These days, complicated metal parts are generally manufactured using a sintering process that adds plastic to a metal powder before pressing the mixture at high temperatures in a mold to form a solid metal workpiece. The exception until now was aluminum, which could not be processed this way. But researchers at the Institute of Chemical Technologies and Analytics at TU Wien decided to change all that and have successfully developed a powder metallurgy procedure for aluminum, too. The innovative process they are showcasing at HANNOVER MESSE 2016 can be used to manufacture complex-shaped components in a material-saving way that is relevant for all sectors – from the automotive industry to aerospace engineering – thanks to its weight-reducing advantages.
The new powder metallurgy process is set to enable the manufacture of complicated shapes that would otherwise be impossible, or at best very difficult to achieve. The relatively low cost of the powdered raw material means that even fairly large parts don’t cost the earth. In fact, under mass production conditions, the new process saves over 50 percent of material and weight compared to conventional alternatives. Christian Gierl-Mayer, one of the team’s chemists, emphasizes the numerous potential industrial applications for the new aluminum sintering process: “Sintering processes with other metals have proved themselves in many areas, and Austria boasts some of the leading companies in this field.” The low density of aluminum makes it an attractive option for many applications – basically, wherever weight has to be reduced, such as in automotive and aerospace engineering, in machine tools and even watches. Aluminum sintering could open up a whole host of new possibilities in these and many other fields.