Research paves way for accurate manufacturing of aluminium composites

Research paves way for accurate manufacturing of aluminium composites
Engineers at the University of Exeter have developed a new technique that could make it easier and cheaper to produce high performance aluminium composite parts for the aerospace and automotive industries.

The novel process is based on the emerging technique of selective laser sintering, and according to the researchers has the potential to manufacture exceptionally strong yet lightweight structural components such as pistons, drive shafts, suspension components and brake discs.

The method involves using a laser to melt a mixture of powders composed of aluminium and a reactive reinforcing material. A reaction between the powders results in the formation of new particles, which act as reinforcements and distribute evenly throughout the composite material.

According to PhD student Sasan Dadbakhsh, the new materials have very fine particles compared with other composites, making them more robust. The reaction between constituents releases energy, which also means materials can be produced at a higher rate using less power.

"This technique is significantly cheaper and more sustainable than other methods which directly blend very fine powders to manufacture composites," said Dadbakhsh. "The development has great potential to make high performance parts for car manufacturing, the aerospace industry and potentially other industries. Additive layer manufacturing technologies are becoming increasingly accessible so this method could become a viable approach for manufacturing."

Dr Liang Hao of the University of Exeter added: "This advancement allows the rapid development of sustainable lightweight composite components. This particularly helps to save a considerable amount of material, energy and cost for the production of one-off or small volume products."

Laura Hopperton

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