Revolutionary metal casting techniques developed
Car manufacturers in Britain will be the first to benefit from revolutionary new metal casting techniques developed at Brunel University London, thanks to a government supported programme taking laboratory discoveries and upscaling them for industry. The £14 million Advanced Metals Casting Centre (AMCC) looks to bridge the gap between fundamental research and full-scale industrial trials.
Aiming to create lasting partnerships with automotive and aeronautical sectors, the new facility draws on work by Professor Zhongyun Fan, from Brunel's Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology(BCAST). "Our long-term aim," he said, "Is to reduce the amount of new metal mined from the ground to a minimum, by finding ways to make high quality parts used at least once." Improving the recyclability of metals is crucial for the UK and its approximate 300,000 tonnes of aluminium sent to landfill every year, equivalent to nearly £800million in economic loss. "Every failed casting represents a huge waste of energy, time and money," said Prof Fan. "We know that our new techniques can reliably create first-class components from recycled metal. Our challenge now is to scale these methods up for commercial use and to show that they can reduce cost, improve quality, and conserve natural resources."
With both environmental and economic benefits to be gained through the use of recycled materials, the AMCC is designed to replace the hundreds of registered aluminium alloys currently in commercial use with just over 10 highly versatile alloys that can be used again and again.
Another objective is to develop a set of very efficient techniques for purifying and conditioning liquid metal into reliable industrial processes that can be used to make high quality castings for cars and other applications. The basis for these new techniques is a change in emphasis in the study of metal solidification.
The traditional approach has been tolook at the process of crystal growth asmetal cools, but this has been replacedwith a focus on nucleation, the effectthat tiny impunities in the metal haveon the process of solidification.
The AMCC is housed in a purpose built laboratory on Brunel’s campus, with industrial partners including Constellium and Jaguar Land Rover to provide funding as well as sponsor research fellows and provide technical support. With a further £77million of investment, a second phase of the upscaling facility, the Advanced Metals Processing Centre, has been completed in March 2017.