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Story 143 – 1930 – Innovation Business model Processes

Pressure towards a light material

After 1933, Wieland entered the light metal production

In line with the self-sufficiency efforts of the Nazi regime, Wieland had to process more aluminium. Appropriate metallurgical processes were developed within a short time. A special continuous casting plant for light metals was built in Vöhringen – and new products opened up further business fields.

The light metal aluminium had been processed on the Voehringen extrusion presses since 1912, but only in negligible quantities. Even in the case of rolled aluminium, the proportion of deliveries in 1928 was still a modest 3.5 percent. But the light metal was becoming increasingly important because of its low weight, good formability and weather resistance. But what gave it a completely different significance at Wieland was the foreign trade policy of the Nazi rulers: They wanted to make Germany independent of imports – especially with regard to raw materials such as copper, zinc, tin and nickel. The four-year plans drawn up in Berlin contained clear guidelines in this respect.

The foundry laboratory set up in Voehringen in 1932 was immediately given a special department for light metal alloys, which soon operated in two shifts. In 1934, aluminium products – tubes and profiles, but also sheet metal – were added to the product range. For a long time, the aluminium profiles were processed on the same extrusion presses as the heavy metals, until the first continuous casting plant for light metal was built in 1937.

Extract catalogue 1934

A brochure from 1934 listed the areas of application for light metal tubes, including aircraft and shipbuilding, bodywork and carriage construction, but also exterior and interior design.

Extract catalogue

Even before the 2nd World War, Wieland offered a comprehensive range of light metal profiles. These were often used as architectural stylistic elements with high functionality.

Initially, pure aluminium was processed, mainly to produce cover frames and profiles for the automotive industry, as well as the self-developed, age-hardenable alloy AK 2 with a low copper and silicon content, and high-strength profiles with a silicon, manganese and magnesium content, which were mainly used for building profiles under the name "Ulmal". A similar composition was also found in "Ulminium", which was ideally suited for aircraft construction.

Advertising: A brochure showing the new Wieland administration building in Ulm, built in 1937 with an entrance area made of Wieland light metal profiles.

The great demand for light metal profiles – especially from the construction and aerospace industries – had important consequences for Wieland. Firstly, within a few years, the company acquired enormous additional competences in the field of light metal metallurgy and at the same time created future-oriented conversions and plant equipment. Secondly, the share of light metal products in the company's total sales already amounted to an enormous 40 per cent in 1937. Although the further expansion of light metal production was prohibited by the Nazi authorities (Voehringen was deemed to be too close to the border with the French enemy), Wieland succeeded in using aluminium to lay the basis for economic survival in the war and post-war period.