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Story 179 – 1936 – Innovation Quality Business model

The short history of aluminium rolling

Light metal sheet and strip remain an intermezzo

Aluminium was included in Wieland's programme under pressure from the NS regime. Although considerable innovations were achieved and light metal products continued to play an important role after 1945, Wieland turned its back on the material after four decades for logistical reasons.

As in the case of extruded profiles, it was also in the case of sheet and strip that the Nazi economic policies led to the introduction of light metal materials. In 1936, the first four-year plan was adopted, its goal: to make Germany independent of raw material imports and ready for war by 1940.

In the same year Wieland added semi-finished products made of aluminium alloys to its production programme, in the sheet and strip sector initially for the production of household articles and for capacitor strips. It soon became clear that aluminium alloys required a much higher production effort than copper materials; the time from melting down to the finished sheet was almost twice as long. What's more, mixing of the materials was to be avoided at all costs; even the smallest brass particles could damage the aluminium surfaces. This required enormous logistical efforts.

This was especially evident when Wieland produced large quantities of aluminium alloys such as Ulmal or Ulminium for the aircraft industry. Sheets made of these magnesium-containing materials were the main focus of rolling production during the war years. Between 1936 and 1944, the output of all light metal rolled products rose from 1,200 to a remarkable 5,400 tonnes per year.

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Strip and sheets

Extract catalogue 1936

Pans and fruit cauldrons were among Wieland's first aluminium products. The 1936 brochure assured that they were just as durable as the proven Wieland brass pans.

Extract catalogue 1950

In the 1950s, light metal venetian blind tapes developed into an important product. They were available in three dimensions and in numerous coloured finishes.

Even after the Second World War, light metal sheets – and increasingly also strip - played an important role. As before the war, a lack of supply of heavy metals and market demand made household items and capacitor strips sought-after products. Aluminium sheets for the aircraft industry soon ceased to play a role, but optical and reflective strip for the automotive industry did.

After the currency reform in 1948 and the upswing in the construction industry, a further product area opened up: venetian blind strips made of light metal. Venetian blinds made of special Wicoflex strips from Wieland contributed to the natural air-conditioning of the German pavilions at the Brussels World Exposition in 1958. Three years later production reached its peak with 147 tonnes per month.

Then overcapacities developed in Germany and new competitors directly connected to the smelters achieved enormous cost advantages for light metal flat products. In 1967, Wieland stopped producing aluminium sheet and wide strip, and from 1972, the narrower light metal strips also became history.