Saturday, December 26, 2015

Aerospace 2016

Well, Christmas over and it is on to a new year. However, some things of the past are reluctant to leave us. In this case Aerospace is a good example. Way back, over 30 years ago, I was directed to develop the first powder metallurgy superalloys that had less than 100 ppm oxygen surface contamination. We were sucessful in introducing a powder form of Udimet 700 and B1900 that satisfied this criteria. As far as I know, these compositions are still the alloys of choice for turbine wheels. What this says is that it has been a long time since there has been meaningful improvement for alloys designated for aerospace applications. Yet the wish is to fly higher and faster in both commercial and space requirements. The current nickel and cobalt base superalloys will not permit this because of  surface deterioration or microstructural change, deteriorating required properties. In addition, surface deterioration due to erosion and corrosion is one of the most expensive problems in the materials world that requires solution. Perhaps 2016 may be the year for at least some advances to be made.
Advanced manufacturing is bringing in completely new concepts to the materials world.  It is only recently that people have started thinking of  creating alloys by melting incremental layers of powder to create shapes not possible before. In the past, there was always the consideration of material removal to create the desired shape. In  turbine components, as much as 85 % of the starting expensive superalloy material was removed to obtain the desired component. Today, using advanced manufacturing, vanes can be created that are not only to shape, but  that can also have internal passages not capable of being created in the past to permit cooling of the aircraft turbine while activated.
This technology is still in initial stages of development. It requires complex three dimensional computer programming and either laser beam or electron beam apparatus to permit melting of powder layers of micrometer thickness, using a highly directional beam of energy to melt these layers incrementally. Using this technology, both inside and outside dimensions can be changed according to the needs of the component being created. This cost of the equipment, $1,000,000,  limits the usage of the process. However, more and more components are being created using the new technology. It is particuarly useful if only one item or a few are required.
In addition to the above, the creation of powders to satisfy the property requirements of the component being created has been limited in chemical composition, and they too are expensive. However, as demand increases so too does the inventory of new powders of desired chemical composition.
Therefore, the beginning of a new year is always an exciting time. People make their wish lists at this time. It certainly will be exciting to see, as the year develops, how much advancement will be made to innovate new equipment and powder to continue to create parts not possible before, and at lower cost with less threat to the environment. Yes, 2016 looks to be a year where major problems may be resolved.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Full of Gas

Since ancient days it has been known that the world consists of solids, liquids and gases. In this issue I would like to limit my comments to the gas phase. In particular I would like to zoom in on the uses of gases in the heat treating world.
 Without solids, the heat treating world would have no need of gases. However, in discussing solids, they too must be broken down further. Solids have what is called a core, or body, and also a surface. A good correlation might be our body, with corresponding skin as the protection for it. In the case of our body or that of a solid, such as a metal, each has different constituents that determine how each will function.
In the case of the body the properties required include the ability to withstand loads under static conditions, and to have sufficient ductility to warn of potential failure in the case of overload. This is the case in design of buildings and similar type structures.
However, these applications are but a small part of the use of metals. When we consider applications that are moving, then we consider what are characterized as dynamic properties. In this case, the body is moving and in doing so, it can require properties that resist impact, torsion, bending, compression, as well as tension, If used at elevated temperatures the additional consideration of stress rupture and creep becomes of importance.
I could continue, but the purpose of this post is to discuss gases important for heat treating.
We have discussed briefly the properties required of a metal structure. The properties of the surface are entirely different. Like the human body, the surface of the metal protects it from damage from the surrounding environment that could affect its performance by weakening the body through undesirable reaction with the constituents of the external environment. A classic example of this is rust on a car, or the green tinge that occurs with time on copper alloyed building fronts or statues. This is what you see with the eye. However, with the lapse of time what you see externally can occur throughout the entire body, resulting in inability of the body to function and do its job. This can happen quickly or over a significant period of time. However, when it does, structural damage is sufficient to cause either the structure to no longer function, often with damage, or termination of life to the people expecting its ability to do its job.
In respect to the body, the constituents of gases may be important to either the creation of the required properties or to its destruction. In steels, in particular, carbon is the major alloying element, providing the required strength to sustain the loading the component is to sustain. Many gases contain carbon, such as carbon monoxide, methane, acetylene, carbon dioxide, ethane and many more. In the case of powder metallurgy parts, these are compacted from powder and, depending on the compacting pressure, porosity exists throughout the part. Depending on the density, pores may be interconnected or segregated. In the case of parts containing interconnected porosity, a gas, such as methane, can enter the body through the interconnected porosity, thereby reacting with the alloying elements present to form carbides or phases that can markedly change the properties of the alloy being heat treated. Nitrogen is another element present in gases that can also infiltrate the porosity, contributing strengthening nitrides, or entering into solid solution to strengthen the alloy. You can therefore understand that in powder metallurgy it may be possible to compact a powder that is without carbon or nitrogen, therefore softer, permitting compaction to higher density, and then use a gaseous compound, such as methane, to nicrease the strength of the steel.
However, a steel, or any other alloy, is not going to maintain these properties from the environment unless a surface is produced that will prevent contamination, such as oxygen, nitrogen or reactive compounds of the elements, to deposit on the surface and diffuse inward with time along grain boundaries to react with alloyed elements or the base metal itself to weaken the alloy, causing subsequent failure. A comparison may be like the clogging of human arteries preventing the flow of blood in the human body. Even argon, an inert gas has been found to react in superalloys where it was used to protect the surface from corrosion to cause pore formation that in time, at high temperature actuates creep, causing stress corrosion.
However, the same carbon or nitrogen components of reactive gases  may be used at the same time to advantage to react with the surface to form hard wear resistant non-reacting carbides or nitrides that prevent corrosive attack  from the environment.These reactions are classified as carburization, nitriding or carbonitriding. There are other protective surfaces that may result from reaction of boron, silicon or oxygen, depending on the alloy composition.
Corrosion is one of the most expensive problems in the materials world today, causing billions of dollars loss of material and sometimes loss of life accordingly. Therefore much of the work that MagnaTech does is directed toward the resolution of problems of reaction of the environment to cause surface deterioration causing corrosion to result. remember that Magnatech does research and does not want to enter into production. We therefore are looking for customers that wish to use our developed technology to produce surfaces, without alteration of required core properties, to resist corrosion, wear, impact and fatigue of alloy parts. As such MagnaTech has five patents that provide economical, environmental friendly protection of surfaces of steels from the environment. In addition MagnaTech has fifty years of experience in the heat treatment and  development of powder metallurgy steels and nonferrous alloys, specializing in the area of stainless steels, superalloys and alloys for magnetic applications. Should you have problems regarding heat treating or production of protective, wear resistant surfaces MagnaTech stands ready to quickly help you to resolve your problems economically in a clean and safe environment. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Additive Manufacturing

Hi: Time really flies. Have wanted to write a new addition for some time now, but those round to its always seem to pop up. Usually it is because there is a deadline to meet and as usual, ten other things need attention. On the other hand, I always am looking for something new to write about. However, at present, the game in town still appears to  be advanced manufacturing. This technology is not new, being a NASA tool for making objects for space, way back in the 90s. Obviously expense was no problem because they just couldn't find a different way.
Currently, in its wisdom, government has invented a new word called commercialization. What this means is that the government has put out a large outlay of funds for research and now they believe that it is fair to get a return on their investment. Therefore, this expensive technology developed by NASA so many years ago becomes today's commercial reality.There are several factors that make this more practical for consideration. One is the cost of materials. Everyone knows that things cost more today and when they are not readily available, the greater the cost.
Unfortunately most things start out as a solid bar which is forged, extruded or machined, or in some way made into a desired shape, say a gear. To do this, material is removed. If this material is, say a superalloy, the material is expensive, and as much as 80% can be removed as scrap chip. In addition, to make the desired shape, skilled labor is required to satisfy exacting dimensional control to permit the part to function in service and to mate with other parts. I think you can start to understand where I am going in relation to cost.
In addition, there is the matter of time involved. Quite often to just get the material to shape to size can require months. On top of this, in many cases, either one or a few items are required, which in turn adds to cost. Therefore an opening to drive this technology to commercial reality.
This now introduces a complete new industry entitled Advanced Manufacturing. The title covers a myriad of things, but in its most practical sense it requires an exact three dimensional drawing of the object to be made. This can be rapidly produced using a computer and programs developed to create the desired shape. Once the desired object is created, it is then a small matter to make the shape exactly to the size, and very close with little finishing, to the desired dimensions without one chip of scrap being generated. This is accomplished by creating a platform to contain a small layer of powder distributed and raked to a certain height. Once the powder is distributed, normally either a laser or an electron beam traverses the layer of powder, melting the incremental area designated by the three dimensional model. The only powder that is melted is the area that the laser or electron beam traverses. Therefore blind holes can be made, large pockets of undesirable material eliminated, and a desired shape, no matter how complicated be made without creating one machined chip. Once the desired increment of thickness has been formed and melted, another layer of powder is raked over the layer just shaped, again computer driven to form the next small increment of the part, built on top of the layer just created. This process is repeated until the part is built to the exact design of the desired part. Then, with minor finishing the part is ready for service.
The process has now been found to be useful for making parts like prototypes for creating dies for casting, forging and powder metallurgy molding, as well as first-kind products. If the part is not exactly to what is desired, the part is discarded, adjustments made to the three dimensional model, and again a first-kind part is produced in a matter of days, rather than months. Furthermore, a large facility may not be required to make the parts, but a part may become defective and using the technology described either repaired or made in the field, putting the equipment back into service quickly.
Although dormant all these years, this technology is now rapidly being accepted as being an economical process to produce a few parts quickly, in a few days, rather than months. It also is beginning to be understood as a way to quickly repair or create new parts for equipment that is as much as 50 years old and considered as obsolete and parts for replacement unavailable. Technology does move on. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Corrosion- A Problem

Today, with the economy being what it is and few dollars being spent on research, one wonders where growth is occurring. Everything seems to be at a standstill waiting for Washington to do something. It used to be that Defense drove the country and the research dollars spun off for the benefit of all. Today, cyber technology and robotics seem to be where the action is. The big action in materials research remains as advanced manufacturing.
However, there are still mundane things to consider. One area still costing the world billions of dollars in losses is corrosion. This covers a wide area. One need only look at autos after a good snowy winter, when tons of salt have been put on roads. If you live in areas such as Buffalo, New York, you can expect to see large areas where the salt has corroded the fenders and the body of automobiles.
If you live at the shore, not only are autos the problem, but also aluminum window frames succumb to what is known as pitting corrosion.
I could continue, but I would like to center in on high temperature corrosion. In this case we have equipment that we would like to run at higher and higher temperatures in corrosive atmospheres. Currently nickel base superalloys are the workhorse materials for these applications, such as jet engines. We have just explored Mars and experienced a fly-by of Pluto. There is less and less space on earth, and earth is becoming a more dangerous place to live. Perhaps we are ready to establish a new frontier, such as the moon for starters. To do that we need alloys thaat surpass the performance of superalloys. What alloys will be developed?
What I am saying is that there is a vast area that is important to our every day living and to our future that is currently being ignored, or so it seems. Recently we have an opportunity to use our technology to resolve one of these problems. Originally the technology was developed to provide wear resistance to components subjected to movement and shock. We are now discovering that the technology just might solve some corrosion problems as well. MagnaTech hopes to enjoy the opportunity to resolve one of these problems. Perhaps you too may have a similar type problem. MagnaTech would be delighted to assist you in the resolution of this problem.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

It is hard to believe that MagnaTech P/M Labs has been in business for 30 years. MagnaTech started as a partnership with a company known as Windfall Products, located in St. Marys, Pennsylvania. This relationship lasted for five years, at which point Windfall was requested by General Motors to install their own laboratory and in-house metallurgist. Since then, MagnaTech has been owned and operated by Ken Moyer. During this time MagnaTech has cooperated with a large number of commercial customers to upgrade and to introduce new products. MagnaTech's most recent accomplishment was completion of a Phase II SBIR contract with the Navy to provide improved wear, corrosion, impact and fatigue resistance for hook points.
Current interests of MagnaTech include advanced manufacturing and efforts to bring new products to market that will eliminate the expensive material waste and  labor to reduce a solid billet to a part of a specified geometry. Often as little as 15 % of the material may remain after the billet has been reduced to final desired geometry. In addition,  labor cost to accomplish this reduction to size may be extremely expensive. Often processing of the material can contribute to both damage to the environment and also to the welfare and health of the workers  necessary to produce the final part. Advanced manufacturing offers the promise of reducing if not eliminating these troublesome problems . Advanced manufacturing, using either a laser or an electron beam for energy, with the assistance of a three dimensional computer design, can construct a part to size with little waste of material and reduced human labor, in a safe non-hazardous environment. The catch is that the initial cost of equipment is of the order of a million dollars. With time and demand this initial cost should be reduced to a more reasonable price range.
One area of interest that could be satisfied using this new technology is aircraft. Currently, progress is limited by the capability of present day superalloys. These alloys are expensive, and they are at their limit of capability. There are always solutions however, most at cost for material for advantage provided. Most obvious solutions require heavy, expensive, scarce refractory metals. These are unacceptable at a time where we are looking more and more for dollar value and increased return on investment. MagnaTech believes that we have solutions that will inexpensively produce improved superalloys  to deliver increased payloads faster in advanced aircraft design.
MagnaTech is a veteran owned company, totally devoted to research and consulting with our own arrangement of supporting laboratories. Should you be interested in this kind of research, MagnaTech would be delighted to work with you to resolve your problems.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Is Aluminum In Our Future

MagnaTech is currently working to develop a system of aluminum alloys for one of its customers. Aluminum powders have been available for some time now, but  the application for their use has not progressed. Both ASTM and MPIF have specifications that define mechanical properties of both 2014 and 6061 alloy sintered parts. However the difficulty in reducing the stable oxide and the limited possibilities for alloying to improve strength and retain ductility are limited. Other possibilities for consolidation to improve sintered density are cost prohibitive.
However, improvements in alloy technology have increased interest, particularily in the automotive industry where weight reduction to improve fuel economy and emissions control are driving factors.Current usage includes marine transport, hand tools and office machinery.
In the automotive industry, the major application is the cam shaft bearing cap.Additional potential applications include connecting rods and oil pump gerotors for automatic transmissions.
MagnaTech is proud to share a small part in this research that may have impact on future materials. MagnaTech has  experience in alloy development, especially developing powders for emerging applications. Therefore MagnaTech has interest in the development of advanced materials for turbine applications as well and has proposed work for development in that area as well..