0.25 -
EN-AW 3004A 0.40 0.70 0.25 0.8 – 1.5 0.8-1.5 0.10 0.25 0.05
EN-AW 3104 0.60 0.80 0.05-0.25 0.8-1.4 0.8-1.3 - 0.25 0.10
EN-AW 3204 0.30 0.70 0.10-0.25 0.8-1.5 0.8-1.5 - 0.25 -

For can end (lid) products high strength AlMg4.5Mn = EN-AW 5182 sheet is used, one of the
hardest but still good formable non-heat treatable (solid solution strengthened) Al Alloys (see
chapter EN-AW 5182 – Automobile sheet).

4.5 Quality parameters :

The two main requirements for AlMg1Mn1 can body sheet are (table 2) :
Sufficiently high strength and formability (incl. limited earing). They are defined as follows :
High strength is needed to achieve sufficient structural stability (incl. after paint-baking) and
avoid buckling of the can base (dome reversal) under high internal pressure, also for the very
thin canwall of < 0.1mm after ironing! The increase in yield strength Rp0,2 is achieved in can
body sheet by cold rolling. This is illustrated in fig. 3 a showing the evolution of yield
strength as measured after cold rolling on a laboratory mill, starting from differently
recrystallized hot strip material. It shows the reduction range required to reach sufficiently
high strength.

Good Formability is required as the material undergoes heavy forming operations (fig.1).
Anisotropic material flow due to the texture of the sheet - controlled by balancing the hot strip
cube and cold rolling texture - always forms an uneven rim of the can (and in laboratory
tested cups, see fig. 2) during the deep drawing and ironing operations. Highly uneven cup
rims are detrimental for transport of the can bodies or affect the whole process when ears are
stretched and clipped off during ironing, leading to machine down time, reducing efficiency.
a) Deep drawing operation and cup with uneven rim

b) Cup rim profiles ∆h measured on laboratory and plant deep drawn cups

Fig. 2 Deep drawing of cylindrical cups and typical earing characteristics

For quality control an earing level Z is defined (DIN/EN) as :

Z = (average ears - average troughs) / average troughs

It must be noted that the definition of %Z is not unambiguous since it depends on the number
of ears included in the definition which can vary from four to eight /2,3/. The development of
%Z (all related to four ears, i.e. highest possible values) with increasing cold rolling reduction
is plotted in fig. 3b in the form of positive numbers for 0°/90° ears and negative ones for 45°
ears. This plot illustrates the early decrease of the (positive) 0°/90° ears with increasing strain
and the strong increase in 45° (negative) ears at high rolling reductions.
Fig. 3) Effect of cold rolling strain [%] on a) yield strength and b) % earing Z

In this definition there is no zero %Z value but a change of signs (dashed) at a level of
approx.. ± 2 % Z when the 45° (negative) ears overtake the (positive) 0°/90° ears at medium
rolling reductions. This shift occurs at higher cold rolling reduction for higher initial positive
0°/90° ears. Lower (45°) earing occurs at high rolling reductions when a sufficiently strong
cube texture was present in the starting materiel, i.e. in the hot rolled strip.
Table 2) Typical material / customer specifications :

1. Hot rolled coils

Gauge 2-3 mm +/- 0,20
Strip profile < 1%
Strip Width 1200-2000 mm

2. Cold rolled coils

Gauge 0,25 - 0,35 mm , ± 5,0 µm
Strip Flatness < 0,8% (Wave Height / Wave Length), Wave Height < 4mm
Lateral Bow < 1mm on 2.000 mm coil length
Strip Width up to 1.850 mm
Coil weight up to 6.0 kg/mm coil width (400-1.800 i/o diameter coils)
Surface mill finish with oiled surface layer of 100 to 200 mg/m2
Yield strength YS (Rp0,2) ≥ 260 MPa,
Ultimate tensile strength UTS (Rm) 280 – 335 MPa
Elongation A50 ≥ 2%
Earing level Z ≤ 6% (DIN/EN 50155)

4.6 Production route and process details

The conventional fabrication route for can body sheet production is illustrated in Fig. 4 a. It
consists of DC casting large ingots (600mm x 1200 to 1700mm x 4000 to 9000mm), a two
step pre-annealing (up to ca. 600°C), break-down reversing hot rolling (at ca. 500°C) to ca.
20-40mm transfer slab gauge, tandem hot rolling to ca. 3mm with exit speed up to 5-8 m/sec
and exit (coiling) at temperatures > 300°C. The final cold rolling – usually without inter-
annealing – achieves a high strength state (EN def. 'H19' > ca. 260 MPa) in the finish gauge
sheet of < 0.3mm thickness.

casting pre-heating
pre-heating hot
rolling cold

Fig. 4) Process chain for EN-AW 3104 can body sheet processing
Table 3 : Process steps and metallurgical parameters in can body sheet production

process step: DC-cast pre- hot-rolling coil- Cold-rolling

annealing annealing
process – alloy- schedule: time and Rolling
parameters : elements time and rolling steps temperature reduction,
ingot size temperature and speed, speed and
casting speed temperature, temperature
and inter-stand
temperature time
Metallurgical alloy solid solution hot deformed recrystallized Deformation
parameters / distribution, reforming of recrystallized structure and structure /
related constituent constituents, structure and texture/ strength,
properties : particles, precipitating texture / strength, formability,
solid solution dispersoids / strength , formability, anisotropy
thermal formability, anisotropy (earing),
stability anisotropy surface

Figs. 5 to 7 show the corresponding development of typical microstructures (i.e. grain

structures, second phase particles and textures) and table 3 lists the main processing steps and
process and metallurgical parameters with corresponding properties for can body sheet

4.6.1) DC-Ingot casting

The microstructure of large DC cast ingots consists of coarse grains with a typical dendrite
cell structure (fig.5a) and a random texture (fig.7a). The initial DC-cast microstructure
contains coarse (10 to 50µm) and inhomogeneously distributed precipitates (Al(Fe,Mn)Si
'constituent particles' (fig.6a)).

4.6.2) Homogenization

Additionally fine (<0.5 µm) dispersoids are precipitated during pre-annealing. Control of
these particles is important since they affect recrystallization, grain size and texture during
sheet production. They also influence surface appearance and tool cleaning behaviour in the
can production process.

Preheating of ingots to hot rolling temperature is carried out by a two-step high temperature
treatment (up to 600°C). It is accompanied by characteristic changes of the solute content and
the precipitation microstructure (formed by Mn, Fe, Si alloy additions and impurities present
fig.6a) It levels out local concentration gradients, leads to partial dissolutioning and re-
forming of constituent particles and mainly to precipitation and coarsening of very fine
dispersoids, incl. some changes in constitution (from β-Al6(Mn,Fe) to α-Al15(Mn,Fe)3Si2 ).

4.6.3) Hot rolling

Hot rolling parameters determine the main properties, also of the finish gauge sheet
(especially if inter-annealing is omitted). The hot strip thickness determines the final cold
rolling reduction and its microstructure (recrystallization state and texture) determines the
finish gauge strength and earing level.
During hot rolling at temperatures ≥ 500°C a new (recrystallized) grain structure is formed
(fig.5b). All particles are aligned and homogeneously distributed during the rolling process
(Fig. 6b,c). If hot rolling is carried out on multi-stand (3-4) hot rolling lines and complete
recrystallization can take place using the hot rolling heat (called self annealing) a strong cube
texture forms in the coiled hot strip (fig. 7b). During deep drawing it generates four 0°/90°
ears which are needed to balance the four 45° ears developed during cold rolling. The slow
rotation of Cube oriented grains towards the stable ß-fiber (around the rolling direction via the
Goss orientation [3]) and the mixture of both texture components efficiently balances these
opposite effects as illustrated in fig.2b.

Insufficient recrystallization at too low temperatures leads to a (hot) rolling texture with
unacceptable high 45° earing characteristics, further enhanced after cold rolling to 'H19'
condition. Complete self annealing is reached for sufficiently high coiling temperatures
(≥320°C). Otherwise additional hot band annealing or inter-annealing treatments must be
applied. However, at too low temperatures particle stimulated nucleation (‘PSN’) can affect
cube texture formation and reduce the required 0°/90° hot strip earing level!

5a) b) c)

6a) b) c)

7a) b) c)
Figs. 5 – 7 a-c) Microstructure evolution in EN-AW 3104 can body sheet processing
Figure 5) grain structure, Figure 6) precipitation structure, Figure 7) texture {111} polefigures
a) as-cast and homogenized, b) tandem - hot rolled (self annealed) c) cold roled finish gauge
4.6.4) Cold rolling

By cold rolling the final material properties are reached. As illustrated in fig.3 for a 2,2 mm
hot strip a fully recrystallized microstructure with a sufficiently strong cube texture (with
0°/90° earing) meets the required strength ‘H19’ YS (Rp0,2) ≥ 260 MPa at a sufficient high
degree of strain hardening by a cold rolling reduction of >90% ( and a finished gauge
thickness < 0.3 mm).

For a partially recrystallized or unrecrystallized hot strip this level is reached sooner, but also
the earing characteristics change faster from a required positive (0°/90°) Z value to the
negative (45°) earing value, rapidly decreasing thus exceeding the limit of 5% at > 90%
rolling strain. This limit is reached too soon or even exceeded already in the initial state if an
unrecrystallized hot strip is produced /3/. Another factor affecting finish gauge strength is the
cold rolling temperature, which under specific conditions may reach temperatures > 150°C
and thus significantly reduce cold rolling strength. Here also the time in-between passes will
be of some importance!

4.6.5) Annealing / paint baking

Any further heat treatment affects final material properties and must therefore be integrated in
any complete description of final strength effective in the product application. In subsequent
paint bake annealing operations a certain decrease in strength is implied due to the recovery
processes involved. However, significant recovery also takes place in industrial cold rolling
when coiling temperatures ≥ 130°C can occur.

4.7 Simulation of Microstructure Evolution and Properties

By various hot and cold deformation tests details of the flow curves and microstructure
development can be analyzed and quantified. E.g. for hot deformation the amount of
recrystallization, grain size and texture as function of the four main thermo-mechanical
process parameters strain, strain rate, temperature and time are important /4/. The
microstructure models derived integrated into a computer program which simulates the
thermal and mechanical process parameters of hot and cold rolling mills is able to also predict
the corresponding development of microstructure and texture at any stage up to the final
properties /5/, which can be used to compare and design new rolling lines and equipment /6/.

Table 4 lists some of the known parameters that control the recrystallization behaviour and
affect microstructure and texture formation during hot rolling in canbody stock. Depending on
the alloy content, thermal and deformation history, a new recrystallization structure forms
with a strong cube texture during and after hot rolling. The cube texture strength in the final
hot strip depends on the number and the effective growth of existing cube nuclei which grow
in competition with other nuclei, in the grain interior, at grain boundaries and particles
('PSN'). These rival recrystallization mechanisms depend on the additions of alloy elements
and impurities (in solution and as 2nd phase particles and precipitation), the microstructure
evolution in the preceding processes and the actual process parameters (table 3). The resulting
intensity of the cube texture and the related 0°/90° earing value depends on the recrystallized
fraction in-between passes /5/ which can be predicted by simulation of the effect and
interaction of process parameters.
Table 4 Hot rolling parameters affecting recrystallization and cube texture formation:

Process rolling temperature Strain , strain rate time between

parameter [ Thr ] ϕ, dϕ /dt ]
[ϕ passes [tp]

Effect on high temperature Thr supports high ϕ and dϕ /dt long tp allows
microstructure recovery and recrystallization accelerates more
and properties recrystallization recrystallization

Positive Thr enhances recovery fewer / faster rolling tp enhances

Effects : reduces deformation stresses passes = reduced recovery
process time reduces
Thr induces recrystallization deformation
-> transforms coarse as-cast hot band heating = stresses
structure into a finer grain size raised temperatures
with strong cube texture and reduced losses

self-annealing produces enhanced structure

recrystallized microstructure transformation by
with strong cube texture recrystallization
(avoids hot band annealing)

Negative reduced cube texture Reduced recovery = enhanced inter-

Effects : strength higher deformation pass
by frequent recrystallization stresses recrystallization
in-between rolling passes, may = low cube
cause unbalanced earing Temperature raise strength
behaviour of finish gauge enhances interpass
sheet product recrystallization
= low cube strength


1. C.Wright Sheet Metal Industries Nov. (1965) p. 814

2. J.Hirsch, J.Hasenclever; in 'Aluminium Alloys', proceedings ICAA 3 , Trondheim /
Norway (1992) edited by Amberg Vol.2 p.3052.
3. J.Hirsch, proceedings ICOTOM 14 Leuven/Begium, ed. P.van Houtte, L. Kestens. Trans
Tech Publication (2005) p.1565-1572
4. J.Hirsch in 'Thermo-Mechanical Processing - Theory, Modelling, Practice [TMP2]'
The Swedish Society for Materials Technology, Stockholm/Sweden (1996) p.78
5. J.Hirsch , K.Karhausen, O.Engler „Property Control in the Production of Aluminium
Sheet by Use of Simulation” in "Continuum Scale Simulation of Engineering Materials,
Fundamentals-Microstructures-Process Applications" D.Raabe, (eds.) 2004, ISBN 3-
527-30760-5 - Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, . p.705-725
6. J.Hirsch, R. Grenz, “ Microstructure Control on an Aluminium Hot Reversing Finishing
Mill” in „Hot deformation of Al Alloys II“ ed. By T.Bieler TMS SYMP. ILLINOIS /
USA 1998 p. 305-316

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