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Improvements for a cost-effective volume production of advanced aluminum

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ImpAl (Improvements for a cost-effective volume production of advanced aluminum)

Reporting period: 2016-07-01 to 2017-11-30

Improvements for a cost-effective volume production of advanced aluminum (ImpAl) .The ImpAl project focuses on a group of advanced aluminum materials, PLM-Al, which have been developed by Powder Light Metals GmbH (PLM) since 2000. PLM-Al exhibits significantly better property combinations in terms of strength, weight, thermal conductivity and thermal expansion than alternative materials such as steel, titanium alloys or conventional aluminum. As a consequence, these traditional materials could be replaced by PLM-Al in a wide range of applications, while generating performance gains at the same time. These advantages of PLM-Al are generated through a special nano-crystalline material structure, which is the result of a sophisticated alloying technique and an advanced production technology.

At the start of the project, however, the advantages of PLM-Al could only be realized for a limited number of high performance applications because the production capacity was too low and (in consequence) the production costs were too high for a wider market penetration. Therefore, the ImpAl project aimed at expanding the production capacity for PLM-Al while reducing costs by 30-40%.
The project has ended by end of November 2017.
In short summary, the following results have been achieved:

The melt spinning process has been improved in several directions:
- Increased flow rate for large volume production by multi orifice draining nozzles.
- Successful application of reusable nozzles, providing stable and constant flow rates.
- Product cost improvements based on economy of scale.

Property improvements for binary AlSi alloys by advanced processing
- Alloys with up to 60 % by weight of Si are now available on volume production scale.
- All alloys exhibit consistent properties and quality on a superior level.
- Block sizes of up to 400 kg per piece have been produced successfully.
- Block sizes of up to 800 kg per piece will be available from Q4/2018.

Machining parameters
- Parameters for cutting, milling and sawing of AlSi alloys have been evaluated.
- Appropriate cutting tools have been selected for precision machining.
- Commercially availyble tools with coating for improved wear resistance have been tested.
- Based on that, any size (small, medium, large) and very complex shapes are available
- PLM is prepared to share these results with customers (requires NDA).

Recycling of processing scrap
- High value processing scrap can be recycled successfully on different stages:
- Specially machining chips could be re-introduced into the production process directly.
- Results exhibit strong cost savings and less consumption of resources.
- An environment-friendly coolant for cutting / machining has been introduced.

As a consequence of the project, PLM can offer an extended product portfolio with added value for both PLM’s customers and for own purposes.
As indicated in the above summary of results achieved, the project activities were completed succesfully and represent a significant progress beyond the state-of-the-art, concerning the achieved material composition and properties as well as the improved production process for the material itself and the subsequent machining into components. The achieved results enabled PLM to lower the production costs by up to 30% and to widen its product portfolio to include new materials, intermediate products and new types of components with more complex geometries. As a result PLM was succesful in acquiring a number of new clients and will be able to significantly increase its production volume in 2018. The European clients of PLM in e.g. the chemical, electronics, aviation, space and nucelar safety sectors benefit from the results of ImpAl through receiving advanced aluminium materials with superior properties that either enable certain functionalities for the first time or are more cost-efficient than alternative materials.