European commercial industries need the development of lighter components with improved characteristics and easy recyclability for the next future in order to develop more efficient products with reduced pollutant emmisions, at low cost. In this way, it is well known that Aluminium Matrix Composites have several potential applications in the automotive and railway industries, among other sectors, but the high price and difficult machining of commercial castable MMCs make impossible their commercial use to replace conventional materials (e.g. aluminium alloys or grey cast iron) so far. In this field, a new castable aluminium composite (called ALTIC ) made by the SHS process, and reinforced with small TiC particles, have been recently developed with success by an English company involved within this project. These new composites could make it possible to take advantage of MMCs (Metal Matrix Composites) at a considerably lower cost, estimated to be only 1.2 times the price of conventional aluminium alloys in comparison with the higher cost of typical commercial MMCs (around 3 times and 2.6 times the price of aluminium alloys and ALTIC composites, respectively). Moreover, and according to previous results, their properties are as attractive as those shown by other commercial castable MMCs (e.g. Duralcan or Norks Hydro composites) and the difficulties as well as the cost due to their machining is markedly reduced since smaller average size particles are used (0.5 2 ,um in comparison with the 20 um particles employed for the Norks Hydro composites, for example). Taking into account this scenario, the main aim of this project is to validate the suitability of ALTIC composites for the production of competitive high performance commercial components to replace conventional materials. For this purpose, suitable casting guidelines will be first established for the later optimization of the production process of ALTIC components by means of two high productivity foundry techniques: Gravity Casting and High Pressure Die Casting. Three different types of components of interest for the SMEs involved (car and motorcycle pistons, a railway ventilated brake disc as well as a automotive cluth disc) will be then manufactured and tested in service conditions in order to prove the improvements of ALTIC composites and the wide range of their possibilities at a reasonable final cost. Besides, different R&D actvities are planned to optimize ALTIC materials, according to the requirements of a given application, and to learn how to design specific suitable molds, taking into account the own different characteristics shown by ALTIC composites. The use of ALTIC composites in the automotive and railway industries will allow to take advantage of competitive lighter components (saving weight of 50% over cast iron) with improved properties (e.g. better mechanical properties at high temperatures, and specially better wear behaviour, among other interesting advantages). The final cost will not be higher than 1.2 times the price of the same aluminium component. In the particular case of the automotive components considered, ALTIC composites will allow to have higher efficiency engines with reduced pollutant emmisions and increased service life. In the case of the railway component, it will be also possible to increase the service life of the component (20%), reduced the total weight of the train (30.000 Kg saving weight in case all the grey cast iron brake discs of the train would be replaced) and so, an important energy saving too. Finally, the technology considered could also open up an important market of applications for aluminium alloys, since components which are not presently feasible due to their low mechanical or wear properties when compared with steel or cast iron, could be produced with the ALTIC composites. The consortium comprises three aluminium foundries specialized in Gravity Casting and High Pressure Die Casting, one company with a large expertise in the manufacturing of molds for different casting processes, a motorcycle maker, one of the leading producers of materials for the world's metals industry, which supplies the ALTIC material, two worldwide automotive companies and finally, a R&D centre with large experience in the development of MMCs. The Brite Euram areas covered by this proposal are: Area 2 (2.1.1.S. 2.1.2.S. 2.1.3.S. and 2.1.2.M.).
Funding SchemeCRS - Cooperative research contracts
20009 San Sebastian