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Development of an innovative iron based cellular material -new manufacturing routes for porous structures

Final Report Summary - STEMACEL (Development of an innovative iron based cellular material - new manufacturing routes for porous structures)

The aim of the STEMACEL project was to demonstrate the feasibility of the casting route to obtain iron and steel foams. During two years of research and work, iron based metallic foams have been successfully produced by the melt-foaming route. The process developed is standard foundry process with no significantly additional operations costs except additional materials (foaming agents) and is easily adaptable to the common foundry process. Moreover the process is valid to produce any type of iron based material such steel or iron. In fact, samples, shaped samples and finally industrial demonstrators have been casted in several iron based materials like carbon steel, grey iron and ductile iron. Foaming iron or steel by the melt-foaming route process start with introducing foaming agent (0.3 - 0.6 wt %) into the mould. The foaming effect occurs when the liquid metal is directly poured into the mould, foaming agent releases gas by the effect of the liquid metal high temperature.

Partners worked also on a Fe-S-P alloy, and such metallic foams have been successfully produced by the melt-foaming route. The common foundry process has been used, with the addition of foaming agents, and so the cost, for the casting of cellular iron based material will be roughly similar to the full material, obtained in the identical conditions. During the whole project, samples, shaped samples and at last industrial demonstrators have been casted. One demonstrator is a 100 mm x 100 mm x 40 mm cast product, whose density varies from 5,3 g/cm3 to 6,4 g/cm3 (27 % of weight reduction compared to full material). The structural characterisation has been performed using micrographic examination and X-ray tomography. Two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) quantitative image analyses have been carried out to obtain information on the pores (size, distribution and morphology): the repartition of pores inside the cast foam is homogenous. Compression tests have been achieved on the demonstrators, and the results are good and promising.

The two years project work and close cooperative of SME and RTD participants delivered:
a. developed and industrially applicable process for production of shaped steel / iron foam parts by the powder metallurgical process route.
b. developed and industrially applicable process for production of shaped steel / iron foam parts by the melt foaming process route.
c. demonstration items showing the application of steel / iron foam in existing products of SME companies in Europe.
d. know-how on integrating iron foam parts into real-life products for performance improvement.
e. know-how transfer from RTD to SME partners.

Use and dissemination of the achievements in the STEMACEL project is structured into two main activity areas. First, the complete produced know how has been transferred to the SME partners. The SME partners use and disseminate this know how in improvement of their products. New market fields will be entered and the total market position of these European SMEs will be strengthened and extended. The SME partners decided to keep all product relevant achievements confidential.

Second goal of the project is spreading the publishable part of the project's achievements to the European Community to promote application of innovative steel / iron foam components in various products. Selected project results will be published in journal articles and by participation in scientific conferences etc. By promotion of steel / iron foam application the STEMACEL project will contribute to the European Commission's target of strengthening Europe's technology leadership in innovative material development and application.

At the beginning of the project the RTD partners (CTIF, IFAM, INASMET) introduced the unique property combination of cellular metals to the SME participants (Cellbond, Eisengiesserei Baumgarte, Haute Sambre, Lagun Artea, Urbina). Subsequently the consortium identified products for application of the newly developed steel / iron foam components. The metal foam's characteristic properties of reduced density, highly efficient energy absorption, good vibration damping, etc. shall be employed for improvement of SME participant's products. Chosen products for application of steel / iron foam components are:
- side frame of textile machine (steel / iron foam as permanent core in cast side frame for reduced weight and vibration, Eisengiesserei Baumgarte)
- roller (steel / iron foam as permanent core in cast roller for reduced weight and vibration, Lagun + Urbina)
- energy absorbing road barrier (steel / iron foam as energy absorber, Haute Sambre)
- energy absorber for transport industry (steel / iron foam as energy absorber, Cellbond).

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